1 in 3 deliveries end up being Cesarean sections. I am 2 weeks from my second C-section delivery, the first being due to a failed induction. This second because most doctors won’t do a VBAC(vaginal birth after caesarian), for fear of rupture to the original C-section scar. I wasn’t exactly chomping at the bit for a VBAC though. I am just fine with getting unzipped and delivering the baby via C-section this time. I was looking forward to a natural delivery the first time when, due to other circumstances, I had to elect to induce. Now going into my second C-section, I have some idea of what to expect. If you are pregnant with your first, I would suggest doing some research on C-sections, just in case. Here is a place to start. I’ll include some links to professional advice and include my own unprofessional advice, based merely off of my own experiences. With 1 in 3 deliveries ending up in C-section, it’s a good idea to be prepared.
My C-section Story
A C-section takes you by surprise. I imagined the miracle and horrors of child birth, but I ended up being sawn in half like a lovely assistant in a sideshow. That first C-section is confusing as you have presumably labored for several hours and prepared for the pushing and heaving and hoeing of a vaginal delivery. I read all of the books, took birthing classes, prepared for the possibility of tearing (and hoped that an episiotomy was performed prior to that occurrence), I worried about pooping on the table. I didn’t worry about a C-section, even when I had to choose to be induced and was informed that the risk of C-section went up.
My induction failed which prevented a vaginal delivery from being a viable option to my miracle birthing story. I was moved from my delivery room where family and friends had been popping in between contractions, where familiar faces were plotting how they would get to hold the baby first and considering how offended they would be if in-law so and so got first dibs on holding the new baby. When the call for a C-section occurs, they are replaced with strangers in disposable paper outfits, their faces covered by masks. I vaguely recognized my labor and delivery nurse who had been tending to me and corralling my family all day, my doctor having disappeared to prep for surgery. Everyone else was a new addition to my birthing team.
I was strapped to a table, a partition hanging between me and my lower half- must be part of the illusion as I wait to have the two halves of the operating table turned apart to the oohs and aahs of the gallery. I felt nothing, maybe a tug here or there, while my husband chanced glances over the paper barrier. Like a macabre puppet show, the doctor peeked my son over the partition so I could see the bundle of…we’ll stick with joy here. Then he was whisked to an isolette, to be sucked, cleaned, smacked and measured. Everyone had abandoned me by this point. My husband no longer petting my head and reassuring me. I was left shivering, arms strapped down, only able to crank my neck to try and keep up with what’s going on while my doctor was tending to my severing. Now that the baby was out, he wasn’t really my doctor’s domain anymore. Good thing, because someone had to put me back together.
Then, briefly, my baby was being held next to my face, screaming. He was lowered so I could kiss his face and then my husband and baby disappeared while I, the sideshow, was put back together again. Only my lips had touched my baby. My arms not yet allowed to comfort him, to comfort my 9 months of growing an entire human, feeling them kick and turn and grow.
This is my story, yours may have been and may well be different. Here are a few things I would do differently or will repeat during my second.
Know what you want going in.
Include a C-section protocol to your birth plan. This way you can make sure the C-section team knows what you want, so your husband knows what you want and so you know what you want. At the time, I just knew I wanted my son to be born healthy. I regret not getting to hold and nurse him right away. Some women get to nurse right away, I did not and was too wrapped up in the medical care that he required to think to insist. He was fine and I wish I had been prepared to require I get him immediately, rather him being taken away to the nursery. Obviously I want what’s best for him medically, but assuming all things are fine, hand the baby over. This time I will be more assertive with my requests since I’m familiar with the process. This is yet another reason to consider the possibility of a C-section, so you can make such requests at the time and feel comfortable doing so.
Recovering from a C-section is uncomfortable.
If you have been through a C-section , then you are familiar with the long road of recovery. Now that I know what to expect I will be better prepared, rather than ambushed by what is to follow.
There is pain once the epidural is taken out.
Your pain management becomes oral, which means you have to stay on top of it. Request the pain meds, don’t try to be a hero. There was a moment when I felt fine, when my nurses got me out of bed to take a short walk across the room. It was mid-stride that the pain set in. I could neither walk nor sit because the pain was so intense. I could only stand there and cry, because everything hurt.
The pain meds will constipate you.
They will give you a stool softener to help you pass your first bowel movement. It hurts to even breathe so you can imagine what going poop is going to feel like, especially if you’re constipated from the pain meds. Drink lots of water prior to your delivery and eat fiber rich foods as well, to help prepare your body. This is probably good advice prior to any delivery, but especially C-sections. Continue to drink your water post-op in order to keep things moving- I wish I had. They wouldn’t let me eat solid food until I farted, or flatulated if you please. I was starving, having gone in early the day before, labored all day, not delivering via C-section until 12:21 am and not passing gas until late in the afternoon the following day. I definitely had a case of the mean hungries. I never wanted to fart so badly in my life.
Have a Boppy as part of your hospital bag.
I would think this would be ideal for vaginal deliveries as well, but for a C-section, it’s necessary. Nursing your baby can be uncomfortable because of your incision. Placing a Boppy around you allows you to protect your incision and prop the baby up while nursing. They will show you a couple of different holds, but I found the football hold to work best for me. This is where you hold the baby tucked like a football under your arm while they nurse. The Boppy helps hold them comfortably in this position.
The Boppy aslo helps for bracing. You will want to apply a little pressure to your incision when you cough, laugh or sneeze. It is quite painful to do so without the bracing. I learned that the hard way. With a Boppy permanently attached around your middle like a lifesaver, you are prepared for any eventuality.
Be prepared for the bleeding.
Yes, you will bleed even though you did not give birth vaginally. You will probably get these really cute mesh panties that they stuff with the most ginormous pad you’ve ever seen. Believe me, it will reach its saturation point. I bought the extra long overnight, thin, pads for recovery at home. The long thin pads also make great bandages to keep your incision from weeping on you pants and underwear once you’re home. Follow prescribed wound care protocol of course, but this worked well for me.
You cannot get up on your own for about 24 hrs.
Don’t even try. Your nurse will be getting you up and making you walk and you’ll hate them for it. You have to walk though and it’s for your own good, so be nice, say thank you and gut your way through it.
I found this link to a National Institute for Health website that has several link for various resources related to C-sections.
The important thing is to get through those first few days. Once you are discharged you will be caring for yourself and your baby. You will work out the kinks and get a routine that minimizes your discomfort. The healing process typically takes about 6 weeks, at which point you will have a follow up with your doctor and be released for full or appropriate activities based on your recovery.
Hopefully you get the delivery for which you planned, but I wish that I had planned for the possibility of a C-section. If you have been through a C-section, feel free to add any tips down in the comments.