I have a scar a few inches below my belly button – a line that cuts horizontally through the vertical marks where my skin stretched. This scar seals the spot from where my son entered the world and took his first breath. This scar shows the battle I fought to try and bring him into the world on my terms. This scar is painful.
When I lean over his crib to stroke his soft forehead and tell him I love him, the crib hits my scar and it hurts.
When my son crawls over my body and presses his squishy little hands over the place he came from with all the force his 23-pound body can muster, it hurts.
When my eyes pass over all the marks my skin created while stretching and forming to meet the needs of his growing body, they ultimately land on the lowest, deepest, reddest one.
But it isn't ugly. It just is. It's a reminder to be more gentle with myself.
A reminder to believe in the power of my wonderful female body.
A reminder to relinquish control over what I cannot change.
A reminder of the fight I still have ahead of me when another life grows inside my womb.
It is a reminder that I am not broken or damaged. I am perfect, just the way I am. The health of our minds and bodies has everything to do with how we feel about ourselves. And part of me has to love this scar because it is the opening that allowed my baby to become my son. I will live in this skin for the rest of my life, and this scar will be part of my body forever.
I've begun to realize the power my body has for healing. When I look at this scar, I no longer envision a fresh wound stitched together where my uterus was cut. I picture the scar underneath my skin as a healed line that has woven itself back together, smooth and wavy.
The journey to my scar
As part of healing from my birth experience, I requested all my medical records from the hospital. I cried the whole time I read them. It was like reliving every painful moment step by step. It was surreal to see the event through the words of an outsider.
"skin incision was made and carried sharply through...the bladder was bluntly and sharply dissected...vigorous male infant passed to awaiting neonatal attendants....the uterus was returned to its normal anatomic position...the skin was closed with staples... the patient was taken from the operating room to the recovery room in good and stable condition."
I guess they were talking about my physical state. Because emotionally and mentally, I was a hot mess. I was puking green fluid. I was sobbing. I was sleepy. I didn't have my baby. I was shaking. I couldn't walk, or move, or keep my eyes open.
I barely remember the first time I held my son. I wanted to be present, but I just couldn't. They shoved him on my breast as they removed and reinserted a new catheter in me. There was no skin-to-skin contact. I was in so much pain. I cried and shook and eventually fell into a deep, dark, fog. Drugged, tired, and not fully realizing I was depressed. My uterus was stitched back together, but it felt like my heart was split wide open.
It hasn't been an easy journey getting to a place of acceptance with the way my birth changed from what I envisioned. Most of the women I know had natural births, and there is just no way they could comprehend my pain.
When my best friend's baby was born seven weeks after mine, I sat on the couch gulping back tears as I listened to her husband relay their natural birth story. I was so happy for them – and still so sad for myself. It went on like that for months. I finally had to quit reading about others' successes.
I spent a lot of time at home in those first few months, struggling to get a handle on my new role as a mother and trying to process the birth experience I lost. I finally had to quit listening to anyone who was anything less than supportive.
Some people wonder why I feel this emotional pain. They remind me I have a healthy baby, and that's all that matters. But it's not. Mothers matter, too. The moment my choice was taken away from me changed my life forever. I have every right to feel pain, sadness, anger, and disappointment. I have every right to open my heart and access the most vulnerable place in order to share the words with the hope that it will help bring peace – to myself and to others.
But something happened for me. I needed to let go. So I let go.
While my c-section wasn't an emergency, and my son Ben would have been healthy no matter what, I finally understood that I should be grateful.
I had a horribly sad experience, but at the end of it I still have my squishy, beautiful little babe. Some women have gone through loss unimaginable to me, and I have my son. He's here. He's alive. And I would suffer through a million more c-sections if it meant that was the only way I could bring him into this world.
I understand now that if I am blessed with another baby someday, that birth experience won't heal this one. This one has to be put in its rightful place first. And its rightful place is tucked into me forever, knitted into this scar.
It reminds me that I fought, that I'm a mother, and that I am a warrior.
A version of this piece originally ran in Mamalode Magazine, and it is reprinted here with permission.