Tag Archives: postpartum depression

Mother’s Day

10 May

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This post is for my mother. This is in recognition of the countless hours of unpaid labour she did and continues to do for my sisters and I. This post is an acknowledgement of the fact that I have taken her for granted; she’s given her time and energy to me so freely and generously that it wasn’t until I had my own child that I understood how much this must have personally cost her. She is someone whose love and support I can rely on even when she disagrees with the choices I make.

This post is for all the people who work in childcare and are underpaid because what they do is undervalued by our society. This is for the folks – mostly women – who are often offered minimum wage or less to nurture, engage, educate and love a child.

This post is for all the people who are helping me raise my kid – my husband, my family, my friends. Thank you for being a part of his life. Thank you for being a safe person. Someday, when there’s something that he needs to work through that for whatever reason he feels he can’t talk to me about, he might come to you. Thank you in advance for being amazing when that day comes.

This post is for all the ways our culture simultaneously fetishizes and belittles mothers. This post is for all the women who have been told in the same breath that motherhood is the hardest job they’ll ever have but also staying home with their children is lazy, unfulfilling and un-feminist.

This post is for the mothers who couldn’t afford to go back to work.

This post is for the mothers who couldn’t afford not to go back to work.

This post is for the women who can’t take time off work to care for their sick children. This is for the women who have been threatened with termination if they take one more day off because of their kids.

This post is for my grandmother, who was appalled that I was breastfeeding because for her formula had been a miracle that allowed her a freedom her own mother had never enjoyed. This post is for the women like my Nanny who choose to go back to work a few weeks after giving birth because they love their jobs, but at the same time don’t love their children any less for that fact.

This post is for the mothers who have no choice but to go back to work only a few weeks postpartum because their government doesn’t guarantee them access to a maternity leave.

This post is for the mothers who have no choice but to go back to work only a few weeks postpartum because although they have paid maternity leave, their wage is reduced during that time to 55% of their income.

This post is for every mother who’s had to spend time on welfare or food stamps and has gritted her teeth through ignorant comments about government hand-outs.

This post is for every mother who is doing everything she can to make sure her family survives.

This post is for all the mothers of Black sons who are afraid for their children’s lives. This post is for every woman who has to teach her child to view police officers as people to be afraid of rather than people who will help them.

This post is for all the mothers who have felt ashamed of the ways their bodies have changed during pregnancy. This post is for the women who never appear in photographs with their children because they hate the way they look.

This post is for the mothers who receive endless societal messages about how they should always be sacrificing more, more, more for their kids. This post is for the women who have been told that if they really loved their kids they would breastfeed/stay home/give up caffeine/never check their phone/make all their food from scratch.

This post is for every mother who has been frightened by yet another sensational “study” that somehow proves they’ve ruined their kids. This is for all the women who have lost sleep wondering whether their children have been put at some kind of risk because they had too much screen time or not enough Omega-3.

This post is for the mothers who struggled silently with postpartum depression because they were afraid that if they told anyone, their children would be taken away from them.

This post is for the mothers who struggled silently with postpartum depression because they felt a crushing guilt over the fact that they didn’t love motherhood the way they thought they were supposed to.

This post is for every mother who has complained about some aspect of child-rearing only to be told to enjoy it while it lasts and it all goes so quickly and all the other trite platitudes that just make them feel worse.

This post is for my great-grandmother, who wouldn’t let her kids get after-school jobs because she wanted them to have real childhoods, not like the one she’d spent working under the eye of her brutal stepmother. This is for all the women who have had difficult childhoods and, instead of furthering the cycle of abuse, do their best to make sure their children have time for fun and play just plain being young.

This post is for those of you who are estranged from your mothers and have to endure endless questions and advice from prying strangers, as if it wasn’t a decision you’d properly thought through. I can’t imagine how tricky it must be to navigate holidays like Mother’s Day, when you’re inundated with reminders of your loss.

This post is for the women who wish so badly that they could be mothers, but for whatever reason can’t be.

