A Scar That Remains: Living with the Emotional Pain of Unplanned Cesarean


Seven years ago, on March 13, 2006, my husband and I welcomed our firstborn son Abel into the world — but not the way I had hoped to….

From the time I learned of the life growing inside me until the end of those nine beautiful months, I fervently prayed for my baby’s development, for my body’s endurance, and for my (natural) labor’s success.

Next to having a perfectly healthy baby, I wanted nothing more than to have a natural labor and delivery. So strong was my heart’s desire for a vaginal birth that only mothers who’ve felt the same way could possibly understand.

…And God. I know He understood my desires; and I told Him about them religiously. Though I had no reason to expect a need for medical intervention, I preemptively asked God to enable me to avoid a Cesarean birth.

When the time came for Abel to make his way into the world, everything looked as if my prayers were being answered. My water had broken on its own, active labor had begun immediately thereafter, and I had successfully labored medication-free for the quick six hours that would see me dilate from 1 to almost 10.

It was time to push, and I couldn’t have been happier. But after one round of pushing and another check, my doctor decided that the baby was posterior and needed more time to descend. I could either go straight to a C-section, he said, or I could labor for another hour and see what happened.

Go straight to a C-section?! Are you kidding me?!! Of COURSE I would labor for another hour.

But the end of that hour didn’t return the verdict I had expected. Despite my hard labor, the baby had descended no farther; and the doctor’s opinion was that pushing would not help. He recommended a Cesarean and asked for our consent to proceed that way.

I was utterly heartbroken. My un-medicated body was enduring the pain of what was now one solid contraction; and I was being asked to make a decision that would make it all for naught.

Just recalling the torment and disappointment of that moment still brings stinging tears to my eyes and heavy aches to my heart.

I remember looking at my husband in bewilderment and saying to him the one thing that made a fraction of sense to me in that moment. I said, to myself as much as to him, “I’ve been praying for nine months that God would give my doctor wisdom. I think we have to trust him.”

It was the hardest and most painful decision I have ever made.

About an hour later, my perfect baby boy was born to us via Cesarean section.

A Scar That Remains: Living with the Emotional Pain of Unplanned Cesarean

My body healed well from that unexpected surgery; but still today, seven years later, I am dealing with an emotional pain that is, at times, quite raw and real. Feelings of regret and disappointment stay with me, and thoughts of “What if…” still haunt me.

There is scar on my heart that has never completely healed, and I have begun to think that it never will.

I could attempt to explain and to justify my feelings — to quiet the objections of those who would say that it doesn’t matter because it all turned out okay or because I have so much to be thankful for. Indeed, they are right, and I’ve told myself so numerous times over the past seven years; but my heart can’t seem to embrace what my head knows to be true.

And maybe it doesn’t have to. Maybe it’s okay to have a lingering heartache. Maybe it’s okay to have a scar that remains. And maybe it’s okay to quit trying to hide it as if it has no right to be there. Because it IS there.

It happened. It hurt. It STILL hurts. I don’t expect anyone to understand that, because I’m not sure even I do; but I’m learning that it doesn’t have to be understood to be valid, and it doesn’t have to be sensible to be real.

The reality is that Cesarean did more than scar my abdomen. It scarred my heart. The emotional pain of unplanned Cesarean may never completely leave me, but my hope is that healing will continue to come through my acknowledgment of the pain.

A Scar That Remains: Living with the Emotional Pain of Unplanned Cesarean


  1. Angela thanks for sharing your scars with us!  I love your honesty.  I think there is a grief process we go through when something doesn’t turn out the way we planned especially in regards to our children.  You are right it doesn’t have to make sense to be real to you – others don’t have to “get it”.

