“I had three C-sections in 5 years.
I was 41 weeks pregnant when my water broke. ‘I see your baby is measuring big, shall we book in your C-section?’ No one had ever mentioned a cesarean to me throughout my entire pregnancy. ‘Does this doctor think I’m not capable of delivering my baby?’ I was offended. I said I want to try and have a natural birth. He was annoyed, rolled his eyes, huffed and said, ‘Umm, okay.’
I didn’t know it, but this was the start of my trauma.
The delivery room was white, huge, and cold. It felt empty. All it had was a bed and a chair. I couldn’t believe this was where I was going to give birth. The midwife examined me. She said, ‘We can give you a little longer.’ A few hours later, she checked again and said, ‘We need to hurry you along, you need to be induced with a drip to force your contractions.’ I wanted to say no, but I didn’t know how.
She put the IV in my arm and the contractions were coming hard and fast. She checked me again after a while and said, ‘You’re suffering now.’ Even though the contractions were coming the way they were, I felt I could go a little longer. but she said I needed to have an epidural so I didn’t feel the pain and could continue to labor. I wanted to say no, but I didn’t know how.
It was time for the epidural. The anesthesiologist came in and I immediately thought, ‘I don’t want her to do it.’ I wanted to say no, but I didn’t know how. It was past the end of her shift, she was tired and seemed to be in a rush. She stuck the needle in, and my body was paralyzed. I couldn’t move, I could hardly breathe. Something had gone terribly wrong. I thought I was going to die. ‘I’ve been a midwife for 35 years and I have never seen anyone react like that to an epidural, I think you need to take it out.’
The new anesthesiologist on shift came to examine me. He put the needle in and I had a hot, shooting, stabbing pain run down my left leg and my leg went into a spasm. This kept happening and I was screaming in pain. The midwife and my partner held me down while the needle went in. I felt helpless, powerless and terribly sad this was what my birth had come to.
I had been laboring for over 30 hours and was told I must have a C-section. I was moved to the operating room. In a blink of an eye, over 10 medical staff in the room, and within minutes my baby girl was born. I was thinking to myself, ‘Is it normal to have so many people in the room for a surgery?’ No one had told me what to expect before the surgery. No one ever mentioned giving birth could be a traumatic experience. I didn’t feel anything for my daughter when they showed her to me; I just felt exhausted.
On the ward, my family was cooing and taking pictures, so happy and excited. Yet I was in a daze. It was like a silent shock. I was smiling and nodding, but my mind wasn’t with it. How could they be so happy and thrilled when I had just gone through the most traumatic experience of my life? Fear, sadness, helplessness – I felt invisible. Could none of my family see I was in shock?
A nurse came and said it was time for my injection. ‘You need to have blood thinning injections everyday in your stomach.’ A rush of questions came into my mind. Is it normal to have blood thinning injections? Is there something wrong with me? Did the surgery go as planned? I wanted to ask these questions, but I didn’t know how. No one took the time to explain to me why or what was happening.
7 p.m. came and it was me and my daughter. It was very unnerving to be left alone as a new mom, with my new baby when I couldn’t feel or move my legs. How could my family be asked to leave me? I pressed the buzzer and the nurse came. I asked her to pass me my baby so I could breastfeed her. The nurse replied, ‘Oh no, she’s just being fussy,’ and put the knuckle of her index finger into my daughter’s mouth to suck on. I was in complete shock; I was scared and felt helpless. I don’t want anyone’s fingers in my newborn baby’s mouth. She didn’t stop crying, so she gave her to me. I didn’t dare to ring the buzzer again to put her back into her crib. I held her. I couldn’t move my legs. I felt helpless. I held her for the whole night. By this point, I am on day three with no sleep.
The feeling had come back to my legs and the nurse told me to get up. A big pool of blood gushed down from between my legs. There was blood everywhere. I thought I was dying. The nurse was very calm and matter of fact. ‘Don’t worry, it’s normal, just go and have your shower and remove the dressing from your belly. I’ll clean it up.’ I shuffled over to the bathroom and thought, ‘Why didn’t she tell me that would happen? Why is no one telling me what to expect?’
