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Cesarean Scar: Emily Richardson

“But the biggest surprise by far – on her stomach was a scar!

(from the children’s classic, Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans, referring to her appendectomy)

When you look at your Cesarean scar, what does it say?           

           My C-section was a surprise to me, so much so that I hadn’t packed enough clothes for a hospital stay of four days rather than two.  Even though my obstetrician had been telling me for weeks that we would induce labor due to my gestational diabetes, and C-section was a possibility, I never thought I would come to that.  I’m Marjorie’s daughter – Marjorie who had two easy, natural childbirths without complications.

            I cried uncontrollably throughout the surgery.  When they lifted my daughter, Cecily, from me and I heard her voice, I cried harder, but from relief and redemption.  In the picture of me on the operating table, with my husband and Cecily, I look transfixed, in a state of grace, as though light were streaming from my face.  I believe the grace and redemption I felt were genuine, not just my body reacting to the drugs.

            We received a gift of three Madeline books in our first week home from the hospital.  I had read and loved these books as a child, so I was happy to be reunited with them and to have them for my daughter.  The page where Madeline proudly shows off her appendectomy scar to her hospital visitors did something to me.  It was the first indication that I could think of my scar as something positive, something that others could look at and admire.

            So even though I did not have a natural vaginal birth for my first child, it was still a spiritual experience.  I still underwent the rite of passage from Maiden to Mother.  And these days, as I am enjoying and getting to know my daughter, I tell myself the “C” of C-section stands for Cecily.

                                                            - Emily Richardson, April 18, 2010 (7 weeks post-op)

When you touch your Cesarean scar, what does it say?

            “Macduff was from his mother’s womb / Untimely ripp’d.”

(Shakespeare, Macbeth, Act 5, Scene 8)

            My scar is harder than the surrounding skin, and its red has not faded much yet.  The hair that they shaved to make the incision has not yet fully grown back.

            I didn’t want a C-section.  I didn’t want labor to be induced before my due date, either, but I thought my obstetrician knew best, since she had medical training and I had gestational diabetes.  Now when I look back and wish I had been allowed to go into labor on my body’s schedule, I think of Shakespeare’s description of Macduff’s birth as being “untimely ripped” from his mother.  Vaginal birth, too, may be violent and bloody, but at least it is not untimely.

            In Birthing from Within, Pam England notes that in some “primitive” cultures, women who have given birth are greeted in the same manner as warriors returning from battle.  I like that this recognizes women as (at least) equally strong and enduring as men.  If warriors returning from battle can point to their scars and remember their experiences, why can’t I?  I am a “veteran” of the Cesarean operating table.

            Right after the birth, I felt as if I hadn’t been as good or as strong as women who dilate to 10 cm and birth naturally.  That my body was somehow lacking, and that was why I had a C-section.  But now, I believe that my emotional as well as physical suffering during that night, when I had to accept, one after another, anesthesia, then epidural, then surgery – my emotional pain “qualifies” me and my strength as much as a vaginal birth would have.  Women in normal childbirth, I’m told, reach a point of no return, where they have to go through the pain to the other side.  I did that in my soul.  And I have the scars to prove it.

                                                - Emily Richardson, April 18, 2010 (7 weeks post-op) 

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