C-Section Stories: Jenna Sawyer

1. Briefly, please share the circumstances that led to your c-section birth(s):

I was induced at thirty-nine weeks. After fifteen hours of labor, I was dilating fine but the baby wasn’t handling my contractions. His heart rate dropped dangerously low a few times and he was face up, very low in my pelvis. The doctor gave us a time frame, hoping that the baby’s heart rate would recover but it didn’t.

2. What surprised you the most about having a c-section?:

Everything! I have really bad anxiety, so I obsessively prepared mentally and physically for a vaginal birth. It never crossed my mind to prepare for a c-section because no one in my large family of women needed one. What surprised me most though was how it was emotionally traumatizing as much as it was physically. I didn’t realize the emotion in it until I was being wheeled into the operating room and felt like I was watching my birth experience slipping away into something totally foreign, scary, and disappointing. All of my preparation for nine months had told me I could “have the birth I wanted” and “my body would know what to do” but nothing prepared me for when I didn’t get what I wanted and my body stopped knowing what to do. It was like a dream was shattered. I didn’t get to see my baby come out. Instead of my mom and sisters finally sharing that moment with me, it was masked strangers. I don’t have triumphant pictures or videos - just a puffy-eyed, drugged-up snapshot that’s almost painful to look at. I didn’t get to see my husband cut the cord or even hold his baby for the first time. Above all, I didn’t get to see or hold my baby for almost an hour after he was out of me. The extreme disappointment, feeling of failure, trauma, and the pain was shocking to the system. I felt very alone with those emotions.

3. What kind of support do you feel you received (from friends, family, healthcare team) after your c-section(s)?:

Empathy goes a long way for me. So those that had been there and had felt everything I felt were the best support for me. None of the women in my family could really give that to me, because they all had vaginal births, though they did their best. A few Labor and Delivery nurses were the first ones to come down to my level and say, “Hey I know exactly what you’re going through. I KNOW everything you’re feeling emotionally and physically and here is what helped me.” Those were the first moments that I didn’t feel alone. I reached out on social media shortly after I went home for “c-section tips” and it was amazing how many women in my circle of friends had the same experience I did, but I had no idea the hurt they felt until I asked. That taught me a big lesson about women and how we deal with emotion and pain, but also how as a society we just don’t talk about the possible ugly emotions behind c-sections. I think that’s doing a disservice to everyone who will go through it in the future.

4. What’s your #1 piece of advice/encouragement for a new c-section mom?:

Reach out! Hopefully, someone in your life reaches out to you, but if you’re struggling, talk to someone who has been through it. Share your story even if it’s hard to get through. It will help you work it out in your mind and notice things about yourself and your experience you may have missed. Even talking with someone who isn’t as scarred emotionally but has been there physically could help you with tips on what to do through your recovery. Remember, your heart needs to heal as much as your body does. Talk about it, write about it, cry about it.

5. How do you believe having a c-section birth(s) made you stronger?:

I’m still working on this part. My c-section happened a little over a month ago so I know with time I’ll probably be able to answer this question better. But even now, I’ve become stronger by deciding to be open about my experience even when I’m usually so afraid of judgment. Women are very hard on each other so I had to overcome the fear of talking about something that was traumatizing for me, knowing that it wasn’t for so many others. Or worse, that other women have had it a lot worse and I looked weak and dramatic for struggling so much. I’m stronger because I own my emotions and I’ve learned that my experience and my pain are valid because they're mine.

Name: Jenna Sawyer

Your Profession: Photographer

How to Connect With You on Social Media: @jennagrrrace