As I got in the shower, I tried to remove the dressing and went into a panic. I pulled the emergency cord. Another nurse came in. I was completely naked, exposed, vulnerable and crying uncontrollably, attempting to explain what I was trying to do. I had no clue what I was doing. She helped take the dressing off and then left me to finish my shower.
My scar became infected and healing was difficult. My stomach was so weak. At home, I needed to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night. As I got up from the bed, I fell to the floor. ‘I don’t think I can make it to the toilet in time.’ My partner said, ‘Don’t worry, just wet yourself and I’ll clean it up.’ It was deja vu, like the nurse who cleaned up my blood.
At that moment I felt as though all hope had gone. How did I get here? All I wanted was to have a baby. I expected to deliver vaginally and then look after my first baby girl, but instead I am on the floor of my bedroom about to wet myself in front of my partner. This was hell. I was mad, angry, sad, upset and in pain all at the same time. He helped me off the ground. I made it to the bathroom and cried my heart out.
One year later, I was pregnant again. I wanted a sibling for my daughter, but I didn’t know if I could go through the trauma again. The nurse booking me in on my pregnancy appointment looked at my notes and told me I needed to have a C-section because I had one previously. I wanted to ask why, but I didn’t know how. She’s a professional. She must know what she is talking about. So who am I to ask why?
C-section day and there was a queue of five other women waiting to be booked in for their C-section. It was my turn. In my hospital gown, I was asked to walk to the operating room. When I got to the door I was asked to remove my slippers and knickers and go and sit on the operating table. As I was lying on the table I started to panic; my blood pressure shot up and they couldn’t start the procedure. I managed to calm myself down and within minutes my son was born. I felt nothing when they showed him to me. I was in trauma and didn’t even know it.
2020, my life changed. I became certified as a life coach. Training to be a life coach gave me the tools of asking powerful questions and knowing myself deeply. How to trust my instincts and how to challenge my beliefs. I became a new person. I was confident, I trusted and loved who I was. I knew what I wanted and knew I didn’t have to accept less; I was strong and powerful. I quit my full-time corporate job of 10 years to start my own coaching practice.
When I fell pregnant with my third baby, I knew instantly this was going to be different. I was going to learn about my body, ask questions, take my time and knew I had the power to say no. I started a Hypnobirthing course with The Positive Birth Company which supported me to get clear on how I wanted to give birth.
I planned for a VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Cesarean). Over 24 hours of labor later, I decided a C-section would be best. This time when they put him in my arms, He opened his eyes, looked at me and smiled. I felt like I knew him and he knew me; I felt love for him instantly. This was the feeling I had heard other women talk about.
While in recovery, I knew exactly what my coaching practice was going to center on. I founded a C- Section coach. I support women through the negative feelings that can come from having a C-section and traumatic birth. From my experience, I know the shame and guilt that is felt. The pressure society puts on women to only have vaginal births and that anything else is the ‘easy way out,’ which couldn’t be further from the truth.
I kept all my feelings to myself for years before I talked to someone about it. It affected my relationships, my trust I had in others and myself. I experienced flashbacks and intrusive thoughts and felt as though no one would understand because I was fine and my babies were fine. But underneath, I was sinking. Trauma can present itself in many ways. I want women to know they can talk to a coach right away when and if those feelings start.
I coach women who have experienced C-sections and birth traumas. I hold support groups for moms and I am building my foundation, Cottages & Healing Centers for moms after C-sections. I also train other women who have experienced C-section and birth trauma to become Certified Coaches. There are millions of women in the world who have had a C-section and need support. I’m making it my mission that every woman who has a C-section will have a place where they can talk and process their experience.
I want mothers of C-sections and traumatic births to know you are okay. You are a good person. Your baby loves you. You birthed your baby no matter how the baby came out. You are a mother. If by reading this article you want to reach out to me, I am here for you. You are not alone.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Divina Johnson, Founder of C-Section Coach of Birmingham, UK. You can follow her journey on Instagram and her website. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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