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Post C-Section Depression

Post C-Section Depression

By Amalah

Hi Amy,

I am the mother of two kids- a 3.5 year old and 2 month old. They are happy and healthy and I am very lucky. For my oldest, I had a home birth. For my youngest I planned a hospital birth due to insurance reasons but still planned to go without medications or any interventions unless absolutely necessary. It did not go well. He was very overdue, I had day-after-day of labor starting and stopping, scheduled an induction due to the risk of him dying without warning due to how overdue I was, cancelled the induction after labor started, went from no interventions to an IV, oxygen, not able to get out of bed, and pretty quickly, a c-section.

He is fine. I am fine. I should be and am grateful. But I’m also broken-hearted. I don’t know why. I wanted a natural birth but also was pretty realistic that if it didn’t work out it didn’t really matter. But now I’m not okay. I have a lot of trouble with medical procedures and get very scared and squeamish easily. The induction hanging over my head for days was not good for me. The interventions felt like a violation (even though I know, I KNOW they saved my baby). I spent the first hours after his birth vomiting from the anesthesia instead of holding him. But then I was fine! I recovered quickly and was happy.

But a few weeks later I started not feeling so fine. I am constantly replaying what happened in my mind. I feel sad, angry, cheated. I hate my scar. I hate my body. It doesn’t even feel like my body anymore. But I also feel so ashamed and embarrassed about feeling this way. When I am with my husband and children I am genuinely happy. But it’s always in the back of my mind. I’m always replaying the c-section over and over in my mind. And when I’m alone, it’s all I can think about. I want this to go away. I don’t want to care. And I can’t talk to anyone about this. Who would I tell? My friends who are pregnant? I don’t want to put this in their heads as they prepare for birth. My friends battling infertility?

I’m ashamed to even think about it. I feel bad even emailing you because I know you had c-sections and I don’t in any way want to make it seem like having a c-section is wrong. But… did you ever feel this way? Will these feelings go away? I want to look back on my son’s birth and feel happy. I would even take just not thinking about it at all. I guess overall I am just so confused- constantly feeling happy, sad, angry, grateful, everything all at the same time. But also, I don’t feel “depressed.” I really am happy at the same time that I’m… not happy. I don’t know. And this email is on the verge of making no sense, so I’ll stop now.

Thank you for listening.

I’m so sorry. Thank you for reaching out and writing this all down. It’s an important first step.

There is nothing “wrong” with anything you’re feeling right now — my first c-section was also an emergency procedure that I too, struggled to come to terms with, despite knowing perfectly well that it was wholly necessary and life-saving. Your son’s birth didn’t just not go as “planned,” it actually came pretty close to going completely off the rails, and it’s perfectly understandable that you might develop a bit of PTSD from the experience.

Which is why you DO NEED TO TALK TO SOMEONE ABOUT IT. Not your friends, but your husband and your doctor. IMMEDIATELY. What you are describing here sounds very much like some flavor of postpartum depression (PPD) or perinatal mood disorder. The timeline of the mood shift (you were fine for a few weeks, until you weren’t) and the symptoms you’re describing (replaying the surgery constantly, the hotbed of conflicting emotions and your shame/guilt for even having them in the first place, etc.)…it all points very, very strongly towards this not being something you’re going to be able to simply “snap out of.”

Postpartum depression doesn’t necessarily manifest as what most people would consider “feeling depressed.” Take a look at these symptom lists from Postpartum Progress and you’ll see that both PPD and anxiety/OCD have many, MANY different symptoms — most women don’t check off every box; some only identify with one or two. But even that doesn’t mean you can or should ignore those one or two symptoms. Please don’t look at those lists and go, “Well, yeah I’m really sad and angry and feel really guilty for feeling sad and angry BUT at least I feel bonded to my baby so that must mean I’m fine.”

And here’s the thing: While it is possible that your mood issues are directly stemming from an upsetting/traumatic birth experience, it’s also entirely possible that they’re NOT. That even if you had a perfectly pleasant natural birth, you might still have woken up a few weeks later in a confusing smog of negative emotions about something else entirely. PPD is sneaky like that.

I do believe you’ll reach a point where you come to terms with — and maybe even peace with — the circumstances of your son’s birth. You’ll be able to matter-of-factly acknowledge that yeah, actually I went way overdue and nothing went as planned and in the end, it totally sucked but at least he and I made it out okay — without the soul-consuming sadness and anger and intrusive thoughts.  Your scar will heal and fade and this experience will begin to shrink in the rear view mirror of your mind. It’s NOT YOUR FAULT that you aren’t at that point yet, by the way! There’s no set timeline for this sort of thing. But please please PLEASE promise me (and all your fellow readers) that you won’t go at this alone, keeping your feelings bottled up out of guilt. Call your husband right now, send him what you sent me, then call your doctor. We now know that perinatal mood and anxiety disorder are temporary and treatable with professional help.  Love and hugs to you, Mama.

Photo source: Depositphotos/Syda_Productions

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Amalah
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch

Amalah

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to amyadvice@gmail.com.

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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