Having An Emergency C-Section? Here Are 10 Things I Wish I Knew About *Before* I Had To Have One
A lot of people tell me that when their water broke they mistook it for a potty accident, but I was not confused. I knew exactly what happened. I tried to go back to sleep (you know, to do the whole labor at home and conserve energy thing), but couldn't thanks to the excitement and the regular contractions. Little did I know that, about 18 hours later, I'd be in surgery. I'd considered the possibility, but there are things I wish I knew about an emergency C-section before I had to have one. If I knew then what I know now my labor, birth, and the next couple of weeks and months that followed would've been far easier than they were.
Despite being the method of delivery for approximately a third of all babies born in the United States, C-sections are often shrouded in some degree of mystery. Largely, I theorize, this is because they're also shrouded in horror stories and people don't want to think about the possibility that they will have to have one. But knowledge, even scary knowledge, is power, and if birth should be two things it should be safe and empowered.
You don't know what you don't know, so it makes sense that some things you can only truly understand after you go through them, but it still would have been nice to have some of that knowledge beforehand. Like the following, for instance:
That I Was Going To Have One
I know that's not exactly the nature of an emergency C-section, but it still would have been nice to know. That way I wouldn't have had to go through all 18 hours of labor (13 unmedicated!) before ultimately having surgery anyway. Like, it is what it is but ugh.
That Everyone Would Be Fine
I figured we probably would be, but there's a touch of anxiety about it anyway. Anything with the word "emergency" in it is going to create a little bit of mental panic at least, right? That's reasonable. So it would have been cool to know ahead of time that all would go smoothly and according to plan aside from, you know, the birth in general, which would culminate in an emergency C-section. But aside from that everything would go according to plan.
That I'd Still Feel My Baby Being Born
I figured that with the anesthesia I wouldn't feel anything and while I didn't feel the operation I absolutely felt the pressure of my son being pulled out. Honestly, it was such an amazing, cool feeling. There was no pain but there was tremendous pressure and almost suction. I honestly have a clearer memory of that feeling than the feeling of my daughter being born vaginally (though, to be fair, my epidural had worn off during that birth and I may be blocking out unpleasantness, subconsciously).
That I'd Hold My Baby Very Shortly After Birth
I'd heard the all-too-common horror stories about moms who didn't get to hold their babies for hours or even days after a C-section, and I really wanted to snuggle with my new son as much and as early as possible. Turns out I would only have to wait about 20 minutes, which wasn't my ideal outcome but, in the grand scheme of things, was pretty good!
That Bonding Wouldn't Be An Issue
There's this idea that without the rush of "love hormones" that exude from your vagina like a rainbow after a "natural birth," you won't be able to bond with your baby. First of all, I've had a "natural birth," and let me assure you that there's no rainbows, actual or metaphorical. Second, the idea that you can't bond with a baby that didn't come out of your vagina proper is pure malarkey. It was a non-issue.
(And, spoilers, even in the cases of babies who "exit through the gift shop," bonding is often an effort. Not everyone has an instant connection with their baby and that's extremely normal.)
That I Would Successfully Breastfeed
While having a C-section can make breastfeeding more difficult (your milk could come in later, your body is healing, and certain positions may be painful and therefore harder to get the hang of) it's not a foregone conclusion that you won't be able to breastfeed if you have a C-section. I'd have liked to have had that assurance from the get-go.
That Medical Professionals Will Be Deeply Interested In Your Farts
OK, I didn't know this was a thing after abdominal surgery, but health care providers want to make sure you poop and fart because the anesthesia can apparently wreak havoc on your guts and they need to know things are OK down there. It was fine to learn this as I went through it, but it would have been amusing to have a heads up that people would be earnestly asking "have you farted yet?" for a few days.
It never stopped being funny, because apparently I'm 12.
That Recovery Would Go Great
I was genuinely concerned about recovery, maybe more than anything else, because I know a lot of people have a doozy of a time after a C-section. This is normal and understandable, on account of it being major (if common) surgery. However, the Cesarean gods smiled down upon me and, as far as C-section recoveries go, I had a pretty easy go of it. Not a lot of pain, good mobility, and things went basically back to normal pretty quickly.
That My Scar Would Be Tiny
Almost disturbingly tiny, actually. I honestly have to really look for it these days. It's weird. (Also, mine is so low it can't be seen if I wear underwear or have pubic hair, so even if it were visible it's sort of a non-issue.) When I can find the last traces of the thing, I marvel that a child born over eight pounds could fit through a space that small.
That I'd Love It
Who knew that even an "emergency" could turn out to be a wonderful experience, but it really was. It wasn't what I planned but I couldn't have asked for a better experience, outcome, baby, or memory.
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