As a mom who gave birth to two wonderful boys via cesarean section (C-section), I only recently learned there is a day to celebrate the warrior mamas who have endured childbirth, as well as honor the medical marvel that allows so many birthing people to deliver babies in a healthy way.
It’s been 200 years since the first successful C-section was performed. The year was 1794. Elizabeth, the wife of American physician Dr. Jesse Bennett, faced a risky childbirth with no other options left. Elizabeth’s doctor, Dr. Humphrey, was skeptical of the unknown C-section procedure and left her home when it was determined there were no options left for the delivery of her baby. At this point, Elizabeth’s husband, Dr. Jesse, decided to attempt the surgery himself. Lacking proper medical equipment, he improvised an operation table and used homemade instruments. With laudanum as an anesthetic, he performed the C-section on Elizabeth in their home, successfully delivering their daughter, Maria, saving both mother and child’s lives.
Dr. Jesse kept this remarkable event a secret, fearing disbelief or being labeled a liar. Only after his death did Dr. A.L. Night gather eyewitnesses and document the extraordinary C-section. This courageous act remained untold until later, becoming a tribute to the bravery of Elizabeth and Dr. Jesse. Their story led to the creation of Cesarean Section Day, honoring this pivotal moment in medical history that continues to save countless mothers and infants worldwide. 1
My first experience with a C-section was incredibly scary and a big U-turn from the birth plan I had envisioned. Initially, I was disappointed and experienced a lot of grief about how my son’s birth unfolded, even though it was the C-section that saved both of our lives.
As a new mom, I felt surrounded by messages about “natural birth” as the ideal birthing experience, which suggested a C-section was as unnatural and medicalized as birth can be. There were many moments of feeling like I failed as a new mom, and I struggled to celebrate the strength and resilience my birth experience required. It took many years for me to acknowledge that nature unfolds in diverse ways, and childbirth is no exception. I worked hard to shift my focus from defining what is ‘natural’ to honoring the beauty and strength inherent in every birthing story – including my own.
With my second baby, my C-section was scheduled, and I was immensely grateful for the most incredible medical team who honored my birth wishes. My experience with my first son led me to celebrate my strength from the get-go when my second baby was born, and I was able to honor my own experience fully. My second baby’s birth did not diminish the miraculous act of bringing a child into this world and was yet another testament to the incredible power of motherhood.
As we honor Cesarean Section Day, let’s celebrate all mothers who have gone through this journey. A special shout out to my fellow C-section mamas – your story is one of courage, sacrifice, and unconditional love—a testament to the incredible power of motherhood. Your scar can serve as a reminder of how you’ve navigated uncharted paths with grace, strength, and courage. You are all heroes in your own right, and your journey is nothing short of extraordinary.
You are cherished, celebrated, and admired today and every day.
Five facts about C-sections that you may not know:
- Cesarean section is one of the last major incision surgeries still performed today. Most other surgery is performed through a small hole or small incision. 2
- At the beginning of a cesarean section, six separate layers of the abdominal wall and uterus are opened individually. 2
- On average, there are at least eleven people in the surgical theatre room during a cesarean section. This includes the baby’s parents, an obstetrician, an assistant surgeon (also an obstetrician), an anesthetist, a nurse anesthetist, a pediatrician, a midwife, a scrub nurse, a scout nurse (assists the scrub nurse) and an operating technician (who manages all of the electrical operating equipment). It is a busy place! 2
- Roughly 25% of patients will undergo a C-section. 3
- From the time the incision is made, the baby can be delivered in as little as two minutes or as long as half an hour, depending on the circumstances. 4