My unplanned emergency C-section renegotiated my parenting ideals

Guest post by Strawbs

Baby Carriage, stroller, buggy, wicker, antique, vintage, Victorian era, early FOR SALE
My baby totally hangs out in one of these. By: Wicker ParadiseCC BY 2.0
Before I had my baby, I had a lot of plans and expectations based around an unmedicated birth and high hopes for a water birth. This didn’t seem unfeasible as the pregnancy had been entirely uncomplicated. I hadn’t bought a pram, preferring a Kari Me sling. I was planning to wear the baby all the time, breastfeed all the time (after all it’s free and if you’re on limited finances that’s pretty important) and was overall looking forward to it.

At 40 weeks and four days pregnant, I began getting cramps every ten minutes. I went to my midwife appointment as planned, only to be told that the exam showed nothing was happening and at most it was very very early labour. Two hours later, my husband had come home and taken me to hospital as the cramps were coming every four minutes and I was sobbing with pain and didn’t understand what was happening.

Over the course of the next eight hours, we went through a whistlestop tour of everything I hadn’t wanted. I tried to get control of the pain by using the breathing techniques I had learnt whilst pregnant, but as heart rate monitors were wrapped around my stomach I had a feeling that things weren’t going well. The foetal heart rate rose and then crashed and I found myself on my back with my legs in stirrups, having my waters broken and a doctor trying to scratch the baby’s head. The tens machine was on six by that point, I was sucking on gas and air to try and smother the pain and my poor husband, trapped behind me by the equipment and unsympathetic staff, was trying to talk me through the contractions and hold back his own fears.

I asked for an epidural, as by that point I just wanted the pain to stop. Before they could administer one, I was told that they were worried about the problems I had had and that since I was still only four cm dilated, they were going to do a C-section.

Trying desperately to reassure my poor terrified husband and tell him how much I loved him before they wheeled me off was one of the worst moments of my life — us being together is everything to both of us and the fear of that moment was unbearable — and I couldn’t do anything to help him. Equally upsetting, rather than sitting him by my head, they left him on a chair in the corner of the theatre. It was horrible and upsets me even thinking about it.

Our daughter came out covered in meconium, so the C-section was justified, but at no point did we feel in control of the experience. For most of the process we ended up feeling like a medical problem, rather than people and loving partners.

As a result of the whole birth process, I had terrible trouble bonding with our daughter. I settled for thinking of us as babysitting her in order to try and get through the next few weeks and months, until she finally became more responsive. Even seven weeks later I still default to that on occasion, mostly when I am feeling like all my time with my husband is being taken from me. And to stay sane, I’ve ended up throwing every single hippy ideal I had out of the window, in order to hold onto being me.

We’re using disposable nappies, simply because it’s quick and easy. I’m breastfeeding but seriously contemplating giving it up because I want to be able to have sex without leaking, want to be able to go away and spend a night alone with my husband, and the prospect of being trapped with our daughter every day for the next six months has been enough to send me to the verge of a panic attack. We’ve got a pram because after realising that babies scream and vomit, I cannot stand the thought of having said screaming, vomiting baby tied to me whilst I try to go outside and feel like myself again.

And doing all of these things is helping me be the happy offbeat mother that I wanted to be. And I think overall that will be so much better for her than all of my “how to do this” ideals I held before.

Comments on My unplanned emergency C-section renegotiated my parenting ideals

  1. I just want to give you a hug. Honestly, your birth story sounds the closest to my experience of any I’ve read or heard so far. You plan and plan, and nothing prepares you for back-to-back extremely painful contractions that leave you with no progress, a belly covered in monitors and a room full of worried faces.

    I wish you, your husband and your daughter the best, and know that your family’s love story is one that is just beginning. For what it’s worth, although my birth story did not have such a traumatic ending (barely avoided the emergency C, and I was able to hold my baby right after the birth), I too struggled for a long time with the shock of having my loving marriage plunged into the cold waters of parenthood.

