No one goes in to pregnancy thinking, “I hope I have to have a c-section,” and anyone who has actually had a c-section knows that those who do think that, are total uneducated schmucks. I’m not trying to offend anyone here, but seriously, our healing lasts a lifetime, and it has possible affects on future pregnancies and deliveries. But seriously though, having your stomach sliced open and things moved around in there…it’s not the desired form of delivery most of the time. It’s definitely not a goal, that’s for sure. However, sometimes things happen and women have to have cesareans. In fact, cesarean births are becoming more and more common.
You might hear a lot of advice to prepare you for this. A lot of it will be scary. None of it will help. People will tell you things that you already know, but won’t believe or have confidence in until you get through it: you won’t feel anything, it’s so fast, they won’t hurt the baby, you can’t see anything, you’ll be okay. Then, you have those people who tell you about how the recovery is worse. And the ones who tell you how awful it was for them during those first few days.
Let me be the first to say, NONE of the advice I was given when I found out I might be high risk for needed a c-section actually helped me get through my c-section. I was told from the very beginning that I was very narrow, and that depending on my baby’s size, I’d likely have a hard time and that I might need a c-section because sometimes bigger babies coming out of narrower women can be at risk for injuries. When I found out I had pre-eclampsia, I was sure I’d have to have one even though I tried to labor it out. But when they told me I needed one, I repeatedly played the advice back through my head, had flashbacks of videos that horrified me, and tried–and failed–to stay calm. However, everything I’d been warned about didn’t bother me at all. The problem was the things I wasn’t warned about.
So to prevent this sense of betrayal from being passed on to other mothers, I’ve made a list of 10 things that you might not know, but probably need to know, before your cesarean.
- The Incision is Not the Worst Part.
That’s what everyone focuses on. That’s what scares everyone. However, I found this to be the easiest part. In fact, I didn’t even know when it had happened. I was panicking about the fact that I was even having to go through a c-section. I was scared for my life, I was scared for my baby’s life, and I was scared that somehow, someway, they’d forget to numb me and I’d feel the pain. I had a nurse standing over my head who was asking me several questions and offering me different options to calm me down, including medication for anxiety. I told her yes, I needed the medication, through very short, labored breaths of panic and fear. As soon as she walked away, the doctor leaned over me and said, “You’re doing great, girl! The incision has been made and we’re about to get your baby!” Well now, Doc, I suppose I don’t need those medicines anymore… I didn’t even know they had touched me, much less cut me open. So what is the worst part? I’ll tell ya. The next thing the doctor did was lean over me and say, “They’re going to pull out your baby now. You’ll feel some tugging that may be a little uncomfortable, but that’s normal.” Okay, time for those meds again. I thought I was prepared. I knew what to expect. I had a great doctor who was explaining everything to me as it happened. But NOTHING in this world can prepare you for the horrific, invasive feeling of multiple hands reaching inside you and moving around. It’s uncomfortable, and something about it just feels so wrong. I can’t explain the feeling–invasive, unnatural, unnerving…those terms are close, but they don’t even cover it. That is the worst part about a cesarean.
- Take The Damn Meds! Believe it or not, the first day after a c-section isn’t that bad. You’ll be really sore for a few hours, that’s true. But once you’ve rested up for a bit, you’ve got so much going on around you and so much adrenaline, and usually some leftover numbing affects in your system, and you don’t feel that bad. However, the doctors are still going to offer you pain medication to manage whatever pain you’re having. You need to take them. Even if you think you don’t need them. Take them every time they’re offered. Because once you do need them, you might not have enough time to tell the doctors or nurses, have them get the medication, and get it in your system and working before the pain gets to be too unbearable. Trust me, I made this mistake and I thought I was dying. It was worse than labor.
- The First Poop… If you thought labor was bad, if you thought recovery was bad, if you thought anything you’ve ever been through in your entire life has ever been bad…I promise it was nothing compared to that first poop after having a c-section. First of all, it’s going to take days–maybe even weeks–to happen. You’ll feel it. You’ll definitely feel it. But it just won’t happen. And when it finally does…well, you’ll see. I thought I was in labor again when I finally went. The cramps, the pain in my lower tummy and my booty and my lady bits…All of it..just…freaking…HURT! I thought I needed to go back, they forgot a kid in me! Luckily my toilet is between the bathtub and the sink, so I put one hand on each and bared down until the pain passed. It took 3 trips to get it all cleared out, and that was after about 8 days of knowing I had to go but being unable to do so. This was the second worst part. You’ll get through it though, but you might need to mentally prepare before you make that pit stop!
