A C-section saved my marriage. It forced me to finally ask for the help I needed.

A C-section saved my marriage. It forced me to finally ask for the help I needed.
Courtesy of Caro Cuinet Wellings
  • For our third child, I scheduled a cesarean section.
  • The doctor ordered three weeks of bed rest after the surgery, but my incision got infected.

Like on an episode of "Mad Men," I grew up watching my mother do everything in our suburban home while my father bolted to his advertising job in the city. I assumed this was what all women did. So when I met my husband, James, and we moved into a small apartment, I took on this role quickly.

Even though I worked long and stressful hours at a travel agency, while he had a cushy, well-paid job at a bank, I cleaned when I came home, cooked the meals, and washed our laundry.

It seemed manageable until we moved into a house and had two babies under 2. With the increase in housework and humans to care for, I became an unhappy wife and an anxious mother.

I was exhausted and fed up that he didn't take the initiative to help more, but I kept quiet like my mother and told myself that at least he was doing more than my father ever did.

Then I got pregnant with our 3rd child and needed a C-section

Nothing changed over the next five years — until I got pregnant with my third baby.


With an elective cesarean section planned because of birth trauma, at least three weeks of bed rest ordered by the doctor, and no family close by, I would have to rely on James to not only care for me but also take on all the work at home, while running his business.

Our baby's arrival was approaching, and I had to face my fears — not only of asking him to step up and take on my role at home but also of the possibility that he might simply say no.

More importantly, I was concerned about what that would mean for our relationship.

At 35 weeks pregnant, I gathered my courage and wrote out everything I wouldn't be able to do after the birth — the list was long. I nervously explained it to him one evening and held my breath. He rubbed my watermelon belly and said, "Of course, I'll help." I kissed him as hormonal tears poured from my eyes, with relief that I could embrace my fourth trimester and that he cared enough about me to take this on.

My scar got infected, and I needed to rest for even longer

You'd think I would take full advantage — as I had time to heal and bond with our baby, something I never did with my others — but no.


The patriarchal-motherhood voice eventually won. Seeing him struggle guilted me out of bed before the three weeks were up. An infection in my scar caused by my movement forced me back to rest for another three weeks. I laid on my side with the baby feeding hourly, frustration building as I idly watched, wanting to get up each time I saw him do something differently from how I would, like tidying toys or folding the clothes. I told myself to stop. Recovery is more important than a perfect house.

After eight long weeks, I was cleared by my doctor to get back to normal life. It was then that I realized I had a choice.

I could go back to being like my mother, "The Giving Tree," and also end up divorced. Or I could have ongoing tough conversations and compromise to finally balance the parenting and household responsibilities.

This question opened me up to an answer that could change my life. If I spoke out and James didn't care enough to change, I couldn't unknow that.

I risked it, finding out he cared. Now that he could see how much work motherhood really was, he stepped up, again. After 12 years, I can say our roles as parents and partners are finally equal. My C-section ultimately saved my marriage and me because I was forced to step aside and finally ask for help.