I wanted to share a short story about one of my best friends who recently went through a very traumatic life event while her husband is deployed. Both her and her husband are in the Air Force so she’s used to unpredictable things happening in their lives. She has been blessed with now 4 beautiful girls and 2 amazing step-children from her husband.
She was ready for her new baby’s (4th) delivery to be very similar if not easier to her first three deliveries. Especially with her husband deployed, she wanted everything to go smoothly. As a mom-to-be with your heart set on a vaginal delivery, and then you receive the news that your baby needs to be delivered by C-section can be a very frightening and disappointing feeling. But the safety of you and your baby is at stake. Visions of pushing your baby out the way you’ve planned can sometimes be suddenly displaced by worries about the surgery, about being stuck in the hospital longer, and about the tougher recovery (not to mention the scar). Until you have experienced a C-section, you have no idea what to compare the pain to.
WHAT TO EXPECT DURING A C-SECTION:
PREPARATION AND ANESTHESIA
The C-section procedure begins with a routine IV and anesthesia — usually an epidural or spinal block, so the lower half of your body will be numb but you’ll remain awake. Then you’ll be prepped by having your abdomen washed with an antiseptic solution. The operating room staff will insert a catheter into your bladder and place sterile drapes over your tummy. Your birthing coach or partner will be outfitted in sterile garb and allowed to sit near your head and hold your hand.
The operating room staff will place a short screen blocking your vision of your abdomen, so the field remains sterile and so you don’t have to watch yourself getting cut. Even if you don’t want to see the cut, you will want to catch a glimpse of your baby as he or she emerges, so ask your practitioner to lift your baby up for a quick peek when he or she is delivered.
Now in my friend’s case, she had no time to prepare for what was to come next. If you’re having an emergency C-section, there might not be time to numb you, in which case (and fortunately this is rarely the case) you’ll be completely conked out with general anesthesia for the duration of the C-section procedure. Thankfully in her case they were able to administer the spinal block timely.
This is a sweet picture of Daddy getting to see his baby girl for the first time vi aFacebook video chat.
INCISION AND DELIVERY
Once you’re either totally numb or fully asleep, the doctor will make a small incision in your lower abdomen— just above your pubic hair line. With some neat suturing, the scar should be fairly unnoticeable. Your doctor will then make another incision in the lower part of your uterus. For both incisions, two options are possible (and the type made on the skin may not be the same as what’s made on the uterus):
- A low-transverse incision. This cut, across the lower part of the uterus, is used in 95 percent of C-sections, because the muscle at the bottom of the uterus is thinner (which results in less bleeding) and is also less likely to split during subsequent vaginal deliveries.
- A vertical cut. This incision, down the middle of your uterus, is usually only required if the baby is nestled low in your uterus or in another unusual position.
Next, the amniotic fluid will be suctioned out. Finally, your baby will be brought into the world (you might feel a bit of tugging), no worse for the trip he or she took into it. Because the excess mucus in his respiratory tract wasn’t squeezed out during a journey through the birth canal, some extra suctioning will be necessary to clear those little lungs before you hear that first cry.
And Mommy holding her new baby girl for the first time.
While you may be eager to start caring for your precious (and needy) newborn, the physical (and emotional) recovery after a C-section takes longer than from a vaginal birth. You can expect to spend around three to four days in the hospital, and it will take at least four to six weeks at home before you’ll feel back to normal.
So remember, slow and steady wins this race.
And when you have 3 other children and a deployed husband you for sure need some help. Thankfully my friend has family that is local to her. Her mother moved in with her during the first week, but still had to go to work during the day. I was able to offer my assistance to her for a few days as well. Her father flew in from out of town to help during the second week. Her husband is super grateful that her parents were able to assist.
Ignoring that advice will only lead to a longer C-section recovery, so keep these strategies in mind over the next few weeks to cope with the pain and speed recovery:
Lower your expectations. In addition to the soreness you’ll feel at the incision site, you’ll be dealing with virtually the same suite of symptoms during your recovery after a C-section as you would experience in a vaginal delivery: postpartum fatigue (from the operation and sleep deprivation), after pains (as your uterus contracts — you may be given oxytocin to speed the process), postpartum bleeding or discharge (lochia), breast engorgement and (if you thought that wasn’t enough) raging hormones. If you give yourself a realistic time frame to recover, then you’ll be less frustrated as the days turn to weeks (and possibly even months).
But in her case she’s literally had all experiences giving birth. Her first was vaginal and she unfortunately tore. Second baby was vaginal and she had to be cut (episiotomy). Third baby was effortless. Fourth…of course why not go for all types? An emergency C-section was a must because her baby was breech. Talk about a frightening ride without your spouse to be there with you.
However, you need to be cautious. Expect your scar to be sore for at least a few weeks, so forgo holding and carrying most things — except the baby. Kind of hard when you have a 16-month old that wants to be held by you
Give yourself a break. Yes, you have a new baby to care for, but remember that you need to take care of yourself too. So take as many shortcuts as you can. Have other people (your family, your in-laws, your friends) bring the baby to you instead of getting up yourself. Don’t waste your energy preparing meals — order in!
Tell your BFF you want PIZZA!!
Let the laundry pile up, or have your Mom do it for you!
Use paper plates so you don’t have to worry about washing dishes. Do whatever it takes to make your life easier — and do it guilt-free.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Even though it’s still considered major surgery (be it the happiest kind — since instead of having to lose a gallbladder, you gain a baby), C-sections are usually very safe. In fact, if it’s deemed medically necessary, it can be the safest way for your baby to enter the world.
In the end, the best birth is the one that’s safest. Any delivery that brings a healthy baby into the world and into your arms is a perfect delivery.
Of course she is anxious for her husband to be home from his deployment. So her family life can get somewhat back to normal. The girls are so excited to see him!!!