This post is permission for you to mark this day however you want or need to, in grief or in joy or something in between.

I love you, Mom.

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How We Talk About Mental Illness

10 Nov

Jared Lee Loughner was sentenced yesterday. In August of this year, he pled guilty to 19 of 49 charges, including first degree murder, after going on a shooting rampage in Tucson, Arizona. His actions left six people dead and injured twelve others, including former Representative Gabrielle Giffords. Yesterday he was given a sentence of seven consecutive life terms in prison, with no chance of parole. Jared Loughner will spend the rest of his life in jail.

I remember this shooting vividly. It happened on January 8th, the day I was admitted to the hospital on bed rest at 34 weeks pregnant. I spent two weeks in the high risk antenatal unit, with only books and my computer to fill long hours spent in an uncomfortable hospital bed. Because I spent so much time online, I followed the shooting and its aftermath intently, metaphorically holding my breath as I, along with so many other people, waited to see if Gabrielle Giffords would live after taking a bullet to the head during the attempt on her life.

That’s what the shooting was, after all – an attempt to assassinate Giffords, whom Loughner hated for many reasons, chief among which was that she was a woman. In fact, he’d said repeatedly, both online and in person, that women should not hold positions of power. That was why he’d shown up there that day, why he’d brought a 9 mm Glock 19 semi-automatic pistol to a public meeting held in a supermarket parking lot  – because he couldn’t stand the idea of a female member of congress. The thought chilled me, as I’m sure it did many other women.

I’ve continued to keep up with Loughner’s legal proceedings, in part because of the mixture of fear, fascination and revulsion the shooting inspired in me, and partly because, in my mind, this event is somehow bound in the circumstances surrounding Theo’s birth. There was something so strange about sitting in a hospital, doing my best to ensure that a healthy new life came into this world, while someone else worked equally hard to take another life, or rather, several lives, out of it.

I’ve read a lot about the shooting.

I’ve read about Gabrielle’s amazing recovery, and her struggles to regain her mobility and independence.

I’ve read about Christina-Taylor Green, the nine year old who was among those killed.

I’ve read about the other victims, and how this tragedy has impacted their lives and the lives of their families.

Mostly, though, I’ve read about Loughner. How at first he was declared unfit to stand trial after a federal judge ruled that he was mentally incompetent, saying, “At the present time, Mr. Loughner does not have a rational understanding of these proceedings.” How he was given a diagnosis of schizophrenia, and was found to suffer from delusions and disorganized thinking. How, when he finally was deemed fit to stand trial, he was so drugged that he could barely talk. How he still resists being medicated, and has to undergo forcible treatment at the hands of prison officials. How he often doesn’t really seem to understand what happened that day, and has stated in court that he believes that his assassination attempt was successful, and that Gabrielle Giffords is now dead.

It’s pretty clear that Mr. Loughner is seriously ill.

I’ve been reading some of the victim impact statements today, and I’ve been surprised at how some of the victims talk about his illness. Take, for example, what Mark E. Kelly, Gabrielle Giffords’ husband, had to say:

“You tried to create for all of us a world as dark and evil as your own. But remember it always: You failed.”

I found this jarring, to be honest. Let’s be really clear here: I think that Loughner’s actions were, indeed, evil. I know that a mentally ill person’s “world” or mind or whatever term you want to use can certainly be called dark. However, it bothers me that Kelly would refer to the delusional world that Loughner lived in as evil. It also bothers me that Kelly seems to believe that Loughner had some kind of agency over his actions, as if he wasn’t driven by the illness that gripped him body and soul.

Another statement that I read said the following:

“We’ve been told about your demons, about the illness that skewed your thinking.

It’s a painful saga, a tale of missed opportunities and lack of support, of the appalling absence of attention to your behavior. Your parents, your schools, your community –- they all failed you.

That is all true, but it is not expiation. It is not enough. There are still those pesky facts.

You pointed a weapon at me… and shot me… three times.”

