SO YOU'VE HAD A BABY YANKED OUT OF YOU: C-SECTIONS FOR DUMMIES
My first experience giving birth did NOT go according to plan. (I know, imagine that)
Long story short, I had a C-section at 36 weeks because my placenta had stopped delivering nutrients to our baby and she was breech. With almost no amniotic fluid left, there was no chance of trying to turn her, so off to surgery we went. (Yay.)
Now maybe you're reading this because you too carry the beautiful scars on your belly from a c-section. Or maybe you have a scheduled C-section fast approaching or plan to have one someday when you're ready for kids. Maybe you're just morbidly curious.
Well you've come to the right place because I am here to lay it all out on the table for you.
My experience was not totally emergent so I can't speak 100% to those of you who've had that experience (but go you!)
I went in that day for my regular appointment, got the less than ideal news, and was told to come back about 2 hours later for what was now technically a "scheduled C-section".
So show up we did (with a prayer in our hearts).
Here is roughly how things are going to go:
You'll arrive at the hospital, get checked in (hooray for paperwork), and then get sent to a room where they'll hook you up to NST monitors to keep an eye on you and baby. A nurse will come in, ask you (in so many words) how "tidy" your situation is down there, to which, if you're like me and unsure of the "standard", will respond "Umm I don't know, a normal amount?".
She'll then proceeded to shave you around your pubic area (because who doesn't love a clean canvas?)
Soon after they'll whisk you and one allotted support person (for me it was my dear husband) off to the operating room where you'll get briefly acquainted with the anesthesiologist who, as soon as you have dispensed with the pleasantries, will be sticking a very large needle in your back to numb you from the waist down, allowing you to stay awake for the surgery. Next he'll insert a catheter up your hoo-ha (at least they wait until after numbing you).
[I love meeting new people, don't you?]
After that it'll be a few minutes of waiting around for the doctors to get scrubbed in, listening to them make normal Wednesday evening small talk while you lie there, wondering if you are in for a real life episode of Grey's Anatomy, or if you and baby are going to be okay, or if you are going to get vomit all over that fabulous head bonnet they are making you wear... (because, as I now know after 2 kids, many women get extremely nauseous as they reach completion and baby prepares to make their debut).
So you'll focus on listening to your husband (or loved one) and the anesthesiologist, who has now seen way too much of you, as they narrate everything that is happening behind that big sheet that is covering you from the waist down, which you later discover you are ever so grateful for after seeing the pictures of what was really going on behind it. #ignoranceisbliss
You'll feel pressure from the scalpel but no pain (assuming the anesthesiologist did his job right).
Your support person can take pictures and watch if they so desire. It's pretty grotesque from what my husband has told me and, based on aforementioned pictures, he is right.
If you want, they will tell you step-by-step what they are doing as they are doing it.
Really, the whole getting baby out part only takes about 10-15 minutes.
As they pull back layer after layer of tissue, fat, and vital organs, they finally reach your baby sack and then, literally, yank them out like a trout.
Ta da! You just gave birth!
WAY. TO. GO. MAMA.
The doctor will cut the cord and take out the placenta - my doctor was literally in the process of throwing it in the trash when she asked if I wanted to see or keep it. (Hard pass.)
They will quickly show you your bloody bundle of joy, then wipe them down, measure them, swaddle them up, and then bring them next to your head so you can try to hold them and bond with them as much as an awkward #sidehug will allow. Usually they will let your support person hold them for a bit while they finish up the surgery.
After the doc has replaced all of your insides and has sewn (or stapled in my case) you back together, (my scar is probably only 4 or 5 inches now and is well below my belly button, so no one but my husband even knows it's there so it's nice and #bikinifriendly ), they will send you back to a recovery room.
This is where things get a little blurry and overwhelming.
Family is there waiting. A new, tiny human, totally dependent on you and your now crippled body is there too, already looking for its first meal. (TYPICAL.)
If you are choosing to nurse and baby is doing well, this first hour or two is a great time to start trying. Even if you aren't nursing, this is primo bonding time for your new little family.
Right about now the drugs are kicking in hard and your body is screaming for rest. Nurse will probably come to whisk baby off to the nursery for her first bath, shots, footprints and whatever else it is they do because at this point you aren't sure what is reality and what is a dream, but that's what husband or family are there for, right? So use this opportunity to get a couple hours of sleep while you can. The nursery will be a Godsend for you during your 3 day hospital stay (this is the average time you are required to stay post-op) so I highly recommend taking full advantage.
You will probably be woken by one of three things:
1. Pain. You just underwent major abdominal surgery and you have kind of forgotten about that up until this point (because a cute baby, adrenaline, and drugs are a powerful combination).
2. A nurse coming to push on your (and I can't stress this enough) very tender stomach, through which a baby was just pulled out, because nobody likes a post-op blood clot. Maybe bring a belt to bite down on, because this. will. hurt.
3. A baby that looks like your baby, but is a little more scary and intimidating than when you last saw it because the drugs are starting to ware off and now it's screaming for food and you feel responsible but aren't really sure what you're supposed to be doing again. (Don't panic, the nurses are very in touch with all of this, or at least they should be, and will walk you through it as many times as you need.)
You will repeat this pattern for the next 3 days. The pain will probably escalate. The 2nd day is going to be the worst. Plan on it.
You are going to be disappointed by the fact that even though you didn't push a baby out of your crotch, there is still a hella lot of bleeding going on down there and so you still have to wear the hospital grade, gigantic pads and mesh panties. Basically the same aftercare rules of post vaginal birth apply to you too.
[And you thought that escaping the total annihilation of your delicate lady flower was going to be the only upside of combining major surgery with childbirth.]
Also, swelling is pretty common afterward. I was fairly dehydrated pre-surgery and all the drugs, anesthesia, and whole "having a baby" thing really did not help. So my legs swelled up to about 3 times their normal size. (Fun fact: I got most of my stretch marks post baby, thanks to this. But I'm not bitter or anything...) If you have a similar problem, the hospital did give me some compression cuffs to wear while I slept, which helped some, but really my legs didn't return to their normal size until about a week after being discharged.
HAVING A BABY IS SO MUCH FUN IN SO MANY WAYS, AMIRIGHT?
Beyond that, it's just a lot of sleep deprivation, pain, drugs, drinking copious amounts of water, peeing, trying to feed your baby who won't wake up to eat (except during the time you're trying to sleep), visitors, hospital food, pain, more drugs, mesh panties, belly rubs from an overly aggressive nurse, learning to swaddle, more pain, blood, awkward showers where you see how weird your belly (complete with a stapled on grill) now looks, trace amounts of sleep, learning to change a diaper, more pain, more interrupting nurses, a first walk around the postpartum wing, followed by pain, exhaustion, more mesh panties, and, of course, intense, inexplicable love for this tiny human you created and just gave birth to.
Because no matter how cheated you may or may not feel out of vaginal birth mama, YOU DID JUST GIVE BIRTH. And as a woman who has done it both ways, it was just as miraculous, just as difficult, just as beautiful, as any other birth story out there.
If you can survive the hospital stay, you can survive anything, (and by anything I mean facing down that first postpartum dump heading your way. It's going to be a doozy #twosiedoozy #theconstipationisreal #youdeserveapushpresentjustforthat)
Godspeed woman. You got this. (💩)
Congrats on the baby too, that was cool.