Raising Richmond: Battle scar

“Don’t worry, it will be a beautiful scar.” Those were some of the last words my doctor said to me before I underwent the emergency C-section that brought my son into the world. When I first saw where they opened me up, “beautiful” wasn’t the first word to come to mind. But it does now.

“Don’t worry, it will be a beautiful scar.”

Those were some of the last words my doctor (my Alan Alda-esque OB/GYN whom I adore) said to me before I was wheeled into the operating room for a C-section. It was an unexpected conclusion to what amounted to almost a full day of labor. Fifteen minutes later, our son JR was born–all 10 pounds, 2 1/2 ounces of him.

When I first saw where they opened me up, “beautiful” wasn’t the first word to come to mind. It looked exactly like you’d expect it to: red, swollen, kind of angry–you know, an incision. I couldn’t look at it without getting dizzy. In fact, my last night in the hospital, I was in the bathroom and glanced down at the row of staples holding me together and felt all the blood in my body rushed to my feet, and my vision get spotty. I collapsed onto the toilet, pulling the emergency call cord on my way down, bringing in a team of nurses to retrieve me. I guess the visual reminder of what I’d been through–physically and emotionally–was too intense at that moment. I couldn’t really look at it for a good long while, because I just wasn’t ready to deal with what it represented.

As the weeks and months went by after JR’s birth, my body began to heal and my feelings about the whole experience, and the scar itself, went through a notable transformation. Early on, I had moments when I looked at it and felt waves of disappointment at the thought that maybe my body had failed me and my child. Later the sight of it brought giant rushes of panic over what could have happened to us if I hadn’t gotten the C-section when I did. But eventually those raw feelings of insecurity and vulnerability were replaced by something else…

Pride. The good kind.

Now, after three years with that wonderful, weird child who was pulled from my body through that incision, I am so proud of my C-section scar I would show it to strangers on the street if it wouldn’t get me arrested for indecent exposure.

You see, the entire time I was pregnant, I hoped and planned for a birth with as little medical intervention as possible. I took the classes, read the books, wrote a birth plan, and made my wishes clear to my doctor who was completely on board and supportive. However, as we know, all the planning in the world doesn’t mean things will go how you want them to. In order for both my son and I to make it through the birth alive and intact, I had to surrender control over to others and accept a new plan.

I don’t like doing that. Ask anyone. I’m quite a pain in the ass sometimes, in fact.

But I did it. I did it for my kid and without hesitation. For me my C-section scar is now a badge of honor–my battle scar, if you will–reminding me of the moment when I became a mother, not only because I gave birth, but because I put the life and safety of my child ahead of everything else. Not a bad start to this motherhood thing, if you ask me.

The scar looks much different now; it’s almost undetectable, which is what my doctor meant by “beautiful,” I’m sure. But, I can see it if I look really close–a wisp of a line a bit lighter than the skin around it and veering just slightly upwards and to the left, almost like a smirk. I love it. I love how it looks and I love that it’s a permanent mark of the most intense, humbling, and important day of my life so far.

Yes. Beautiful indeed.

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Valerie Catrow

Valerie Catrow is editor of RVAFamily, mother to a mop-topped first grader, and always really excited to go to bed.

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