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The C-section Experience January 6, 2009

I know some women who are afraid of this particular birthing method. I don’t understand why, but I’m sure they have their reasons. Maybe because it is major surgery? Maybe because of the spinal block? Maybe ORs are scary places? Maybe it’s all the lights and sterile atmosphere? Maybe it’s the big blue sheet all up in their faces? Maybe it’s the fear of having their arms strapped down crucifixion style? Maybe it’s all the tubes and machines and monitors and team of “incase something goes wrong here” nurses from the NICU? Maybe it’s the “we might have to put you all the way under if an emergency arises”? Maybe because of all the waivers that need signed?

I don’t know. Whatever it is, I’d like to explain the c-section experience from my perspective. I’ve had two of them. Both were planned. Both were exactly the same, yet different (I’ll explain so read on). Both were fine. Neither had complications. I healed quicker than a lot of women I know who had vaginal deliveries. Granted, I am a quick healer, but there was nothing to fear as far as the healing process goes.

Since one week from today I will have another c-section, I thought I’d lay it all out. If you are easily grossed out by surgical and/or medical procedures then stop reading here and come back tomorrow for a less graphic post.

This post will be a long one. I am mainly writing this for women who are facing a c-section birth — some of which are scared to death.

Brianna’s birth – 9/1/04 – Columbus, Ohio

Since this was my first experience with c-section I didn’t exactly know what to expect. I had watched my fair share of Birth Day on TV and they showed their fair share of c-sections. I was mentally and emotionally prepared for it and had a rough idea of what would happen. I had several surgical procedures before my first c-section so I had no fear. None.

Upon arrival, I was escorted to a bed and told to take all of my clothes off and put on a hospital gown leaving the back open. My clothes and shoes went into a plastic bag. My husband was given scrubs to put on over his clothes and shoes as well as a hair cover. They inserted one IV tube for fluids and one for anesthesia to use, which was later used for nurses to inject pain meds. Then they gave me a catheter. My stomach was strapped to two monitors. One was to keep tabs on the baby’s heart, the other was to keep tabs on my uterus (just like a non-stress test). They gave me some icky junk to drink which was to empty my stomach into my intestines. It’s sour and yuck, but I’d rather down that than puke after the surgery. I stayed like that for about an hour.

Nurses asked me a ton of questions (which they kept repeating) and I had to sign some papers. My OB came to check on me a few times. I spoke with the anesthesia folks, the NICU folks, and some random scrubby wearing folks. It was funny sometimes and serious other times. During my wait for an OR (busy hospital in a big town) two girls had emergency c-sections. They obviously took priority so my wait was a bit longer than usual.

Once in the OR I had to get my spinal. That was interesting. I leaned over into a nurse (like she was hugging me) in the worst possible posture I could manage trying to push my spine out like a cat. The feeling of the needle being inserted in my epidural space hurt a little — about a 3 on a scale of 1-10 — but I am told I have a moderately high threshold for pain. Immediately it felt like little cold slivery needles were shooting through my legs (this feeling is very unpleasant to me). The nurse caught me and leaned me into the anesthestist and they laid my on my back. I could feel nothing from my chest down. They strapped my arms to the table, pulled the sheet up so I couldn’t see anything below my chest, and started asking me if I could feel this or that and telling me to move my legs, which I could not do no matter how hard I tried. If I remember right, one of my legs slipped off the bed and I had no clue until, along with giggles, the nurse told me.

My OB and the intern assisting walked in, greeted me, and began scrubbing up. My OB walked around the table to tell me a few last minute details and about then I started to feel nauseous. I told her and she looked at the anesthetist who cranked something into my veins and from that point on I nicknamed him “Dr. Feel Good”. I felt amazing. Whatever that drug was, I still want more. LOL!

Rich came in right before they opened me up. I felt nothing. Since my OB was being assisted by an intern she explained in detail each part of the surgery. I was in awe. I love that junk anyway. I heard her say “her head is too big, we’ll have to make the incision bigger”. I heard “her head is out” and Rich jumped up and started snapping pictures. Brianna’s head popped right out when my doctor reached inside my womb. She eased her body out and I only felt slight pressure and a few jerking motions. I heard them suction Bree and the gagging and choking my newborn girl was doing. I didn’t like those sounds, but I knew how necessary it was for her in order not to swallow amniotic fluid as she tried to take her first breath.

My OB brought my naked and screaming newborn around the table to show me. She was gooey, slimy, bloody, and mucousy and it was the most beautiful sight I had ever laid my eyes on. And she was screaming. I know I said that, but our little Brianna hasn’t stopped screaming since that moment. Well, almost. She’s a vocal little thing.

Rich went to be with the nurses who were working with little Bree and I heard my OB explain what they were doing to close me up. I heard the staples going in and I told everyone in the room how much I loved each and every single one of them — esp Dr. Feel Good. It was truly amazing.

