Saturday, April 13, 2013

Why a C-section is Not as Bad as You Think

I will start out by validating your wild fears- if you did not PLAN on having a c-section, then lying in your hospital bed in labor and being told that you need one is scary as HELL. My first birth ever? that is what happened to me. And sometimes a c-section is like mine and there are no signs leading up to it. Everything is going swimmingly when your babies heart rate drops and wont come back up. Its only when your in the OR and they get an ultrasound on you that they discover that your child has tied his umbilical cord in knots.

It is scary. But, there are a few preventative measures you can take, and there are actually quite a few benefits to having a c-section. I went in with my son avid against not having one, needing it for an emergency reason, and LOVING it afterwards.

But first the preventative measure(s).

Like your doctor. I cant stress this enough. If you do not trust your doctor DITCH THEM. Its hard enough giving birth with a doc you don't like, it is much MUCH worse having unexpected surgery with one you don't like. I lucked out as a first timer and loved my doctor, and nothing was more comforting than to simultaneously hear his voice talk to me, and feel my husbands hand holding mine as they literally cut my son from my womb. Love your doctor. Talk to your doctor. Tell him your fears. That way he will anticipate your crazy if the worst happens.

Important Note: If you use a midwife and not an OB and have to be taken for emergency surgery- be prepared aforehand to be surrounded by a LOT of strangers. I suggest if you are using a midwife to at least meet the hospitals OB staff just in case. Midwives cannot do surgery. I believe midwives are a great choice for a physician, and fully competent but the fact remains. They cant be with you in the OR.

Okay- now that I have made my soap box clear (LIKE YOUR DOCTOR!), here are a few things that do happen with a c-section that you DON'T need to freak out over (despite what you have previously heard):

*Your partner WILL have to leave you. But don't worry- its just to garb up in surgical gear so they can sit with you in the room. And if your man is anything as good looking as mine, you will feel guilty when they come out all dressed up for briefly being distracted by how incredibly handsome they look. (its a good distraction- roll with it. And tell them their hot. They will LOVE IT.)

*I went into my c-section freaking out about all the horror stories I had heard of women who FELT their incision. Luckily- my doc knew I was freaked out about this and was super careful to make sure that I was 100% numb before he went to work. In fact, he didn't even tell me when he did cut into me which was a blessing in disguise cause by this time I was looking for pain I expected it so much. Can I actually tell you how RARE it is for someone to feel something like that? Doctors can be sued for that- yours will be careful with you too. And if your worried like I was- just ask them over and over to make sure you are REALLY numb :) I will assure you that I asked over and over- anytime I felt someone touch my belly I made sure to loudly voice that I felt that and that I didn't want too :) Crazy pregnant ladies who are forced into surgery when they don't want it USUALLY get what ever else they DO want.

*You may not have to be put all the way under- though you will hear a lot from the people who did, and thusly did not get to experience the birth of their child. (Which I will freely agree- would totally bite.) But only women who have had too much epidural for too long have this issue- think laboring for hours and hours, multiple epidurals and THEN having to have a c-section. (Or I guess if you are one of those rare people that the epidural doesn't work on they would have to put you all the way under as well.) My doc however just turned my epidural all the way up and went to work. If you were going natural or haven't had an epidural yet there is also good news- you can get a spinal. It sounds scary but never fear- it means you get to experience the birth of your kid without feeling yourself being cut into. At the stage you are in currently this is a definite win.

*There isn't PAIN when the doctor is getting your child out- there is pressure. You know like when you get a cavity filled or your braces taken off? It doesn't really hurt but you can feel people doing stuff in there? Having a c-section is just like that. You can feel them moving things around in there- you can DEFINITELY feel when your baby is out (super weird LACK of pressure) but there is no pain.