    You are in the thick of it still. Right now you just have to trust that you and your partner will get sleep again and be able to have normal conversations again one day, you will not be covered in vomit and spit-up again one day, your little person will develop a personality and smile at you and give you kisses one day, and you will rediscover your individual identity again one day. That is not today. All those things we think about ahead of time – the kind of diapers we use, the way we feed the baby, the way we carry the baby around, the clothes we put on them, etc. – those plans have to go out the window at times like this. You get into survival mode. What matters is that you and your husband have the support of your friends, family and health care providers to help you handle the overwhelmingness of new parenthood, and that you and your husband are keeping your little one safe and cared for while you adjust. The rest will take care of itself, naturally.

  2. Your milk supply may well regulate to the point that your leaking stops. 7 weeks is still pretty early in the game, and your body had a lot to contend with — it’s still getting used to the changes, the cues from your baby, the new hormones, not to mention trying to heal!

    Your post brings up something I lament often: that, due to current cultural norms, many of us aren’t around newborns enough to know what to expect from them, which leaves new parents woefully unprepared and usually without help. Knowing the difference it can make when someone trusted and known to your baby pops in to take over for an hour, it breaks my heart that parents go without that, and struggle with the matter-of-factness of early life and its untidiness.

    • Yes, indeed! The crazy letdowns everywhere do get better in time for most women. In the early days, my male partners usually seemed into the fact that I let down when I got turned on. So it was actually a catalyst, not a deterrent, in my sex life.

      But yeah, I am still nursing my 20-month-old and I don’t really do that anymore. I miss it!

  3. You put into words, most of my labor experience…down to the meconium. I felt cheated. And, I felt like since I did not have an unmedicated birth that I would not bond with my child as the oxytocin did not release. I was pretty much brainwashed by all I had read, and this, not the C-section is what cheated me. I tell my pregnant friends to go with the flow, and the birthing plan is…there is no plan. I don’t want anyone to be robbed of post natal bonding because of disappointment brought on by the way their babies were delivered, or how they felt like they failed. My daughter is 2 1/2 now and we are INCREDIBLY close. I wish that I could go back to those days after delivery and be proud of myself for bringing a baby into the world rather than feeling like I failed a test, and for that my child would not bond with me. Bonding takes time, I believe, no matter what the delivery is like. I have forgiven myself for feeling such grief and disappointment. Looking back, it was so self-indulgent. Thank you so much for writing this. You put all my thoughts and emotions into words. Congrats on your precious baby!

    • I think what you said right here: ” I was pretty much brainwashed by all I had read, and this, not the C-section is what cheated me.” is so critically important to the way we (Western society “we,” not this website “we”) tell birth stories in general, and just wanted to say thank you for it. I think this happens to far more people than is generally discussed, and a lot of blame is misplaced on the process due to feeling like you didn’t get the experience you were told you would get.

    • Yes, be proud of bringing a little one into the world – even if it’s not as planned. After 2 babies, I don’t know if anyone can truly plan a birth.

      It takes a while to bond with a baby sometimes. Wait for the first smile & when my first one was an infant, I tried to do something nice with her every day. It will come. Meeting other moms at the park, library, etc., also makes the experience more positive.

      Wishing you all the best.

      • I know this is a little off topic, so moderators please feel free to delete if necessary, but the rhetoric of “don’t make a birth plan because something might happen that’s not in the plan” really bothers me. I think it’s a reaction to too-specific and unrealistic birth plans. (“By 8pm I will be 10 centimeters dilated, I will push 5 times, and the baby will come out and write their name on my left breast with their fingernails.”) But I don’t think NO plan is a good alternative. I mean, it’s not necessary to make no plans for the weekend because you’re not sure whether it will rain–you just need sun plans and rain plans and a general idea of what information you’ll use to decide.

        A birth plan should include your preferences, the options you want available, any quirks you want your providers to be aware of (mine included a request to help keep my hair out of my eyes, because that drives me craaaaazy), and your priorities for multiple situations. I don’t know that it’s really necessary to even share with a health care provider, except as a conversation starter, but I did feel like it was very important to me to write mine down and discuss with my husband, as my birth partner. I was lucky that most of my first choice preferences worked out, but if they hadn’t there was still a pretty good chance my birth would have gone as planned.

