Five years ago my body was injured, slashed through with a surgical knife.
My abdominal walls were severed in two by a bulging baby boy in a torso too short to properly accommodate him.
These battle scars the belly carries are from war zones called C-Section and Diastasis Recti. I have the unfortunate appearance of someone still pregnant (which sometimes people ask!) and as a yoga teacher, it is highly unlikely that I will ever be mistaken for having “nice abs.” To have people judge me for it still hurts because I thought yoga was about acceptance, not appearance.
It’s all well-meaning what people say after such a battle of pregnancy and labor and hospital stays. “Be thankful—that’s proof you had a baby.” Thank you, but my son is actually proof that I had a baby. I can be thankful for him without loving scars and muscle weakness.
People placate a new mother with platitudes like, “thank goodness for modern medicine,” and “your child’s smile is all you need.”
They don’t know. They don’t live in this body, they don’t have to look at themselves naked with these sobering reminders of a traumatic experience, albeit one with a beautiful ending. They don’t understand the toll it takes on a wife and a marriage when you don’t love your body. They can’t comprehend what it’s like when your husband says you are beautiful and you still cry because you can’t feel your own beauty.
I didn’t even accept that I had trauma. I covered and hid feelings because I am grateful and I wasn’t one of the moms forced to a C-Section. I wasn’t put on the clock.
After 54 hours of trying natural labor, 24 hours of trying an epidural and medications, sifting, showers, puking, crying, I decided to agree and tell the doctor I’d had enough. Then in a mere 20 minutes, he had arrived, the light of my world, the soul of my soul.
This was my whole new purpose for even being alive.
I can remember the exact moment before we went to surgery. I asked my wonderful midwife, who I will love until my dying day, what would have happened to us in the “days of old” (seriously, laboring mothers say weird things!)?
Honestly, she told me that I would have died. Logically, I totally know that I did every single thing possible to have that natural experience. But somehow I had failed and here is this damn belly with a C-Section shelf staring at me in the mirror reminding me that I couldn’t open enough to allow my son to live.
What on earth is wrong with me? I thought. I mean, I did yoga, I did breathing, I did organic, I had a doula!
I pushed the physical and emotional pain away because that is what a new mom does—blinders on, full focus on new life.
I made every effort to positive spin my C-Section story, how I had the freedom of choice and didn’t have that trauma that other moms have—they needed the group support, they deserved the kind words. I didn’t even deserve to be comforted because, after all, it wasn’t that bad and other people have it worse.
I live in the now, not the past, I thought.
I closed down completely on a physical level. That emotion lived in my very hormones. My body knew there was a trauma. My desire knew there was a trauma. My fertility knew there was a trauma. My core knew and there is no denial of weakness in an asana.
Still, I clung to the denial of a happy emotion of acceptance and non-attachment. After all, I’m a yogi. I’m supposed to practice letting go, letting be, and becoming free.
I just celebrated the five glorious years of my own motherhood and my son’s beautiful life. The time is right to forgive my body. I’ve been working up to this for a while and sharing is a catharsis, I can’t possibly be the only woman with a story like this and just maybe this reaches a woman with this issue and she knows that she is not alone.
I have my yoga practice to thank for this realization. Something happens when you sink into your practice; all that time on the mat evolves into something. It’s a spark of awareness; you begin to reveal your truth. Yogis say it’s like shining up a cloudy glass so that you remove the residue of experience from the window of your soul.
After all, I’m a yogi. I’m supposed to practice letting go, letting be, and becoming free.
If you feel this way, if you are hurting, if you find it hard to admit, forgive, and accept your own birth story—try these affirmations. They helped me and maybe could help you too.
Body, I’m sorry I blamed you for not being enough.
Body, I’m sorry that I didn’t recognize that you were hurting.
Body, I’m sorry that I ignored your messages and didn’t listen to your pain.
Body, I’m sorry that I made you carry this burden of emotion for so long.
Body, I forgive you for not opening up.
Body, Thank you for carrying my child.
Body, Thank you for birthing this new understanding.
Body, Do you think maybe you can forgive me too?
Body, I love you. Thank you for being the home of my soul.
I would love to hear your birth story and your journey to healing. We mamas with trauma need to lean on one another and share, because too often we are made to suffer in silence with no one to listen.
I’m listening. I see you.
Author: Kirsten Hedden
Editor: Renee Picard
Photo: via the author, copyright Gena Appleby