Sunday, April 6, 2014

Don't Dwell

One question I often get asked as a new mom (especially from expectant friends) is how long it took to recover from a c-section. I always answer with six weeks. It's a terse and generic answer, but that's because I assume it's not exactly an open-ended question. I've had some time to reflect on this a bit, and yeah, I think six weeks is about how long it took for me to heal physically. As a healthcare provider, I realize that a switch didn't flip at six weeks; it was a gradual process. After a couple of days, it became easier to go up and down stairs. After about a week, it became less painful to go up and down stairs. After several weeks, I was no longer out of breath after going up and down stairs. One simple functional task had an entire continuum of healing. I had you almost four months ago and even now my incision is uncomfortable from time to time, even with the vicious scar massage I've been performing religiously.

But the physical recovery is nothing compared to the emotional recovery. Maybe it's not like that for everyone, but it was for me. I've mentioned on here multiple times that I had a lot of remorse surrounding the circumstances of your birth. A c-section robbed me of those first few incredibly over-hyped moments that I had been looking forward to for the preceding nine months, and it left me with foggy memories of our first couple of weeks together. I felt like I had let you down. Even after watching your tiny, tired body transform into a happy and healthy bundle of wonder, I couldn't shake that feeling of guilt. Your smiles and coos would distract me momentarily, but as soon as I was alone with my thoughts, I felt a cold inadequacy.

I never considered it to be postpartum depression. I certainly didn't feel sad about anything else, and I was far from uninterested. This self-flagellation is a part of my personality that I try to work on, but the idea of a perfectionist working on not being a perfectionist is an ironic paradox. I had talked about it with friends who had experienced similar guilt trips, I had read blog posts from other moms, and I still only found temporary solace.

Unlike the gradual physical recovery I had endured, my emotional recovery abruptly concluded. One day, your Auntie Amanda just said to me, "C'mon! Be nice to Ellie's mom!" It was a bit of perspective that was finally effective for me. Feeling guilty was selfish. I'm not just Julia anymore - I'm Ellie's mom. And just like that, I was over it.

One trait of mine that's even stronger than my perfectionism is my determination. I tried my hardest to get you out, despite the pain, despite the fatigue. My stubbornness was no match for the medical emergency that arose, and then an even more significant trait took over: love. I loved you enough to be sliced open to get you out. I would have endured an even worse recovery, both physically and emotionally, if that's what it meant to keep you safe. I loved you that much, and it was before I had even met you! This love grows stronger and stronger every day that I get to know you better. And my perfectionism won't apply to my parenting style nearly as much as my determination and my love for you. I don't want you beating yourself up the way your mommy does, so I'll try my hardest to set a good example for you.

There's so much guilt in female culture. We should contribute to our household income. We should be present and available for our children more than humanly possible. Women, girls even, beat each other up, and we continue to beat ourselves up. Instead, we need to focus on supporting each other and being good to ourselves. These mom-to-be friends of mine who ask about my c-section recovery are asking because they're scared that they'll face a similar fate. It is an open-ended question. So yeah, it took about six weeks to recovery physically, but it took exactly 13 weeks to recover emotionally. Those 13 weeks had some difficult moments, but they taught me how to have grace with myself in a way that nothing else ever has. I learned that there is no wrong way to become a mom, and that you and I were perfect for each other from our very first moment together...even if I don't remember it.


  1. I'm catching up on blog reading! :) And I love this. I know we had similar labours and similar recoveries -- I was just thinking a few days ago, I *know* it hurt, badly, for quite some time, but I don't remember the specific pain anymore, physically. Emotionally, I still remember how awful I felt, wondering if I missed out on some kind of bonding. I still feel sad sometimes when I realize how little I remember of her birth, but maybe I wouldn't remember it either way.

    I'm concluding that the way things start doesn't matter nearly as much as the way they continue, and Ellie's mom is a great mom. :)

    1. Thanks so much, Shayla! That really means a lot to me. And I think that's a beautiful sentiment: the way things start doesn't matter nearly as much as the way they continue :)