A recent story on fetal cells made me cry. There’s a lot of cool science on fetal cells—how they can be found throughout a mother’s body for the rest of her life, for example, or how they can help moms fight things like breast cancer. (There’s also, to be fair, some creepy stuff, like how they might actually, sometimes, contribute to autoimmune disease in the mother.)
But here’s what had me blinking away tears: “Scientists have found fetal cells in scar tissues, specifically scars left by C-sections. These cells make collagen. So the fetus could be helping the mom recover after birth by repairing wounds.”
I’ve never had a particularly negative relationship with my c-section scar. My c-sections were necessities, so there’s a scar, and I have never found it repulsive. Nor have I ever thought of it, like some women, like a battle scar to be super proud of. To me, it’s not beautiful, it’s not ugly, it just…is. But now, I have to admit that this story instantly and permanently changed not just what I feel about this scar, but how deeply. The point of this part of the story—that those cells helped that incision to heal—is totally cool. But there is something even bigger here, for me. I now know that there is a trace of each of my gorgeous, crazy, half-feral, loud, loving, smelly, smart, and weird babies, preserved for the rest of my life, in this visible marker on my body. Just, wow.
Like I said, I know a lot of women struggle with their c-section scars. Maybe you think they’re ugly, or maybe they remind you of a traumatic birth experience. I’m not trying to negate those feelings. But next time you look at your scar, next time you run your hand over it, next time you’re getting changed or sitting on the toilet and your nosy little child who gives you zero privacy asks you about it, remember this: In a very real, very physical sense, it is allowing you to carry a little piece of your children with you, forever. And to me—forget the science for a minute—that’s just (insert expletive here) magical.
For photos showing the beauty of postpartum, check out the 4th Trimester Bodies Project.