        • It could be cool to have a post that’s like “Why it’s a good idea to have some kind of birth plan” with maybe an example birth plan in it? You know… if you wanted to write it. 🙂

          • It could be titled “Why I’m glad I had a birth plan, even when nothing went as planned”

            I think a lot of us birth plan mommas could write about that!! I expected a 12 hour plus labor and planned all sorts of things I did and didn’t want to help through that, and had baby less than 3 hours after my water broke in the middle of the night! Things didn’t go as planned, but I was glad I had a plan anyway.

        • I haven’t yet given birth, but I always imagine the best way is somewhere in the middle… know your preferences and what you would like to do/have others do in various situations, but also go in with the understanding that situations change and, in the moment, you might end up needing to do something completely different than you’d planned. And know that, if the unexpected happens and your plan needs to change, it’s OK. I don’t think the issue is planning ahead, the issue is when people are devastated that the birth doesn’t go as planned. A lot of heartache could probably be saved by acknowledging that it’s really less of a plan, and more of a guide. 😉

        • I think alot of it is in the terminology. We had our birth preferences (what we called them). I kept saying “This isn’t a wedding, I can’t plan it”. There were things I wanted and had laid out for an ideal situation, but we ALSO had a “if we end up with a c-section” plan. Which was good, because the home water birth we had preferred ended up a c-section we needed. And while it was hard directly after the birth, I didn’t end up feeling cheated.

        • I just wanted to respond on the birth plans topic – birth plans do not have to be about ‘how your birth with be’, they can also be a way to communicate to your healthcare provider about things that won’t change regardless of what your actual labour or birth is like. For example I informed my health care provider ahead of time that I did not want vaginal examinations or hearth monitoring as frequently as their usual protocol. That was a really useful conversation for us to have regardless of how my actual labour/birth went. So yeah sometimes a ‘birth plan’ can be useful preparation.

          And to the author of the post, well done you! You are so brave and strong and sound like an awesome mom. Everything changes so quickly in hindsight, so things like leaking and throw up, all temporary, you will come through it to ‘enjoy’ things like ‘baby led weaning’ and potty training, I can’t say it ‘gets easier’ but it does change! xx

        • i had a birth plan and it ended up being pretty useless during my labor because i never even took it out of my bag. i hadn’t been “planning” anything that the hospital wasn’t already prepared or intending to do. BUT DON’T GET ME WRONG, i’m not saying they are worthless to have. if nothing else, filling it out really helped me to get of sense of what kinds of unexpected things to expect. for this reason, i really had no expectations going in and i think that made things easier. i knew i was okay with having my water broken if necessary, i knew i wanted an epi (i’d decided that decades ago), and i knew i would consent to a c-section if necessary. i knew i wanted them to take any measure necessary to safely deliver my daughter. i knew who i wanted in the room, and when i wanted no one in the room except my mother and husband. i also knew what my options were. so i was prepared to be unprepared!

          so while i never had to show anyone my plan, it was great that i had one. it was like having a cheat sheet for a test in school. you don’t realize you’re actually studying when you make the cheat sheet!

    • I don’t know about the brainwashing bit. I always thought all the stuff about how c-sections inhibit bonding was a lot of hooey and was genuinely surprised when I experienced it. I think for some people, this is legitimate. An emergency c-section can be a traumatic event, fraught with fear and culminating in a major abdominal surgery. Sometimes the c-section is preceded and followed by aggressive, abusive, and dehumanizing behavior by medical staff. Some people and even their healthcare providers have experienced PTSD after traumatic birth. This sort of trauma can absolutely interfere with normal hormonal processes after birth that promote bonding. I don’t think it effects everyone, but I don’t think it’s just propaganda either.

      • The thing is, however, is that there’s been a lot of research into whether C-sections actually inhibit bonding. The overall answer is a resounding NO. You know what’s been shown to inhibit bonding? A birth experience that is bad. Women who are informed about C-sections, treated well during them and respected don’t really report any bonding issues (not any more than mothers who birth vaginally). Trust me – I would have killed to have an elective C-section. My birth mentally messed me up, despite a wonderful, accommodating staff and lots of support.

