Five Things That Surprised Me About My C-Section
Wednesday, April 5, 2023
We asked an amazing Birthsmarter student and new mom, Abby, to share her recent experience having a cesarean birth. Here's what she said:
It may need to happen at any point- and it’s no one’s fault.
I began the induction process on a Wednesday evening, and by Thursday night I had started pushing. In between I was hooked up to countless monitors and IVs, had a balloon inserted, took a cervical softener, started pitocin, ate a salami sandwich and a cinnamon roll, vomited multiple times (the salami sandwich may have been a mistake, albeit a delicious one), experienced mild and intense contractions, had my water break, got the epidural, napped and dilated to ten centimeters. I pushed for three hours, experiencing ever more painful back labor, and my little guy’s head barely descended. The doctor couldn’t tell me exactly why he wasn’t coming down, just that the clock was running out before a C-section would be necessary. I decided to switch to a C-section and felt all sorts of guilt and fear around a decision that felt rushed and overwhelming. In hindsight, however, I know that I chose to do what felt right for me and my baby.
The anesthesia was incredibly effective, but also had some intense side effects.
During the operation, I felt nothing but the slightest swaying sensation. I did, however, begin shaking uncontrollably, and my teeth started chattering so hard I asked to put gauze in my mouth. My partner said this part was the scariest for him of the whole birth experience- thankfully the effect wore off quickly.
The operating room was bright, cold, sterile, crowded, and intense- and also home to the most magical and beautiful moment of my life.
I went from the peaceful, dimly lit birthing room with my partner, doula and one nurse, to an operating room full of people I’d never seen before barking orders at each other. The setting was hardly ideal for meeting this precious being I had carried in my body for the last nine months. However, when I heard my baby’s first little coo through the curtain, nothing else mattered. How he came into the world was the least important thing.
The recovery is complex, but totally doable.
At my six-week checkup, my doctor told me there was nothing else I needed to do to heal, and I was cleared to go back to normal life, including intense exercise. In my Birthsmarter support group, however, I learned that I actually had a lot more agency in my healing (scar massage, pelvic floor and core exercises, etc), and that going slow would make a huge difference in my long term health and strength. At seven weeks I was back to riding my bike and taking the subway, but I’m still going slow in other ways.
As with so many things in life, being in good company makes all the difference.
In the days after the birth, I mentally recited the names of all the friends and family I knew who had C-sections. Their names served as a comforting mantra to remind me I was not alone, and their advice on everything from how much to walk around to which high-waisted underwear to buy was invaluable.
If you're planning a cesarean birth check out our Cesarean Birth and Recovery On-Demand Course or Download this Comprehensive Guide on Cesarean Birth and Recovery that we created in partnership with ProNatal Fitness.
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