emotional recovery.

i’ve been putting off writing this post for almost 8 weeks now. it’s been 7 and a half weeks since sylvie’s birth, 7 and a half weeks spent trying to come to terms with my unplanned c-section. this article, thought quite lengthy, is the best i’ve read on the subject.

it’s like this. say you have spent the better part of a year planning a trip to paris. you’ve thoroughly researched your flights, hotel accommodations, and every thing you plan to do and see there. you’ve written out a dream itinerary. you’ve read countless guide books and websites. you mark a big red X on the calendar each evening before bed, counting down the days, minutes, and seconds until you leave. you are excited beyond all belief.

on the morning of your flight, you decide to run some last minute errands. travel sizes of shampoo, snacks for the flight, etcetera. suddenly, another car runs a stop sign and crashes into you. your leg is badly broken. you have to say au revoir to paris. except you’ve never been to paris, so what you’re actually saying goodbye to is the dream of paris. the fantasy of paris. the paris you’ve built up in your head to be so extraordinarily life-changing. au revoir.

in the coming weeks, as your leg begins to mend, you notice that the authors of several blogs you read are traveling to paris. you read detailed accounts of their trips, “travel stories”. you see countless pictures and videos of couples beneath the eiffel tower and the arc de triomphe. you read drool-worthy accounts of every wonderful meal consumed there. you are happy for these bloggers, some of whom you consider to be your friends. still. all the while, in the back of your mind, comes a nagging feeling of it should have been me. you are convinced that nobody wanted and worked for that trip to paris as much as you did. it pains you to see others get the experience you longed for, some of whom don’t seem too enthused. you know that maybe you will get the chance to travel there again a few years in the future, but that the likelihood of that isn’t up to you. you hold onto that for comfort.


that is the best parallel i can draw. i never got my paris and i still get a twinge of pain every single day. some days it hurts more than others. i have the deep red scar to remind me every time i change clothes or shower (which isn’t as frequent an occurrence as it used to be). i know it will take time. i’ve heard it does get easier. now that i’ve lost breast feeding as well (sylvie is SO MUCH HAPPIER this way), it’s been weighing particularly hard on me. i wonder: if i had the natural birth i dreamed of would sylvie have been a better nurser? could we have gotten through her tummy troubles? would she even have those tummy troubles? i know the answers are probably no, no, and yes, respectively. i still can’t help but wonder if things would have been different.

my mind is a constant swarm of what ifs? what if i had her at a birth center (like i wanted, but there are none close by) instead of a hospital? what if my water hadn’t broken prematurely and she had made it to term? what if i had waited just a little longer to finally give in to that epidural? i don’t know if any of these things would have mattered. all i can do is to try again when the time comes to give sylvie a sibling. if i work hard enough, maybe i can have the natural birth i envisioned with her little brother or sister. perhaps we’ll be living in a place with an excellent midwife-attended birth center nearby. i hope so.

until then, i will work as hard as i can each day to move on from the experience, to live in present and focus on how blessed i am to be sylvia’s mother.


13 responses to “emotional recovery.

  1. Sara, it may be no comfort for me to say this, but it is the end result that truly matters, not the means. Sure, I had natural deliveries, but, trust me, they were not slices of heaven or walks in the park. My bruisers just about killed me — and I have my own set of scars in a much less comfortable place that reminded me with pain every month until the beginning of blessed menopause. But for me it was a very small price to pay to have those wonderful human beings that we call Brian, Aaron, and Kristin and to be able to watch them smile their first smile, take their first steps, say “Mama” (or in Kristin’s case, “fan”), check their pillow to see if the tooth fairy had come, go to their first day of school, fight, run in the ocean, play their first sport, win their first art contest, play in the youth symphony, dig for fossils and collect bugs, be accepted to prestigious ballet workshops, graduate college with honors, find the loves of their lives, and bring beautiful children of their own into this world. Every childbirth is different, some a breeze and some excruciating. But, whatever the process, the point is to revel in and be thankful for the result — that beautiful baby girl. As the world’s SUPREME worrywart (and there’s NOTHING I worry about more than my kids — just ask them!), I can assure you that ultimately Sylvie AND you will be just fine in spite of it all. We can all what-if ourselves into oblivion, but, while we do that, we are missing the here and now. And the here and now is way too fleeting and magical to miss. Love you all….

  2. Sara – This is such a beautiful post! You have processed through your experience so well and will definitely be a light of hope to many mothers. No matter how Sylvie arrived, you made the very best decision for her and for that she will always be blessed.

    I have so loved following your pregnancy, and now parenting, journey and can’t wait to join you in a few weeks 🙂

    • Thank you, Gretchen. I have loved following your pregnancy as well. I can’t wait to see your little boy or girl. (For the record, I’m guessing girl!)
      Enjoy your last few days or weeks as a family of 2!