        Even at the best levels, the WHO itself concedes that around 10-15% of birthing women will legitimately need a C-section. That is, at a minimum, 1 in 10 moms. That is not a small number of women. Teaching that these women will struggle to bond and love their kids IS mentally harmful, period. If a mother is treated poorly during birth (any birth), of course that is a cause for concern. However, the demonization or discouragement of any particular modus of birth is deeply harmful – because there’s always going to be women who need it. To me, that sets up C-section moms as those who get “good enough” births – and that is inherently creating inadequacy. And to me, such a position, that leaves out and disregards such a sizable chunk of moms, well that is propaganda – of the classic sort.

        • In my antenatal class at the hospital one dad-to-be asked about problems with bonding after c-sections. He was assured it doesn’t happen and not to worry. Fast-forward to my son’s birth and our subsequent bonding and anxiety problems and same question from me was answered with “Sure, ahppens more often than people think”. Confusing as hell. More transparency on the issue would have been nice.

    • Thank you 🙂
      I wasn’t too worried about the practicalities of the c-section and bonding (it didn’t occur to me!) but certainly the trauma of the whole thing meant I just kind of stared at her…and didn’t feel anything much – certainly not what I expected!

      I’m sorry you had the same sort of thing too and I am so glad it worked out well!

  4. thank you, thank you, thank you. “babysitting” is exactly how i felt for the first 3 months, maybe 6 months. my hippie ideals (i say this lovingly; i have since found my path back to them.) left me feeling like a complete failure, not to mention disconnected from my daughter, after my emergency c-section. (complete with meconium) i didn’t actually SEE her come from me, and that’s a really weird thing for me to process for some reason. my little one is almost two, and i still get hung up on our birth experience from time to time, but it gets better every day. i have realized the only person that has rigid expectations of my parenting is me, and as long as i’m happy, she’s generally happy too. :]

    • I am SO happy it’s not just me! Well, I’m not happy you had to feel that way, but you know what I mean. I am also glad you found your way back to your hippy ideals as it gives me hope that I will too.

      I TOTALLY understand what you mean about it being weird not seeing her come from you, and thank you for verbalising that as I hadn’t realised quite that this was one of the things that messed with my head. I was in a lot of pain, then the pain went (spinal!) but my husband wasn’t near me, I felt some pulling. After that someone tried to give me a blanket wrapped around a tiny nose (which I declined as I couldn’t move my arms!) and then there was a baby…These things did not connect very well, and is also part of why I am angry my husband wasn’t sitting next to me – I think it would have been a much better experience if we could have whispered to each other that we were about to have a baby – and smiled at each other – and kissed – etc…

  5. I’m so sorry you had such a scary birthing experience, but I’m glad you’ve found happiness in your parenting despite the traumatic experience. My son’s birth was similar, though not quite as out of our control. We were at least given a few minutes to talk and come to terms with the fact that I had to have an unplanned c-section because of the baby’s frequently plummeting heart rate, though it still wasn’t much of a choice. I definitely remember the feeling that we were just babysitting him after he was born. I’m still jealous of those moms who feel the instant and overwhelming love for their newborns. I felt protective of my son as an infant, in that I didn’t want any harm to come to him, but I wouldn’t describe my feelings as love. It took at least a month to get there and was really based on him smiling and becoming more reactive. Prior to that, I remember wondering how there are people who say they love the newborn phase because I really hated it. Newborns are sort of like selfish jerks. They need, need, need and they don’t give anything in return. Until they do. And then it gets better. And the better it got, the easier it was for me to parent in the way I wanted because then those things that made me feel like I was tied to this needy creature who never let me sleep just didn’t feel like such a burden anymore. It was no longer me and my husband versus the baby. It was all of us as a family just trying to make it through.

    • This was me…

      ” I felt protective of my son as an infant, in that I didn’t want any harm to come to him, but I wouldn’t describe my feelings as love. It took at least a month to get there and was really based on him smiling and becoming more reactive. ”

      Immediately there were feelings of protection. Animal-istic. Like a mama bear and her cub. Those smiles and coos made me realize that it is natural for love to grow. And, love continues to grow every single day- to the amount I think my heart will explode, but it, too, grows.

      • Absolutely that!
        Our son isn’t yet born (I’m 20 pregnant now), but in the beginning of the pregnancy and after the first couple of ultrasounds, I’ve been feeling like all these people had all these expectations of how I should be feeling.
        I never had bad morning sickness, and I am still active and can do everything I want, which I am very grateful for. But neither did I have this “amazing” pregnancy high, nor do I feel the need to take pictures of myself dressed in pastel colors rubbing my belly, nor did I start buying baby clothes and re-decorating the whole house… I feel pretty much normal and like myself.