  2. Imagine for a minute you do not have children. Or at least living children and the ones you did have died prematurely in th 27 and 28th weeks. We tried for years to have children, I can even tell you how many thousands were spent on fertility specialists, medications etc. We’ve been down the adoption road several times only to have the birth moms decide to parent. Imagine living in a house that’s painfully silent right now. If I had to have a c section I wouldn’t whine and cry about it seven years later. The way you described it was as if someone died, all of your children are healthy alive and with you. You most likely had a baby shower, you got to bring your children home in their carseat.
    With me I went home with an empty car seat right after you get home your husband takes out the car seat and puts it back in the box. The day after I came home each time I went to the funeral home to prepare for their funerals. Instead of putting my babies to sleep in their nurseries, both times they were taken down. Imagine the pain.
    Imagine you’ve lost one child and are pregnant again with a new child with everyone telling you  “Oh this couldn’t possibly happen again.” But it does. Imagine trying for baby #3 after losing their siblings and 2 years pass without becoming pregnant again.
    Imagine all of your baby dreams one by one being shattered and even giving up the idea of carrying your own baby.

    • @greivingmommy , thanks for sharing your pain. I sat weeping by my son’s bedside a number of times when he was near death. Once, the doctor called me at 3 am in the morning to come to his NICU room because they didn’t think he would survive the next hour. Although he survived, I still remember that horrible pit in my stomach as I kissed him “goodbye”. I am weeping right now for your pain. It is so hard to see innocent little ones whom we want to protect and care for as moms hurt or pass from this life. There is nothing like the fierce love of a mother. Although your babies died much too young, I can tell you loved them intensely.

    • @greivingmommy I am so sorry for the painful road you are walking.  It sounds like you have endured more tragedy than any human should have to face.  And you’re right–sometimes it is easy to lose perspective on what a “true loss” is.  I wish I could do something to ease your burden.  I don’t know if this is anything you would be interested in, but I felt led to share with you about an organization called Mommies with Hope.  It is for the grieving mothers who have lost a child (or children) through miscarriage, stillbirth, or infant death.  They meet monthly in Ankeny and Ames to support, encourage, and help one another through the grief of a child’s death.  I just want you to know that you are not alone in what you face–there are other women who are walking the same road, and there is a God who cares deeply about your pain.  You can go to mommieswithhope.com to learn more about it.  Although I don’t know who you are, I am praying for you today.

    • @greivingmommy While I am sorry for your pain and experience, I don’t believe it’s fair to say her pain is somehow less than yours. They are not the same and cannot be measured against one another.

      • @organicmommyluv  @greivingmommy
         I’ve read your comment over and over and I can’t find a nice way to reply to what you’ve just said. I have no living children how on earth is her pain from a csection the same as having two children stillborn and not having any living children at all and trying for many years? I’m sorry but they are not the same. I do feel bad that she didn’t get the birth she wanted but I’m also glad that she didn’t endure the deaths of her children try to comprend that.
        I went into the hospital and knew I wouldn’t be leaving with my children, I was at a hospital in my town and was then transferred to a hospital nearly an hour from my home. With my son I was given drugs to speed up labor because by the time I got to the second hospital he had passed away. Death is permanent.
        I can kind of imagine the pain of a mom whose left their child in the Nicu because I too left with empty hands well I had the memorial box and roses from my husband. I had to leave my son at the hospital for the funeral home to pic up. Same as my daughter.
        I went home to nurseries they’d never occupy. I drove home with carseats they’d never use. If I could have had a c section to ensure they’d be born alive and would go home with me I would’ve.
        How in the world can you say that a c section is the same as the death of a child??? I seriously doubt you’ve known that pain otherwise you wouldn’t have said something so offensive, untrue and hurtful. I totally get that a c section isn’t the way most women would want to give birth. I wouldn’t want to have a c section.

  3. Great post, Angela.  I love that scars fade but never go away because with the scar comes a story and with the story is the reminder that God is in control of our lives! I can’t help but think that God’s plan for Abel’s birth had something to do with the safe delivery of your twins via cesarean, which I know wasn’t your plan, but once again His!
    I am so thankful that His plan will always trump mine!!

  4. Angela-I can relate to your disappointment, Gretta’s birth wasn’t exactly in my ideal plan either…but my plan isn’t God’s plan either.  I became very content with the situation when I needed to have c-section… maybe its because I am a nurse, and often know way to much when it comes to the health, medicine, and procedures, but I think you have to look from the persepcetive are all of your kids healthy and happy? If yes, that is the important thing, regardless of a c-section or vaginal delivery—in the scheme of life there are “bigger fish to fry” and there could be or there are many other tragedies to have to grieve.

