If you follow the blog, you know I had my first son J by vaginal birth (read here – a letter to my pregnant self) even though he weighed a whooping 9 lbs 12 oz. Logically, I expected I was also going to have my second baby vaginally – especially since he weighed 5 oz less than J – at 9 lbs 7 oz (huge difference lol) but boy was I in for a surprise.
I wound up in the hospital on the 29th of November, 2016 at 42 weeks because I was experiencing non-progressive labor. My hospital bag was packed with the requisite Sitz Bath, Epsom salt, sitz spray, belly bandit, hot water bottle and of course the biggest maxi pads money can buy lol. Basically, I was prepared for anything BUT a C-section.
I spent 2 days at the hospital (the 29th and the 30th) trying to dilate and efface naturally (without pitocin, and subsequently with pitocin) because I was looking forward to birthing vaginally. Then we did a scan and found out my baby now weighed 9 lbs 7 oz; naturally, there were concerns about baby’s weight vs. my past birthing history with shoulder dystocia and some question as to whether or not my body would be able to fully dilate; basically the possibility of needing an emergency c-section was relatively high.
After those 2 exhaustive days of going through about 4 mid wives (desperately convincing us to opt for an elective C-Section), I caved in. I didn’t want to risk going through labor and then ending up in an emergency situation; so, largely based on my midwife’s advice, I opted for an elective C-Section. At the time, I was blind to the possibility of a cesarean so I was clueless about the little details and procedures about a C-Section surgery.
Personally, I believe that certain things in life are better experienced than explained but in like manner, I believe in some other circumstances (like embarking on an operation like a C-section) knowledge of a situation can give you a sense of control. I wish I had known what to expect with having a c-section, which is why I’m paying it forward by dropping these few tips.
So in an attempt to be the Friend Who Gives You Unsolicited but Useful Advice, here are 12 things you need to know if you plan on having a C-section:
1. A C-Section is NOT an “easy way out”
I think most women would agree that when it comes to safely delivering a baby, there is no easy way. So it’s quite surprising that there’ s a bunch of people out there who believe that a C-Section is somehow an “easy way out”.
People would freely make comments (which they assumed were somehow complimentary) like “at least you’re lucky you skipped full blown labour”, huh??? More like I’m lucky I didn’t bleed to death on an operating table, OR “at least you didn’t suffer the pain of tearing ‘down there” – which I can’t say I’m unhappy about, but it’s definitely been replaced by alternative discomforts!
That you don’t have to push during a c-section to bring the baby into the world is true. However, what new c-section mothers learn very soon is that the pain they didn’t experience during birth is dragged out over weeks (or worse case) even months in their recovery.
In retrospect, when I weigh the emotional and physical stress I went through before a c-section was even suggested as an option, it makes my previous vaginal birth (with its epidural) seem like a walk in the park.
2. On the bright side, it Is Over Faster Than You Can Imagine
From the time your doctor actually starts operating, to the time your baby is out and on your bare chest, it basically feels like ten minutes (or less). Maybe it took a little more time than that but it’s over faster than you can imagine!! It’s simply AMAZING!!!
This could feel a bit unusual – especially if (with a previous birth) you had to labor through a vaginal birth for 4 hours before meeting your LO lol! More so, I had painted a mental picture of what birthing my second child would be, so it did feel a bit odd. But I was lucky my OB/GYN allowed me do the skin-to-skin bonding with baby for a few seconds (maybe a minute) before whisking him away.
Honestly, a C-section is a very surgical experience – in contrast with vaginal childbirth which i think (from my experience) is more intimate; but on the bright side, you get to meet your LO really quickly LOL.
3. It could get a bit lonely after They Take The Baby Out
I’m sure this policy may differ with hospitals all over the world, but at the hospital I delivered – once baby was out and after he was placed on my bare chest, my LO (with my mom in tow – I guess we know where her loyalty lies lol) was whisked off to the ICU and I was left alone to get sewn back up.
After about 40 minutes of being there alone, I was anxious to see my newborn and ready to be out of surgery. I kept asking my OB/GYN if everything was okay as the stitching part seemed to be taking long, once he replied something in the line of “Almost done, just want to make sure I get this right – just like you asked,” I remember thinking “huhn?? Damn straight you better get that stitch right!”
Fortunately, he did and I ended up with the tiniest least visible scar ever, but at the time I wouldn’t have been so nervous / lonely if I had known that while the part of the surgery involving getting the baby out was short, the part where they stitched me back up would take a lot longer…like A LOT!
4. You will need a LOT of pain killers:
Until the effects of the epidural wore off, I had no idea what the pain of recovering from a C-section would involve.
No blog post, no words could ever describe the pain. I still don’t know which was worse – the pain post surgery or just the shock of realizing the level of pain I was passing through – masked under all that epidural and fancy pain meds they give to you at the hospital.
I wept. Profusely.
I thought I was going to pass out in pain. My cousin rushed out to the nearest Rite Aid with my Dr’s prescription and got me the Percocet and the Ibrupofen. Never ever ever ever in my life have I been so thankful for meds!!!
To be fair, I could have handled this better if I was mentally prepared and if I knew that there would be a lot of pain coming after the epidural wore off. Consequent on that, I would have adhered to my Dr’s orders, stopped by the Pharmacy on the way home and picked up the prescribed pain meds.
5. You have layers of stitches….but your scar could be barely noticeable:
Around 8 days post-partum, I went to my OB/GYN’s office because I just didn’t feel right – I still felt so much pain in parts of my body I didn’t even know could hurt. I guess I was expecting to recover as quickly as I had when I had a vaginal birth.