        Yes, I did get protective quite early on, but it was not “love at first sight” when we went for the 18 week ultrasound. I don’t like people (speak: my MIL) going coo-coo over the baby.

        I am sure my nerves will get the better of me every once in a while, but I think “go with the flow” is more my style :).

        • I could have written this! I’m at 27 weeks, and so far this pregnancy… has been a pregnancy. It hasn’t been awful (though I didn’t really enjoy the weeks when I had no energy) but it hasn’t been this glowing bliss some people write about, or even the hormonal rollercoaster others mention. I’m mostly just… calm. Weirdly so – I’m normally a pretty anxious person, especially when it comes to body stuff (I am prone to panic attacks and unfamiliar bodily sensations are one of my triggers). Some of it may be my age – I’m 43 – but I remember my previous pregnancy (ended at 7 weeks) a year ago, and I was anxious all. the. time. and having it end was as much a relief as a grief. So I’m grateful for whatever’s making me calm this time around.

          And I’m really not very interested in all of the “nesting” activities a lot of women on the forums I visit seem to be preoccupied with. We have three pieces of clothing for the baby, and that’s about it, and we have no room for a nursery, and so on. If it weren’t for relatives asking about registries, I suspect we’d be waiting until almost the last minute to get more serious stuff like carseats and bedding.

          I’ve slowly developed a bit of affection for this fetus as she’s been moving around and I’ve gotten used to it, but it’s still pretty abstract – I feel more like I’m taking care of a small, strange pet than interacting with another human person.

      • I totally agree with the ‘protectiveness’ feeling as a mom. I wonder sometimes if our definition of love isn’t big enough…that animalistic protection part…that is love, to me, too, even if it’s not always soft butterfly kisses and snuggle moments. My kid annoys me quite a lot in his toddler stage, and I sometimes find myself not actually *gasp* liking him…but fiercely protective jump-in-front-of-a-bus feelings I do have. Soft warm fuzzies…not all the time, ya know?

    • I totally understand and am glad it improved for you. And the phrasing ‘no longer my husband and me versus the baby’ really resonates – it felt like that for a long time for us too and is only just starting to wear off! Thank goodness it IS starting to wear off though!

  6. Is your baby 7 weeks old? I had similar birth experience and it took me over a year to properly bond with my baby. Honestly if it wasn’t for breast-feeding I would have delegated all the care to granny and tried to “resume previous life”. Now that my son is 3.5 years life is full of challenges but it is in general better because we have some fun moments too. I’m just not a baby-person it turns out. But being practically forced to hold and feed baby at the start actually helped me to turn into more of a “this is my son” rather than “this is some creature I’m looking after”.
    Oh and I ended up using sling a lot because it was the only place my baby stopped screaming..and whenever he was screaming I would start crying (hormones…gotta love them).

    Anyway, don’t make any profound decision in first few months of motherhood, things change a lot.
    and best of luck 🙂

    • I fully understand this I must say – I was glad to breastfeed in the end simply because it FORCED me to connect to the baby rather than becoming a disconnected and reluctant parent – something I never Ever wanted to be.
      She’s 5 months now and I do feel a lot more connected.

  7. Thank you so much for writing this! You’re not alone in your experience or feelings!

    I was exactly the same – I read all the books, took the classes, planned an unmedicated water birth, believed my body knew what to do…except it didn’t. My water broke but I never progressed. After 8 hours of intense pain that was NOTHING like the class and books said, I was still only at 2cm. It was a constant, sharp pain, and the techniques for back labor only made it worse. I got an epidural at that point. After 20 hours and minimal progress, despite pitocin, they started talking about a c-section. But I had let myself get convinced that a section was the worst thing in the world, so I asked to continue, in the hope I would progress and could deliver vaginally. They let me go until 32 hours, at which point I developed a fever and they gave me the tough love I needed – this baby has to come out NOW.

