Before I got pregnant with my first son, I kind of had a feeling that I was going to have a C-section. I don’t know why, call it a hunch, I guess. However, despite my feeling, I went through my pregnancy preparing to have a vaginal delivery.
I went to the childbirth class. I soaked super-absorbent maxi pads in witch hazel and froze them. I stocked up on granny panties. I even had a perineal wash kit.
Well, when I went into labor – a week after my due date – I wasn’t really shocked to learn that after 72 hours of labor, I had to have an emergency C-section. I was relieved. I was scared. But most of all, I was excited to meet my baby boy, and I didn’t care how he got here, as long as he got here safely.
After having two Cesareans – one an emergency, and the other one planned – I would like to share my experience with other expectant mamas who may be worried or curious about the possibility of delivering via a C-section.
13 Be Prepared for Anything
Go ahead and write your birth plan. Make plans for a vaginal home birth, free of drugs, or one with an epidural in a hospital. Whatever your ideal birth plan may be, plan for it. However, I highly suggest you do a little research on C-sections, too.
While a C-section may be the furthest thing from your mind, the fact is that labor and delivery don’t always go according to plan. In fact, the process can be completely different than your plan. Although your plan may be a home birth, by doing the research, if you end up having a C-section, you won’t be completely shocked.
And, if everything does go according to your plan, at least you took the time to educate yourself for the “what if?” scenario.
12 Cesareans Aren’t Done Unnecessarily
Make no mistake about it, a C-section is major surgery. Your doctor isn’t going to recommend you have one just because.
In my case, my labor was not progressing and my son was in distress. His heart rate significantly dropped. They need to get him out, and quick. This is a situation where without the aid of the cesarean, my son might not have survived childbirth.
Whatever your situation may be, do remember that your doctor isn’t going to tell you that you need to have a C-section on a whim, he’s recommending it because it’s the best option for you and your baby at that time.
11 It Can Be Scary
Whether it’s an emergency or it is planned, a C-section can be scary.
For me, I had never had surgery done before, other than on my deviated septum, before having my first son. When they said that I had to have a C-section, I didn’t know what to expect. I was wheeled out of the delivery room, a cap was placed on my head and my husband was told he had to stay behind until they called him.
I was taken into a big, cold, sterile room with bright lights. There were a lot of people, and I only knew my obstetrician. It was nerve-wracking, to say the least. But when my husband walked in, I felt a lot calmer. And all of my nerves completely subsided when I knew that my baby boy was safely delivered.
10 You Might Feel 'Something'
Well, they aren’t completely lying. I didn’t feel everything, but I definitely felt something.
It is the weirdest feeling in the world. It doesn’t hurt like a cut through your skin with a piece of glass would hurt. Rather, it’s more like this tugging and pulling sensation, which makes sense, because they are tugging and pulling. The best way I can explain the pain is to say that it was just weird. Like nothing I have ever experienced before.
And once the baby is out and you're put back together, you don't feel the surgical team doing anything to you. In fact, you won't feel anything there again until you come out of the recovery room. Also, you might find the incision site is numb for days, weeks or years later.
9 You Can't See the Birth
Once the doctors are ready to begin your arms are secured to the table in a 'T' position and a big curtain goes up in front of you so you can't watch the surgery. For me, there was a huge, blue paper screen dividing my body in half. I couldn’t see what was going on beyond that paper screen. In truth, I’m kind of glad that I didn’t watch.
If you would like to see your baby being born, I am sure that you could ask for a mirror to reflect the birth, but there may be rules and regulations regarding that. Depending on the hospital, as soon as your baby is safely delivered, the umbilical cord will be cut and the nursing staff will wash the abby and bring them to you so can see them and get a picture taken with your baby.
8 Seeing Your Baby Right Away
With my first son, I remember hearing the doctor say that it was a boy, and I kept trying to lift my head to see him, but I couldn’t!
It took about 3 minutes before I could actually see my son. I heard him crying, and I was yearning to see him. When the doctor finally held him up for me to see, it was one of the most incredible moments of my life. My little boy had finally arrived safe and sound.
