Here's the thing with emergency C-sections: you never know when you'll need one... until you do. That's the nature of emergencies, right? They're unexpected, they're sudden, and, yes, they can be scary and even dangerous. That's why there are things I want to tell pregnant women, as someone who has had an emergency C-section.
I don't want to do it to be mean. It's not like I'm going to sit shrouded in shadows in a corner of a roadside tavern before I shout out horror stories and make dark prophecies. We all agree those gloom and doom pregnancy/birth people are the worst, right? Still, I feel like people are so averse to C-sections that they never consider the possibility more than perfunctorily. This, I believe, can make an already stressful situation so much worse. I also think it helps to put a face to different kinds of births. Moms speaking to moms about their experiences is one of the most undervalued, under-utlized aspects of maternal health and, hey, I'm here to do my part.
Hopefully, you will not require an emergency C-section, because even though they're not necessarily terrible, "emergencies" of any stripe are best avoided. But if you do, there are a few things you should be aware of:
You May Have An Emergency C-Section
There's nothing wrong with having a birth plan. Depending on your personality and personal/medical history, it could be a really good thing to have a plan in place. There's nothing wrong with doing what you can to avoid a C-section, either.
Cognitively you know the plan, your care provider knows the plan, your partner knows the plan, but two major players — your baby and your body — have no idea this plan exists and probably wouldn't care if they did. So they are not always in a position to cooperate. As such, your plan is going to be largely at their mercy and, frankly, stuff happens.
There's No Right Way To Give Birth
Whether an "all-natural," dolphin-assisted, open ocean birth or a planned C-section, every birth is different but, at the heart of the matter, all births are the same basic thing. In the end, a baby comes out of a uterus. C-sections do not represent a failure or an invalid birth, despite what some of the internet troll types would have you believe.
You Should Diversify Your Birth Prep Reading
While you'll obviously naturally and intentionally gravitate more towards the kind of reading a prep that serve your desired outcome, the truth is you never know what's going to happen, so having some fundamental knowledge on any number of possible outcomes is a good idea. Because knowledge is often the difference between an empowered birth and a birth that leaves you with feelings of confusion and hurt.
There's No Shame In Having A C-Section
Seriously zero. Banish this idea from your brain before you even give birth. It will make you less judgmental/condescending towards other people and, if you should wind up with an emergency C-section, it will make you that much more at peace with the outcome.
There's Less Room To Honor A Birth Plan
This isn't to say that once you need an emergency C-section that you are robbed of any and all autonomy. It certainly doesn't mean you give up your right to be treated with consideration and respect! But the truth of the matter is that a C-section, particularly an emergent one, has more protocols, regulations, and urgency than an uncomplicated vaginal delivery. So you may not get a lot of the things you had hoped for.
There Is No One Emergency C-Section Experience
Of course there's always an added air of concern when you have any sort of "emergency" situation. But not all emergencies are created equal. My emergency C-section was actually a truly beautiful experience. I know other women who were traumatized for years. However you wind up feeling after all is said and done is valid. There's no realization you have to come around to that makes you change your opinion (though, certainly, your perspective might change over time).
Your experience is your own and there's no prescribed way to feel about it.
If You Can't Hold Your Baby Right Away, You Haven't Ruined Your Relationship
This was probably the biggest disappointment of my C-section delivery. While immediate skin-to-skin contact is possible after a C-section (even, at times, after an emergency c-section), depending on the circumstances of the emergency — not to mention the hospital policies — it might not be possible to have your newborn immediately plopped onto your chest. You may not get to hold your baby for a while, in fact (again, depending on the nature of the emergency) and this is difficult and disappointing. But while the benefits of "the golden hour" are lovely, they are not the first and last word on your ability to bond with your baby.
There Is Support If You Need It
If you have a negative C-section experience, there are support groups — online and in meatspace — that can connect you with other moms who know what you've gone through and can help you cope. You're not alone.
It's OK To Be Disappointed
One thing emergency C-section moms in particular hear a lot is "the important thing is that everyone is healthy" and "you should be grateful." And it's like, "Dude: I can be grateful and disappointed. Come on now." Feel your feelings. They don't make you a bad mom or an ingrate. They make you a human with feelings.
Even a good recovery sucks, because your incision reduces your mobility and more or less forces you to hug a pillow any time you have to mildly engage your core. There's no getting around this fact, unfortunately, and the sooner everyone is aware of this undeniable reality the better. Look, it's not (always) a living nightmare, but it's tough, so don't expect to completely breeze through it should a C-section become necessary.
You Will *Have To* Rest
Resign yourself to the truth that you will require a lot of down time — more, probably, than you'd have required with a vaginal delivery.
A Longer Hospital Stay Can Be A Good Thing
I feel like this is especially true of a first baby, by the way. Seriously, you're being given access to 24/7 help and experts! (Not to mention extra time to hoard all the diapers and mesh underwear the hospital has to offer.) Revel in it, friend!
Take The Damn Drugs
Don't be a hero, dude. There's no heroism in suffering when you don't have to because you refused to take medicine. Follow the pain management plan prescribed by your doctor. Your best bet is to get ahead of the pain so that it is less likely to reach a point where it's difficult to control.
This (Probably) Doesn't Dictate Your Future Births
This will depend on the reason why you needed a C-section and how the surgery went, but generally speaking an emergency C-section does not preclude the possibility of subsequent vaginal deliveries.
I know, as a pregnant person, another pregnancy is probably the last thing from your mind right now, but just as a head's up!