    On the one hand, I’m glad they respected my autonomy and discussed my options with me throughout the process like the sentient adult I am. On the other hand, I wish I hadn’t been such a damn bonehead. If I had just gone for the section when they first mentioned it, I probably would have had an easier surgery and recovery (I needed 6 months of PT for my hips, and couldn’t wear her for months). My daughter and I might not have needed antibiotics for a week, and we may have been able to breastfeed (It took a week for my colostrum to come in, nevermind the milk, and she started refusing the breast. I ended up pumping exclusively and supplementing with formula – I didn’t produce enough until she was 8 weeks.)

    But there’s no sense in dwelling on “might-ofs”. I sometimes feel jealous when I hear about other women’s unmedicated 40 hour births – like, why wasn’t I strong enough to do that? And then I sometimes feel angry when people talk about modern medicine as though it’s an evil big business trap that enlightened women can avoid.

    My daughter’s chin was wedged into my hip. There was 0 chance of having her vaginally. I do have regrets about her birth, but those regrets are that I let my fear of surgery do the decision-making. Now, I thank the gods that I live in this place, at this time. Because if it wasn’t for modern medicine, my daughter and I wouldn’t be here.

    • If it helps, I think you sound like you were amazing, and also like I want to offer you some HUGS for the crap you dealt with. You, as with everyone else commenting here, ROCKS!

  8. Forgot to add – I also had trouble bonding with my daughter. I had a strong case of the baby blues and cried every day for the first 2 weeks. For the first 4-6 weeks, the feelings I had for her were primal, mama bear, like a few other posters mentioned, but not really “love”.

    But my feelings changed, especially as I got to know her and she started to share her personality. (and sleep better :D) By the time my maternity leave was over at 12 weeks, I adored her, although I’ve since realized I’m just not really a baby person. When she got big enough that we could start DOING stuff with her was when we really bonded, especially the stuff we loved doing before we had her. The first family bike ride we took was AMAZING!

    So it does get better. She’s 14 months now and she’s just the light of my life and the most interesting person I’ve ever met. Yeah, I’m THAT mom. Didn’t you know the sun shines out my kid’s ass?

    • “I’ve since realized I’m just not really a baby person. When she got big enough that we could start DOING stuff with her was when we really bonded, especially the stuff we loved doing before we had her. ”

      Exactly how I feel. Babies are cute and all, but what I’m really looking forward to is seeing more and more of his personality and the times we can do things together…

      • Indeed. While I find caring for a young toddler stressful and frustrating at times, I much prefer it to the newborn days and I imagine I’ll enjoy an older child even more. Now we can (sort of) communicate and go out and have fun instead of just hauling him around for the ride. He’s engaged and funny. I really can’t wait for him to do even more stuff and really be able to show his personality.

        • Me too. I felt like it was easy for me to bond with my newborn, but having a toddler is still way better. We actually share interests now, like A. A. Milne poems and the Muppet Show. She makes me laugh and makes me think and is, you know, a person. I like babies, but I like people lots more than babies.

  9. I had a birth that, more or less (three hours of pushing and moments away from a vaccum delivery), was what I wanted/imagined. I wrote about it for Offbeat Families here:

    And still, the early weeks with a newborn floored me. I felt utterly lost, beyond exhausted, like a milkcow, watching any and all freedom, independence and a life vanish out the window. If I thought too much about it all, I panicked. I loved my baby, but I didn’t like her very much. I wondered what the hell I’d done. My brain was pickled, and I felt completely out of my depth with this creature who took took took. She drained everything from me, and then still demanded more.

    Baby is now six months old, utterly wonderful, still hard work, but a joy to be around. And I love her completely, properly, head over heeels. My partner and I were talking about the early weeks. We weren’t sure whether it’s a conspiracy/kind thing not to tell parents-to-be just how hard it is, or whether people forget the struggles of the newborn phase.

    • I totally understand! I was really angry with my friends as I had spoken to all of them before getting pregnant and they had all spoken about how amazing it was. As I sat there, crying my eyes out every day and hating my life, I REALLY couldn’t believe they hadn’t mentioned all of this.

      Upon being challenged it turned out they had either a – forgotten or b – were insomniac so unbothered by the sleep issues… I’ve actually been very verbal about how hard I have found it all – in the hope that if any of my friends ever have the same experience they will at least feel they can talk to me about it. I hope this article and the comments also have the same effect for someone at some point.

