In preparation for my second C-Section, I scoured the Internet for encouragement and advice on how to head into the operation with confidence. I soon found that a lot of the information out there is filled with doom and gloom, and was feeling even less excited about heading into the procedure than I had been before I hit the World Wide Web. Since I’ve now been through two very different (mostly positive) C-Section experiences, I wanted to write about them to encourage future C-Section moms that the experience isn’t always as bad as it may seem!
I was a C-Section baby. My brother was a C-Section baby. I was determined that this type of birth story would not be something I would “inherit” from my mom, so I put all thoughts of C-Sections out of my mind during my first pregnancy. In conversations with my doula (and anyone else who would listen), I talked about having a drug-free birth and had fully convinced myself that, because I possess two X chromosomes, I was “made for this” and would need nothing more than a doctor to catch my son on his way out in order to bring him into the world.
Unfortunately, while this is the case for some very lucky women, it wasn’t so for me. I was eleven hours into my (painful) drug-free labour and only 4 cm dilated (coincidentally, the furthest my mom made it with me), when a nurse told me that I had the option of opting for a C-Section, which meant that I would be able to see my son within about 30 minutes. She also told me that if I continued with the labour process, it would be at least another 6 hours before I could even begin to push. At this point, the C-Section option sounded incredibly tempting, but after I had told everyone about my plans for a drug-free birth, I felt that I would be taking the “easy way” out and I declined.
As I was processing (and regretting, if I’m being honest) my decision to push forward (labour and delivery pun there, in case you missed it), a nurse rushed to my side and told me that the C-Section was no longer an option, it was the only option. My son’s heartbeat was dropping with each contraction, and they needed to get him out as quickly as possible. Although I can hardly remember the events of the labour process in detail, what happened next was even more of a blur. I remember being rushed down the hallway on the gurney, and the next thing I knew, I was in a bright white operating room filled with people moving around very quickly. A nurse told me I needed to climb from my bed onto the operating table as I was mid-contraction. I asked if I could have a minute to wait for it to pass and was sternly told, “no”. I was then given a spinal and felt instant relief. A nurse with kind, brown eyes, came close and told me that everything was going to be okay. I was so out of it at this point that all I really cared about was the fact that I could no longer feel anything below the waist and that I would be seeing my son very soon. The next thing I knew, my husband was beside me, a curtain was put up, and the surgery had begun. I anxiously waited to hear the cry of my baby, because television and movies had taught me that this was very important.
We waited and then heard someone exclaim, “What a tank!”. I still hadn’t heard him cry. As a first-time mom, the wait was incredibly scary. But, just a moment later, I heard the best sound in the world and a squishy, purple baby was presented to us. We were overjoyed (and also a little surprised at how much he resembled a California Raisin). We were parents!
I was really lucky with my recovery from the C-Section. Although I was exhausted, my pain was very manageable. In only a few days, I was off of the more serious painkillers and only needed to take Ibuprofin. I made my first outing to the mall with my son when he was just four days old. This is not to brag, or attempt to drum up compliments, but to encourage moms who may be faced with a C-Section as their only birth option that it is not always as much of a nightmare as it can be made to sound. I was given stitches that dissolved on their own after a few weeks and was left with a scar that I could still wear a bikini with and no one would ever be the wiser, except for the fact that I now posessed a much stretchier stomach and a belly button that would never be the same (R.I.P. formerly cute belly button). As an added bonus, I was given a baby who had a perfectly round head, and not one single person told me I was a bad mom for having a C-Section instead of the unmedicated, vaginal birth I had promised the world I was going to have.
Because my first C-Section hadn’t been the traumatic experience I was expecting, I decided long before I was pregnant with Baby #2 that he or she would be entering the world in the same way their big brother had, but this time, it would be on my terms. Although I knew that V-BAC was an option, I wasn’t choosing it for myself. I was well-aware that a C-Section was major surgery, but who are we kidding? Vaginal births are no joke either. Since I already had the scar, I figured, why not have another C-Section and “jokingly” ask the surgeon to give me a tummy tuck while they were down there? Spoiler alert: if you try this, they will say no, unless you’re Britney Spears.
This experience was so completely different from my first C-Section in every possible way. Even though I had tried to convince myself and everyone else around me that the C-Section was no big deal, as the date loomed closer, I became increasingly nervous. I knew that this time, there wouldn’t be the crazy haze of adrenaline to help me ignore the fact that a giant needle was going to be inserted into my spine. I thought that there would be no mystery surrounding the date and time that I would make my way to the delivery room for the surgery, but this actually did change, multiple times. I scoured the Internet for advice to ease my nerves, and all I seemed to find was doom and gloom. Soon-to-be mothers who were facing C-Sections for the first time were terrified because of the horror stories they had heard from friends and strangers. Second-time moms talked about their terrible experiences with previous C-Sections and how much they knew this one was going to suck. My hope for this post is to add a dose of hope and positivity into what most worry will be a very negative and traumatic experience.
