My C-section experience: The birth story of David
I knew that I would, in all likelihood, be having this baby via C-section quite early in my pregnancy. By 30 weeks he was still breech and happy about it.
It was around that time that I started talking to my friends who have had C-sections about their experiences. I wanted to know how it went for them, whether it was smooth or tough. I felt like I could “prepare” by knowing all kinds of things that could happen instead of going into it blind.
So, I want to share a little bit more about my experience simply as a friend. Quite obviously, everyone’s experience is different (sometimes great, sometimes awful), but my hope is that this could potentially put you at ease if you have a C-section scheduled in your future.
Keep in mind this was a scheduled C-section—not an emergency. There were no immediate health dangers to either the baby or myself. An emergency C-section, I would imagine, would be rather different. So, remember to read this through the lens of a planned, non-emergent C-section.
I was talked through the procedure by my OB/GYN, a nurse during my hospital registration appointment the day prior, and then in snippets by the nurses and doctors on the day of the actual procedure. I felt like I had a good idea of how things were going to go.
Justin and I arrived to the hospital two hours prior to my scheduled C-section time. I changed into a hospital gown and was given an IV, and they put monitors on my belly to monitor David.
It was sort of strange, sitting there with Justin waiting to be rolled back to the operating room. I wasn’t nervous at this point. I don’t think it had quite hit me yet. It felt a little bit like a random doctor appointment … but with more equipment.
Closer to noon, the nurse anesthetist came in to explain to me what he would be doing. My OB/GYN also swung by and double-checked that David was still breech. She asked if I had any questions (I didn’t) and then excitedly walked away saying, “See you soon!”
At that point the reality began to hit me. I began to get a little nervous, but Justin helped me stay calm.
Finally, right before noon, a few nurses came to get me. At this point the reality was weighty. I began to get nervous and a little emotional. Justin walked beside me as I was rolled down to the operating room. Right before we entered, Justin went into the “daddy lounge” to wait until he was allowed into the OR. I cried when he left me. Then I gave myself a pep talk and pulled it together. I didn’t want to start getting anxious and end up needing some sort of drug to “chill me out.” I wanted to be mentally present for the entire experience.
I was rolled into the cold operating room and slid onto the operating table. A very kind nurse stood in front of me and showed me how I needed to bend over for the spinal to be administered. A few minutes later, the anesthesiologist came in, explained what he would be doing and got to work.
He numbed me first, which was virtually painless (like a minor bee sting), and then said he was going to insert the spinal. He warned me that my legs would feel warm and the numbing sensation would begin almost immediately.
I didn’t feel the spinal go in, but I did feel it start to work immediately.
Then, I was laid back with help from the nurses. The catheter was inserted, which I didn’t feel, and they began to hang the sheet.
The nurse anesthetist and I were chatting about skiing at Deer Valley because he was from the area. It was helpful to get my mind off of what was happening. I was breathing deep to stay calm.
The anesthesiologist tapped my belly and rib cage to test and make sure the spinal was effective. Once everything was good to go, they began the procedure.
There was conversation happening between the doctors and nurses, so it wasn’t completely quiet in the room. I was thankful for that. At this point, I could feel light touching but there was no pain whatsoever.
Justin came in, fully scrubbed (and looking really cute, if I might add) and sat by my head. I can’t remember what we talked about because it was all so fast.
I remember my OB/GYN announcing when she was making the uterine incision. It was 12:26 p.m. David was out at 12:27 p.m.
Now, the strangest part of the C-section was how much the bed shook when they were getting David out. He was so high that they really needed to manhandle me to get him out. I think I may have laughed with Justin about how much the bed was shaking. In fact, he joked afterwards that it seemed like if they pulled any harder they would pull me right under the sheet! There was absolutely no pain, but I felt slight pressure and touching. It seemed like a long minute, but in hindsight, it was really nothing.
Justin and I heard David cry right away, which I had prayed for, and that was pretty incredible. C-section babies, I’m told, have a lot of gunk in their airway because they weren’t pushed through the birth canal, so sometimes they don’t cry immediately.
I was then told to look to my left for a “drive-by view” as they whisked him into the warm room. The operating room was too cold for him, and I wanted him to be warm and safe more than I wanted to hold him right away. Justin was called into the warm room to be with him and take photos.
As I was being stitched up, my collarbone began to feel sore. It was a really unusual feeling. I told my nurse anesthetist about it, and he gave me something to take the pain away.
Justin came back into the operating room, carrying our son all wrapped up in blankets. It was really sweet to see him come walking in with David.