While the victim, Ashleigh Burroughs, acknowledges that Loughner was ill, she seems dismissive of his “demons”, demanding, instead, that he answer the “pesky facts” – as if he hadn’t already tried to answer them, only to come up with nonsense, jumbled facts and recollections of the day that are flat-out untrue.

I am not here to criticize Kelly or Burroughs, and I am certainly not here to diminish what they went through. They’ve seen and experienced things that I hope to never, ever encounter. I am not saying that how they are dealing with this is wrong, or that what they said is wrong. What I’m saying is that the way that we, as a culture, talk about mental illness is fucked up.

The things is, this hits close to home for me, because mental illness is something I’ve struggled with. Still do, in fact.

It’s not something I really talk about, ever. I’m deeply uncomfortable even as I type this out, but I want to share this with you, so that maybe you’ll understand where I’m coming from.

When I was in high school, things were tough. I felt sad and hopeless, frequently without any concrete reason. I cried, often, both at home and in public. I wonder, now, if my social isolation lead to this, or if my isolation was a product of how miserable I was. Chicken or egg, right? Certainly both lead to a sort of vicious circle of being alone, then being sad because I was alone, then having no one want to be around me because I was so annoyingly, unendingly down on myself and finally ending up, once again, alone.

When I was sixteen I told my mother about how I felt, and she took me to see our family doctor. He gave me a prescription for Paxil and referred me to a therapist. I hated therapy and stopped going after a few months; the medication didn’t seem to do much, so my doctor increased it, and then increased it again. I couldn’t sleep at night, and I was exhausted all day, sometimes napping on my desk during class. I couldn’t concentrate, and often left my homework unfinished because I was too tired or unfocussed. My grades started to slip, and my teachers grew frustrated with me. One even recommended that I be removed from the special arts program that I was part of. I went from being an A student to barely pulling Cs and Ds and the grownups in my life tsked, shook their heads and told me that I would have to work harder. I failed grade 11 math the first time, and then, the second time around, desperate to pass, I cheated on a test. I got caught. I was suspended. My doctor increased my medication. I didn’t feel any better.

In university, things were initially easier. I had lots of friends, and I was once more getting As and Bs. I forced myself to complete my assignments, working in the computer labs late into the night. My concentration improved, and I tried to be less of a perfectionist with my work – even if I thought something was badly done or incomplete, I submitted it. I turned in every single  assignment on time. I figured that what I’d been lacking in high school was gritty determination; I decided that I could push my way through anything. I thought that if I didn’t succeed at something, it was because I hadn’t tried hard enough.

Then, in third year, things got tough again. I had to leave school due to my financial situation, which was hopelessly snarled after three years of monetary incompetence and inattention. My mood grew worse and worse, and the university clinic doctor frantically tried medication after medication, hoping something, anything would work. Nothing did. I finally received an official diagnosis from him of dysthymia, a mood disorder marked by chronic depression. I started to feel like the future was endless and blank, and that I had no way of getting myself out of this hole. I talked about suicide. My doctor had me hospitalized.

I have literally never told that to anyone other than my mother and Matt until now.

Things got better after that, although I’m not sure why or how. My hospitalization was nearly ten years ago now and, although there have since been some serious dips in my mood, until I was hit with postpartum depression I’d managed to steer clear of that dark place. I even totally went off any kind of medication for seven years, encouraged by a hospital psychiatrist who told me that I wasn’t really depressed, that there was nothing chemical about it, I just had bad coping skills.

I stopped thinking of myself as someone who was living with depression; I told myself that I was just moody, or easily upset. If I had to put a name to what I was feeling, I called it anxiety, which seemed easier and more socially acceptable. Calling what I felt depression made me feel like I was making excuses for myself, and it made me feel like a freak. I refused to us the term mentally ill to describe myself. I went back to my philosophy of pushing myself hard, and then harder when things were difficult. For a while, it worked.

Then Theo was born, and everything went dark, and I couldn’t get out of it.

