Guest author: Heather McMaster
During my first pregnancy almost six years ago, my husband and I took numerous childbirth classes that were offered through our local hospital. And let me tell you, the nurses teaching those classes were not shy by any means. Looking back now I really appreciate them being so open and honest with us about childbirth. They never sugar-coated the facts and always gave us realistic expectations.
I remember one class in particular as if it happened just yesterday. There were 10 or more couples, including my husband and I, sitting in a circle when the nurse told us that half of us would likely give birth through a C-section.
Just in case you don’t know, a C-section or cesarean section is the process of delivering a baby through a surgical incision in the mother’s abdomen and uterus.
As I was sitting there in the birthing class listening to the instructor describing the surgery and postpartum recovery of a C-section, I was honestly not paying attention to what she was telling us.
I mean, why would I?
My birth plan had already been planned and written out. I was going to have an unmedicated and natural birth without any obstacles in my way.
My daughter was going to be born problem free and everything would be peachy. Haha. If only. In my mind, I was thinking that this would never happen to me. “I won’t have to have a C-section.”
It Can Happen to Anyone
Sadly, my due date came and passed without any sign of my labor approaching. And ultimately, after I had become four days overdue, my doctor decided that it was time to medically induce labor.
Inducing labor is when your health care provider gives you medicine and/or uses other methods to start your labor.
My doctor decided that in my particular situation, the best action was to administer a drug called Pitocin.
Pitocin is the hormone that causes your uterus to contract during labor and to contract after delivery, preventing postpartum hemorrhage.
Health care professionals often use Pitocin before delivery to induce labor or to augment (or strengthen) labor that has slowed down or stalled completely.
Several hours after receiving the Pitocin I was still nowhere near dilated enough to give birth to our daughter. Because of this and after everything we had tried previously I trusted my doctor’s decision to have a C-section. Since I had planned for a natural birth, I had not even contemplated what would take place before or after having a C-section.
C-sections are less talked about and sometimes looked down upon by many. That is why I want to tell you what you may not know about having a C-section. Whether it is a planned or an emergency C-section, you should be as prepared as you possibly can be. Here is what I have learned after having two completely different types of C-section deliveries.
During the Surgery
1. You will be given anesthesia:
First of all, having a C-section means you are having a surgery.
You will be delivering your baby in an operation room (O.R.). You will also be given a spinal block or an epidural if you had not been given one before this.
A spinal block is when narcotics or an anesthetic is injected once with a needle.
Whereas an epidural is an injection in which a catheter is placed in the epidural space to allow continuous anesthesia.
2. Pulling and tugging:
The doctor will also explain that you will feel mild pulling and tugging once they are pulling the baby out.
Since you are extremely numb at this point the sensations are quite strange.
Another uncomfortable fact of C-sections is being cold and shaky from the powerful numbing drugs they give you. Sometimes they can even make you nauseous. (Trust me I experienced this during my last delivery).
3. IVs and catheters:
During your hospital stay, you have to keep the IVs and catheter in for at least the first day after the C-section.
Yes! I hate this part of being in the hospital. As if I wasn’t already uncomfortable enough.
4. Standing up is painful:
Getting up out of bed the first time after your C-section is extremely painful. And I mean when they ask you your pain level on a scale of 1-10, you will be screaming 25. As you try to get up and walk, you are bent over like a hunch back holding on to your stomach. Even though you are experiencing this excruciating pain, the nurses will have you taking walks several times a day.
You must be thinking, “Are you CRAZY? I have just had my stomach cut open. I can’t walk!” Yep, you have to. It is the best way for your body to heal and helps prevent blood clots.
5. Keep the mesh undies:
Yes, they will provide you with mesh underwear in the hospital that is so comfortable after having a C-section. They come up to your belly button and allow airflow to your incision.
Take some of these home. They are a lifesaver.
6. Hug a pillow:
Keep your favorite pillow next to you at all times!
Why you ask?
After having a C-section it hurts when you laugh, sneeze, cough and even when you breathe sometimes. Hugging a pillow tight to your stomach will help ease the pain whenever you get an unexpected sneeze.
Home Sweet Home
7. Good medications:
Don’t worry, you will be provided with some pretty effective prescription medications when you go home. They will help to make the pain more manageable.
But be cautious and try to wean yourself off of them at your pace.
8. It hurts to go:
This is one thing I wish I had known before having my first C-section.
Get Colace stool softener capsules. This will be your best friend. You will be so thankful for their help when you need to go to the bathroom.
Your first bowel movement will not be pleasant by any means. Be sure to take your time.
9. No lifting:
You will also be advised NOT to lift anything heavier than your baby. So roughly everything from about 12 pounds up is off limits. The reason behind this is you can damage or even rip open your incision if you are lifting heavy objects or children.
10. Give yourself time to heal:
The recovery from a C-section is a long and difficult process. You have to give yourself time to heal and get back to your old self (if that’s possible). It is a MAJOR abdominal surgery so don’t expect to be back in tip top shape right away. I personally didn’t feel like myself again until around six months postpartum.
11. Who says it’s easy?
There have been so many times that I have been told having a C-section is taking the “easy way” out. I definitely would not call having your abdomen cut open an easy way of having a baby. In fact, every pregnant woman I have known has told me they did NOT want to have a C-section. Like I said before, it is a MAJOR abdominal surgery that has so many risks involved. And although I have never experienced a natural birth, I believe giving birth is hard no matter how it happens. There is going to be pain and discomfort either way and sometimes you don’t have a choice in the matter.
Both of my C-sections were not my first choice but my body would not dilate the first time. And on my second try, I had every intention of having a VBAC (Vaginal Birth After C-section) but my son was sideways and would not turn.
It does not matter how you have your baby as long as your baby is born into this world healthy. I am happy that I have both of my children here safe and sound. For me, that is what is most important.
Heather McMaster is a stay-at-home mother of two and the creator of the Very Anxious Mommy.