After 18 hours of very painful labor, my OB came to my bedside and said the words many mothers dread: "Your baby is in distress and we need to perform a c-section." Like most women, I'd planned to deliver vaginally, but here I was, only 5 centimeters dilated, unable to stick the landing. While I don't believe in fate, I ultimately believe that my son was born exactly the way he was "supposed" to. Besides, I've also come to believe that having an emergency c-section prepares you for motherhood far better than any amount of reading or classes.
If we're being honest, despite planning and even looking forward to a vaginal delivery, I was open to the possibility of c-section. For whatever reason, I had always suspected my son would be born via cesarean, and I'd made my peace with the possibility ahead of time and before it was a necessity. Above and beyond that, I trusted my OB completely, and in her desire to help me achieve the kind of birth I wanted, so when she said, "We need to do a c-section" I didn't question if she just wanted to go home for the night. I believed her, and I regret nothing.
My experience with an emergency c-section helped shape me in the early days of motherhood. Not only did it assist me in bringing my son into the world, it taught me a tremendous amount moving forward, including the following:
Not having the sort of outcome you'd been expecting or preparing for is actually a pretty good foreshadow for having children in general. Here are other things I planned on...
-making my own baby food (nope)
-not co-sleeping (nope)
-not allowing more than an hour of screen time a day and only then after the age of 2 (nope)
-taking up running during maternity leave (lolwut?!)
-never yelling at my kids (bwaaaahahahahahahaha!)
This is just some of the bigger plans I had, never mind the day-to-day schedules and itineraries we attempt to accomplish time and again. That's okay. Parenthood is basically just a very, very long series of backup plans.
I think we've all learned, by now, that all moms are judged for the kind of birth they have by someone, but I will still contend that c-section moms get the worst of it. Don't assum that an emergency c-section will soften the blow for some of the judgier jerks out there. It won't. It's unfair, it's stupid, and it sucks, but it happens. On the bright side, it toughens you up for the judgment you are sure to face for literally the rest of all your parenting decisions ever because, apparently, how we choose to raise our children is subject to the scrutiny of family, friends, and strangers. Yippee. #headdesk
While a c-section necessitates being good and numb, that doesn't mean that nonsense doesn't eventually hurt like hell. Recovery from a c-section can be really painful and take way longer than one would like. Similarly, parenthood can be painful. I don't just mean the emotional pain that can go along with having your heart walk outside of your body in a dangerous world in the form of your child (though that is a bit of a doozy). I mean physically, too. For example: my 4-year-old routinely (if inadvertently) headbutts me in the vulva. It happens (he's rambunctious, uncoordinated, and his head is basically at the perfect height) and it hurts. My 2-year-old thinks my breasts are those stress relief balls you can pick up at a drug store. She is strong and her nails, no matter how short they are, are inexplicably razor sharp. Your c-section has prepared you for this constant onslaught of physical torment.
Your baby doesn't care that you have just endured significant abdominal surgery to bring them into this world, and their incessant and numerous demands will not be abated except by your performing them. This instinct to rank your physical and emotional well-being somewhere below "the Lego under the couch" and "the toy I haven't played with in years that my sister is now holding and I don't want her to," does not end in infancy.
I am continually amazed that a child was cut out of my body (while I was awake) and the only evidence is a tiny scar normally obscured by underwear. As time goes on, I'm still sort of shocked by (and proud of) my body's ability to keep pace with this whole parenthood thing. From breastfeeding to sleepless nights to playing non-stop while surviving on nothing more than the crusts of PB&J sandwiches and the last remnants of sliced apples that my children don't eat, it's all pretty damn impressive.
Handling a new baby after a routine vaginal delivery is tough enough, but when your body is recovering from surgery (or some other kind of physical trauma) it's even tougher. You're going to have to ask for help, and that's a great thing. All new moms need help but often do not feel empowered to make a request. But when you need help, like, standing up, it helps open the floodgates for making other requests. As your baby grows up, you will keep needing help so please keep asking whenever you can!
You will have to sit back and heal after an emergency c-section. Jumping right back in at your usual pace (like I did after my daughter was born via VBAC, which was a massive mistake, by the way) is just not possible, largely because if you're not hobbling you're nevertheless incapable of walking your usual pace for very far. Rest is essential. This does not stop being true after you've recovered, or ever, because your kids are going to drain you. Take this c-section lesson with you into the future as well.
After a c-section, getting around is varying degrees of difficult, but always decidedly difficult. My recovery was great, better than those of most other c-section moms I've talked to, but I still needed help getting off my couch months after the birth of my son. As such, before I sat down, I always spent a decent amount of time scanning the room and checking to see what I would need with me to keep getting up to a minimum. Was the baby within reach? Did I have to pee? Did I have food, water, and tissues near me? Did my enormous pad need to be changed? Was my phone on me? Was my phone charged? Where was the remote control? Where was my book? These are the things you have to take into account. As you move from "recovering" to "recovered," and your outings become more regular, you'll find you need to go through that same mental process with the mountains of baby items and considerations to take into account before leaving your home. Do you have enough diapers? Wipes? Formula? Blankets? Change of clothes? Are you going to bring the stroller, the baby sling, or both? Do you have extra socks because she always loses at least one while you're out? Life becomes a very long checklist of covering all possible scenario and c-section moms have extra experience in this arena.
Any way you feel about your c-section experience (or any birth experience) is valid. Some women are tremendously grateful for their c-section while others were legitimately traumatized by how their baby was born, especially in cases of medical emergency. More still, it seems to me, fall somewhere in-between, or vacillate somewhere between the two extremes, or even feel both things at once. All this is totally normal. You will almost certainly have days like this about parenting, too, which might be hard to hear. Parenting can put you through the damn wringer, and you may find yourself filled with resentment, self-doubt, and sadness, even as you continue to adore your children more than anything you've ever experienced, before or since. It's complicated, is what I'm saying.