*Here is a another soap box of mine- People will tell you you won't bond with your child if you don't hold them right away and most of you have read that while you get to see your kid with a c-section you don't get to hold them right off. Which is also true. But the not bonding with them part IS TOTAL CRAP. You have felt this person inside of you for nine months. I'm sorry mothers- there is nothing you can do to avoid bonding with them.

If I may digress to tell a sweet story on these lines- instead of getting to see my son the moment he was out of me (most women do) the nurses had to take him to be examined because... well he kind of scared them. However, my husband got to go with the nurses and follow our son through every second of his after birth. Once they knew my kid was okay they cleaned him, handed him to my husband and my hubby brought him too me- all clean, wrapped and darling. There was nothing more special for me than to see the man I love more than anything, bring me the thing that our love (as corny as that sounds) had made. I now sorta want my husband to ALWAYS be the one to hand my child to me it was that amazing of an experience for me. Plus, it was super wonderful for my husband to be the first to hold our son. Made him feel so much more a part of it all.

*Your milk? It WILL come in. Its true- it takes a little longer to come in than with a vaginal birth. Mine took four days. But guess what? I had a six pound baby and him only having colostrum to drink for four days (cuz I was SET against formula at first- ha, that changed fast) did not hurt him AT ALL. He lost no more weight than most babies, and gained it back faster than most. Never fear. Whatever you have now will feed your kid just fine until that milk does kick in. And it will with a vengeance. A c-section doesn't change any of the hurting nipple, engorgement fun part of being a new mom.

So there. Now that I have assuaged some of the crazy fears (they are not really crazy- I had all of them too and was pleasantly pleased to find out they were not true for everyone- or even MOST everyone.) Its time for some of the good stuff that comes with a c-section- big and small.

*You heard about how awful it feels when the meds finally wear off after birth? Won't be near as bad for you. When the docs sew up your incision your anesthesiologist will give you a syringe of morphine. Want to know why morphine is abused? Because IT IS AWESOME. You'll have a thirty second window when it hits your system when you want to puke- morphine does that- but then the anti-nausea that gets injected right after will hit your system and you get a few extra hours of blissful no pain. And I really mean blissful. My impression of being wheeled into recovery and the few hours after with my son are just happy peaceful ones. Morphine is great.

*In fact- your no pain will last even longer than the few hours after birth. Because you had a c-section you'll be offered meds of your choice. (Hello- you just had major surgery!) People talk about all the cramps and such of afterbirth- perkiset (or however you spell it) makes it so you can be fully in tune with your life and child and leave all that uterus shrinking behind you. (Your uterus WILL shrink- you just wont have to feel it.) And don't worry- the doctor wont prescribe you anything that's not safe to take while you are nursing. I nursed exclusively and my son was, and still proves to be fine two years later. Me indulging in pain relief had no effect on him whatsoever. But it had a GREAT effect on me.

*You wont have get up to pee as quickly. With a c-section you will usually stay in your catheter for 12 to 24 hours. (As a side note- they will also put you in cuffs- like blood pressure cuffs either on your upper arms or your calves to keep your blood circulating. They do not hurt, they are a LITTLE annoying but they are MUCH better than having a clot. I have had a clot- not pregnancy related- and they suck. Take the cuffs.) You may hate having the catheter and the cuffs- I loved it. There was no way after going through surgery I wanted to lug myself out of bed to pee... are you nuts?

*Plus  if I couldn't pee on my own no nurse was going to expect me to change a diaper either. I got a full 24 hours to love, cuddle, and feed my son without having to really dive into the dirty diaper part of parenting. Which also meant I got to skip cleaning up that first really gross black tar bowel movement of theirs. Win win.

*And when you do finally stand and pee on your own? Its not the hell of a vaginal birth. Because you are intact down there! No ravaging!! No sitz baths, no peri bottles, no witch hazel- sit on the toilet and enjoy for the first time in nine months being able to pee more than a quarters worth. It was one of the best feelings ever. (You also get to wipe like a normal person right from the start. Pretty cool right?)

