April is International Cesarean Awareness Month. As someone who has had two cesareans, or “c-sections,” this is a subject close to my heart. My girls were both born in an operating room, emerging from my body swiftly thanks to skillful doctors and nurses. With my first daughter, her due date came and went; after a full week post due date, I went in for an induction. I clearly remember her burrowing further into my rib cage, not ready to vacate. She has always done things on her own terms, and still is just that stubborn. After failing to progress with pitocin, her heart rate was dropping, and I was prepped for a c-section. It all happened quickly and I didn’t have time to have any feelings about it – honestly, I was just grateful to meet her after a long day.
My second c-section was scheduled – I could have opted for a VBAC (vaginal birth after C section) but given my track record with my first, I did not want to try for VBAC only to end up with a last minute c-section again. My scheduled c-section was so different: honestly, it was amazing. Thanks to being able to plan ahead, coupled with a very supportive team of nurses and doctors at the hospital, I had a beautiful experience that redeemed any regrets I had from my first.
So, I have done this both ways. I have gone to the hospital, prepared to push it real good, which did not happen. I have also checked in to the hospital knowing that in a few short minutes, my baby would be pulled out the trap door. Two very different c-section scenarios.
I will be honest – with my first, I did not prepare for a c-section at all. It did not really cross my mind as a possibility. I wish I had been more prepared. By the time I knew I was having one, there was no time to google, no time for reading the mom blogs. The doctor came in, said it was happening, and next thing I knew I was being wheeled away.
So mommas to be , I offer this: a guide to preparing for a c-section. Whether you know one is in your future or not, read along and you will be more prepared than I was. And, I offer this for the sake of a disclaimer, this is not medical advice, rather it is my experience.
Preparing for a C-section
- Yes, it is birth. It may involve medical intervention, but it does not take away from the fact that a baby emerged from your body after you nurtured and grew it for 9+ months.
- When you go back, depending on the hospital, you can have one other person in the operating room with you. They will have to put on some sort of goofy get up, with either scrubs or a coverall and cap. Definitely get pictures of that.
- You will go in to the OR first without your partner or OR guest to get hooked up and ready. If the c-section is scheduled, you will get your spinal (which is not fun but oh so necessary). If you weren’t planning on having a c-section, you may already have an epidural and they will use that instead of a spinal.
- The actual process of getting the baby out is very quick. Of course it depends on how everything goes, but both times it was thirty minutes from the time I left for the OR to when my baby was born. For laboring mommas, thirty minutes is QUICK!
- What actually takes a lot longer is what happens after the baby is born. This is where the placenta is removed and you are sewn back together – and the sewing isn’t just one closing up of the body, there are layers to be sewn.
- The anesthesia may make you shake or make you nauseated. If you feel sick to your stomach, they can give you medicine (like Zofran) through an IV, so make sure to mention it.
- Speaking of anesthesia, the anesthesiologist or nurse anesthetist is going to be your best friend. They are positioned right by your head – get friendly with them and take advantage of having a medical professional who knows very well what is going on. It made me feel so much better to have them explain to me what was happening.
- You can request a clear drape if you like. I did not know this for the first one but my nurse suggested it for the second time. I was so glad to have it – I could not see my insides or any blood (thank goodness, I am super squeamish) but what I loved was that I could see my baby as as she came out and I could watch my doctor, which calmed me quite a bit. It made me feel a part of the action and not isolated.
- You may be able to donate your placenta. The first time, since it was not a planned cesarean, I did not have this option, but the second time someone came in and asked if we would consider donation. I gladly obliged.
- You can request skin to skin in the OR and start breastfeeding while you are being sewn up (depending on your doctor and the hospital rules). You will have to have help because you won’t be able to hold your baby on the table, but with assistance you can have skin to skin and even start feeding, which is so important!
- Once everything is finished and done, depending on your hospital, you will either go to a surgical recovery room or back to L&D before being transferred to a mother/baby room. I know some hospitals locally that are starting to have mothers stay in the same room the whole time instead of having separate floors, though.
- Your catheter (oh, did I mention you get one of those?!) will remain for a while until your anesthesia totally wears off, since you won’t be able to get up and use the bathroom while you are still numb.
- You will get super fancy leg massage wraps that are automated and squeeze your legs every so often to prevent clots since you aren’t walking around. It is strange but you get used to it.
- You will still bleed and use those giant pads. Nope, you don’t get to bypass that ritual of childbirth!
- Because of the catheter, the first few times you pee will feel super strange – it gets better, I promise.
- Even though it will hurt like hell, the sooner you start walking, the better for your recovery. And make sure you’re trying your best to stand up straight, as that will help too.
- Don’t be afraid to use your pain medicine. Your nurse will encourage you to “stay on top of it,” and most hospitals have you request them even though you are on a time schedule, so don’t wait until the pain is unbearable to request it!
- You will have to stay longer than a vaginal birth, typically 2-3 nights. Recovery is important, so don’t rush this time!
- Take your stool softeners. It will make that eventual first post-op BM a little less painful. But it still will hurt – sorry.
- Bottom line, it is surgery. Allow yourself time to recover (if that is even possible while caring for a tiny newborn), follow your doctor’s guidelines on not picking up heavy objects or driving, and rest as much as possible.
A c-section may be your preference, or it may not be a part of your birth plan at all, but both times I had one, the most important thing for me was that mom and baby were healthy. I had to trust my doctor and nurses and know that whatever was going to happen would happen. So, whether you know you will be laying down numb waist down on that OR table or not, hopefully this guide helps you prepare just in case.