    • @RachelOstermanBorich I agree, perspective is so important. That being said, it’s this very perspective that has made me feel guilty for my own hurt and disappointment, keeping me from being able to acknowledge it. It’s a smaller fish, but it’s still a fish, you know? Thanks for your comment, Rachel! I’m wishing you all the best for your upcoming birth!

      • @Angela Squires  @RachelOstermanBorich
         Totally agree with Angela-just be proud of the mom you are to your four kids. you have great kids that are smart, beautiful, and healthy, and you are raising them to live and love Jesus. Don’t beat yourself up over..yes I know its disappointment, but you have so much to be grateful for and God has blessed you and Travis tremedously in so many way…You are a lucky and blessed woman & mommy!

  5. Beautiful story, @Angela Squires ! I loved reading about the birth of your son and you definitely have a gift in writing. Thank you for sharing!

  6. Angela, the tenderness of your heart just makes mine melt, and I’m sure the Father wants you to know that His GOODNESS covers this! The words I’m about to say are what I would say to a sister or dear, close friend who has confided her heart in me… it’s a little funny to write them on a blog, but I so appreciate your genuineness and unhindered recognition of what IS – the truth that many of us are too ashamed to share – that I can’t help but share a little encouragement for your hurting heart!
    I too am a mama who has been through an unexpected c-section, and was deprived of all the natural birth plans I’d put together and desperately hoped for. In the end, God’s way was better. Angela, at the heart of your pain, I’d guess there is a lie Satan is whispering to your spirit – that God wasn’t really taking the best care of you, that He shorted you an experience you longed for, that there may be some price your son could pay for the way he came into the world. The TRUTH is, not only is God (of course) ultimately loving, but in ALL THINGS He works for the good of those who love Him. Of course you know this, but does your heart know this?? 
    In a similar way, there are many times our children want something (let’s say a Mt. Dew), and instead we provide them with something better for them in every way – the only drawback is, it’s just not what they wanted. It would break my heart if my child grows up and feels grieved by my provision of healthy nutrition and care simply because they conclude that what they want must be better than what I provide. They would ultimately be telling me that 1) I don’t really love them – that I was not acting in their behalf, but in my own self-interest, 2) they know better than me what is best, and their desires are indeed above my love. How do you teach the heart of your own little one who is mad at you because he got milk instead of soda? You teach him to trust you, and to understand he has a mama who cares enough not to give him a rock when he asks for a rock, but provides bread.
    Let’s put it this way – if God put your husband in charge of your life, and gave him alone sovreign knowledge and wisdom, and your hubby told you a c-section was what he was going to ordain, wouldn’t you trust that for some reason you aren’t aware of, it really must be better? God loves you even more than your hubby!
    This is a principle I’ve wrestled with and had to relearn many times – that I can trust God’s love for me, even when I don’t understand it. That when my way seems best, and He gives me something else, I can BELIEVE it’s not just okay, but BETTER!
    Not that it’s wrong to be sad about not experiencing a natural birth. It’s okay for your child to be sad not to get Mt. Dew, but their knowledge of your love means it won’t be a deep hurt that causes the more intense experience of grief. Similarly, your bruised heart is indicative of hurt that comes from doubting God’s love for you in some way. Knowing His love did not falter in any way allows you to look back on that time as one when God took care of both of you, and when He taught you to let go of your own control and *knowledge* of what you think is best, but showed you that He can take great care of you and your (HIS!) newborn baby, IN SPITE OF circumstances that seem less than ideal to you. He is greater than our science, greater than our understanding. I am pausing to pray for you as I write this that God would teach your heart that you can let go of everything you know and want, and trust Him, and that you can look back on your birth experience as a time when God drew close and took the best care of you, not when He cheated you or turned His back on you, but when He was closest! 
    I love your heart, Angela, because it’s so tender, and because you so clearly seek to give God glory in every breath He gives you. You serve Him well in so many ways! I imagine He must smile so often when He looks on you =) He loves you. He was loving you that day seven years ago, even more than you were loving the child He was bringing forth from your body. And He desires to bring healing to your hurting heart by trusting Him and believing the answer to all your “what if’s” is “that would have been worse. What I chose for you is better.” He is not a God of lingering hurt – He is Healer. And His love will teach you the truth that will set you free from this pain. Thank you for being bold enough to share your heart and to let others encourage you… that takes a lot of courage and is so inspiring!