  10. I’m so sorry for what you experienced. It stinks to have birth turn into such a scary event, but I think it’s even worse when you are made to feel as if you aren’t a participant in your birth.

    My experience was a lot different than yours, but ended the same way. For me, the hardest part was not the c-section itself, but how I was treated by doctors and nurses throughout the birth process. My experience was horrible. Nobody told me what was going on during the c-section, and I was put under right after she was born, so when I woke up in another room and someone handed me a baby, it was hard for me to make any connection between my pregnancy and this baby. She looked so much like my husband, and people joked, “Are you sure Katie’s the mother?” No one knew how much those words hurt, because while I knew logically she was mine, emotionally I felt like she wasn’t. She was just a baby someone had given me, and now I had to take care of her. I loved her in a way. I protected her and took care of her. But it was a long time before I banished that fear that she wasn’t mine.

    I’ll be honest. I have no idea whether a lot of those early struggles weren’t due to how much I am not a fan of newborns. I hated the neediness of newborns and the fact that because I was breastfeeding, I couldn’t get more than a 45 minute break. But as she got older, things got better, I think both because I like older babies and toddlers more and because I had time to really think about what had happened to me in L&D and start working on the healing process. It all feels normal now, to be a mother, and I love my daughter like crazy. It was a long time before I got there, though.

    I hope you find peace and healing and all the love for your daughter that you were hoping to feel on her birthday. Take care of yourself.

    • I really resonated with your comment about the baby’s looks. My son is blonde with blue eyes, just like me (especially like me as a baby), but I am surrounded by my husband’s friends/family and people who knew him as a kid who always remark at how similar he looks to my husband. It makes me feel really confused and insecure, since I actually think my son looks quite a bit like me…

    • To you too.

      I understand re the comments – my husband’s dad said I ‘clearly hadn’t bonded’ and omg that HURT because well I knew I hadn’t and it was just a terrible feeling – certainly not something anyone would volunteer to feel! Months on and that still hurts when I think of it.

  11. First, I am so sorry about your traumatic c-section. I’ve never given birth, but I have had emergency surgery that was scary and traumatic and painful and left me feeling wounded and vulnerable for a long time afterwards. I can only imagine how hard it would be to go through a medical event like that and then come out on the other side having to care for a newborn!

    I also want to say that I think there should be an “It Gets Better Project” for parents of newborns because, oh my god, those first few months are SO HARD but, seriously, it does get so much better. I loved my son from the moment of his birth–from before it, actually– but it wasn’t till month four when I really started to really, truly enjoy spending time with him. All of a sudden, he had a personality and was engaging with the world, I was getting more sleep, and everything got so much more fun.

    For whatever it’s worth, personally, I don’t think birthing and breastfeeding your baby are the end-all and be-all of creating strong bonds with your baby. Yes, those things can be absolutely wonderful and important, but there are plenty of adoptive parents (like me!), gay parents, step-parents, non-biological parents, dads, plus moms like yourself who have traumatic births that have securely attachments and deep bonds with their babies and children. All of which is just to say, don’t blame yourself. Parenting is hard. You’re doing great.

    • Could not agree more re a It Gets Better project! I did find a good question someone had put up on a forum entitled I hate my baby which really helped – especially as she then came back to it months later to say that it had indeed got better…

  12. No matter what you choose to do, be it formula feed or breastfeed, baby wear or not, remember one important thing – you are a strong, capable, beautiful, AMAZING woman and mother. You are doing what is best for you and your child and as one of your Offbeat comrade-in-arms I am PROUD of you for simply being YOU.

  13. If you haven’t tried pumping, I’d definitely recommend giving it a try. It gives you the freedom to go away from your baby for longer than 2 or 3 hours — even overnight (though you’d probably have to wake up once or twice to pump). I do usually try to be home to feed my baby (and am fortunate enough to be able to work from home most days, while a babysitter takes care of him), but I think I’d go crazy if I didn’t also have the option of going out for longer and taking the pump with me. I love breastfeeding now, but it took me several months to feel that way — so how you feel about it at 7 weeks may not always be how you feel about it. Also, although books tend to be really discouraging about “combination” feeding (breastmilk and formula), that works really well for some people, and might be an option for you to consider.