As part of the postpartum depression program I participated in at Women’s College Hospital, I had to have a monthly meeting with a psychiatrist. My family doctor had put me on Zoloft just before I joined the Women’s College program, and it was up to this psychiatrist to figure out whether or not I was on the correct medication, and what the right dosage was. I gave her as complete a medical history as I could, and then immediately asked how long I would have to be medicated.

“Well, let’s see,” she said, looking back through her notes. “It looks like you’ve had two, maybe three major depressive episodes in your life. You’ll need to be on the Zoloft for at least a year, but I would recommend that you stay on it for five.”

I was shocked. The medication was supposed to be temporary; I wasn’t sick, just fucked up on hormones. I’d thought that I would only be taking Zoloft for a few months, until this whole postpartum depression thing cleared up. That was how it was supposed to work, right? When I told her that, she just smiled.

“I think your old doctor’s original diagnosis of dysthymia was correct,” she said, “and, based on what you’ve told me, I think it’s likely you also have generalized anxiety disorder. This isn’t going to go away once your hormones settle down.”

So here I am, nearly two years after the birth of my son, still medicated and still struggling with my mood. I’ve more or less come to accept this, though. I am a person who is depressed. I am mentally ill.

This is hard to talk about, and what makes it harder is the way our society views mental illness. In the media it’s portrayed as frightening and dangerous, or else as funny and laughable, but rarely as something normal, rarely as something that so many people live with every day. We throw around words like crazy, insane, or psychotic when we’re talking about people whose actions we disagree with. In spite of strong evidence to the contrary, we view it as something made up, or an excuse not to get work done. We want people to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps, and we don’t believe them when they tell us that they can’t. We marginalize and mock the people who need us the most.

Mental illness is deeply stigmatized in our society, and will continue to be so until we do something about it.

When we believe that Loughner had agency over his own actions, rather than being controlled by a serious illness, we contribute to that stigma. When Mark E. Kelly refers to the world view of a schizophrenic as evil, he contributes to that stigma. Hell, the fact that we even use words like “evil” or “demons” to describe mental illness contributes to that stigma.

The tighter we hold this stigma, the longer we continue to have beliefs about mental illness that are untrue and have no basis in scientific fact, the harder it is to talk about it. And the harder it is to talk about it, the more people will go untreated. And the more people who go untreated, the higher the risk of something like this happening again.

Which is why I’m talking about this now.

Edited to add: I certainly don’t mean to imply that all those who are mentally ill lack agency over their actions, or even that that those who do lack agency do so all of the time. I also don’t mean to say that someone who is gripped by mental illness will suffer from it forever. I don’t really know how to talk about this, and I acknowledge that I am probably missing a lot of information, and communicating badly. I apologize for that, and for any offence that anyone might take from this.

Motherhood (or, a few things that I’m ashamed to admit)

3 Nov

Sometimes I wonder if I was meant to have kids.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Theo. I really, really love him. He is the greatest. I mostly can’t imagine what my life would be like without him. So let’s be really clear on all that stuff right now.

But sometimes I just wonder if I’m really cut out to be a mother. Like, I think I might just have the wrong personality for it?

It’s not that I think that I’m a bad mother; I think that I’m a loving, attentive parent. When Theo’s around, I spend my time interacting with him, reading and playing and doing puzzles. We sing songs and give each other high fives and plan our imaginary trip to France (or at least, Theo points out France on the globe and yells out Mimi! Mimi!, the name of the French teenager who used to babysit him, while I tell him how great the shopping and dining are). It’s fun, I guess, but I’m just not sure I really get enough joy out of all this. I mean, I am supposed to enjoy it, right? Not just endure it?

I do enjoy some of it, of course. But a lot of it is mind-numbingly boring. Are mothers supposed to find their kids boring? Jesus, I mean, I sound pretty awful here, don’t I?

