Giving birth is no small task.
Delivering a baby vaginally, or as some would say, “naturally,” takes a toll on a woman’s body. She goes through extreme pain, push after push, until she hears the sweet sound of her baby’s cry. Society commends all women who go through “natural” (vaginal) child birth, because it’s not easy. So, why is the same credit not given to mothers who deliver their babies via Cesarean section?
Women who deliver via Cesarean section, more commonly referred to as a c-section, are stigmatized. They are told that they are not real mothers, because their baby was removed through an incision rather than pushed out naturally.
The harsh reality is that these women start to deliver vaginally only to end up needing an emergency c-section. These women don’t get to choose their method of delivery when their life, and the life of their baby, is in jeopardy.
One mother, Celeste Thomas, experienced this harsh reality. She started to deliver her son vaginally but quickly ended up needing an emergency c-section. Her delivery was difficult from start to finish and her recovery was far from easy. She experienced complications during her recovery that mothers who deliver vaginally don’t have to worry about.
Thomas was due to give birth on July 2, 2018. Her pregnancy was moving along with the normal symptoms. She had plenty of morning sickness, but that would be the least of her concerns further into her pregnancy. Thomas was later diagnosed with preeclampsia, a complication associated with pregnancy.
She was admitted into the hospital on May 15, 2018, two months earlier than her expected due date. One week later, she went into labor. Thomas delivered her son via c-section on May 21, 2018.
According to the Mayo Clinic, there are nine possible reasons for a doctor to send a woman for a c-section.
Her labor may stop progressing
Her baby may be in distress
Her baby may be in an unusual position (breeched)
She may be carrying more than one child, which makes it harder to deliver vaginally
She may have another health concern that puts her and her baby in danger
She may have had a previous C-section
There may be a problem with her placenta
There may be a mechanical problem, meaning there is something wrong with her body that hinders her from delivering vaginally
Thomas was sent for an emergency c-section because she experienced three of those nine possible reasons. The first being that she had preeclampsia, another health concern that could cause problems during labor.
Thomas said that in severe cases, preeclampsia can cause placental abruptions. In her case, that’s exactly what happened, and it caused her to go into labor. Thus, her second reason for needing an emergency c-section.
“My placenta started to abrupt, and essentially, my body was like, ‘oh crap, we gotta deliver,’ and so it tried to go into pre-term labor to save the baby and me or at least one of us,” said Thomas.
Her placenta was rupturing faster than her body could deliver her baby. She was losing a lot of blood.
“I think I was starting to lose consciousness and then the heart on the baby monitor — the baby was in distress,” said Thomas. “That’s when they (the doctors) were like, ‘OK, we’re gonna go. We’re gonna go take you to c-section.”
As soon as the doctors realized her baby was in distress, they knew they needed to deliver her baby as quickly as possible. Thus, the third reason Thomas was sent for an emergency c-section.
Before she went into labor, Thomas knew there was a chance she would be sent in for a c-section. She had done as much research as she could to prepare herself for the complications that arise during delivery for women with preeclampsia. Thomas knew she had to stay calm and collected during delivery regardless of it being natural or c-section. No matter how prepared she tried to be, it wasn’t easy for her or her husband to accept the fact that she was about to undergo a possibly life-threatening surgery.
“My husband and I had a moment where neither one of us said it, but we were both thinking it and it was — It was kind of almost like a good-bye, just in case.
And that was — That was rough for both of us… but I was relieved to just let the doctors do the hard work, cause my body didn’t want to do it anymore,” said Thomas.
It was time for surgery. Until this point, Thomas hadn’t received any medication for her pain related to the placental abruption nor for her attempted vaginal delivery. The only medication she received was a general anesthetic: Medication given to people in order for them to sleep for the duration of surgery. Thomas only remembers one thing before the anesthesiologist gave her the general anesthetic.
“Right before they put me under, they said, ‘OK, we’re ready to make the incision,’ which freaked me out … and then I remember speaking up and saying, ‘I’m not asleep yet. I’M NOT ASLEEP YET,’” said Thomas.
The doctors knew she wasn’t quite asleep yet, but they needed to make the incision as quickly as possible so that the general anesthetic wouldn’t get into the baby’s system. A fact that Thomas learned after she underwent and awakened from surgery.
Fortunately, Thomas was asleep for the entire surgery, which she said lasted roughly 30 minutes. She believes that it only took about 10 minutes for the doctors to deliver, clean up and weigh her baby before he was handed to her husband outside of the surgery room.
The surgery may have ended along with her difficult pregnancy, but Thomas still had to recover. The recovery time after delivery for all women is six weeks. For women who undergo c-sections, the recovery process can be more difficult than with delivery. Thomas knows this all too well. Just two weeks shy of being fully recovered, Thomas’ incision opened up. She said she had an “external skin infection.”
Then at about 12 weeks post-partum, her incision opened a second time.
She said she doesn’t remember what she did either time that caused her incision to open. All she knows is that she woke up and saw that she was bleeding from her scar. She assumed that she was pushing herself too hard.
“I didn’t let it heal as much as I should have, and I thought because I wasn’t in as much pain — I thought I could do more lifting,” said Thomas.
After her incision opened the second time, she made sure to let her wound heal properly. She said it probably took her between two and a half to three months before she was able to fully get passed the pain and scar. Occasionally, she experiences phantom pains at the site of her incision.
Thomas went from dealing with a hard pregnancy to experiencing a difficult vaginal delivery that led to an emergency c-section. She wouldn’t have imagined that her recovery would be just as physically painful and emotionally draining. With everything she went through, she has learned to accept her scar for what it is. A scar.
“The scar is already there; you have the scar forever, but it’s not as detrimental as I thought, like it doesn’t bother me like I thought it would,” said Thomas.
A woman becomes a mother the second her baby is brought into the world. Having a c-section does not somehow take away a woman’s right to be called a mother.
“We all kind of sacrifice our bodies a little bit to have babies … No matter how you deliver, you’re gonna have complications. I just think people should be a little bit less afraid of c-sections, cause they’re not this terrible, traumatizing thing. They’re unpleasant, but giving birth in general is kind of unpleasant, as far as I can tell,” said Thomas. “I think that women would be a lot happier if they spent more time supporting one another and less time tearing down people for the way they end up having to have their children.”