Cesarean Courage

“Her courage is written on her body.” –Molly (Talk Birth)

March 2014 009Last year I made several cesarean birth art sculptures by request. It felt like a “risk” of sorts to make them, like I was trying to interpret another woman’s experience artistically, but I did it and they were well-received. I chose to imprint words in the figure’s cesarean scar because I kept thinking about how that mother’s love and hope and courage are all permanently written on her body. Recently, I had requests to make more figures like this and I re-visited my Cesarean Courage idea and made some new figures. She is wearing her baby and her scar with pride and strength. These sculptures are not supposed to send the “at least you have a healthy baby” message, they are communicating that her birth journey with her baby is seen and acknowledged and validated.

“I became a mama goddess, too. I became a wonder of fertility, of softness, of late nights and warm beds; a body capable of unimaginable things. I labored and tore open, too.”

–Amanda King (in Being a C-Section Mama In the Birth Goddess Club)

When I shared the cesarean courage mama picture on Facebook, someone responded: Usually I look at the scar as a forever reminder of my failure. The idea my courage and love is forever written on my body in the marks of a surgeon’s knife is so transforming. I am humbled and amazed and inspired and encouraged by the ways in which birth art “speaks” to other women. It is a powerful experience and I feel so honored to communicate and share in this way. When I stopped teaching birth classes, I worried about no longer being “of service” to birthing women, but through my sculptures, jewelry, and writing, I still am doing this work and I am grateful.

Thinking about it reminded me of this wonderfully powerful photo of a mother-assisted cesarean birth in which the mother (a midwife, IIRC) caught her own baby…

You can read more in the accompanying article.

WHEN a baby is born by caesarean, the hands that lift it from the womb to the world usually belong to an obstetrician. But now, there’s someone else who can help deliver the baby: the mother.

via Delivered safely by caesarean with his mother’s hands – National – theage.com.au.

I was also touched to read a mother’s story of homebirth plans turned hospital birth plans turned cesarean birth after the baby developed an atrial flutter and was risked out of homebirth:

This has been a big week, with deep shifts that I’m sure will keep happening as we go through the coming days. March 2014 036Sometime in the next three weeks, I will subdivide into two women — one a mother, and one a fresh newborn infant, each with our own developing story and life path. I will find that I care more deeply about some things than I ever thought possible, and other things that were important markers of my life and identity are no longer significant. I’ll celebrate and I’ll mourn…

via Pregnancy Not-So-Blahs: My Story of Fetal Atrial Flutter | Amanda Aguilar Shank.

I knew I was going to be a mother very soon. I focused on not freaking out, and on enjoying my last moments of being so intertwined with my baby. I sent her telepathic messages of love and reassurance. I knew I wouldn’t be seeing her right after the surgery and that likely she would have to go through some trials before I could be with her again.

The operation itself was not as bad as I expected. One critical piece of my experience was having the accompaniment of a labor and delivery nurse friend, who served as a kind of impromptu doula, helping me to hold my ground when treatments being offered were inappropriate or unnecessary, and to fully embrace with less fear and more trust the life-saving help that hospital staff had to offer…

via From Home Birth to Hospital: My Story of Fetal Atrial Flutter | Amanda Aguilar Shank.

smallMarch 2014 059These mamas have taken powerful birth journeys. They have laid down their bodies for their babies. They hold their experiences, they wear them, their courage, love, and hope, upon their skin. The birth experience is there, loud and clear, and yet new experiences and joys are too. She is whole.

In honor of Cesarean Awareness Month in April, my husband and I just created a new cesarean birth goddess pendant. She has “love” written on her body as her cesarean scar.

Modified from a post originally made here: Tuesday Tidbits: Cesarean Courage | Talk Birth.

About Priestess Molly

Molly is a priestess, writer, birth educator, and activist who lives with her husband and children in the midwest. She is a breastfeeding counselor, a professor of human services, and doctoral student in women’s spirituality at Ocean Seminary College. Molly and her husband co-create goddess jewelry and birth art at Brigid’s Grove: http://brigidsgrove.com and she blogs about theapoetics, ecopsychology, and the Goddess at http://goddesspriestess.com.

  • Catriona McDonald

    Thank you. I have tears running down my facing having read this. My home birth turned into a hospital birth, and my midwife and ex-husband both made me feel like a failure. Thank you for helping me to feel powerful again.

  • http://therennaissancewoman.blogspot.com/ Michele Sauter Warch

    Bless you! My first baby was born via c-section after 2 days of long and hard labor when I just didn’t dilate past 8 cm. I remember feeling like such a failure. There is a huge emphasis on natural childbirth in my family and no one else had a c-section that i knew of but myself. I had to fight to have my 2nd child vaginally after the ‘once a c-section, always a c-section’ attitude 25 years ago.

    In some ways, I felt redemption after the 2nd birth, which was natural. I know, now, what a real loss I felt and that it was entirely unnecessary.

    Ironically, my first grandbaby (a girl) was born nearly 2 years ago, c-section, when the cord became wrapped around her chest and she couldn’t be born vaginally. I watched my daughter experience the same disappointment bordering on shame after all her preparations for a vaginal birth. And, the loss truly came home to me.

    What a miraculous world we live in! 50 years ago, I would’ve died in childbirth with my first child, as would she. Today, I have an amazing, beautiful granddaughter as the result of medical technology that allows doctors to safely do c-section deliveries. I would never, of course, advocate unnecessary surgery, but I am certainly grateful that the heroic measures are available when needed.

    Thank you, so much. C-section birth is no less glorious than vaginal delivery. Either gifts us with a miracle to end all …. new life.

    Blessed be.

  • Hestia

    I was totally traumatized by my second birth which was a caesarean and it took me forever to heal from it. In addition, they managed to tear my uterus while delivering my daughter and told me I’d not have another vaginal birth in the future. Well, I went on to deliver a 9 pound boy on my own after that, so I proved them wrong. I have so much respect and compassion for mothers who had been disappointed by their birth experience. The thoughtless people who say such things as “at least you have a healthy baby” and ” would you have wanted your baby to die?” make it as though you aren’t entitled to have BOTH a healthy baby and a vaginal birth. Usually they are people who a) don’ have children or b) have only birthed vaginally. So frustrating. I love these sculptures and I will surely buy one the next time someone I know has a c-section!

  • http://nuannaarpoq.wordpress.com/ thalassa

    I’ve had three birth experiences, and the only one that was traumatic was the natural childbirth. I’ve never understood why women allow themselves and their motherhood to be cheapened by the idea that a c-section is a “lesser” birth option…because it *is* a matter of allowing it. You can’t be diminished without your own consent, whether that consent is conscious or unconscious.

    Childbirth is less than .00001% of the time in which I will be a mother, why the heck would I let the birthing process define how good of a parent I am? Not to mention how insulting that is to fathers, who don’t give birth. I’ve never been insulted by the “at least you have a healthy baby” comments, because I’ve never gotten them–I’ve never been ashamed to have two children cut from my womb…it was far more pleasant than the stillbirth that preceded them.

    Maybe its because my natural birth was the first one, and that it was tragic, that I didn’t feel like I was missing out…or maybe it never occurred to me to buy into my childbirth being a defining moment of my life in which only the “right” way of doing it would make me (and I’m only saying it because I’ve heard it said) a “real” woman/mother. And, to be honest, I recovered physically much more quickly as well from both c-sections than I did from vaginal birth. If I were going to do it again, I’d be more than happy to have another c-section.

    There is only one “right” way to be a mother…and that has nothing to do with birthing methods–the only “right” way to be a mother is with infinite love.