(NEW YORK) — By sharing her C-section journey, a mom of two is hoping to raise conversations on the stigma behind delivery methods while amplifying more support for women.
“I guess I didn’t realize how much C-section shaming there was until I got shamed myself,” Jesse Truelove of Guymon, Oklahoma, told ABC News’ Good Morning America. “I had a doula, who was a birth support person, [say] I was ‘too good for labor and labor was beneath me’ and that’s why [I was] opting for a C-section.”
“Labor was not beneath me. I did that. I tried that for 26 hours,” she added. “However women choose to birth their kids, at the end of the day, we’re just moms trying to get out of the hospital with a healthy baby and there’s no shame in that — no matter how you do it.”
Truelove recently posted a series of clips onto Instagram from when she gave birth to her daughter, River — born March 11, 2021. River was delivered via elected C-section. The reel resonated with thousands of women.
“If you had a C-section it’s OK to mourn the delivery you didn’t get,” read the on-screen video text. “You are a warrior. You made life. You brought that life into the world, the best way for you and that baby. There is no room for judgement or shame around that. Only love, support and pride. There is no EASY way to birth a human. I’m proud of you. Of all mothers. Of myself.”
Truelove is a prenatal and postpartum core and pelvic floor exercise specialist. She’s also head coach of the Move Your Bump app and a Postpartum Ab and Rehab workout course.
Her career choice was sparked by her experiences delivering her two daughters, she said.
“I didn’t know what women needed until I needed those things,” Truelove explained.
Truelove also said she noticed the pressure on moms to “bounce back” and she feels the terminology surrounding C-sections and labor is already setting moms up to believe they’re failing.
“There’s ‘failure to progress, incompetent cervix’…those words carry a heavy weight for a mom trying to bring a baby into the world,” Truelove said.
“The first birth was very traumatic and an emergency situation after 26 hours of labor, a uterine infection … it was everything I didn’t want. It took me a long time to process and digest that birth,” she added. “I definitely felt like my body had failed me.”
Truelove said she had her first C-section when welcoming her 2-year-old daughter, Radley.
She said that post-birth, she found herself feeling like a “stranger” in her own body, and yet she was often being told that she should be grateful for what her body had accomplished.
“Whether you have a C-section or a vaginal delivery — which is major trauma to the body — moms are given no support,” Truelove said. “The standard for care for moms is so low and the societal expectation is so high.”
According to 2019 data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there was a total of 2,558,882 vaginal deliveries in the U.S. and 1,186,397 deliveries by cesarean or C-section. The percent of all deliveries by C-section was 31.7%.
Rates of vaginal birth after previous cesarean (VBAC) increased from 12.4% in 2016 to 12.8% in 2017 and 13.3% in 2018.
Dr. Jessica Shepherd, an OB/GYN at Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas, Texas, and chief medical officer of Verywell Health, said the goal is to create an environment that harbors safety for both mom and baby.
“The delivery process depends on many factors we can’t control [such as] fetal indication, maternal indication or maternal choice,” Shepherd told GMA. “All three of those are still really valid reasons on why someone can have vaginal and or C-section.”
Shepherd said many birth plans often don’t go according to plan, and there’s a social responsibility that comes with respecting a mother’s plan and journey. Because of this, there should be no judgement in what someone’s story is, she added.
Shepherd said recovery time for a vaginal delivery is six weeks and up to 12 weeks for a C-section.
“[Though] recovery is a broad term because I tell moms it could take up to a year for their full recovery,” she explained.
Truelove said her job now is about helping women gain control over their bodies. She offers workouts tailored to what the body has experienced through vaginal or C-section deliveries.
Here are Truelove’s wellness tips for before, during and after giving birth:
Communicate with doctors
You’re mentally and emotionally going through this, not just physically.
“Speak with your doctors about your choices and risks with repeat C-sections and VBAC,” Truelove said.
Control what you can
Go into the delivery with the mindset that “anything can happen.” Whether delivering vaginally or via C-section, let those accompanying you know how the recovery room should be set up (maybe you’d like an oil diffuser).
“The way you feel will make you calm, and sets up the vibe for the rest of your stay there,” Truelove noted.
Ask your partner to help you stay positive
Ask them to recite a list of mantras to ensure you’ll remain in a good place.
Be aware of society’s pressure for “self care”
Postpartum recovery looks different for everyone, and doesn’t necessarily mean a vacation without the kids. Try 10 minutes of breath work, or sitting in the sun with an iced coffee.
“Sometimes time away from kids adds more stress,” Truelove said. “It can be 10 minutes for a little workout — if you got 5 minutes in, that’s good.”
Don’t compare yourself to what you see on social media
Social media can be powerful but it can also be very dangerous for moms, Truelove said. Postpartum can be a vulnerable place, especially for first time moms or someone who had a big expectation of how the birth was supposed to go.
Be mindful of what you see and take in on social platforms. Not everything is what it seems.
As for parenting advice, “take what you need and ditch what you don’t”
With unsolicited advice comes parents who are scared to ask questions because they now feel unsupported in their choices.
Truelove said, “You don’t have to do things just because your mom did it, your friend did it or just because someone on social media said it. Listen to your intuition.”
And be empowered in saying “no” to those who try making decisions for you and your child. Don’t sacrifice your own needs to make someone feel comfortable.
Remember, “being a mom is a fight”
Truelove said that fight includes facing any post-birth guilt a mother may feel.
“The moms who have C-sections or complicated vaginal deliveries, we carry this guilt and we don’t talk about it because we don’t want to hear something from someone that will crush us,” she said. “They don’t know the weight their words can carry.”
If you undergo a C-section, try not to trivialize it. And like Truelove’s video, the images captured are “equally as powerful and moving,” she said.
“You did something amazing, even if it wasn’t how you expected the birth to go,” she said.
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