The mid wife I met was kind enough to explain to me that contrary to the idea that a c-section involves one horizontal cut, in reality you’re actually cut and stitched up layer-by-layer. There is skin, tissue, and muscle before you even get to the uterus – this could be as many as 6 / 7 stitches.
Good news is – your slit could be cut so low that nobody but God and your husband will ever see it. Sometimes I look at CJ’s enormous head and look down at my tiny scar and back again, wondering “logistically how the hell did he pass through that!!”
So even though a CS pretty much involves been taken apart, your OB/GYN would put you back together again – and he / she would get it all right 🙂
6. Nothing is worse than laughing those few days after a C-Section:
….except coughing!!! In fact, any activity that involves engaging your abdominal muscles is quite painful for a good few days / weeks. Imagine my horror when I choked and coughed (VERY HARD) on that dessert cake they served with dinner 2 days PP at the hospital. It was indescribably painful; like a near death experience.
I cried. Yet again.
Apparently, there’s a trick where you hold a pillow against your abdomen when sneezing, coughing, or laughing, so it hurts less. But once again, I just had no idea.
7. Emotional support is crucial:
I think any woman who goes through child birth, by any means, deserves emotional support.
I was lucky to recover fairly quickly and accept the surgical birth as a necessary step to a having a healthy baby and to becoming a mother to another precious LO.
But, and this is a big BUT, I felt a bit disassociated from the experience – maybe this was because of all the drugs and pain meds (or something) but that’t the best way i can explain how I felt after the procedure was done; like I wasn’t a part of birthing my baby. I remember I also felt that the surgery could have been avoided; that it was somehow enforced on me and no one listened to my desire to have a vaginal birth.
Luckily, I recognized pretty quickly that what was I was feeling/thinking was largely due to the fact that I had ideas about how my birth plan would go and considering I had birthed my first son vaginally; this just felt different. Not bad. But, different.
The best thing my mom and The Hubs did for me was listen, validate my feelings and constantly remind me that those feelings would pass. And it did.
Women’s emotional reactions and adjustment to cesarean birth could vary widely, so get a good support network around you, you will be ok…..eventually!
8. You will be required to stand up few hours after the C-Section
As soon as the numbness wears off (which could be in a few hours after the surgery) the nurses will want you to get up and walk as much as possible. In my case, I thought I was ready to conquer the world, but in reality, I didn’t even have the strength to stand up – but I did stand up, and take a few steps even – wooziness and all!
Keep in mind that this may be peculiar to me, and other women may be able to stand up and walk just fine after their surgery.
9. Getting out of bed for the first time may hurt more than any labor pains you experienced.
I guess this is why there is an erroneous myth that “ ALL C-section mothers” don’t breastfeed. Total bat-sh*t.
You can breastfeed after a C-Section if you feel strong enough to do so and are able to produce milk. However, it may take a longer time for your milk to “come in” since your body was jarred from surgery.
Honestly, it was pretty painful to sit up, or put my feet down on the floor, and I did have concerns about breastfeeding my child while on all those pain killers BUT my LO’s pediatrician and my OB/GYN confirmed that my bubba was going to be fine and I could breastfeed so long as I was strong enough to.
It’s a bit tricky to breastfeed with the pain, especially after you leave the hospital, but you could experiment with rolling onto one side, using pillows or asking someone to lend a hand when you need to get out of bed.
10. You still experience post-partum bleeding:
I know, how ridiculously unfair that despite not giving birth vaginally, I was surprised to find that I still experienced major post-partum vaginal bleeding for 6 weeks. I had thought that a c-section meant none of those ugly extra, extra large pads and granny panties for me.
Speaking of granny panties, because of the incision site, you will need to wear underwear that doesn’t rub against your scar. Your best bet are those mesh panties gifted to you by the hospital. How sexy, right?
11. Google C-Shelf. Actually save yourself the trauma, don’t.
Lord! The first time I looked at my tummy after my c-section, I cried. Again.
What I saw was straight up wrong lol. From a side view it looked like my belly was sloping down towards some allusive, concave swollen skin area. No jokes, my tummy looked like it was literally pouting at me.
Fortunately, my c-shelf went away a few weeks after my surgery, even though it had earlier looked like it was there for good.
12. That Scar Can Take More Than Six Weeks To Heal
My external scar area healed in about 6 weeks but I remember my scar always feeling itchy and the insides feeling a bit sore way past the six week mark. In fact, if I’m being honest, it was more like 12 weeks before I didn’t feel anything in my scar area.
The thing is, a c-section affects tissues that go deep into the body, and so, while the external scar area can look relatively “normal,” the internal healing process can take a while.
While I understand that my experiences may be peculiar to me, there is also a possibility that other women may go through similar events. So I hope this list will help other women who are not sure what to expect with a planned Cesarean section.
Finally, I want to say something that my mother kept telling me (she had also had a c-section many years ago lol): you will feel better after your C-Section, one day, you WILL feel better. You ARE a birth warrior; it takes a tremendous amount of strength, determination, and courage to go through something so selfless on that side of the surgical curtain, for the gift of life.
A C-section is not an easy way out.
*vIRTUALhIGHfIVES* to my fellow C-section mamas!! what did i miss? what else do you think a mom-to-be considering a C-Section should know? if you’ve never had a C-section, what’s your biggest concern / fear about CS or the biggest myth you’ve heard?
P.S: It’s been too long this self proclaimed, half-assed blogger posted anything. Apologies. Show of hands if you’ve missed the blog 🙂
Love & Light,