In the majority of scenarios, mothers are not going in hoping or wishing for a cesarean birth. However, in the United States in recent years, this is the ultimate outcome for ~30% of births. I did not go in planning for one, but it ended up being necessary when my daughter was born. I had some information on what a c-section entailed (I went to a birth class, which I highly recommend, and they went over the process in great detail), and I had a number of friends and family who had one (or more), but there were still a few things that surprised me. I share this not to scare anyone but because having the knowledge ahead of time can make it less scary if it happens to you. So here are the top 5 things that no one told me beforehand about having a c-section:
After getting the anesthetics necessary for the c-section you may experience numbness that extends all the way up to your lungs, giving you the sensation that you cannot breathe. I have to admit this is one thing that I had heard about, but it felt so different to me than how it was described that still felt the need to mention it in this list. I have heard this described as “feeling like an elephant is sitting on your chest”. To me that sounds like pressure or tightness; the feeling that I experienced was very much not being able to feel my lungs at all, and I was certain that I was not breathing. The anesthesiologist assured me that I was, in fact, breathing. The good news is that meant I was numb enough that I did not feel ANYTHING at all during the surgery itself.
I experienced uncontrollable shivering immediately after my delivery. Picture your whole body violently shaking and your teeth chattering so hard it hurts. It was so bad that I could not immediately hold my daughter for fear of dropping her. I have to say this was something no one ever mentioned to me at all, and it was incredibly disconcerting because I did not know how common this is. Now I have heard various people give different reasons for why this happens. I am going to trust the medical staff that treated me who said this was a result of the spinal given prior to the surgery. Apparently this can happen with a traditional birth as well, but is more common with a c-section. The good news is that after the surgery is completed, they covered me in heated blankets which felt amazing after shivering harder than I ever imagined I could.
Bruises, aches, and pains:
Now of course I expected pain from getting cut open and having a child pulled out of my body. However, what you may not realize is that there can be other pains from all the work that comes up to needing a c-section. Laboring for hours, and in my case having multiple attempts at getting the spinal in correctly, left my muscles exhausted and my spine bruised, stiff and really sore in addition to the pain in my incision. The degree of pain will vary for everyone, but just know that the process may be more involved than you think.
The hardest part of the recovery to me was not the pain or other discomfort itself from recovering from major surgery. Instead it was doing all of that while also caring for a newborn for the first time while being without any real sleep for days and wanting to do this all as well as any Type A perfectionist would. I really struggled to accept my lack of independence while I was recovering. I remember getting home from the hospital and laying down in my bed with my daughter in the bassinet next to the bed. When she began crying, and I attempted to get up and get her, I could not. In the hospital, they have those reclining beds that you can tilt up to help you stand. I hadn’t realized how much I needed that, and I had to call for my husband for help. I remember just crying afterwards because I realized how helpless I was in that moment. Of course, over the following week this got much better, and I quickly regained my mobility and independence.
In the early days, I did have a sense of tortured guilt about needing to have a c-section. These days it seems like anything associated with having or raising a child comes with some debate associated with it. There are those people out there who feel that the only real birth is a natural birth. In addition to that societal judgement, I also felt like I missed out on certain moments in giving birth. My husband was the first to hold my daughter, I could not see her well in those first moments, and I had so many other things going on (as mentioned in the earlier items) that I felt distracted from enjoying those early moments with my child. Over time, you really do realize that how you gave birth is just a little blip in the time you have with your child and get over this guilt. For those of you out there going through this, know that you are an amazing mother and wear your battle scar proudly without feeling like any less of a mom because of however you gave birth.
Thanks for stopping by. If you have any questions or if you want to share your experience, please leave a comment down below!