In many ways, this age is a lot easier than when Theo was an infant. But when he was pre-verbal, I could at least pretend that we were interested in the same things. Lecturing him about feminist rhetoric or telling him long, complicated stories about my favourite historical figures would earn me the same look of wide-eyed interest as reading Goodnight, Moon or singing him the alphabet song. As long as I kept up that sing-song baby voice, or used funny accents, I was golden. The Second Sex, in case you were wondering, sounds great when you alternate between a crisp upper class British dialect and a slow southern drawl. Now that Theo is talking, though, he has definite opinions on what he does and doesn’t like. For instance, he’s really into tractors; unfortunately for me, he’s not so much into Henry VIII.

I tell myself that it will get better. It’ll be easier when he’s older, when I can really teach him about the things I love, like history and science and bad 80s sitcoms. I like that kind of thing; even now, I love taking him places where he can learn something new. For example, he’s probably the only 21-month-old who can point out the lute at the local museum. As soon as he sees it, his eyes light up and he starts shrieking, lute! lute! like a maniac. We talk about how the lute is a lot like Matt’s guitar, and how people used to use it to make music; he seems to understand, and my heart swells when I realize how many new things I help him learn on a daily basis. I think I’m good at that kind of thing, you know? I mean, lute-splaining in particular but also teaching things in general.

Much of the rest of parenting I just find to be grinding and dull, and I feel like I spend a lot of my time alternating between trying to find ways to keep Theo entertained and following him around saying, no, no, no, stop as he attempts to destroy my house. Mealtimes and diaper changes often turn into a power struggle, and by the time they’re over I nearly always feel like a total pushover, and then wonder whether or not my tendency to give in way to easily will result in my kid being a spoiled brat. When I’m home alone with Theo, more often than not I’m counting down the minutes until Matt walks through the door. On weekends, when my friends are making all kinds of fun plans, I’m envious of their freedom and spontaneity. When Monday rolls around, I’m thrilled to be able to pack him off to daycare, and I celebrate by having a quiet coffee all by myself.

One thing I hear a lot about mothers who have nannies for very young children, especially live-in nannies, is, why did she even have kids if she doesn’t want to raise them herself?

I wonder what they would say about me if they knew the truth.

I always thought that I wanted more than one kid, but now I’m not so sure. I’m not sure I ever want to be pregnant again, and I dread the possible recurrence of postpartum depression. And to be honest, I found having an infant really fucking hard all on its own; I honestly can’t imagine what it would be like to have an infant and a toddler. I get tired just thinking about it. I know friends who have done it, friends with two or even three young children, and they make it seem easy. When I look at them, though, I think, better you than me, buddy.

I guess I might just be too selfish to be a mother, or maybe too lazy. It’s possible that I value my quiet personal time way too highly; it’s possible that I flat out don’t have enough patience or endurance for this type of thing. Whatever it is, it’s something that’s wrong with me, not with Theo.

I love Theo with all of my heart. I love him so much, often more than I ever thought possible.

I just don’t always love how he’s changed my life.

How To Have A Good C-Section (or, how I learned to stop worrying and love major surgery)

26 Oct

I woke up the morning of January 8th, 2011, and lay in bed, waiting for Theo to kick me good morning. I was 34 weeks pregnant, and this was our wake-up ritual: he would wriggle around like a maniac, and I would spend a few minutes lying on my side, rubbing the outline of his body and telling him what we were going to do that day. Sometimes he would stick his feet in my ribs, and I would tickle his toes. Sometimes he would take a big stretch and I would try to map out how he was sitting inside of me.

That morning, though, I didn’t feel anything.

No big deal, I figured; he was probably asleep. Surely it wouldn’t be long before he was awake and kicking up a storm.

I had a bagel and coffee for breakfast and then lay on the couch with Matt, waiting for the caffeine to pass through the placenta and jolt Theo awake. We were watching a movie, but I couldn’t concentrate on it; all I could think about was the absence of movement inside of me.

I tried everything I could think of to get Theo to move – I drank ice water and lay on my side, poked and prodded him until I worried that I might be bruising my baby in utero, had Matt put his mouth up against my belly and talk to his son. Nothing worked.

