Friday, June 4, 2010

The Power of Words and the Best of Intentions

I know I said I wasn’t going to write about the emotional aspects of healing yet, but it seems this crazy roller coaster of recovery does make some loops.
Not so very long ago someone said something very hurtful to a friend about my c-section, who of course told me. The way I responded destroyed several friendships. When I think about what was said, I still get angry. I’ve been told by those on the other side that what I’m feeling is not valid. That because it was said with the best intentions and love, that I have no right to be upset. Regardless, those words burn and still sting. Much like the cauterizer that burned my flesh during my section and left me with a daily reminder of the pain.
I’m learning more and more each day that people don’t generally don’t harbor ill will and have the worst intentions (the same cannot be said for the internet however) and this experience has taught me to try to remember that. While I have lots of feelings about whether or not my cesarean was truly necessary and instead of blaming the establishment and the doctors and my mistakes and whoever “did” this to me, I have to remember that the OB that cut me open was not trying to hurt me or my baby. He really did think what he was doing was the right and noble thing to do (sure financial gain and personal issues (ahem, yachting) may have affected his choices, but still). The NICU pediatrician who kept my baby from me didn’t mean to hurt us; he thought he was doing what was best for my baby. And my friend. My friend who said that I should have just had the c-section sooner and that because I didn’t, that I risked my baby’s life and that I was the reason she was in the NICU…well, she had good intentions too. Right? She didn’t intend for her words to even reach me, but I have to remember that she didn’t think she was saying something that would put me into a three day crying jag.
Many of you I’m sure have heard the old adage “At least you have a healthy baby”.
When people say this, I really do think they have good intentions (unless, it’s said more in a “Why is she whining! Just shut up already!” way). I used to be a very optimistic person and always look for the silver lining, but this phrase is so dismissive. This phrase says “Hey, who cares about how you feel! Who cares about your pain! You have a healthy baby! Get over it!” I am not just a vessel, and neither are you. Our feelings are important too.And no, I can't just "get over it".
This talk of "at least she's healthy" was hard for me. While, yes, after we came home from the hospital, she was healthy, I knew that the cesarean (which I wasn’t sure was necessary at that point) had impacted her. That she had suffered pain and loneliness and might have lasting issues because of the way she was born. Questions about that swirl through my head all the time, even now. Will she be violent because her entrance was so cold and abrupt? Does she have nightmares about her birth? Will she have lung problems because she wasn’t squeezed through my birth canal? Will she hate to be touched because she wasn’t held for the first three days?
I wrote a letter apologizing to Vala for what I put her through as a homework exercise for therapy. Read it here.
If someone you know has a c-section and you aren’t sure how to respond, just offer your support when they need it. So often, well intentioned words cause the most damage to our psyche.
Has anyone ever told you something hurtful about your birth? What do you think is an appropriate remark about someone else’s birth?


  1. I wonder the same things about Daniel. I am scared for him sometimes. I like the idea of the letter.

  2. My husband had a c-section. He has horrible allergies... who knows why, but I have read somewhere that vaginally birthed babies have a lower chance of allergies. He never got into smoking, his lungs are good... although he does exercise, eat healthfully and take care of himself. He turned out okay. He is, after all, a lawyer. He just has a really big head. Literally. I think he got cut-out b/c of his heart rate going way up or stopping or something like that... he does have a pace maker due to an extremely low heart rate. Hm... is this helping any ?

  3. @Thoughtful Mothering; I don't currently have any information about a link between heart problems and cesarean birth, but I do know a bit about the increased risk of respiratory problems related to cesarean birth. The process of being squeezed through the birth canal has many benefits to the baby including having the fluid squeeezed from the lungs. Not receiving this benefit leaves the baby at a higher risk for problems. There's also something about some kind of hormone/chemical/bacteria(?) release(my google-fu is failing at the moment or I would post more about it). I know that would have helped in Vala's case.
    I was born via repeat c-section and I personally blame it for my asthma. Since I was a repeat, my mom proudly got to "pick" my birthday...which happened to be early. Thanks mom.
    I don't really know the link with allergies, but I'll look into it for sure.

  4. Yeah, I felt funny about inducing b/c I felt like there was something just so not right about "picking" Harrison's birthday... but LUCKILY he came on his own and I didn't fall victim to the tempting "we can induce if you want." Honestly my feet were so swollen, my blood pressure was iffy, and I was so miserable that I probably would have given the okay. I'm sorry this all happened to you, but I'm really glad you're educating others.