Birth Matters

Cesarean Sections: Lessons, Purpose and Reasons

I've been thinking about why. Why is a very human question, I think it might be one of the things that defines us as human. I think it’s also the hardest question we ask.

Why did I have a cesarean? No matter what the answer may be, I think every woman who has one, asks this question. Why did I have a cesarean? Of course, the global answer is that cesareans happen, most of the time, because of the medicolegal climate of our modern times- because of the obstetrical model of care that sees pregnancy and birth as pathology- because nobody really knows how birth works anymore. But that's not the question that most women are asking.

Why did I have a cesarean?

How a woman asks this, how she answers it has less to do with lessons and purpose and more to do with the reasons that she finally finds comfort in.

I had a cesarean because my pelvis is too small.
I had a cesarean because I was scared in the hospital.
I had a cesarean because my baby was breech.
I had a cesarean because my doctor wanted to go home.
I had a cesarean because the induction failed.
I had a cesarean because my placenta abrupted.
I had a cesarean because I needed to realize I'm not in control of everything.
I had a cesarean because I didn't want to be incontinent.
I had a cesarean because I needed to learn to trust myself and not my doctor.
I had a cesarean because my baby was posterior.
I had a cesarean because I was scared of the pain of labor.
I had a cesarean because I was carrying twins.
I had a cesarean because I'd already had one.
I had a cesarean because my cervix just won't open.
I had a cesarean because god hates me.
I had a cesarean because my baby was in distress.
I had a cesarean because I had a previa.
I had a cesarean because my baby was too big.
I had a cesarean because my uterus got tired.
I had a cesarean because the cord prolapsed.
I had a cesarean because I needed to know when the baby was going to arrive.

These are all reasons for a cesarean. To any individual woman, some of these are going to make sense and some are going to seem simple nonsense. Which is which, depends on the woman. But they are all reasons for a cesarean.

Some of us go on to ask- "so what is the purpose of our cesareans? What lessons do we learn from them? WHY did I have a cesarean?"

Does there have to be a lesson or a purpose? And are all events in our lives purposeful? Is there a lesson to be learned from every experience? And is every lesson a direct outcome of each specific event in our lives? Depending on who you are and how you relate to this world, you may need no greater purpose, no lesson at all to explain your cesarean. It happened for a reason and that's it. I do believe that there can be purpose related to the experience of cesarean surgery. I do not believe that identifying a purpose justifies them, if they are not already justifiable.

But I do believe we can find beauty in ashes, if we are open to it, though almost never on our schedule. Sometimes the finding requires waiting, letting time sift through the ashes, and sometimes it requires active work on our part. Often, it requires a give and take of both waiting and working. Maybe the bigger purpose of the cesarean is clear and has been from the beginning. Maybe there is an easily identifiable lesson there. Or maybe, there is a lesson there, but it has a lot less to do with the cesarean than expected. Maybe purpose and lesson are less about specific events and more about how we live after them.

There's no requirement that says we must identify the purpose of our cesareans, with the lessons that we learned from them. We can go on living without finding a higher purpose to everything that happens to us, good or bad. And at times that's not a bad thing way to live. Healing doesn't mean finally finding an explanation for the cesarean that "brings closure" or allows us to "be at peace with it" and it doesn't even mean finally "understanding" why it happened.

Still, as we live, and learn and grieve and grow, we might find that even as we've come through the cesarean, the lessons we learned might not be anything we expected, anything that has to do specifically with having a cesarean! There's no promise or even expectation that finding purpose will change how we feel about our cesareans, though maybe for some it will. Living life has purpose. Living life teaches us lessons about ourselves and others. Cesareans, for good or ill, are part of our lives. I'm not sure there's much more to it than that.