It wasn’t my plan to have a C-section. As my pregnancy progressed, I focussed my research on ‘regular’ birth. I got the scoop on friends’ birth stories – every grisly detail – but didn’t talk to one person about their Caesarean.
I learned everything there was to know about breathing, pushing, epidurals, tearing, delayed cord clamping, skin-to-skin – but not once did I so much as Google the word “caesarean”.
I didn’t go in naïve – of course. I knew there was every possibility that at any given point, my birth plan would be hijacked and my hopes for a standard delivery would go out the window. I readily accepted that fact. What mattered most to me was the safe delivery of a healthy baby, whom I had been waiting nine long months to meet.
But five hours into my labour, when my baby began showing signs of distress and the decision was made to cut me open in order to get him out in a hurry, I realised that I was out of my depth.
My doctor attempted to quickly explain the basics, but here are some things that I wish I had known about my C-section:
1. The drugs can cause some strange reactions
As they wheeled me to the OR, the strangest thing happened. I began to feel very sleepy. Battling it hard, I thought, “No, I can’t fall asleep for the birth of my child. Who falls asleep for the birth of their child?!” Lots of women, it turns out. On top of the sleepiness, the epidural/spinal block can also cause severe shaking, spinal headaches (major ouch) and nausea.
2. It feels really freaking weird
Yep, you feel everything going on down there. It doesn’t hurt, but there is a lot of pressure and tugging, especially when it comes time for your precious bundle to be yanked from your body. Throughout the procedure, my doctor explained everything that I would feel, and that definitely helped – but there are very few times in life when you will feel hands inside your body, jostling your internal organs about, so not much can really lessen the weird-factor.
3. You find new positions to do, well, just about everything
Much in the same way that you had to discover a new way of getting out of a chair without utilising your suddenly-useless core muscles toward your third trimester (push off with your arms, ladies!), you’ll find yourself seeking new approaches to all kinds of basic movements and functions in the early days of your C-section recovery. These may include, but are not limited to, your sleeping position, your sitting-on-the-couch position, your bending-over-to-pick-something-up (you know, like a 4kg helpless newborn) position, and your walking-up-the-stairs position. The early days of recovery are painful, and it feels like your organs are going to tumble out if you make a wrong move. But they won’t, I promise!
4. You end up with weird numb patches
Once your incision has healed, you will probably notice some numbness in the surrounding area. This is because of all the nerves that are cut during the procedure, and it may be some time before you regain feeling on those patches of skin. In some cases, the nerves may never heal. Luckily this isn’t something that will affect you day-to-day, except when you find yourself with an itch you just can’t scratch!
5. It might affect the boobie bar
Medically speaking, C-sections are a fantastic option that have made a safe birthing experience possible for mothers and babies that may otherwise end up in life-threatening situations. However, that doesn’t change the fact that our bodies weren’t designed to eject babies in this way. The act of pushing a baby down the birth canal actually lets your body know that it’s time to release some post-pregnancy hormones, including those that kick-start milk production. Unfortunately when you have a C-section, your body doesn’t always get the message, and these hormones may be affected or delayed. It’s common after a C-section for your milk to take longer to come in. Luckily for those who are wanting to breastfeed but struggling with their supply, there are medications and natural supplements available. Of course, any issues with breastfeeding are best discussed with a qualified lactation consultant as soon as possible after the birth.
6. You should wait before re-opening the baby factory
Hoping for Irish twins? Back-to-back bubs in consecutive years? You may need to reconsider your plans. Most doctors recommend leaving a gap of two years between your C-section birth and the next one. This is because there is an increased chance of uterine rupture if the body isn’t 100% healed. A quick Google search of “Help! I’m pregnant four months after my C-section!” will introduce you to a bevy of women posting in parenting forums who didn’t wait (whether by choice or by accident!), and were perfectly fine. But it’s always best to take your doctor’s advice, and not that of a stranger online.
P.S. Enjoy explaining that two-year gap to every well-meaning person who nudges you once your baby hits six months old, and asks with a wink, “So, when’s the next one?”
Personally, my fingers are crossed for a VBAC (vaginal birth after Caesarean) next time, but the C-section is no longer a big scary mystery. I know that if it comes down to it again, I will be just fine.
So whether you’ve got a C-section looming on the horizon, or you’re doing your research just-in-case, I wish you luck, mama. You’ve got this.