- Walk It Out. The only thing that’s going to make you feel better is walking. Even if it hurts at first. The more you walk, the better you’ll feel. Don’t worry about the pain you’re in now. Walk it out.
- The Tummy Massage. This one is going to kill you. Seriously. They do it whether you have a natural birth or a c-section, but I’ve got to say it’s probably worse with the c-section. Your uterus gets bigger while you’re pregnant, and it has to shrink back down to it’s normal size in those first few weeks or months after a baby is born. You’ll feel cramps or minor contractions as this happens, and it helps you shed that blood and other tissue that your body doesn’t really need anymore. To help this process out and make sure there are no problems, the doctors and nurses come in and push down really…really…reeeeallly hard on your stomach, almost like a cat kneading a blanket, but rougher. This hurts, especially when you have a fresh scar right there.
- The Shelf It’s something you’ll always have unless you’re one of “the lucky ones”. Just on the bottom of your belly, probably right below your belly button, your stomach will always stick out. The skin will always be a little saggier, and it probably won’t look to great. The rest of you may shrink back down, but that will always be there. You’ll be three months post-postpartum, walking through the grocery store with your obviously very tiny newborn, and someone will say, “When are you due?” Um, hellooooooo, I JUST had a baby…I’m not “due” ever. But that little pooch is there, held up as if by an invisible force…The Shelf. They say losing weight after childbirth is harder if you’ve had a cesarean, but it seems like The Shelf is just impossible to get rid of.
- The Feeling NEVER Comes Back. Speaking of the shelf, this area can be of discussion in other ways too. Not only is this annoying phenomenon an eye-sore, it’s also a good way to tell where you’re “numb spot” is. You see, when the doctors cut you open, they also killed all kinds of nerves in that area. Dead. Gone. No more. So even after you’ve been stitched up and recovered, you won’t ever fully regain all feeling there again. It’s really frustrating too, because sometimes you’ll feel an itch on your belly right in that area, but you can’t scratch it. Well, I mean you can, but it won’t matter. You’ll be numb, so you can’t feel yourself scratching, and apparently the relief you get from scratching an itch it totally made up and in your head–which means you can’t take care of that itch. I know women who had their procedure done twenty or more years ago and are still numb. So don’t think you’ll bypass this–you won’t.
- Say Goodbye To Jeans… That numb spot will be numb forever. It will also be a spot of pain forever. Not everyone experiences this, but almost everyone I know has. It will always hurt. Randomly, you’ll just feel a searing pain along where your scar is. You can’t wear underwear or blue jeans or anything the slightest bit tight without setting this pain off. You can’t move around to much, or rub the area. It’ll still hurt. It’ll still feel fresh from time to time, even years down the road. It sucks. It really, really sucks. I just wanted to wear a pair of jeans!
- You Might Have to Have a Cesarean Every Time! Apparently, this is not such a secret, but I had no idea until after I had my daughter. It’s not true for everyone, but for most it is. My doctor came in after a while, and she talked to me about everything that had happened. I’d lost a lot of blood, had a transfusion, my daughter had swallowed fluid and her oxygen was too low to be able to breath without help but that I could go see her anytime I wanted. She explained what medications I was on for pain, and that it might be a few hours before I could fully walk again but that once I could, I needed to as much as possible. Then she said this: “It takes six to twelve weeks to recover from having a baby physically, but on the inside, it could take up to two years for your body to fully recover from a c-section. You should be put on birth control as soon as you can, and be considering what kinds you’d like to try. If you do become pregnant within the next two years, you’ll be considered high risk and may need more appointments to keep an eye on you and the baby. Also, you’ll likely have to have a c-section with every child from here on out, and depending on your health and body, we may limit how many you can have.” I was told no more than 4 c-sections, three was ideal. I was told that while some hospitals are wiling to attempt VBACs, our hospital was not as it was too risky. My heart was broken. I had a limit on the number of children I could have, and I would never get to experience birthing a child from my body the way women were meant to. This might not be true for everyone, but for many it is.
- It’s All Worth It. I know, you’ve probably heard this a thousand times. But it’s true–every bit of it is worth it. It won’t matter to you. From the moment you meet your child, until the day you die, you’ll never care. The only thing that matters is that you got to meet your child, and anything else that comes after…well, it’s simply just there, and not important. I’d gladly do it all again.