Q. I had planned a natural childbirth. After several hours of labor, I ended up with a cesarean that I'm not sure was necessary. I'm so disappointed in my body's inability to give birth the way it's supposed to be done. I love my baby and I'm thrilled with her, but I can't seem to shake this disappointment. It consumes me. I have no one to talk to about this because everyone says, "at least you got a healthy baby." Well, yes I did and I'm grateful. But I still have these feelings of disappointment and betrayal. People have said I'm selfish because I'm not thinking of the baby but rather my own desires.
At my postpartum visit, I tried to discuss this with my doctor who also said, "at least you have a healthy baby." I know that and I'm very grateful, but I'm still upset.
How do I get over this and move on? I feel guilty for thinking of my needs rather than focusing on the baby.
A. First of all, I wonder why you say you weren't "sure it was necessary." The only reason I point this out is because your doubt about this action taken will complicate your healing following this disappointment. What I mean is this: if, in addition to your disappointment, you are also doubting your physician's judgment, or misunderstanding what took place, or angry about the choices that were made, etc, then your disappointment stretches far beyond the feelings you feel about your own body. And it just means that the process of healing may take longer because you have additional tasks ahead of you.
Women experience a wide range of emotional responses after an unplanned C-section, from relief to disappointment to devastation. The disappointment you are experiencing is common, particularly for women who try their best to "plan" out how they want their birth experience to be. And certainly, women who prefer a natural childbirth experience, are hoping to maintain as much control over the delivery as possible.
So the lack of control is disappointing, to be sure. This is often accompanied by a deep sense of guilt and feelings of failure "What did I do wrong" or "Why didn't my body do what it was supposed to do". It might be interesting to note that women who are prone to perfectionistic tendencies are particularly at risk to feel this deep personal pain.
When our bodies fail to respond the way we think they should or expect them to, we can only wonder WHY and the unknown is profoundly disturbing. Not having answers leads to anxiety, followed by more and more and more questions without answers.
So the loss is real. And it can be huge. Other people's responses and lack of understanding only indicates that they fail to grasp the impact this has had on you. It is a very private, very painful loss. This sadness you are feeling does not take away from the joy you also feel at this time, but it is important for you to find a safe place to talk about some of these feelings so you can express them, have them validated, and move through them. You are not being selfish. You are being true to yourself and what is important to you. The last thing you need to do right now is beat yourself up, on top of feeling so bad. You are entitled to these feelings of disappointment and loss. And frankly, the sooner you (and others) acknowledge how big these feelings are for you, the sooner they will be replaced by more positive ones. You are confronting the awful reality that sometimes life is very difficult and we are forced to adjust our expectations and move along a different track. That's not easy to do. But with support, connection with loving people, and time, you will feel better about this.
Thanks for sharing this concern. Find someone who understands and talk about it.