C-Section Remorse


Throughout my pregnancy, I never considered the possibility that I would have a C-section. Who knows where I got this idea, but I just figured a C-section was what “other people had”, people with complications during pregnancy which I didn’t have. I only skimmed the chapters on C-section in my pregnancy books and we paid little to no attention to the C-section video in our prepared childbirth class. 

On D-day, I reached 9 cm. in no time. My OB and nurses all commented on the remarkable rate of progress. But hours and hours passed and I could not get to full dilation. My OB felt “a section” was necessary, but in our stressed and exhausted state, everything that she said was a bit of a blur. Arrest of dilation, failure to progress, baby’s size, possible cervical swelling, etc. Since I was not keen on the idea of having a C-section, we waited a little while longer and even tried pushing, but to no avail. Finally, my OB scared the bejesus out of us by telling us that I could “bleed out” if we tried to have a vaginal delivery and we could be putting the baby at risk.

Needless to say, I had a C-section.

In the months following my son’s birth, I was riddled with guilt and filled with remorse over the C-section. I wish I had asked more questions. I wish I hadn’t let the OB pressure us into having the section. Since the baby wasn’t in distress, I felt like I should have been able to labor longer. Aren’t there plenty of birth stories in which the mothers were in labor for a ridiculously long time?

My reasons for not wanting the C-section were not superficial. It wasn’t just that I didn’t want a scar. Trust me, there are plenty of other things about my body that aren’t perfect so I wasn’t too focused on that. It was that I somehow felt robbed of the true childbirth experience. I felt that I missed out on a sort of rite of passage into motherhood by not suffering through a vaginal delivery. I wanted to prove to myself that I was strong enough to endure what many consider to be the worst pain, all for the sake of my child, but I never got that chance.

I was disappointed that the first few days postpartum were not as I had planned. I couldn’t jump up when the baby cried and pick him up the way I had expected to. I couldn’t walk him to sleep. I couldn’t nurse him without help. I felt like this interfered with my ability to bond with my baby in those early days.

For weeks following CJ’s birth, I questioned whether I really needed a C-section. After speaking with my OB and reading her postoperative report, I felt even more strongly that it was unnecessary. The baby was not in any distress and my OB herself admitted that she wanted me to have the baby “before her shift ended.” I wondered whether I would have been able to have a natural delivery if we had just waited and labored longer. I speculated that perhaps my OB was motivated to do the C-section for financial reasons and/or due to her own impatience. What irks me most is that her decision did not just affect this birth but likely my next as well.

It has been four months and I think I have finally come to terms with what happened. It’s easier to accept when I think about the possibility that something could have happened to the baby if we had attempted a regular delivery.  It’s been helpful to talk to others who have also experienced these same feelings of remorse. In the end, I have a healthy baby boy and that is all that matters to me. It goes without saying that he has been worth it all… But I will definitely be switching OBs.


  1. Lisa says:

    Wow, I have ALOT in common with your labor & post partum experience! I also “knew” that I wouldn’t need a C-section because I’d be strong, labor without an epi, and then hold my beautiful boy on my chest & nurse within 15 min. of birth. What mom doesn’t want that picture? Instead I got a picture of me lying on bed with a tube in my nose, a curtain in front of me, and dad holding the baby next to my head (I don’t think I shared that photo online). I had *horrible* baby blues (and perhaps also post partum depression, I never got diagnosed). I would *cry* at the drop of a hat! And it’s because NO ONE UNDERSTOOD! No one understood why I felt like a failure. Everyone told me to “buck up”. It was horrid. Add to that complete exhaustion and I was a mess! Ugh!

    Anyways, I can’t believe your OB actually said she wanted a C-section for you b/c she wanted to do it before her shift ended. That’s disgusting!!! You should totally read The Feminist Breeder for her story and VBACs and such. Anyways, glad you’re finding another, and hopefully more supportive, OB. I may consider finding a midwife and try VBAC, but like you said, it’s scares me too. I’ll definitely need an epi this time. No “superwoman” act for me.

    Really really hope you’re doing well and can put that past you. It really is the outcome (healthy baby) that’s important, though it’d be great if someone didn’t ruin it for personal reasons! I was actually ready to get that baby out with a C-section. I just kept thinking back to what I did wrong and what I could have done to complete the birth vaginally…oh well, I can’t dwell on it because I got other stressors in my life now…it’s always something right?

    • talkingthirty says:

      Lisa, I was just reading your blog yesterday and thinking how similar our experiences were. I, too, think I may have experienced postpartum depression (undiagnosed) in those first few months, although it’s hard for me to tell whether it was truly PPD or just normal hormonal fluctuation. I had a lot of what-ifs running through my head, I bawled three times in the hospital that first week, and for weeks I was terribly upset that baby C and I only got to have momentary skin-to-skin contact in the recovery room (after staring at a poster emphasizing the importance of skin-to-skin contact for 12+ straight hours in the Labor & Delivery room. Ugh.). I’ll definitely check out The Feminist Breeder. Thanks for the info and thanks for reading!

  2. Lisa D. says:

    Judy, thanks for sharing your thoughts…some of them I swear could have been taken out of my own head – feeling robbed of the childbirth experience, thinking I was a strong woman and then feeling defeated, not even being able to get out of bed by myself in the beginning. When I told John that I felt like a failure, he asked me if I felt other women were also failures who had c-sections. Of course, I would never in a million years consider a woman who had a c-section a failure, so why would I be so hard on myself? But either way, it is how I feel – it is how a lot of us a feel – and we need to be open & honest about it to heal emotionally.
    By the way, I was told I needed the c-section because Courtney was without fluids for so long, there was meconium when my water broke, and her heart rate was slowly decreasing. But when I moved and obtained the reports for my new OB, it simply said, “Failure to Progress.” WTF?!!

  3. [...] thrilled and flattered that BlogHer featured my post on C-Section Remorse in the BlogHer Moms section [...]

  4. Kristin says:

    I think so many women can relate to this post! I didn’t have a c-section but I did feel like I got bullied into an epidural when I hadn’t progressed passed 4 cms after 20 hours of labor. I was exhausted and being threatened with a C-section so I agreed. Six months later it still bothers me a little but I’ve mostly dealt with it. In those early days I worried about what it might have done to him and felt angry with myself for not being “stronger.” Thank-you for sharing.

  5. I would have been LIVID if my doctor told me he pushed a c-section just to get a birth in before his shift ended. Given what you’ve written here, I think you have every reason to question whether a c-section was necessary. (I also dreamed of laboring and natural childbirth, but was handed a very unexpected set of cards, so I understand where you’re coming from.) You will definitely be more informed for your next pregnancy and may be able to have the birth experience you want.

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