My C-Section was scheduled for 11 a.m. on November 21st, one week before my due date (a positive to having a planned C-Section – your baby comes a little early!). This date was eventually pushed earlier, to the 18th at the same time, due to me having high blood pressure. I kept this new date a secret because I kind of hated that the element of surprise was gone and all of my family and friends knew when my baby would be born (a negative to having a planned C-Section – you kind of get to choose your kid’s birthday, which I think is weird). The night before my surgery, I got a phone call to ask if I’d like to come in for a 7 a.m. appointment time instead, since there was no one else scheduled for that day. I agreed, eager to get the whole thing over with.
Of course, as much as I knew I needed to get rest that night, I barely slept at all. I woke up at 6:00 a.m. and nervously had a shower and did my hair and makeup (planned C-Section pro number two – you might actually have some makeup left at the end of the event due to being 200% less sweaty). We arrived at the hospital and checked in at a leisurely pace, and were then led with all of our bags down the hall to a triage room. The word “triage” has always sounded scary to me, but really, it’s just a tiny room with a bed and a heart monitor and not much else. I was hooked up to a heart monitor to keep track of the baby and then my husband and I waited. After a while, our nurse came in to let us know that an emergency C-Section had caused us to be bumped back a little and our surgery would now happen closer to 9:00. Then she told me that she would hook me up to an IV, which would be the “worst part” of the procedure. I thought she was joking. Worse than a spinal tap? Worse than being sliced open and having a baby removed from my uterus? I asked her if this was a trick to help me relax about the rest of the day and she assured me that it wasn’t. I closed my eyes and looked away and felt a bit of a sting in the top of my wrist. Then it was over. If that was really going to be the most painful thing I experienced that day, the rest would be cake.
After the nurse left the room, my husband and I decided to try to take a nap. The anesthesiologist came in a while later to meet us and tell me about the procedure that would be taking place. He also told me that we had been bumped yet again, and that we probably wouldn’t be getting into surgery until closer to noon. Another con of having a planned C-Section is you have to begin fasting at a certain time, and if your surgery gets pushed back, you still don’t get to eat. By this time, I was starving. He felt sorry for me and I was allowed to have some apple juice, but that was it. Stu and I decided to kill some time until noon by watching Netflix when we were notified that, once again, my surgery had been bumped. At the time, I was annoyed because all I wanted was to get the surgery over with so that I could meet my baby and stop worrying, but as I look back, I’m actually kind of thankful for this waiting period. If I had been at home, no doubt I would have filled the time with last-minute chores and chasing my toddler around. Because I was stuck in a tiny room at the hospital, I had no other choice but to relax.
Finally, at about two o’clock, I was moved to my recovery room. If you live in Calgary and have any options about which hospital to deliver out of, I highly recommend the South Health Campus. Not only do they have friendly, knowledgeable doctors, nurses, anesthesiologists, etc. etc. etc. but the facility itself is amazing. Patients are given private rooms with access to their own shower. The rooms are also huge and even have an actual sleeping area for a support person to stay overnight in. You’re allowed as many visitors as you want, whenever you want, and if you don’t want anyone to come see you while you catch up on some much needed rest, all you have to do is ask. After your baby is born, you get to choose a song to be played over the intercom all across the hospital that lets everyone know that your little one has arrived. From beginning to end, the experience was so incredibly positive that it almost makes me want to have another baby just so I can go there again. Almost. But nah.
After we had settled into our room, a nurse came to get us to walk us down to the operating room. This was a far different experience than being rushed down the hallway on a gurney with my husband racing to keep up while reassuring me that everything would be okay. The nurse asked what kind of music I liked so that they could have my favourite genre playing during the operation. Everything was calm and slow. As Stu got prepped outside, a nurse chatted with me about teaching while I got my spinal (the nurse from that morning hadn’t lied – this honestly didn’t hurt a bit and I’m a huge wuss when it comes to pain). Stu came in and sat by my side as the curtain went up and the operation began. As they carefully made incisions and worked around my organs (ew), the medical team visited with each other as calmly as if they were meeting for coffee. This time, the operation felt like it took forever, due to the fact that my baby wasn’t in distress. Finally, I heard someone say, “Wow! Look at all that hair!” and I knew I’d be meeting my baby girl in just a few moments. When I saw her for the first time a few seconds later, I couldn’t believe how much she looked like her brother when he was a newborn, except she wasn’t purple and had a head full of hair!
The hours, days and weeks following my C-Section were pretty uneventful. I wasn’t nearly as exhausted as I had been on my first go-around. I remember the first time, I was so tired, I could literally only keep one eye open at a time. I was up and walking around by the next afternoon, and, though it was painful, it was completely manageable. In two days, my new baby girl and I were on our way home with Stu as our chauffeur (another con of having a C-Section – you aren’t supposed to drive for 6 weeks). Again, I was able to wean myself off of most pain medication within a week. The most traumatic part of my recovery was having a lady at the check-out at the grocery store ask me why I still looked pregnant when I was pushing a five day-old baby in my shopping cart. Once I recovered from that, I could confidently say that I had survived my C-Section experience. And I have great news – so will you.