Strength of a Woman: The Experience of a First Time C-Section Mom


Article by: Sophina Nduku

Publication date:

Photo by William Fortunato

Women who give birth via Caesarean section have it easy. I have heard this more than once, I think many of us have heard it at some point. I have been in various social settings where the discussion was centred on childbirth and everyone agreed that childbirth is painful and mothers deserve to be respected. They also agreed that CS moms do not understand the pain of childbirth because they chose the easy way out. Well, I may have listened to that, maybe even agreed then, but that was before I became a CS mom. Now that I understand how hard it is, these stereotypes do not sit well with me. Let me share my experience.

When I found out I was pregnant, being my first, I was elated. To me, pregnancy is a beautiful and fulfilling experience. However, pregnancy can also be scary and full of anxiety. Especially in the third trimester. Most women say that the third trimester is hard, and I agree. I remember all the energy from the second trimester suddenly dwindling. I was struggling to sleep, get out of bed, and even take a shower. And the frequent trips to the bathroom were not helping at all. I could not wait to give birth. My body was tired.

So, to prepare myself, I enquired about the process of giving birth from my mom and friends. I wanted to learn from their experiences. The general consensus was; go for a natural birth. Natural in this case meant a vaginal delivery. It is easier, they said, and it has a quick recovery period. However, nobody told me what to expect in case things did not go as planned, in case natural birth wasn’t a choice for me. I had not heard much about Caesarean delivery. With very little information on my hands, I turned to the internet looking for answers. At the end of my search, I felt a bit confident to handle whichever outcome. Nonetheless, no amount of reading prepared me for what was coming. 

When the day came, my contractions started at 8 pm. I went to the hospital at 6 am where the nurse confirmed my cervical dilation to be 2 cm. I changed into a maternity gown and I was instructed to walk around the hospital. The nurse said that walking during labour helps in moving the pelvic bones to ensure that labour progresses smoothly. It also eases the pain of contractions. So, I began walking around. I met fellow expectant women and we motivated each other to keep going. Those who had already delivered urged us to remain active so that we did not end up on the operating table.

At 12 pm, I was dilated up to 6 cm and the nurses assured me that I would hold my baby soon. I needed to get to 10 cm, and I was already halfway there. As time passed, the ward was full of cries as mothers held their little angels for the first time. I, on the other hand, was still waiting. 6 pm and I was still waiting. At 12 am, I was prepared for theatre. The prolonged labour was causing foetal distress, the doctor said. Therefore, the best way forward was to undergo an emergency C-section.

The recovery

With C-section, we have it easy, right? Society stereotypes women who undergo Caesarean delivery as lazy and weak because it is so simple, right? You just lie on the table, your stomach is cut open, the baby is scooped out, the stomach is stitched and you are good to go. Well, this is so far from the truth. It takes a while before you feel anything close to good. 

I remember trying to sit up after the anaesthesia wore off and I could not. A stabbing pain would hit my lower stomach. I would try turning my head to look at my baby and I would feel a throbbing pain in my neck. The doctor had said I should be walking six hours after the surgery. Well, that did not happen. I was stuck. My baby would cry and I could not wake up to hold her. I needed support to get out of bed.

I needed support when going to the washroom because I could not bend down to pee. I had to be supported to lie down when I went back to bed. This was the lowest moment of my life. Every step I took was painful, and my legs were swollen to twice their size. My hands were numb because of the IV injections I had on both wrists. But I had a newborn fully dependent on me, I had to get better. I could not give up. 

Three days after the surgery, I was discharged, despite being in pain. And for the next two weeks, my strength was tested to its limit. I remember crying the first time I went for a long call. The doctor had prescribed some laxatives to aid in bowel movement. I had been told that constipation is a normal occurrence after a C-section and to eat food in small portions. And despite following this advice, I was stuck in the toilet. It took several attempts before I gained some relief. I never thought I would be able to fully function again. I mustered all the strength I had to push myself to recovery. It is then that I fully grasped what millions of women go through worldwide.

Studies indicate that 21 per cent of women give birth via Caesarean section across the world. I realised that only a strong woman could put her life on the table to bring life into the world.  She is risking uterine rupture, endometriosis, blood clots, infections and haemorrhage. Only a dedicated woman could nurse a baby while still nursing a wound. Therefore, it is time to stop the negative stereotypes of women who give birth via C-section. They are not lazy or weak. They are brave enough to face the cut of a scalpel. They are heroes to their children – without their selfless sacrifice, the children would not be here today. If you are a C-section mom, wear your scar with pride. You are a heroine.