It all began with a birth. My daughter was born by cesarean after a three day failed induction and birthing that way was not at all what I had planned. It was a deeply traumatic experience that shook me to the core, moved the earth below me, changed how I viewed the world, and ultimately transformed who I am.
A couple of months postpartum, while somewhere between new mother bliss and post birth trauma, a friend shared an interactive website with me, cesareanscar.com; I participated by sharing a self-portrait of my cesarean scar and pouring my heart out. This opened the door a small crack for embarking on a healing journey and this is what I wrote:
My scar is nearly 7 weeks old, has healed, but still feels so very raw emotionally.
When I look at my scar it says to me “You didn’t plan for me, you didn’t want me and still don’t, but I am with you now. You will find a way to peacefully accept me, learn to understand me and maybe one day come to love me for the great battle scar that I am…you earned me as a warrior mama.
When I touch my scar it says to me “I am here, you can’t forget it and won’t. I am the way you birthed your baby and it is OK. One day you will peacefully accept me, learn to understand me and come to love me for that.”
In many ways, I manifested my destiny that day with the simple act of sharing my heart. The beauty of all challenge and pain is that it inspires growth and change, IF you listen and allow it. My yoga practice has taught me how to be still with the pain and trauma, even embrace it and welcome it. It has taught me to listen without judgment of myself or others. This has saved me time and time again. Slowly… bit.by.bit. the pain turned into growth – immense growth and change.
And then something beautiful happened, that growth turned into immense LOVE and action. Since the birth of my daughter I have launched my own yoga business, MamaBirth YOGA, supporting women in all phases of motherhood with yoga. I have become a co-leader for ICAN of Syracuse. I have joined with other women and birth professionals to launch BirthNetwork CNY, a birth advocacy group. I am a birth activist. Most recently, however, I have taken the vision of my emotionally and physically raw 7 weeks postpartum self and 3 years later turned it into a community birth activism art project.
You see, the birth of Cesarean Stories was inevitable all along. Since the very moment I cried my way through sharing my self-portrait and writing about my scar, I knew there was a way to give other women a chance to share their story in a unique way. At the same time, it was important to me to give the public a glimpse into the wide range of emotions behind cesarean birth and share the high rates at which women in this country are giving birth by cesarean. On Saturday April 13, Cesarean Stories – a photo and journal art exhibit, will open at Basic Baby in Syracuse NY. The community will come together during Cesarean Awareness Month to view artistic photos of real women’s cesarean birth scars and an accompanying journal entry responding to the prompt “My Cesarean Birth Scar…”. However, the photos are of more than just a scar. The photographer, Jennifer Wolsey, has carefully captured the women, the emotions, and the story behind each cesarean birth. This project has been more than I ever imagined it could be, in my own journey and in the journey of those participating. There is power in this beautiful group of courageous women who have put themselves out there in a vulnerable way; not simply by being photographed, but by sharing a part of their body that is “taboo” to themselves and to our society, a part of their body that some of them view as ugly. Some of these women hate their scar. Some of them won’t allow their partner to see or touch their scar. Some of them have a difficult time looking at their scar. Some of them have come to love their scar and some have loved it all along. The common thread is that for each of these women, Cesarean Stories has been an opportunity to share their story and move through their journey knowing they have a voice. A voice and a choice in birth. This is what matters, because birth is a women’s rights issue. I had no idea if women would agree to participate, if a photographer would “get it” and if the community would respond. Well, the women came, the photographer MORE THAN got it and the community is responding.
We don’t speak about birth enough and we certainly don’t speak enough about cesarean birth and the epidemic we are experiencing in this country with one in three women giving birth by cesarean. My hope is that Cesarean Stories begins to breakdown preconceived notions and opens the door for other women. If only one women’s heart is healed a little in sharing her story and if only one community member’s mind is opened a little in viewing the exhibit, then the project has been a success.
So for me, YES, it still hurts a little, sometimes even a lot. But NO, I wouldn’t change the way my daughter was born because her birth birthed me into a new woman, a more educated and empowered woman. I am who I am today because of our birth experience together. I have no way of knowing who I would be had my daughter’s birth played out wildly different, the way I had envisioned it. The one thing I know for sure is that I wouldn’t be who I am today and I love the woman I am today. And as I move forward I move on to a new vision of manifesting my destiny. That of a VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Cesarean).
Love what is ahead by loving what has come before. This has been my mantra.
*All above photographs by Jennifer Wolsey. You may view more of her work this month at Cesarean Stories – a photo and journal art exhibit, on Saturday April 13, in New York. To learn more about her and her work please visit her website and FB page.