A reader asked me when I was going to post Everleigh’s birth story. Being that she is 3.5 months old now, it’s about time I got that written – it’s on my to do list with the other eleventy billion other things I’d like to get done. The truth of the matter is that I am finally (finally) beginning to feel like my old self again. Talk about a shock to the system. After successfully (successfully? Does that mean a c-section is a #fail?) giving birth to my first two children the good old fashioned way, our surprise c-section left me in stitches, and not the funny kind.
I suppose I had it coming.
In the days leading up to Everleigh’s birth, when I was overdue and searching the Internet and pregnancy forums for tips to bring on labor and birth stories (searching for any sign of labor I could relate to…only to realize nothing at all was happening in my uterus) I actually turned up my nose of c-section birth stories. After all, I didn’t need to read any of that because it certainly didn’t relate to me. I suppose I could say I was a bit of a c-section snob.
Having never had one before, my perception of a c-section was that it was the stuff of celebrity life that some of us regular-folk experience as well. “Too posh to push” is the phrase that comes to mind when thinking about it. Whenever I’d hear of yet another celebrity having a c-section, I’d roll my eyes (truthfully for celebs, I still do) because they seemed to have it easy.
No water breaking in the middle of the night. No intense contractions making you sound possessed. No epidural that may or may not work (and in my case, epidurals are always a #fail), and certainly no pushing that baby out. People who have c-sections have it easy. Well, maybe the celebs do.
Victoria Beckham, Britney Spears, Christina Aguilara and Elizabeth Hurley (all celebs that had elective c-sections) have nannies to help, likely a baby nurse for overnights, and probably an assistant or 2 to do everything for them. In comparison to the average woman after a c-section, they really do have it easy. It wasn’t until I experienced a c-section myself that I learned how ultimately overwhelming the entire experience can be for us regular people, and also learned the things no one ever tells you about c-sections and recovery.
First, having a scheduled c-section instead of an emergency c-section is the better of the two. Laboring for 22 hours like I did and then being prepped for surgery is not fun. Your body is exhausted. You’re exhausted. In my case I was also battling a fever (I’m a wimp and my body kind of freaks out at a certain point) so it’s certainly not the best place, physically and emotionally, to be before going in for major surgery. I wasn’t a mess with the idea of having a c-section. When it comes to labor, this third-time-around mom was ready for anything. I joked when I was pregnant that this babe would end up in a c-section, just because that’s the kind of curve-ball life can throw at you so we were ok when our OB said it was time. Everleigh was not dropping even at that point and my cervix was swollen from me pushing against the pain (a no-no).
The first c-section surprise came shortly after the spinal epidural was given and I lost all sensation below my neck. What I didn’t know, and what can happen to some people, is that you also lose the sensation of air going in and out of your chest. I literally felt like I could not breathe, could not take in a deep breath, and it felt like I was suffocating. I likened it to being a fish out of water gasping for breath. I started to freak out but the anesthetist beside me kept me calm, explaining that my oxygen levels were great and that taking quick little breaths may help, which is what I did the entire time (my husband made fun of me later for it).
The surgery itself was much quicker than I expected. It’s the aftermath – putting everything back together – that takes the longest. Once I was back in my room and my husband and Everleigh came in (he followed her for all her checks and bath, etc.) I still felt ok because I was still numb. We made phone calls (many of which I don’t remember) and took some pictures. It wasn’t until a few hours later that the numbness wore off and the pain began. C-section pain is not that bad. As long as you stay absolutely still. And for the love of all things holy, don’t cough. Or sneeze.
Unfortunately, apparently to heal you actually need to get moving. I was supposed to be up and attempting to walk the morning following my surgery but no one got me up until later that evening (about 24 hours after). My first attempt was excruciating. I cried. I only managed to take 3 steps to the sink and back but it was something. The next morning we tried again, and it wasn’t as bad. A few hours after that, it got better. It’s true – the more you get up and moving, the better you feel but it’s hard and it hurts. By 48 hours after the surgery, I was proud of being able to walk up and down the hallway outside my room.
I was discharged 72 hours after my surgery (give or take). The first few days at home were hard (again, no baby nurse or hired help for this non-celeb), especially with 2 older kids who needed attention too. No one tells you that after a c-section wearing bikini underwear is pretty much impossible as it rests right where your incision is, so I had to ask a friend to purchase me “granny” underwear to get me through the next few weeks. Even worse than having to wear granny underwear is asking your friend, who is out with her husband, to stop and pick up some for you.
In time, the healing began. Each day, I felt better than the last. Friends who had c-sections reassured me that after 10 days, I’d feel like I’d turned a corner (they were right) and that after 6 weeks, I’d feel immensely better (right again). The first week is hell, especially if you are used to being stronger, more in control, and certainly more hands-on with your babies. It was hard giving my husband the majority of the responsibility (especially since I wasn’t breastfeeding, so I didn’t have that “ah- ha!” trump card to offer where I had something only I could do). He did well – I knew he would, but it made me feel like a slacker even though my abdomen had been sliced into to remove the baby.
That is probably the biggest lesson I learned from my c-section experience. I had to learn how to let-go and allow others to help me. Friends stopped by with meals (SUCH a help and something I will remember to pay forward to others), my husband took on more than I’d allowed him to with the other 2 kids when they were newborns, and I had to force myself to sit and watch the household buzz around me.
In the end, I am glad for the experience. No, really. It really opened my eyes to that other side of the birthing experience and I learned first hand that one way of delivering a baby is not any more special, intimate, or better than the other. It’s just different. I am no longer a c-section snob, and if someone wants to stick their nose up at me and say that having a baby via c-section is not a real birthing experience, I’d suggest putting on your boxing gloves.
After all, I have a 10 cm scary looking scar. I’m kind of tough looking now.