*The same thing goes for the first bowel movement. Now- its really not a great feeling like peeing is BUT- there is no pain. Still- I would suggest asking your doc for stool softeners right from the start- you will be amazed at how many abdominal muscles it takes to poo and you wont really want to use them. (Even though its only the very lowest ones that were cut through.) It is SAFE to use them- its just that it will feel weird, your nerves down there having been severed and all. Sort of tingly like that area of you has fallen asleep...

*There is also another benefit to being intact down there... (if you don't want to hear about sex skip this part) but sex? Remember how great it was when you were trying to make your baby, and how you were kinda sad once you were pregnant that it would probably be a whole year (giving yourself three months post-pardum) for it to be awesome again? Yeah- doesn't work that way after a c-section. Its awesome and unscary right from the get go. And if you don't appreciate that, your partner WILL.

*You will be in the hospital longer. Some people hate this- not being at home, the food not being great, but remember to look on the bright side. (Start learning to do that now- you will need it as a parent.) They are keeping you there to make sure you are truly healthy, and that everything is healing right. Them sending you home is the sign that the have faith in your body- it means your aokay.

And take advantage of the hospital. For the four days I was there I had a nurse or a lactation specialist come in EVERY TIME I breast fed. It may seem excessive but I avoided a lot of pain and agony making sure over and over that I knew how to get my son to latch, with each different feeding hold. I got to sleep A LOT without the other pressures of my life worrying me (cuz I wasn't around them) I had a 24 hour babysitter if I wanted four hours uninterrupted sleep or an extra long shower. I had the pediatrician on hand all hours to make sure my kids color was right and etc. I also got cable... which is lame but was great for me since we don't have it at home. :) Really take advantage of EVERYTHING your hospital offers you.

*The bleeding. Sorry- you do still bleed. After all your capillaries and such still need to close, and you do have all that extra blood your baby used to use to get rid of. But when you have a c-section the doctors sort of suction you out after the operation  Which means while your friends complain about clots the size of golf balls- you will probably never see one bigger than the eraser of a pencil. You probably also wont bleed as heavy or as long. It will still be heavy enough that you want to take full advantage of the hospitals diaper sized pads and their totally awesome mesh underwear- but your heavy bleeding wont last much longer than a week. And your total bleeding will probably stop by four weeks... while most people take six.

*Depending on how badly you tear down there... your c-section may actually heal faster than a vaginal tear. Again- not true in all cases, but if you want some serious hope- two weeks post pardum I had the go ahead from my doctor to work out. And I did a thirty minute kickboxing sweat session with absolutely no issues whatsoever. Plus one for me. (And you!)

Every birth- no matter how it happens- is messy. Whether vaginal or c-section there will be discomfort. (I had a really hard time getting out of bed for the first two weeks- never realized how much I use my tummy muscles to sit up and it WAS harder to do so when they were all stitched up.) I will also admit- I kinda feel I have too since my husband is going to be a doc and I know its true- that there are more risks with a c-section than there are with a vaginal birth. That's why so many of us are freaked out about a c-section.

But, if you have a doctor you trust to take care of you in an emergency situation (and I don't care if you have had seven perfectly natural safe and healthy at home births- an emergency can happen any second during birth- labor is just that unpredictable) then a lot of those things you are fearing right now you can let go of.

Birth is natural- whether your kid comes out your nether regions without the help of any meds, or whether you are fully under while a doctor extracts your child for you- your body just produced another body. THAT is the natural part of birth, not how your child exits into the world.

The human body is resilient (something you will learn the first time your six month old falls off the couch head first) and it is MADE to heal. And as a woman who had just undergone the nine grueling months of growing another human being inside of her- your body will instinctively know theirs and theirs will recognize you. And you WILL be able to take care of them, surgery or no.

So take a deep breath mom- you'll be fine.


  1. Great post. This makes me feel good for when we have another child. :)