My birth plan wasn’t typical. I wished for a c-section. From very early on in my pregnancy, the thought of delivering vaginally was not appealing to me. Probably, it’s because my mom delivered all of us via c-section, so that is what was familiar. Maybe it’s because I am scientific and natural birth seemed so barbaric in today’s modern medical world. Or perhaps it’s because I am a planner and the appeal of scheduling a birth is convenient.
Some even accused me of “taking the easy route” by wanting to forego labor, as if having major abdominal surgery doesn’t count as truly giving birth (insert eye-roll). Whatever the reason, I knew I wanted a c-section. However, I also knew the chance of my OB signing off on an elective c-section was very remote.
My First C-Section
Maybe it was fate intervening, but I got my c-section after all, albeit not the way I had hoped. I had placenta previa, a condition where the placenta blocks the cervix. Labor could rupture the placenta, possibly fatal to the baby and me. So, my first baby was born via scheduled cesarean, and at 36 weeks to boot…but not exactly as planned. I was literally walking into the OR (after 2.5 hours of poking, monitoring, and IVs) when they realized I hadn’t had steroid injections to promote baby’s lung development. So, I was sent home without a baby! I delivered my son for real two days after my steroid shots had been completed.
My Second C Section
18 months after my first, I had another c-section. Since there wasn’t a recurring physical impediment during my second pregnancy, I was given a choice between a “trial of labor” (also known as a VBAC, or vaginal birth after c-section) or a repeat scheduled cesarean. All things considered, I was an excellent candidate for a VBAC. Both options held benefits and risks, but to me, it seemed going the route I knew was better than “trying” natural labor that may or may not be successful and possibly end in another c-section anyway. To me, the scariest risk for a VBAC was the possibility of uterine rupture. The second c-section occurred as scheduled and we welcomed a full-term baby girl to the mix!
Recovery from each c-section was similar and yet different, too. After my first C, I spent about an hour throwing up in the recovery room, as my blood pressure continued to drop. This was obviously less than ideal and made it difficult to engage in skin-to-skin or nurse my newborn. My son had low body temperature and baked under a baby broiler while I wretched. With my second, I spoke with the anesthesiologist about my prior experience and he proactively gave me different anti-nausea medicine before I left the OR, so recovery was full of snuggles and skin to skin with my daughter.
My son required a lot more testing and monitoring in postpartum since he was technically a preemie and I had gestational diabetes during my pregnancy with him. My daughter, on the other hand, was full term with no complications during pregnancy. I felt like there was a rotating cast of characters coming in and out of our room all day and night with my son versus my daughter, we were allowed more rest.
My first c-section involved external stitches along my incision, whereas my second was stapled closed. For whatever reason, the staples were more comfortable and healed more cleanly. With my first incision, it left behind an unsightly keloid scar – which was removed during my second surgery. I also felt less “tugging” on my second incision, especially once I returned home and could get out of bed more easily the second time around. In both scenarios, the key is to keep the incision clean and dry and put as little strain on it as possible. Using the provided abdominal binder given to me by my hospital and a foam wedge pillow to make getting in and out of bed easier were life-savers for me.
Tips & Tricks
Walking up and down the stairs, driving, lifting objects heavier than your newborn, and other similar activities are to be avoided as much as possible for the first few weeks so your body can heal. Also, it is important to heal. Healing can take weeks, months, even years to fully recover. If you or someone you know is going to have a c-section, my recommendations are:
Get up and start walking as soon as possible (I was walking by the evening of the surgery for both of my 10 am c-sections).
Take a stool softener (like Miralax) regularly a week or two before and after the surgery. TRUST ME ON THIS.
Organize the items you’ll need for postpartum (like pads and a peri bottle) nearby the toilet at a height that you don’t have to bend to reach.
Create a space on the first floor of the house where you will be spending the majority of your time. A comfy chair, cozy blanket, a basket of snacks within reach, and a giant water bottle are most of what you’ll need.
Get your tribe together; significant other, friends, neighbors, family – have them help! Ask someone to do your laundry, hire a cleaning service, sign up for a meal train, or stock your freezer in advance, schedule rides to your doctor & pediatrician appointments. Especially if you already have a child/children at home, you will need full-time help for the first few weeks!
High-waisted EVERYTHING. It will be more comfortable against your incision and hold in your tummy – a bonus for multi-tasking. I learned you can stick a pad horizontally in your granny panties to keep your incision dry and prevent it from rubbing against your pants.
Give yourself a pass. After my c-sections, I realized I really couldn’t do much of anything other than care for the baby. That meant neglecting the cleaning, cooking, dishes, and even my toddler a little bit. I had to let grandma take over. Giving up control can be difficult, but it is necessary after a c-section!
If you want to witness the birth, ask your OB about a “gentle c-section.” They have a clear drape so you can watch the moment baby comes out. You can also nurse and go skin-to-skin right away, provided things look good with the baby.
Remember that delivering a baby via c-section is NOT a cop-out! It is not “less than” a natural delivery. It is life-saving in many cases and no one should be made to feel bad for their choice.