When my OB-GYN said, "c-section," my overthinking, crazy-planning anxious pregnant brain went into pure freakout mode. A c-section had been something I'd casually joked about with friends, like, "Well, if I have a c-section at least I won't have to worry about pushing!" However, I absolutely did not want to have a c-section, and the procedure was not written into our birth plan. So when a c-section was a possibility because of medical reasons, I didn't know that there were things you didn't have to do when having a c-section.
instead, I knew there were things everyone says you should do (besides avoiding having a c-section at all costs); things that your well-meaning friends will make you feel you should feel; things that other pregnant women or moms will ask you to do. Here's the beautiful thing, though; you can opt out of all of these things. Your birth is personal to you and your partner and your baby. I live my life pretty openly (probably too openly at times and maybe not with enough boundaries), so I'm an open book. I tell people everything about how I'm feeling and the thoughts that went into certain decisions. So when a c-section was on the horizon, I told everyone about it, knowing full well that I would be unleashing a storm of opinions and advice. Oh well.
Sadly, after my c-section I went around feeling really bad about having had one, and for a really long time. My default was to explain and apologize my c-section away, rather than celebrate the tremendous accomplishment that I had just achieved: the birth of a super awesome little guy. So, with that in mind and because there's no one "right" way to have a baby, here are just a few things you really don't need to do when you have a c-section.
I had been really vocal to my friends and family about how having a c-section was absolutely not in my birth plan, and about the steps I had taken to avoid having one. When we realized that my son had not turned by the 36-week mark, my doctor scheduled me for an external cephalic version – a procedure that entails a doctor manually rolling the baby to the head-down position by pushing down on your stomach with a hell of a lot of pressure. The procedure can sometimes result in bringing on labor early. The procedure itself was also excruciating, and easily one of the worst physical experiences of my life.
I made sure let everyone know what I had endured, with the end goal being that it would hopefully help me avoid the dreaded c-section. So in the end, when other medical complications required that I get an emergency c-section, I felt like a failure. I felt like despite my absolute best efforts, I still had to apologize for coming up short somehow. I now know this mindset was silly and unhelpful. My emergency c-section was something that had to happen, and for whatever reasons that preceded it, it happened. Period. There is no reason to apologize and, more importantly, no one is asking me to.
I was absolutely terrified of the possibility of having a c-section. The idea of being cut open, and the image of knives slicing into my body all the while being conscious of the whole thing, was enough to make me sometimes think that maybe this whole pregnancy thing wasn't such a great idea after all. I was so frightened that when given the option (during my birthing class) of learning about what actually goes down during the procedure, I chose to stay in the dark; as if not knowing might protect me from the c-section itself. But you know what? What the hell isn't scary about the whole birth process in general? When it comes to the different options for a child to exit our bodies, I can't really say which way is truly ideal. It's difficult all the way around, my friends.
When I was pregnant with my second child, my doctor told me she felt the safest and healthiest birth option for me was to have a planned c-section. This time I was not scared, because I knew what to expect. Of course, there's also the added comfort that comes with experience. The devil you know beats the devil you don't, you know?
Listen To Everyone's Terrifying Stories...
The minute you express that you would be open to the idea of having a c-section, is the minute you will be bombarded with other people's c-section horror stories. Or even better, the horror stories other people have heard from their friend's cousin's sister.
Feel free to shut that conversation down the minute it begins.
You are not a hostage and it is not your job to listen to other people's war stories, especially if you're the one sitting there pregnant and scared out of your mind.
...Or Listen to Everyone's Amazing Vaginal Birth Stories
For every person that is eager to share a birth horror story from the trenches, there is also that mom who just loves to tell you about the magical birth experience she had while giving birth to her baby into a rain bath drawn lovingly by her partner in the comfort of her home while butterflies hovered overhead and rainbows shot out of her vagina. Whatever.
I had this happen to me on more than one occasion with more than one mom, and I am ashamed to admit I did let these stories get to me, especially in my weaker moments. Even now I can find myself mourning the birth experience I never had, but then I remind myself that those particular kinds of birth experiences weren't even the kind I had personally planned for in the first place. Good for those women and their choices, and good for me and the way everything worked out in the end.
Do Everything Humanly And Medically Possible To Avoid Having A C-Section, While Being Super Stressed About All Of It
Women will go to pretty great lengths to avoid having a c-section. I know, because I was one of those women.
First, I made sure to hire a provider who supported my decision to have a vaginal birth and was going to help me achieve that goal. I took a natural childbirth class. I avoided being induced, and went over a week beyond my due date. I avoided the epidural until I couldn't take the pain anymore. I endured a painful external version procedure in the hopes that that it, too, would keep me from taking a trip to the operating room. All of these things were of course, within reason. However, the amount of anxiety and hand-wringing, and agonizing with friends and family and with my partner over the possibility of the c-section happening? Yeah, those things, in hindsight, were not necessary.
Explain To Everyone Why You Had One (Or Are Planning To Have One)
When it came time to tell my birth story of my first born, I found myself immediately explaining all of the circumstances that led to my c-section to anyone who asked – my new friends in my mom group, the woman sitting next to my at my OBGYN's office, or the friendly cashier at Sephora.
First of all, no one asked me, "Did you have a c-section." They usually asked something like, "How was the birth?" at which point I felt like it was my duty to confess that it wasn't a vaginal birth and then explain how that came to pass. Yeah, that's nobody's business.
When things do not go according to plan, it is easy to feel like you did something "wrong." This is a typical knee-jerk human reaction, especially for overachiever Type A personalities like a lot of the badass mamas I know.
I felt guilty for a while after my emergency c-section, replaying in my head the moment everything went in the "wrong" direction, despite the months of planning for my vaginal birth. After my planned c-section, I didn't feel guilty at all. Instead, I felt grateful. I was grateful to have had a less traumatic birth experience the second time around, and grateful for an easier recovery.
Let Your Birth Story Define Your Life Story
I know a few mothers of now kindergarten-aged children who continue to feel burdened by their birth stories and how they did not go according to the plan they had anticipated. I do not feel this type of burden myself.
I am lucky that writing about my birth experience probably serves as a kind of therapy and outlet that many women do not have. I also have allowed the many other moments and milestones of my children's and my life together create the tapestry of our memories. The physical way in which they entered the world is a part of the story, but it is not the whole story.