I was in recovery for a little over an hour. Once I could dig my heels into the bed and lift my bottom and legs off the mattress they allowed me to go to my room.

Jeremy’s Birth – 3/27/06 – Stuart, Florida

I had been having what I thought were Braxton Hicks contractions all morning. I left my 18 month old daughter with a sitter and headed to my doc’s office for a regular OB appt and non-stress test. I told the sitter and my little girl before I left that I’d see them in 2 hours. That was the last time I saw my daughter until the next day.

The nurse monitoring my non-stress test couldn’t have been more shocked when she came into the room 20 minutes after starting the test. “You’re having contractions. Don’t you feel those? I have to go show this to your doctor. You will probably have that baby today. I’ll be right back.” She ripped off the strip of paper showing my contractions and left the room. I was in a state of disbelief which lasted until I got to the hospital.

All the same procedures were performed as when I had Brianna. The situation was a little different, but it was no emergency and I had time to chit-chat with the nursing staff while they got me ready. Even though the c-section for Jeremy was planned, it wasn’t supposed to happen until April 5th. He was born March 27th. He had his own idea of when he wanted to be born.

There was a difference as far as the delivery experience for me. Jeremy must have been a stinker to get out. I felt so much pressure this time around and it scared me a couple of times. No pain. Pressure. They pulled, jerked, pulled, pushed, jerked, pushed more, pulled more and it literally felt like someone was sitting on my chest bouncing up and down until my lungs collapsed (my lungs did not collapse, but it felt like they did because I felt like I could not breathe). At one point I told Rich to “get that nurse off of me”. He looked at me like I was a crazy loon and the anesthesist told me nobody was on my chest. I hated his delivery. I felt like I was being torn apart from my chest to my pelvis. Again, I felt no pain, but the pressure was overwhelming. Once he was out complete peace filled the room and I was fine.

Jeremy choked and gagged on the suction too. But his cry was so much quieter than Brianna’s screams. To this day, he is a much quieter child than she is. Anyway, I got to hold and kiss him for about 30 seconds and then off he went to the nursery with Rich following close behind.

I heard them staple me up and I complimented everyone. Into recovery I went and stayed again for about an hour. They brought Jeremy to me after his bath and he began right away to eat eagerly. After he ate, we went to my hospital room and there we stayed until Thursday morning.

The truth about cesarean

  • The sooner you start walking the faster you will begin to heal. This is not a myth. Walk and walk as much as you can.
  • It hurts to laugh and to cough, but if you hold a pillow to your incision area before you do either it eases the pain considerably.
  • Catheters are great for the first few hours and then they become a real bother.
  • IVs suck after about 5 hours when you start to want to rip them out yourself.
  • Take pain meds. Just take them. You’re welcome.
  • If you don’t poop you don’t eat solid food and you won’t be discharged. Ask for stool softeners and laxatives. Your nurse will probably offer them to you, but if not ASK.
  • You will bleed from your hee-haw like you’ve been shot. Be prepared.
  • Staples look bad. Don’t look if you can help it. It’s like Frankenstein.
  • Staples sometimes hurt when removed and sometimes not. I think it all depends on who stapled you and how gentle the nurse is who removes them. Both times (2 diff hospitals in 2 diff states) my staples were removed right before I was discharged.
  • You will be in the hospital a minimum of 3 days.
  • Once home try to take it easy. However, the day I was discharged my daughter fell off of my platform king sized bed and I jumped off the bed, scooped her up, and ran to her bedroom. My husband ran after me, made me sit down, and I held her until she stopped crying. Guess what? Nothing happened and I was fine (she was too by the way).
  • By the end of week one I was walking and functioning and feeling almost like myself. By week two I was dying to start exercising. I didn’t do that, but I felt like I could have. By week four I felt totally normal and the bleeding was pretty much gone. By week eight I was normal and couldn’t believe they made me wait that long to heal. I felt fine by week 4.

The benefits of cesarean

  • No sore hee-haw
  • No torn hee-haw
  • No stretched hee-haw
  • No bladder control issues
  • No troubles down below whatsoever
  • Your hee-haw stays the same as it was before you got pregnant

Cesarean cons

  • Long hospital stay
  • Bye bye flat stomach no matter how tiny you get post-partum (I wore a size 4 about 10 months after having Jeremy and still no flat stomach)
  • Itchy abdomen as the incision heals
  • More complications can happen — hopefully they won’t happen
  • It’s major surgery
  • You are physically limited for 2 weeks, at least

One more week and I’ll have my third, which I’m sure will have a story all its own. And you know I’ll post about it.

If you’re facing a c-section, be not afraid. It’s not as bad as you might think and it’s definitely better, in my not so humble opinion, than trying to squeeze an 8 pound baby out of a quarter sized hole. You’ll be fine. You will.

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