  14. To summarise, as OP, we’re now at 5 months and it IS getting better. I’ve even managed to squeeze in a few hippy ideals and have a sling that actually works for her and us!

    It’s been a hideously challenging 5 months, including the problem that she had undiagnosed reflux for the first 4 months (now on ranitidine) and still doesn’t sleep more than 2 hours on average, day or night (and I deal REALLY badly with lack of sleep as does my husband!). We’re still breastfeeding (to my shock!) and I wouldn’t give her away now – which is a definite change from the early days…

    So yay – it does in fact get better – although it could work on getting better still, for sure! SLEEP, child! Sleep! 🙂

  15. I guess I don’t get why breastfeeding means you can’t have a night out. When my son was maybe 8 weeks old, I had a girls night and left him with my mom for the night. I went to eat sushi, have a few drinks, then took in a local punk rock show. I had to pump and dump that night, but I continued to breastfeed my son until he was two. I was a single mom, so I didn’t have date nights, but I had nights out every now and then with no harm to our breastfeeding relationship.
    When my daughter was six weeks old, my husband and I sent both the kids with his mom for the night. My husband and I had a romantic evening and picked the kids up in the morning. My daughter will be one in six days, and I’m nursing her right now. We’ve had frequent date nights like those, we try for them every month. Last weekend both the kids were at my moms for three days! My daughter is still able to breast feed.
    What am I missing? When people talk about breastfeeding, do they mean exclusively breast milk, or exclusively out of a breast? Do you know that breastmilk is not poison if it comes out of a bottle every now and then? It’s really okay. You can still say you’re breastfeeding. In fact, you can even put formula in a bottle every now and then, and you don’t have to quit breast feeding. I practice what we call in the US “extended breastfeeding”, but both of my kids have gotten formula too. I’m still a breastfeeding mom. And I have date nights and girls nights and a satisfying sex life and a job outside the home and my own interests and hobbies even though I breastfeed.
    Baby wearing has never worked well for me either, so I’m with you on that.

    • It totally depends on the kid! My son would NOT take a bottle no matter what. I mean, I’m sure if I just refused to be around him when he was hungry and someone else gave him a bottle of breast milk and after he screamed himself raw he would probably have had it, but there was never a reason to put him through that kind of anguish. I know a lot of babies who happily take bottles with no problem whatsoever, but he was never one of them. He wouldn’t do bottles, sippy cups, etc — even when he eventually started using sippy cups, he still wanted to use the ones with straws over the ones with spouts.

      • My son never took a bottle, either. Actually, he did take a bottle 3 times before I went off maternity leave. And then he never did. He would scream and scream and REFUSE a bottle. He was much happier just waiting for me to get home…even if that meant he nursed every 2-3 hours ALL NIGHT LONG. Now that he’s 19 months he’s all about straws and really didn’t like those nubby sippy cups, either.

  16. While your story is difficult to read because I can feel your disappointment, your writing is incredibly beautiful, and I feel blessed to have discovered this website in just the last few days. I completely understand feeling disconnected from a baby who you so desperately wanted, feeling like you are missing yourself after giving birth, and feeling like your life is suddenly not your own. I’ve struggled with these feelings, too, and I want you to know that things do get better. It takes time, but things get easier. I had a less traumatic C-Section experience when I gave birth, but I’ve felt like the last three years have really taken a lot out of me. Becoming a mother changed my identity so much that I’m just now coming out of the fog and asking myself the questions of who am I? and what do I like to do? These early days are hard, and they are made harder by the story of your birth experience and early parenthood days. I wish you peace and love as your journey of parenthood continues, and please know, you are not alone. Your writing speaks to so many of us (probably more than you will even hear from in these comments). Absolutely breath-takingly beautiful, raw piece of writing!

  17. Hi, I also wanted to share a link to a website that supports women who have had (or who are going to have) a caesarean birth. It has some really useful stuff like photos of women’s scars and how they heal, which is useful if you think something may be ‘abnormal’. And again on the whole ‘birth plan’ topic, it has information which is useful for creating a caesarean birth plan. Anyway, I found this site really useful so just wanted to share it here incase others found it helpful (it is UK based but a lot is useful for US births too).

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