  3. I should have kept a list of all that went haywire. Ironically, I was terrified of labor and delivery and even breastfeeding… turns out I did just fine on all those. HOWEVER, my boys still teach me daily that I am only human and can only control certain things. I think the biggest lesson of motherhood for me has been to roll with the punches. Things are going to go wrong or turn out differently than expected. Get use to the idea because Lil Sylvia is going to remind you of this lesson over and over again. By the way, if there is any guilt involved in this let it go. You are already doing a great job! Each baby is different and we have to do what is best for the baby even if it doesn’t conform to what is “suppose” to be done. My whatifs are different from yours. Thankfully I don’t think about it often, but seeing your day old son on life support definitely sears an image into your brain. I finally decided that I’ll never know what caused his trouble and since he is healthy I might as well not dwell on it.

  4. thanks for your honesty, and for sharing your experience with this tough subject. i, also, struggled through a very hard labor with dreams of a natural birth that resulted in a c-section. the article you’ve provided is a great resource, and i’m so glad you shared it so i could do some follow-up of my own. it’s often impossible not to play the what-if game, and, honestly, i think it’s just an inevitable part of the recovery and coming to terms with it. i’m sure you have heard (as i have) so many people remind you that it’s the end result that matters, and that having a healthy child is what is most important. OF COURSE that’s what’s important–you know it, i know it, any parent knows it. but that doesn’t take away from the pain (physical and emotional) of having your childbirth expectations shattered. the two are quite separate entities, and your love and gratitude for the existence of your child is no less because you are working through the aftermath of the c-section.

    good luck continuing to process it all! and thanks again for sharing–it’s wonderful to read another person’s story that rings true to my own experience.

    • THANK YOU. this entire comment took the words right out of my mouth. sometimes i just want to scream at people and tell them that being sad about my c-section and overjoyed about my daughter are NOT mutually exclusive emotions.

      your comment made my morning. 🙂

  5. Sara–
    I am new to your blog, and have been struggling with my own pregnancy/ childbirth aftermath. Ad this post brought me to tears. I can relate. I soooo can. Thanks for your post. I am so sorry you did not have the experience you wanted, but am glad there are others out there like me. Congratulations on the birth of your beautiful daughter.
    I hope it’s okay that I added a link to your blog on mine.

    Best wishes,


    • Andrea,
      Thank you for stopping by and commenting. Congratulations on your two beautiful sons! I read Zach’s birth story. I’m so sorry it didn’t work out the way you wanted, but he is a gorgeous little boy. The online community of mommy bloggers has given me more support than most people I actually really know. It’s amazing how common experiences link people. Anyway, thanks for the link love and for stopping by!

  6. Hi Sara, I know you have every right to be upset about the c-section, but the end result really IS most important. You brought a beautiful girl into the world and are alive to tell about it. If you had lived in a different time, it might not have ended so well. Maybe it’s more like Sylvie is Paris, you just had to take a different route to get there. 🙂

  7. Sara, I have told you this so many times and I really do mean it every time- You are so strong. Your honesty is refreshing and I respect you so much for sharing every bit of your experience. I admire your strength. I can’t wait to (maybe) meet you and your lovely family this Thanksgiving!

    • Thanks, Dani. I hope we can meet you then. If you think the holiday might be too busy, we will be in town the weekend of October 15th. We can exchnage numbers over email and figure something out. I can’t wait to meet Ava!

    • And you, too (of course)!

  8. I don’t know that I’ve ever commented on your blog before…I know how you feel. I, too, had to have a c-section to deliver my daughter in February. I was admitted into the hospital at 6 AM to be induced, my water was broken by 6:15, pitocin started at 7:00, epidural sometime in there, and fully dialated by 5:30. I pushed for 2 and a half hours, and then was told I would have to have the c-section because I couldn’t push her past my pelvic bone. She was delivered at 8:43 PM. They had turned off my epdural while I was pushing and I still had pitocin in my IV as they were wheeling me down the hall to the OR. I was still trying to push her out because my body had to. It was so traumatizing. They gave me another dose of the epi in the OR, but it wasn’t working fast enough so they had to give me a dose of something stronger (they told me but I was so upset that I wasn’t paying attention). I barely remember hearing her cry, I barely remember seeing her for the first time. Once the stuff wore off a bit and I kind of woke up, she was hungry. But, the pain medicine they gave me had literally numbed me from my shoulders down so I couldn’t hold her to feed her. I had to lay in the hospital bed and watch a nurse sit at the foot of my bed and feed my newborn a bottle. I was devistated. That night changed everything. I didn’t get to bond with her. She was born February 12th and I still struggle with the emotional recovery. I never went and talked to anyone, but I believe I had a mild/moderate form of postpartum post traumatic stress disorder. I would have flashbacks that would come out of nowhere and I couldn’t clear them from my mind. I finally believe I have kinda come to terms with it, but I do still have my moments where I will have a small sort of breakdown and cry for a bit. It mostly happens when I lay down to go to sleep at night because my mind wanders. Thank God for my husband. He doesn’t understand but he tries so hard to comfort me when I get upset.
    Sorry this was so long winded. It feels good to get it out and I wanted to let you know that you are not alone. I thought I was crazy for not being able to just “let it go” so soon but I have found in the past 7 months that I’m not.
    Oh, and I also hate it when people try to make you feel guilty for being upset about it by saying, “But your daughter is here and she’s healthy. That’s all that matters” Of course it’s important, but so are my feelings and I have a right to feel this way.
    -Sarah L.

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