When Megan Goldstein was pregnant with her first child, her doctors scheduled an induction for 41 weeks because of her age — 36 at the time. After 34 hours of labor, Goldstein stalled at 9 centimeters. Doctors found that Goldstein's water had broken and had meconium in it, the baby’s first bowel movement. That worried them: When meconium is in the amniotic fluid the baby can inhale it, blocking the airways. And, baby Josie was facing upward, what’s colloquially called sunny side up.
“I felt a little sense of relief because I was finally like ‘I'll get to meet my baby,’” the 38-year-old who works in an accounting firm in Pittsburgh told TODAY Parents. “It's kind of scary at the same time because I didn't plan on having a C-section.”
When Goldstein hears people on social media claim that C-sections are easy, lazy or aren’t true births she feels annoyed. Nothing about her experience felt easy.
For starters, her epidural had failed. While her legs were numb, she could still feel the contractions and the C-section.
“It was the most painful experience of my life,” she said. “They were removing the placenta at the time so they were pushing on my abdomen to get it out so I was just moaning from the pain. Plus, I was shaking uncontrollably.”
She shook so much her husband feared she was having a seizure. Then came the recovery. While Goldstein received medication to ease her pain, she didn’t realize that about every half hour or so a nurse would be visiting her to press on her belly to expel the blood.
“That was more pain,” Goldstein explained. “I know that's for every C-section they do it for. I don't know if how much pain I was in prior to that ... affected it more.”
“I wish I could delivery vaginally for the next baby just so I can compare the two so I can shut people up once and for all,” she said. “The C-section seemed way worse. But I don’t know if that is the case.”
Goldstein and other mothers who delivered via C-section are pushing back against the misconceptions. C-sections are common and account for more than 30% of deliveries in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Still, many people harbor stigma about them. Doctors agree that such thinking is flawed.
“We try to allow everybody to labor in naturally and to have a baby naturally but in some situations, it's just not meant to be. So, to keep a person safe and their baby safe, we have a C-section,” Dr. Christine Greves, an OB-GYN in Orlando, told TODAY Parents. “It is a major surgery.”
Sometimes moms feel disappointed that they had a C-section instead of a natural birth. After having a C-section with her first baby because she had preeclampsia, Jasmine Bryant hoped to have a vaginal birth after C-section, also called a VBAC, with her second child. But during her trial of labor, it became clear she again needed to deliver via C-section.
“The umbilical cord got wrapped around the baby … so they prepped for a C-section,” the 31-year-old entrepreneur in Ventura, California, told TODAY Parents. “I was also disappointed because I thought I was going to be able to have a natural birth. We did it this time because it was what was best for the baby.”
Greves said this is often the case — doctors perform C-sections to protect mom, the baby or both.
“If women have had a C-section and they feel bad, (I would say) the baby is ultimately the one in charge,” she said. “All you can do is try and that's an introduction to parenthood.”
While Bryant felt disappointed at first after delivering her second son via C-section she has come to feel differently and feels like she has grown and learned from her deliveries. She shared her stories about her three C-sections on Instagram to help raise awareness.
“I’m at peace with it...But I think going into (having a baby) knowing that it’s not going to be picture perfect is important,” she said. “It would probably cause a lot less anxiety, depression.”
When Jenny Otto had her first child she expected to have a vaginal delivery, but it became clear her birth wasn’t going to follow a plan.
“I was terrified. Thirty hours of labor and an hour of pushing, all that is super exhausting, and then it’s like I didn’t get anywhere, nothing was happening,” the 33-year-old from Parma, Ohio, told TODAY. “Honestly, the surgery was just one big blur.”
When she was pregnant with her second child, the doctor suggested a C-section and Otto agreed that it seemed like the best choice. She feels comfortable with delivering via C-section. But, she bristles when she sees influencers and bloggers criticize them.
“There's nothing easy about it, even the ones that were scheduled,” Otto said. “I still had several weeks of pain and pain medication and on top of that, trying to take care of a little baby.”
Otto says she wonders if people are critical because they just don’t understand C-sections. They occur so routinely that might obscure the seriousness of them. Goldstein agrees.
“I just don't think people understand what really is involved, the side effects that can happen during a surgery and the fact that you're awake for it compared to other surgeries,” she said.
But even still there was the time that she even questioned her own birth experience.
“I started thinking like, ‘Oh this isn't a real birth,’” she said. “The more I think about it, the more I am like, 'It was'.”