ICAN, the International Cesearean Awareness Network, tweeted this last week:
What made or would make the difference between trauma from a cesarean outcome to something milder like disappointment, sadness?
It really got me thinking about my expectations of labor and delivery during my pregnancy and then my actual experience, along with the recovery and how I feel today.
During my pregnancy, which was pretty easy even with all the Braxton Hicks contractions in the second and third trimesters, I barely paid attention to anything I read or saw or heard about c-sections. I was pretty sure none of that info would apply to me. How naive! I didn’t know then that the rate of c-sections in my state soars near 40%. I didn’t think to ask my OBGYN office what their rate is. There was a ton I didn’t know when it came to c-sections. I really wasn’t thinking about c-sections much at all, just like many first-time moms-to-be, I suspect.
I was in labor for quite a while. Active labor, at the hospital, lasted about 13 hours or so. After pushing for 2 hours and getting far but not far enough (Jax kept turning his head–which the nurse and OB could see–and I spiked a fever), my OB determined it was time to prep me for a c-section. I have never been more shocked in my life. And SO disappointed. I felt robbed of the birth I’d longed for & had envisioned for 9 months. I felt like a failure at something that should have come so naturally.
The surgery itself was a truly frightening experience for me. Someone told me once that the surgery takes about 20 minutes and that recovery/healing isn’t too bad. I now imagine she meant the actual cutting and sewing, not the prep and recovery and all that other fun stuff. But I went into the operating room figuring I’d be out again in less than a half hour, ready to nurse my newborn son. As time passed, I imagined something was wrong–why was it taking much longer than 20 minutes? And I had an anxiety attack. I felt numb from the neck down. I couldn’t breathe right. I wanted to tell my doctors and my husband that I felt like I was dying, but I couldn’t speak. I was trembling so badly. My arms were strapped down.
Just typing this is hard.
And when my son was removed from my body, I didn’t feel that wave of happiness I thought I’d feel. I still felt scared, like I was dying. And freaked out that I didn’t feel on top of the world. And upset that my arms were shaking so badly that there was no way to hold my son. And jealous that my husband got to hold him first.
After the surgery, I spent 3 anxious hours waiting to hold my son, wondering what was taking so freaking long and whether the separation would affect breastfeeding (it didn’t, thank goodness).
That’s really all I can say about my experience for now. But getting back to ICAN’s question, here is what I wish I knew before my experience:
- My state’s (and my OBGYN’s) c-section rate.
- That the surgery doesn’t take only 20 minutes, start to finish.
- That the healing process is long, slow, and sometimes painful. For me, I didn’t feel like myself again, physically, until about 3 months later.
- That maybe pitocin and an epidural weren’t the best choices for me. That being flat on my back for all those hours probably wasn’t most conducive to the labor I’d hoped for.
- That I could have asked for more time to push. That I could have made more of my own medical decisions, which may or may not have led to the same outcome. That I could have had more of a say in my own birth experience.
Don’t get me wrong, I understand that c-sections save lives, and that the route of delivery shouldn’t matter as long as the mother and baby are healthy and safe. I know these things, and I do respect and appreciate medicine and all health care professionals. And I am eternally grateful that Jax and I were safe and are here together today. But I’m allowed to feel sad about how it all went down, and I still do sometimes. And that’s ok.
Here is my advice, for whatever it’s worth, to all pregnant women & their partners: It’s important to know you have choices about your birth experience. And you shouldn’t be naive in thinking a c-section won’t happen to you. Prepare yourself for birth by becoming informed and knowledgeable about as much as you can related to birth.
Knowledge beforehand would have made the difference, for me, between a traumatic cesarean outcome to something milder like disappointment.