My second C-section was planned, and it went completely different than my first. I was able to see my son almost immediately after he was born. Again, one of the most incredible moments of my life. This idea out there that a cesarean isn't a real birth is just nonsense. I wouldn't change either of my birth experiences.
7 Wait to Hold Your Baby
I wasn’t able to hold either of my sons immediately after delivering them. My husband was able to cut their cords, and he was able to hold them and bring them over for me to see while I was still lying on an operating table, being stitched back together.
I wasn’t able to hold my first son for a few hours after delivering him (I had to have additional surgery.) I was able to hold my second son in the recovery room, where I was able to nurse him right away.
Some hospitals may have procedures where the mother goes to sleep in the recovery room without her baby, and in that situation, you could be waiting hours to hold your newborn.
6 You Won't Be Mobile
After having a C-section, it’s definitely hard to get around for a while. I wasn’t able to walk for 24 hours, and when I was able to walk (they were insistent on it,) it was beyond painful. That first time on your feet feels like your stitches are on fire. And the nursing staff is going to put you on your feet whether you like it or not so you can have that all important first bowel movement post-op.
The good news is, they do offer pain medications to help ease the pain, and after your first few attempts, walking definitely becomes a lot easier. You will also be offered stool softeners in case the effort of pushing out your poop is too much for your poor belly. But you likely won't be walking right for at least the first month afterward.
5 Take the Pain Medications!
You will be offered medications to help ease the pain. Take them!
Even after taking the medications, I still felt some degree of pain. When they started to wear off, I really felt the pain kick in. Don’t push yourself. You definitely want to take the medicine to help you cope. There's no award waiting for the woman who toughed out her c-section pain.
Allow yourself the time you need to heal. Again, cesareans are a serious operation and you will need to take it easy for the 6 weeks afterward. Should that healing time include pain meds, take em. There's no shame in taking them.
4 You’ll be Examined Constantly
Just like any major surgery, your doctors need to make sure that your recovery is going well, because a C-section is a major surgery, expect no less from your doctors than to be given a good once over. In order to do that, you will need to be examined on a constant basis during your stay at the hospital.
With my first son, I remember being fast asleep, and was woken up at 2am when doctors and nurses were looking at my incision! It startled me, but it was reassuring to know that my health was in good hands.
Some women might have a harder time healing after a surgery like that, and the best way to stop an infection or prevent one is to constantly monitor the person who just had surgery. So even if you feel like it's invasive, it's for your own good.
3 If Your Husband Watches...
Your husband will see so many things when you have a C-section, if he chooses to watch the operation.
My husband looked over the curtain in the operating room and saw my insides. He saw parts of my body that I don’t think I even knew existed, but that didn't change the way he felt about me or our son. Afterward he had to help me use the bathroom and shower, and you know what, that experience made us so much closer. It was definitely unifying.
On the flip side of that coin. Not all men can handle seeing what goes on on the other side of the curtain. Some women have reported that their spouses couldn't look at them the same afterward, and some men peaked and didn't care.
If you know your husband can't handle that type of thing, tell him you need him on your side of the curtain.
2 Heavy Lifting
The first 6 weeks after having a C-section, you will not be able to lift anything heavier than your baby. Doing so could put you at risk of rupturing your incision, something you definitely don’t want to happen. Reopening that wound could mean possibly getting an infection, or worst case scenario, another surgery.
Take your doctor’s advice and skip the heavy lifting and the household chores, besides if you're lucky, your family and friends will come by your house to visit and do those things for you. Instead, use this time to snuggle and bond with your baby. That's what you really want to be doing anyway.
1 The Second Time is Easier
Although you've been there, done that, and got the t-shirt, your second cesarean will still be a major life event for you. For me it was still a bit nerve-racking the second time around, but on the whole, I found my second C-section was a lot easier than my first.
It was planned, so I didn’t have to go through labor (I went through 72 hours of labor with my first) and I knew what to expect for both the delivery and the recovery. That's why I think when you know you're going to have another cesarean it's easier in some ways, because it's not as scary as the first time. But on the other hand, because you know what's going to happen, you still might be nervous.
Having a baby is just...a crazy experience.