Over the past year and a half, I've written and re-written this post more times than I can count. I've put down thousands of words telling my C-section story, then erased every single one of them and cried because the whole experience was still too raw to write about.
I simply needed time.
I think it's a failing of our culture that when a woman has a difficult birth and recovery, our knee-jerk reaction is to say "well, at least you have a healthy baby."
While that's obviously the most important thing, (and the reason I'd do it all again if I had to,) it doesn't erase a woman's need for time to process the hard parts, the painful parts, and the scary parts.
My C-section and recovery was all of the above: hard, painful, and scary.
Since I had a condition called placenta previa where my placenta was completely blocking the baby's way out, we'd already scheduled a C-section.
But there were complications in the pregnancy that led to bed rest and an emergency Cesarean even earlier than we'd expected.
I was already emotionally tapped out from weeks of being hospitalized, and I felt like a rag doll as they wheeled me into the operating room and prepped me as fast as they could. I was being poked, prodded, swabbed, epiduraled, and cathetered all at once.
The surgery, which only lasted 8 minutes before my son arrived, was painful, despite everything I'd read assuring me I'd just feel "pressure and tugging." I felt like the chew toy in a game of tug-of-war rather than, in the words of some article on the Internet, "a handbag being rummaged through."
After that 8 long minutes I was relieved to hear the baby cry and so happy he was here, but when the nurse lay him awkwardly across my chest, wedged so high between my neck and the surgical curtain that I couldn't even look down at him, I was also heartbroken. I had so many IVs and devices attached to me that I couldn't even put my arms all the way around him.
After a few minutes they took him (and my husband) away to the nursery, and once I was alone there were complications: my heart rate dropped, and the medication they gave me to speed it back up had horrible side effects.
The anesthesiologist didn't tell me what was happening, or warn me that he was even giving me medication, so I didn't know what was going on when I started to feel warm, fuzzy, and dizzy.
My head hurt and it was hard to keep my eyes open. I felt like I was trying to breathe with a grand piano sitting on my chest. In all honesty, I thought I was dying.
By the time they finished stitching me up, my mouth felt like a desert and the room was spinning.
Phillip came to my recovery room with pictures of the baby, but I couldn't even look at them. He got me water for my parched mouth and I listened to him call our parents with the happy news.
I spent the next 6 hours drifting in and out of a groggy stupor before I could even see our baby again. He was stuck in the special care nursery, awaiting transfer to the NICU at another hospital.
He came home a few weeks later and things slowly returned to "normal," but months passed and I was still struggling with a body that felt battered and broken.
The nerves severed during the C-section hadn't healed right and I was left with a raw, tingling abdomen that made it seem like my body didn't even belong to me anymore.
Having had babies before, I was prepared to come home carrying a few dozen extra pounds and a little worse for wear, but nothing like this.
My older kids couldn't sit on my lap. I cringed when anyone touched me. Wearing clothes of any kind drove me crazy for months.
There was more than one night of tearful Googling at 2 AM wondering if I'd ever feel remotely like myself again. For many long months, I just wanted to scream, cry, or run away from myself.
Things are better now. More than two years have passed.
Some of the feeling has returned and I'm used to the numbness that's left. I can talk about my C-section without getting a lump in my throat. Most of the time.
While I used to feel guilt about taking so long to get over it (after all, how could I complain when I was holding a healthy baby in my arms?), I should have been easier on myself.
I should've known that eventually, the fact of a healthy baby at the end of a traumatic birth does win out over the trauma of that experience.
It just takes time.