    • @janrain98765 Thank you so much for this. Your words of encouragement speak right to my heart, and I feel so blessed and humbled that you would take time to minister to me and to others who may read your response. I think you must be right–that perhaps my inability to completely “get over it” must be rooted in some sort of unbelief. (Lord, I believe! Please help my unbelief!) Thank you for “hearing” me well and for speaking Truth into my heart. How amazing that God can use a stranger to minister to me through this blog! 🙂 Many blessings to you, Sister!

  7. Thanks for sharing so honestly, Angela.  I didn’t deal with the emotions of an unplanned c-section, but three out of my four kids never breastfed effectively.  Despite doing everything “right” and my Herculean efforts to make things work, breastfeeding just didn’t work out for us.  Instead of nursing a baby, I spent months using a breastpump every three hours.  It was less than ideal.  (Shockingly, one of my kids breastfed like a champ until he was almost two.  Go figure.)  I was so disappointed because my reality was so far from what I had hoped and planned.  I also feared that I would be judged by others who found breastfeeding easy and thought that the only reason a mom wouldn’t nurse is because she’s lazy or selfish.  Little did they know that the white stuff in the bottles wasn’t formula but rather breastmilk that I woke up at three in the morning to pump!  I know that in the grand scheme, it’s not that big of a deal.  But it hurt a lot then, and I’m still disappointed about it now.  I think it’s better to be honest and acknowledge the grief rather than pretend it doesn’t matter.  (And about the natural childbirth thing–I’ve done it twice, and I STILL haven’t gotten my trophy!  What the heck?!?)

    • @mamaha1 I like what you said–“it’s better to be honest and acknowledge the grief rather than pretend it doesn’t matter.” That is exactly where I am at and what I am finally learning! I can totally understand why you would feel disappointed about your lack of “success” with nursing, but I certainly admire your sacrifice in pumping! I think you deserve a trophy for that, too! 🙂 Thanks for your openness and for your contribution to the conversation!

  8. This article really got me thinking…over the past few days I have thought about this article several times. I don’t understand your experience but God brought another thought to my mind- what do I do where MY Will and GOD’s WIll aren’t the same?? What do I do with my anger, resentment, disappointment, and all the other feelings that come with wanting My will in a situation when God deems different direction? Still learning and pondering the answer….

    • @Erinz That’s a good question to ponder…. I’m still pondering all things related to this whole conversation, too. One thing is for sure: we have to continually place our trust and our hope in God, even (and especially) in the times that we just don’t understand “why” something happened the way it did. Thanks for your example of willingness to learn and grow!

  9. Have you looked into the ICAN group at all? I believe there is an active one here, they have resources to help with processing the trauma of birth.

    • @organicmommyluv I used to subscribe to their emails or something when I was preparing for the birth of my twins, but I guess I’ve since forgotten about ICAN. Thanks for mentioning that they offer this type of services, as it might be helpful to other readers! I appreciate your support.

  10. Wonderful post. I had an unplanned c-section with our third child as his cord prolapsed and minutes later he was cut out of me. I was put under general anesthesia because I was laboring naturally. I never saw him born and neither did my husband. Those things do affect you. I have since had a homebirth VBAC and am pregnant with my fifth planning to do another homebirth.
    Even responding to your post about it brings up old emotions, so I can only imagine what writing a whole article could do.
    Thank you again for your words.

    • Thank you for your comment, Leah, and for your willingness to let your old emotions be stirred up. I can only imagine how scary (and scarring) an emergency C-section must be, and I guess I will always wonder if that is the type of situation we could have faced had we not heeded our doctor’s advice.

      Congratulations on your successful HBAC! What a wonderful feeling that must have been on the heels of a somewhat devastating birth experience. Wishing you all the best for the remainder of your pregnancy and for your next labor and delivery! God bless you!


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