If you'd asked me what my scar said to me when I looked at it or touched it a few years ago, I'd have said it was mocking me. It said, "Look what you let happen. Look what you let them do to you. Look how weak you are." It was a constant physical reminder that I failed at birth. I knew intellectually that I didn't fail, that it was the broken system that failed me, but emotionally I felt like a failure. I didn't mind the stretch marks or the varicose veins as visible proof of my motherhood, but that scar was a different story. I'd loved being pregnant, every second of it. And even though I went well past my due date I never felt "done" with being pregnant like so many moms do. But the medical professionals felt differently and even though looking back I can say that I did everything reasonable to avoid it, I still felt guilt for giving in to the fear and agreeing to an induction that I KNEW would not work. I KNEW my baby wasn't ready to come out yet.
As c-sections go, mine was actually not that bad. I was not separated from my daughter and I was able to nurse her within about an hour of her being delivered. She was perfectly healthy and my recovery, while difficult, was nothing out of the ordinary. But emotionally I had no idea the kind of fallout I would face. I couldn't acknowledge the shame and guilt. I hid in the bathroom of my hospital room and cried when my midwife came to visit and I didn't even know why until much later. It wasn't until I started talking to other moms who'd had similar experiences that I realized it was normal, or at least very common. Most of the people around me didn't understand and my inability to be happy with my experience made them noticeably uncomfortable. But once I was able to talk about it with people who didn't just reply, "your baby is healthy and that is what is really important" I started processing those mixed up feelings and even started to heal a little bit at a time.
The anger came first. Anger at the medical community, anger with myself, anger at all the people who had been present at the birth. Then came the acceptance of what happened along with a determination not to let it happen again. When I got pregnant with my second child the fear reared its head again, but I faced it head on this time and really examined what I was afraid of, how I could avoid it, and made lots of "what if" plans. I fought like a mama bear through most of my pregnancy to make sure the birth would go the way I wanted it to go and finally I had to just give up my false impression of control and trust my body to do what it was made to do. And it did. And it was the most healing experience of my life.
So now my scar says something different. It says, "Look what you can do! Look what you can overcome. Look how strong you can be." I may not be a the point yet where I can say I'm proud of my scar, but I don't avoid looking at it in the mirror anymore. I don't avoid washing it so I won't have to feel it, in fact I can barely feel it at all unless I really try. It's beginning to fade into my skin the way the memory of the birth is fading into the past, becoming a small part of my life experience. That doesn't mean I'll forget and it doesn't mean it's not important, but it doesn't have the rawness of a fresh wound anymore.