My C-Sections: Before, During, and After

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Did you know April is Cesarian Section Awareness Month? It's meant to educate women about c-sections including risks and complications, and also supports VBACs (vaginal birth after cesarian) for subsequent births. If you're interested in that, you can find more information here.

(sending a text update to family in pre-op before C was born)

The Before 
(and why I chose to have two c-sections)

Both of my girls -- my greatest gifts -- came into the world via c-section. When I was pregnant with Carrington I fully intended to have a vaginal birth, taking birth classes and imagining what that process would be like. Would my water break dramatically like it seems to in the movies? Would we wake in the middle of the night? Would she arrive early or would her due date come and go? 

About halfway through my pregnancy with her, we found out she was in a breech position (meaning her head was up by my ribs and her feet were down by my pelvis, instead of the other way around). I did some at-home exercises (laying almost upside down with my legs up on the couch, etc.) and was told she'd most likely flip. She never did, though, and as we got closer to her due date my doctor let us know about our options: we could make an appointment to have an external cephalic version (where doctors try to manually turn the baby) or we could schedule a c-section. I went back and forth a lot and did a ton of research, asked friends who had been in similar positions, and even watch videos to try to educate myself as much as possible on both the version and a c-section. In the end, do you know how I decided what to do? I trusted my gut. It sounds crazy, but that's what it came down to. There are, of course, risks associated with a c-section but there are also risks associated with a version and I made a personal decision that I felt comfortable with (Steve supported me in whatever I decided).

When it was time to decide on a birth plan for Hadley, I again went back and forth (this is kind of my thing before making a big decision... or any decision, really). I asked every doctor I saw at my practice about their experiences with VBACs versus second c-sections (and to be honest, I didn't find that any of them were trying to persuade me either way), I did a lot of my own research, again asked friends who had had VBACs and friends who had multiple c-sections. Finally, we decided to sign the consent papers for a VBAC and set a date during the 39th week (3 days before Hadley's original due date, which actually was my birthday) for a c-section in the event that she didn't come on her own before then. All along, even though a VBAC was plan A, I have to admit... I felt unsure. Not just nervous about what the vaginal birth process would be like, but I had this feeling I couldn't describe. I didn't feel confident about it, but nevertheless we moved forward. When Hadley didn't come by the date we had scheduled the c-section, a c-section it was.

(Right after C arrived -- Steve watched her be born!)

The During
(my birth stories!)

The morning of Carrington's birth we arrived at the hospital a bundle of excited nerves, but also calm, if that makes sense. We knew she would be in our arms in a matter of hours. Once we checked in, we were taken back to pre-op where I changed into a gown and was hooked up to an IV (the most "painful" part of the actual c-section process -- not counting recovery -- and it wasn't that painful at all) and monitors. We listened to C's heartbeat as we texted our families and talked about meeting her. They checked via ultrasound that she was still breech, and indeed she was. My doctor (the one I had really hoped all along would deliver C -- I felt so comforted to see him!) came in to chat with us and put us at ease. 

At go-time, we walked over to the operating room and while I went in and got the spinal (again, not a terrible experience for me personally) and was set up on the table, Steve changed into scrubs and was then ushered in once I was all prepped. He sat by my head as they began the delivery process. Our c-section was scheduled for 10am that morning and by 10:26 we heard the anesthesiologist (who, by the way, I never realized played such a big role during c-section deliveries) announce the time as our daughter's first cries filled the room. The mood was celebratory and the nurses invited my husband over to the table where they cleaned C up and then brought her over to me to snuggle and kiss. Steve left with our baby girl while they stitched me up and then we had an hour in the recovery room to bond, begin breastfeeding, etc.

Hadley's birth story is quite similar, except I went into it this time feeling both more confident and a bit more nervous, if that makes sense. I knew what to expect the second time around which can be both a relief and also nerve-wracking. The same doctor, who I love and trust, delivered Hadley. After the pre-op and spinal, Steve was brought in and the doctors (it was my doctor and a resident) prepared to begin. Suddenly the anesthesiologist told them that she "didn't like how my heart looked." I've always had a slightly irregular heartbeat and I guess that was exhibiting, so my doctor moved quickly but safely to deliver Hadley. She was out within minutes and crying, and Steve and I experienced the best day of our lives all over again with our sweet second daughter. All turned out fine with my heart but I did need to stay in the high-risk section, see a cardiologist for testing, and wear a heart monitor (which was pretty annoying hooked up all over my chest!) while I was there. However, the craziest part to me is that when my doctor was delivering Hadley he mentioned to the resident that I had a "window" on my  uterus, which basically (very basically) means my uterus was stretched so thin where my previous c-section scar was that you could somewhat see through it. Scary, and it meant that in my case, I was lucky that I hadn't gone into labor and attempted a VBAC. I was so grateful to have my healthy baby in my arms.

(Sisters meeting for the first time after H was born -- one of the best moments of my life!)

The After
(recovery and beyond)

Without a doubt, recovery is the toughest part of having a c-section. The birth itself is painless and I had wonderful, memorable, special experiences both times. I was never one who had a rigid birth plan -- I just wanted to be ok and I wanted my babies to be ok, and however that happened counted as a beautiful success to me. 

But the recovery can definitely be tough, and there's no sugarcoating that. After Carrie's birth, I remember standing up out of bed for the first time and tears just streaming down my face as the nurse's helped me ease my way up. There was no going up and down stairs for weeks, no driving for weeks, no bending over to pick things up off the floor or carrying anything heavier than my new baby. Going from a stubbornly independent, restless person to a person who needed to rely on people (read, my husband, who was very helpful) was the most difficult part for me -- but it was necessary for a full, healthy recovery. That coupled with just first time mom-ness was difficult for me those first couple of weeks, I won't lie. But after a week or two I began to feel more and more like myself and eventually my scar faded so much that it was almost invisible... until Hadley's birth, that is. ;)

The recovery with Hadley was easier physically. My body knew what to expect and it just felt overall less painful this time around. I healed well again, thankfully, and knew I couldn't push myself too hard. Emotionally the recovery and moving slowly was tough with an energetic 2.5 year old to also take care of, but physically I felt pretty good. 21 months later and my scar is once again almost faded completely -- although, honestly, I don't mind my scar one bit. That is how my babies came into the world, and I'd do it a million more times for each of them.

We've all seen the outrageous posts about c-sections not being "real" births and I don't want to even give that a minute of time because I truly feel that's not what 95% of people believe. More subtly, I've heard from women who have pity in their voice when they hear how my babies were born -- it's out of the goodness of their heart, but believe me -- I would not have had it any other way because that is how both of my girls were brought into the world safely. Certainly women who feel disappointed to have had a c-section, planned or unplanned, should feel validated in those feelings too. We each have a unique journey and birth story, but my hope is that we can always provide support for one another. Let's face it, after the baby is born, we're all in this crazy parenting thing together! ;)

Next week I'll be sharing some tips for c-section (or to be) mommas -- tips from my experience for preparing, recovering, etc. 

Hope you all have a beautiful Wednesday!


  1. My c-section recovery was tough too. I wanted a vaginal birth, but it wasn't in the cards for me. I still get sad that I didn't get the ideal birth, but when all is said and done, it was for the best because I hemorrhaged a lot and almost died. If I had a vaginal birth, it would have been way worse. But we have beautiful, healthy and happy babies!!!

    1. I get that! I think it's totally normal to feel sad over not experiencing what you might have envisioned, ya know? But I'm in complete agreement with you -- happy and healthy babies (and moms) trump any "experience." You're amazing, momma!


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