For pregnant women planning on experiencing natural births (i.e. vaginal births without medical interventions or medications), a C-section almost feels like a betrayal of everything they were promised and worked toward. It doesn't have to feel that way, though. I'm here to say that you can shift your perspective about C-sections if you consider the experiences of women who have actually had them. Maybe the things C-section moms want women who plan on having "natural" births to know might even comfort you, especially if the idea of a C-section leaves you completely terrified.
A C-section was definitely not on my birth-plan. As my first pregnancy progressed, there were a few bumps in the road that indicated a C-section could be a possibility. One of the bumpiest of the bumps was that my baby had not turned by the time he should have. My doctor decided that I needed to have what was called a "version" to externally rotate the baby so that he would be ready to exit the birth canal, facing the right direction, when the time came. (For the record, that was painful as hell.) Once the version was completed, I figured I was out of the woods and no longer at risk for a C-section. In the end, my body had a different plan.
A "natural" birth wasn't exactly my plan either, but I did attempt to go a long while without any pain medications in an effort to give a medication-free labor a try. I never got to the point of being able to push, however, before I was sent in for an emergency C-section. And despite my original plans, I'm grateful that my doctors and I made the decision to have the surgery.
I had a C-section for my second son, too. So I speak from experience when I say that C-sections are not evil and that my doctor, at least, was not rushing to get my birth over with so she could get back to her golf course or whatever. Sure, C-sections are not ideal, I guess. They are surgery, after all. But there are some upsides to the common procedure, and I'm here to tell you about some of them, should you end up splayed out on an operating table you had never planned on lying on in a million years:
Some women might be horrified of the idea of staying in the hospital a few extra nights because of the C-section recovery process. I'm not one of those women, though. Why? Well, when you're in the hospital you have what's basically a staff waiting on you hand and foot, bringing you ice packs and tea (weak tea, but whatever) and whatever else you need and/or ask for. They'll change your soiled sheets, bring you food, help you walk to the bathroom if you need company, and change the baby's diaper and swaddle. Best of all? If you ask, they'll keep your baby in the nursery at night so you can get a few hours rest until the baby needs to nurse. It's like having a doula and baby nurse all in one place.
If you spend more time in the hospital, that means you get more time to ask questions. I had some breastfeeding issues, so instead of having, like, half a day to work through them if I had experience a straightforward vaginal or "natural" birth, I had five days to voice my inquiries. Nurses, lactation consultants, and doctors weighed in on my nursing technique, because I basically held anyone who came near me hostage until they took a closer look at my son's latch.
Even if you're dead set on that "natural" birth, it is wise to have a Plan B in place. You know, just in case. There is a reason why the hospital staff are so damn helpful when you are recovering from a C-section, and it is not just because they're trying to be nice. A C-section means that you'll have some difficulty doing the kind of normal things vaginal birth moms (who did not have complications) can do with their babies right after birth, such as bend over a crib or lift anything heavier than the baby. You'll also likely be in a lot of pain, which can require narcotics to relieve it, and that makes a gal kind of out of it and sleepy and generally, you know, high as a kite.
When you're coming home from the hospital after having a C-section, back up help beyond just your partner is a necessity, be it a family member, saint-like friend, nanny, night nurse, or baby nurse. Not only does the baby need care when you come home from the hospital, but so do you. There's medications to stay on top of, a wound to be mindful of, and the fact that you will need lots of rest because surgery takes a lot out of a person.
I speak from personal experience, because recovering from a C-section without any extra help almost pushed me off the deep end. My partner went back to work a few days after I came home, and I still couldn't bend down to pick my baby up from his bassinet. I was alone, with a dog that needed walking, trying to pump milk to up my supply, and a screaming, colicky baby that I could barely comfort because I was in physical pain.
I know you might think that if everyone on your birth team is resolute with a capital N "Never" when it comes to resorting to a C-section, then it won't happen under any circumstance. But life doesn't really work that way (and hopefully, neither do your responsible medical or health care professionals). If you go into your delivery with an open mind, knowing full well that a C-section could be on the proverbial table and even if it is the last thing you would want in the world, you'll be better off in the end.
I truly didn't think a C-section was a possibility, because in my mind I had worked with my doctor to do everything to avoid it. But here's the thing: sometimes it's all outside of your control. I didn't have any backup help in place, and I hadn't prepared myself emotionally for the possibility that things could go differently than I had planned. I kind of set myself up for disappointment.
I bugged after my first C-section and when I saw that the fluids from surgery made me look even more pregnant than when I went into labor. That, and the fact that some weird stuff was happening around my C-section scar, wherein my stomach puckered in and out around the incision site resulting in what the Internet has coined a "c-shelf". It looks about as lovely as it sounds. I thought my body would look forever deformed. Guess what? The c-shelf went away, as did the c-shelfs of all my friends who had undergone C-sections. My stomach's swelling went down and, eventually, got flat again. And my angry-looking scar has faded to a light pink, even after having been opened a second time for the birth of my second baby three years ago.
Women who are planning on having "natural" births who feel like they are getting screwed over by this thing called Life if they end up with C-sections: You won't look this way forever.
For the first six months to a year, you might still feel some tugs and pulls inside of your body and around the scar site if you've had a C-section. For me, I could feel a tingling sensation right before it rained. My scar would sometimes tighten when I focused on it, as if it were a muscle I could clench and release on command. Eventually, it just became another part of my body's landscape that I didn't don't think about, like an old chicken pox scar.
People, vaginal births are miraculous, but it's nothing short of a miracle that a little incision in a woman's body is the place where a whole, beautiful, life-changing baby can emerge. No matter what opening your baby comes out of, the human body is a wonder and performs amazing feats.
Women who are dead set on that "natural birth" might worry that a C-section birth could be a less thrilling way to bring a baby into this world. Guys, it's not.
A blue curtain separates you from some magical stuff happening on the other side that your doctor and a bunch of other medical people are doing. "What are they doing over there?" you are wondering. It must have something to do with your body, you assume, since you feel some vague tugging and pulling.
Maybe they're rummaging through a luggage full of cute little newborns and deciding which one could be yours. Maybe, just maybe, they are performing a wonderful feat of medicine and pulling your baby into the world from inside your body. It doesn't really matter, does it? A few moments later, doctors present you with a screaming, squirmy, angry-looking human and declare that human yours! They lay the baby on your chest and you are overwhelmed with joy and indescribable feelings. You can't wait to spend the rest of your life with this tiny stranger!
That was my experience, and it was magic.
Yes, we all know that the mamas who go the "natural" birth route get major props for being Warrior Moms because they pushed through the pain using focus, determination, and resolve instead of an epidural or morphine. But C-Section Mamas get lots of R-E-S-P-E-C-T, too. When you come home from a C-section, people will treat you like a Purple Star War Hero. The C-section mom gets empathy from people, not only because she is now a sleep-deprived new mom to an unpredictable newborn, but because she has battle scars and had to endure surgery.
When friends visit, they'll want to hear your birth story and surgery story in great detail. Give it to them, and emphasize the suspense of being wheeled to the operating room and the terror of being strapped to the T-shaped operating table. Tell them about how the epidural Didn't Really Work and how you Felt Everything. No one will ever mess with you again. You'll go down as the ultimate mama badass forever. Also, people will probably bring you lots of snacks and pastries for weeks. Just a tip!
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