Photo courtesy of Jamie Kenney

What Every C-Section Mom Wants Pregnant Women To Know

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Ever notice how, like, 78 percent of first-time pregnant women are birth experts? It's fascinating. Apparently, along with a big belly, when pregnant you also obtain a degree in obstetrics. I say this mostly in good humor, without malice, and in full knowledge that I did it, too. It's understandable that someone spending a ton of time focusing on pregnancy would start to feel like an expert. But once you give birth, you realize there are things you just didn't know. So I'd like to share what every C-section mom wants pregnant women to know, because, in my experience, a lot of pregnant women look at c-sections a particular way, and I think we should address it.

Lots of expectant moms view cesareans in dread. As a result, they avoid learning about them. Others still will turn to sources that feed their confirmation bias. This leads them to make certain assumptions about the kind of people who get C-sections —  people who were tricked by uncaring doctors, or who didn't try hard enough or, my personal favorite, "just didn't educated themselves." Both of the aforementioned kind of people build up a whole narrative about what their birth will be, and what it won't be, if it doesn't go according to plan. This can leave many women feeling shaken up and upset if, indeed, they ultimately end up delivering via C-section.

So, speaking as someone who has had a C-section, and who has spoken to hundreds of women who have also had C-sections, please allow me to share some of my hard-won wisdom with you, pregnant ladies:

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You Might Choose Or Need A C-Section

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Approximately one in three American women will give birth via C-section, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Your chances go up or down depending on a number of factors — including age, location, race, weight — but the point remains that, at the very least, there's a significant chance you will have a cesarean.

That's not to say you have to resign yourself to one if it's not what you want. It doesn't mean you should doubt that your body is capable of experiencing the kind of delivery you want. It's just a reality to keep in mind as you move forward.

You Should Learn About C-Sections

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I don't just mean information about how to avoid a C-section, or biased diatribes about how evil they are. I mean learn what is involved in a C-section, what factors increase your chances, what to expect should you have one, and what recovery is like. In a "worst" case scenario, you will learn something that doesn't apply to you. But if wind up staring a C-section in the face, at least you'll be armed with vital information so that you know what your doctor is talking about when they recommend one, what is happening to you, and what you may need when you get home. Knowledge is power.

C-Sections Can Suck

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If someone tells you they had a traumatic C-section experience, don't condescendingly explain to them that "all that matters is that everyone is healthy." Believe them and ask if they want to talk about it. Because, just like any other way to give birth, C-sections can be emotionally loaded, disappointing, scarring, and scary. It can be something you may need to recover from mentally as well as physically.

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C-Sections Can Be Amazing

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If someone tells you they had a wonderful c-section experience, don't tsk at them in condescending pity and say, "But it wasn't, like, a real birth." C-sections, even emergency ones, can be absolutely thrilling, intimate, and wonderful. I know because I had an emergency C-section and those are the first three words I would use to describe my experience.

My point is, there is no one opinion to have after having a C-section.

Make Sure You Have An Extra Pillow For Recovery, Just In Case

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Because from propping yourself up (so you don't sink too far into your seat and make it impossible to get up) to hugging it when you're coughing or sneezing, that pillow is going to become your new BFF. And even if you don't have a C-section, who doesn't like having an extra pillow handy?

You Can Still Breastfeed (If You Want To)

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A lot of people associate unmedicated, "natural" birth with increasing one's ability to breastfeed. So much so that many women who have C-sections bemoan the idea that they're ever going to be able to really learn how to do it. To that I say shenanigans. Shenanigans!

Sure, there are certain challenges a C-section mom might face that others don't in regard to breastfeeding. Initiating skin to skin contact right after birth might be challenging, for example. Many C-section moms find their milk actually comes in later than mothers who gave birth vaginally (maybe four to six days after delivery instead of two to three). And, of course, your decreased mobility due to your incision might prove a challenge.

But those things might not actually be all that challenging, and similar or even identical issues could befall someone who has delivered vaginally. Yours truly didn't get to hold her C-section baby for about 15 to 20 minutes after delivery, it's true, but I also didn't get to hold my vaginally delivered baby for about 10 minutes post-birth, because she needed some minor medical attention after she was born. Despite never having had a "fresh from the oven" baby dumped onto my chest, I still managed to breastfeed just fine.

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You Can Still Give Birth Vaginally In The Future (If You Want To)

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I know you haven't even delivered yet, so having another child is probably the farthest thing from your mind right now. (Or maybe you already know you're one and done, in which case mazel tov!) But, just as a heads up: if you do want to have another baby and would still like to experience vaginal delivery at some point, it's most likely not off the table simply because you had a C-section. Vaginal birth after cesearean (commonly known as VBAC) can be difficult to come by in some places, because many doctors (contrary to the guidelines of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists) simply refuse to even consider a patient for a VBAC. But it is possible (and a safe and appropriate choice for most expectant mothers), both physically and practically. (Finding the right doctor might just take some research.)

Conversely, you are under absolutely no obligation to even consider a VBAC if you don't want to. The world is your oyster, and all oysters are delicious (especially when you deep fry them).

Having A C-Section Is Not A Failure

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Like, at all. Not for you or any other woman who chooses or requires one. There's no "right way" to give birth and while a C-section may not have been the goal of every new mom who will get one, a departure from Plan A is not the same as failure. Yes, a C-section can lead to disappointment, and I'm not saying you shouldn't feel your feelings on that, but don't let them consume you.

And if you are someone who wanted a vaginal birth and happened to have one with no problems, please, for the love of dogs, do not become one of those people who looks down their nose as moms who had C-sections. Just because things worked out for you doesn't mean they would have under slightly different circumstances, or that other women were similarly positioned to see their "Plan A" to the end.

Having A C-Section Doesn't Prevent You From Bonding With Your Baby

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The concept of "The Golden Hour" — the first hour of your baby's life to be dedicated exclusively to skin to skin contact, breastfeeding, and general happy feelings—  is beautiful and a good idea associated with a number of benefits for everyone involved. Most (though not necessarily all) C-section moms will likely be unable to take part, though.

But I tell you here and now that this is not a requirement of effective and wonderful mother/child bonding. It's a nice introduction, of course, but the truth of the matter is that you will have a lifetime of bonding opportunities that will more than make up for anything you didn't get to experience immediately after birth due to a C-section.

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C-Sections "Count" As Birth

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I mean really, you guys. Come on. This should be obvious.

You Do Not Have To Justify Your Decisions To Anyone

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You do not owe anyone any explanations about the choices you make in regard to your pregnancy or delivery. This is between you and your care provider.

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