I thought I would be emotional right away, but I wasn’t. Now that I’ve had several days to process it, I think I know why. Because I didn’t see him come out and barely even felt anything, it didn’t feel real that that was my baby being whisked out of the room. And to be completely transparent, it took about two days for it to really set in that David was here. I would look down at my belly, which was now empty, and then look at David. I sort of had to make the connection myself. (I should add: At this point, I feel totally connected to him. It was just the initial shock and not seeing him “exit.”)
Once I was stitched up, my OB/GYN said goodbye and congratulations, and I was rolled into the recovery area. Justin and David were already in the “stall” waiting for me. David was being wrapped up while a nurse was asking me to monitor my pain level. She was also encouraging me to move my legs. As soon as I could move both of my legs, we could go to the room we were staying in and family could come visit.
Justin and I kept saying, “I can’t believe he’s here!” to each other. While still in the recovery room, they asked if I wanted to hold him, and I said I did. They laid him on my chest. I was lying completely flat, so it wasn’t very comfortable to hold him. I tried to look at him, but because I was wearing my glasses, I couldn’t see him clearly. It was not a special moment. It felt a little awkward. There was a lot happening, and I couldn’t tune out all that was going on in order to focus on him.
Finally, we were rolled into the room we were staying in, and I was able to hold David while sitting up a bit. Finally, it felt comfortable and normal to hold him. I was still in a little bit of shock that it all happened so quickly and was so painless!
My family, and Justin’s family, arrived shortly thereafter. We spent some time visiting with them, and after a few hours we were left by ourselves to get some rest.
It was pretty amazing to be just the three of us in the hospital room. We took turns hold him and just staring at him.
At this point my pain level was at a one, on a scale of one to ten, very minor. It pretty much remained that way for the duration of my recovery. On Sunday morning, I got up to go to the bathroom and my incision was pretty sore. I almost cried but stopped myself because I knew crying would make it hurt worse because that would engage my abs! Other than that, I was pleasantly surprised at how minimal the pain was.
I stayed on top of my pain pills and took them every time they were offered. I got up and walked around the day after surgery and tried to keep flexing my legs and feet to prevent swelling. I needed a lot of help getting out of the hospital bed, going to the bathroom and pulling my pants up.
We left the hospital on a Monday, three days after the surgery. We were both very ready to get home. At that point, I was moving around quite well once I was up, but I still needed help getting up and down.
Once we were home, I felt great. I was still a little sore, but it was so comfortable to be home and in my own bed. I was also still taking the pain pills regularly. Justin set up about four pillows on the bed for me to sleep on an incline. He also slipped a pillow under my knees to keep my knees bent. I wasn’t ready to stretch out completely flat. He helped me get up and lie back down during the night. As far as going to the bathroom, I was able to do that on my own once I was home.
We went for a walk the following day and it felt great to move. The fresh air also felt wonderful! Within about four days of arriving back home, I had tapered off my pain pills and was just taking Motrin every once in awhile. I felt really good and almost back to normal. The swelling kept going down too, which I was really happy about.
And now, more than a month post-surgery, I feel 100 percent myself. I try to go for a walk (roughly 3/4 mile) every day that the weather is nice. My incision has healed completely, and I haven’t had any pain for about three weeks. Every once in awhile I’ll have a minor sharp pain when I go to stand up, but it goes away very quickly.
So, would I have another C-section? Absolutely. I am very, very thankful that I had such a smooth procedure and recovery. I think part of the reason I bounced back so quickly is because I stayed active throughout the majority of my pregnancy. In fact, a nurse asked me if I worked out during the pregnancy. When I told her I did, she said she could tell that I had. I felt like my hard work had paid off.
A few other questions:
Why did you have a C-section? David was breech. We opted against doing version or any other attempts to flip him because the success rate seemed so low.
Would you be interested in doing a v-back? Sure, although I truly wouldn’t be opposed to another C-section either. I will just wait and see how I feel when/if the time comes!
How long did it take them to stitch you up? Time was so strange after David was out (it went by so fast), but I think it was about 20 minutes or so.
Could you eat right away? No, I was on a liquid diet for the rest of the day and night, but I could eat normal food the following morning.
How do you care for the incision? Basically you don’t do anything to it. You don’t clean it or mess with it. In the shower, you let the soap from washing your body just run over it, but you don’t rub it. Both in the hospital and at home I laid a thick maxi pad over the incision to provide a bit of padding.
How soon were you able to try feeding your baby? Oddly enough, I can’t really remember. I feel like it was immediately after we were in the room we were staying in.
How were your emotions afterwards? I was more stable than I had anticipated. I had a few evenings where I would break down and cry from a combination of exhaustion and the weight of caring for such a tiny baby! At this point, I feel pretty balanced out.
To those who are having C-sections: I hope this was informative and helped ease your mind! It really wasn’t that bad, and the hype and anticipation of it was far more dramatic than the procedure itself.
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By Kate Bryan