We decided that we should go to the hospital.

When we got to the labour and delivery ward, I had to sit and wait for a bed to become available. Then we discovered that I hadn’t properly registered, so Matt had to go back down and re-do the paperwork. I was becoming increasingly anxious, and I was frustrated that the nurses didn’t seem to share my sense of urgency. Finally, they got me into an examining room and asked me where my OB usually found the baby’s heartbeat. I said it was loudest on the left side of my belly, so they put the doppler there.

Silence.

I started to cry. Matt tried to say something to calm me down, but he had tears in his eyes, too. The nurse frowned and moved the doppler around while the continuing silence made me sob harder and harder. This must have only gone on for a few seconds, but it seemed like hours. I was sure that Theo was dead; I pictured having to call my mom to tell her that her grandchild wouldn’t be born alive. I pictured myself having to be induced and delivering a cold, white baby.

Finally, way over on my right side, the nurse found a faint but steady heartbeat. The nurse smiled and said that she’d known all along that he was fine. I still couldn’t stop crying.

The nurse brought in a portable ultrasound machine, since I still wasn’t feeling Theo move. As she moved the probe over my belly, she asked me if I knew that he was breech. No, he’s not, I said, he’s been head down since 26 weeks. In fact, I had seen my OB three days earlier, and he had confirmed that the baby was head down. Not anymore he’s not, said the nurse.

They brought in the on-call doctor who confirmed that no only was Theo breech, he was footling breech, one of the rarest fetal positions and the most dangerous to the baby. On top of that, his umbilical cord was hanging down by his feet, which meant that, if my water were to break, he would be at high risk for a cord prolapse.

They hooked me up to a contraction monitor and told me that I was having strong contractions (none of which I could feel, by the way). They checked my cervix and I was 2 cm dilated and 100% effaced. Not a big deal, they said – some women dilate early. Two hours later I was 5 cm dilated.

At 34 weeks pregnant, I was in labour with a baby who wanted to meet the world feet first.

They wanted to do a caesarean that night. They would have, too, except that two emergency c-sections came in, tying up all the operating rooms. While we waited for an OR to open up, I sat in my bed and tried to use Jedi mind-tricks to stop my labour. Think calm thoughts, I told myself. I stared at the printout on the contraction monitor and willed the jagged lines to smooth themselves out. I stared at my belly and willed Theo to stay put.

Whatever I did must have worked, because by the time they checked my cervix again, I was still 5 cm dilated. My contractions continued, but were definitely less frequent than before. I made a deal with the on-call OB – if they would agree to delay my c-section, I would stay on bed rest in the hospital until I was full-term and/or my cervix started dilating again. She wasn’t thrilled with the idea, but she agreed to admit me for the night and check with my doctor. Luckily, he was a super cool dude, and when he came to see me on Monday morning he said he thought I’d made a good suggestion, and was totally fine with me hanging around the hospital until whenever.

This gave me some time to figure out what I was going to do. Up until this point, I’d planned on having a natural birth; I’d read books like Ina May Gaskin’s Guide to Childbirth , Martha Sears’ Birth Book and Henci Goer’s The Thinking Woman’s Guide To A Better Birth. I’d looked forward to giving birth, imagining that I would have some kind of mystical earth goddess experience; I’d been weirdly excited to know what real contractions felt like. I’d spent months participating in online pregnancy forums, decrying the medicalization of childbirth and the deplorable c-section rate in the western world. I hadn’t even read anything about c-sections, because there was no way that I was going to have one.

Except now I was.

I started to look for online resources for moms who were having caesareans but still wanted the whole touchy-feely earth goddess experience. I discovered, to my chagrin, that there weren’t many. Most people seem to think that a good birth and c-sections are diametrically opposed. Many people in the natural birth community are very, very anti-caesarean (one woman even went so far as to send me a video of a midwife delivering a footling breech birth, like, hey, thanks for your support), and many of those who support the medical model of childbirth tend to see birth as something that you just endure and get through, rather than a positive experience. I think that it’s totally possible to have a c-section and still have a good birth.

I’ve put together a list of things that worked well for us and resources that I found helpful:

If You Are Having A Planned Caesarean:

1. Educate yourself. This one is huge. Read as much as you can about c-sections, both about the procedure itself and what recovery will be like. Talk to other women who have had c-sections, and ask your OB for a run-down of how the procedure typically happens at your hospital. It’s also a good idea to read about the possible emotional effects of a c-section.

2. If you plan on breastfeeding, consider contacting a lactation consultant (the nice thing about being in the hospital was that the lactation consultant came to me), or else join the La Leche League and talk to women who have had similar experiences. Find out what kind of resources your hospital offers breastfeeding mothers – for example, mine held a breastfeeding class twice a day and had a lactation clinic. Make sure you get yourself a nursing pillow, because I promise you that you will be SO THANKFUL for it. Also,there are some good resources online here and here and here.

3. If you plan on breastfeeding, do so as soon as possible after surgery. I was able to breastfeed in the recovery room, less than half an hour after my son’s birth.

4. Make a birth plan of what you would ideally like to happen. You can ask for things like playing your own music during the surgery, doing skin-to-skin in the OR, and delaying (or even forgoing) the application of the eye gel. Remember that it doesn’t have to be the mother who does skin-to-skin – your partner also has some important bonding to do.

5. Eat really well at your last meal before your surgery (this will typically be 8 hours earlier). Make sure you get a lot of protein and that whatever you have is really filling, because they won’t let you eat afterwards until you fart (not kidding).

6. If you are having a c-section because your baby is breech, consider trying an external cephalic version. I wasn’t able to do this because I continued having contractions right up until my c-section (and we discovered during my surgery that I have a heart-shaped uterus, so it wouldn’t have worked anyway), but it’s definitely worth trying.

If You Are Planning On Having A Vaginal Birth

1. Educate yourself about c-sections anyway! It won’t hurt, and you’ll be prepared in case you do need one.

2. Include a “Caesarean Contingency Plan” as part of your birth plan. Sure, chances are that you won’t have a c-section, but if something goes wrong, it’ll probably go wrong pretty quickly, which means that it would be better to have what you want written out ahead of time.

3. Make sure that your partner is clear on what you want if you need a c-section – in the craziness of the OR, you’re going to need them as an advocate more than ever.

For Everyone

1. Allow yourself the time to mourn the birth you didn’t have. Some women feel that they’ve “failed” if they end up having a c-section; some feel that they haven’t really given birth. Talk about your feelings with your partner, and remind yourself that your experience was just as important and valid as anyone who had a vaginal birth.

2. Keep in mind that women who have c-sections are at a higher risk for postpartum depression. Make sure to watch yourself carefully for any of the signs and talk to a healthcare professional immediately if you think you might be showing some of the symptoms.

3. Take all of your medication on time. Trust me, you will feel way worse if you delay or skip a dose. The vast majority of medications are safe for breastfeeding; if you’re not sure, ask your doctor, nurse, pharmacist or La Leche League leader.

4. Hold a pillow against your incision whenever you cough, sneeze or laugh. I don’t know why, but this helps.

5. Take a shower as soon as you are feeling up to it. It will be the best shower of your whole life.

6. Accept help. If you have someone willing to do everything for you, let them.

Theo’s birth wasn’t what I had planned for, and it wasn’t the birth I would have chosen, but it was still good. I sometimes think that this was my first real lesson in parenting: the idea that not everything would happen on my own terms, that there would be times when I was not in control of the situation, but could still try to make the best of things.

So no, Theo’s birth wasn’t ideal, but I do think that it was the best birth that it could have been. And I’m thankful for that.

If you follow the simple steps that I have outlined above, then you, too, can look this happy while having a giant gash cut in their abdomen.

If you have any other suggestions, please feel free to add them in the comments!