Having a baby is hard, no matter which way they decide to explode into your world. But C-sections still tend to be viewed as the less hard option. Amanda Cassidy, who’s had three Caesareans, looks at why.
Too posh to push? An easy sun-roof birth? I have heard it all. The inaccurate framing of C-sections as an easy way out, rather than major surgery, is too common and completely unfair to those who have given birth this way. We tend to talk more about so-called natural births or vaginal deliveries but some of the details when it comes to C-sections remain vague.
"I felt like a complete failure."
Actress Kate Winslet admitted lying about having a c-section, echoing the sentiments so many mothers feel when things don't go as planned. Speaking to the Mail Online, the Titanic star explained: "I've never talked about this — I've gone to great pains to cover it up but Mia was an emergency C-section. I just said that I had a natural birth because I was so completely traumatised by the fact that I hadn't given birth. I felt like a complete failure."
Out of control
I can relate. I had a fabulous, well-thought-out birth plan for my first child; the playlist was complete for my natural delivery, and to counter any fear of the actual birth, I had a lovely comforting image of exactly how it would all play out.
Related: Peaceful parenting: Who has time for that?
I knew it wouldn't be a walk in the park, but I had visualised it so many times that I was at peace with the fact that This Was Happening. That was mistake number one. When it comes to motherhood, we should always expect the unexpected.
It all came crashing down for me when, at week 37, the midwives booted me off the Domino scheme (a scheme where you are seen by a team of midwives and it involves an early release from the hospital) because my daughter was breech, and suddenly I found myself being scheduled for a C-section.
A mixture of hormones as well as the thoughts of my carefully laid plans toppling down, lead to three days of sobbing. In the massively uncontrollable world of growing another human, often the birth is seen as something mothers-to-be attempt to control. This was mistake number two.
But after trying almost everything you can do to get a baby to turn (Chinese Moxi sticks, crawling on the floor on all fours, baby whispering) I decided to get on with the fact that This Was Really Happening.
My last few weeks of pregnancy can only be described as a desperate mission to get as much information as possible. The only control I felt I had. And while obviously, everyone has a different experience, here are some things I discovered about C-sections along the way.
It isn't as bad as you think
I know it is major surgery, but the entire process was much scarier in my head. I kept my eyes tightly shut when I was brought into the operating theatre. While the medical team probably assumed I was a little unhinged, I knew that even just seeing the surroundings of an operating theatre would frighten me. So while they were prepping me (it takes just a few minutes to get the spinal block put in), I slowly unscrewed my eyes and seeing all those friendly nurses and doctors put me totally at ease.
At that stage, I didn't care if my daughter had come out of my nostrils, I was so happy.
Your teeth won't stop chattering
Partially fear, partly adrenalin and mostly the drugs, but you will probably find yourself shaking for most of the operation or just afterwards. This does pass so just relax into it and keep breathing deeply.
It is no less amazing to see your baby born this way
Ok, admittedly I don't have a direct comparison, but let's be honest: once you finally meet that baby you've been growing, it is beyond amazing. At that stage, I didn't care if my daughter had come out of my nostrils, I was so happy. Those moments of joy will hopefully be the very happiest of your life and although sometimes your baby will be brought off to the nursery while you recover, the anticipation to be reunited with your new son or daughter make the moment you see them all the sweeter.
Obstetrician Alan Freightman says it can take several hours to regain feeling after an epidural. “It will not be possible to walk or use the bathroom without assistance, during this immediate postoperative period. Most women will have a catheter for several hours after delivery to help them urinate.
The first 24 hours following a C-section present many of the same challenges as a vaginal delivery. These include the mother adjusting to new parenthood, attempting breastfeeding, and fielding visitors. People who undergo Caesarean deliveries face additional challenges so don’t be too hard on yourself.”
The drugs are pretty amazing
Forget tea and toast; my parents-in-law smuggled pink champagne into the hospital which I enjoyed hugely (and highly recommend) despite being off my face on morphine. Do take your painkillers in the days after the operation. The nurses will tell you that staying on top of the pain is key. I can honestly say I never felt any pain at all in the following surgery. I was uncomfortable and tender but didn't feel any pain.
You are walking around within a few hours
I thought the nurse was having a laugh when she breezed in and said it was time to get up and have my shower just hours after the operation. Naively, I thought that I’d have to basically lie flat for five days and never lift a thing.
It is recommended that you get up and about to get your blood flowing. Do expect to perfect the c-section shuffle; partially bent, hand over your tummy — but within about 2 or 3 days you get used to it. I was surprised at what I could do in such a short time frame, and wheeling baby into the nursery for a change is usually no problem during your hospital stay.
Don't overdo it
Why do we think we have something to prove? Especially on a first baby. For some, it's getting back into the jeans as quickly as possible — as if a baby never even happened. For others, getting out and about is proof that you are a good and well-organised mother. I think it is more about the urge to feel like your old self again.
I made this mistake on my first baby. I was up and about, hosting ten friends and family five days after she was born, squashed into totally inappropriate getup. By the time I had my third C-section, I stayed home curled up on the couch for two weeks with the odd visitor who made or brought their own coffee. I stayed in my dressing gown and watched 'Say Yes To The Dress' non-stop while feeding my little newling and snoozing. Pure bliss. I'd highly recommend this if you have some family support or other little ones in daycare/school.
"One friend still talks about her sorrow that she never experienced labour and that somehow she was cheated out of the true motherhood experience"
Process your emotions
Giving birth is highly emotional. For those who’ve had a traumatic birth, unplanned C-sections or deliveries they hoped to avoid may find it hard to process those difficult emotions about the birth. It isn’t always easy to recognise you are in the thick of it at the time.
Sometimes they can make the transition to parenthood a little more challenging — some even feel guilt and shame. One friend still talks about her sorrow that she never experienced labour and that somehow she was cheated out of the true motherhood experience. In these cases, it will benefit from getting help and support early to help reduce the chances of post-partum depression.
Listen to the doctor
They say you shouldn't drive for six weeks as using the brake pedal suddenly could really damage your healing scar, but some people can feel quite cooped up for this long. It is a good idea to ask your doctor what time-frame they recommend and to check with your insurance company.
I didn't mind staying in but I did really enjoy the drives and visits my husband and friends brought me on. If you don't have anyone to take you out, you could end up quite stuck, so try to get the balance right and even take a short walk or bundle up and sit outside for a bit if you can. A little fresh air does wonders and breaks up the day a little in those early weeks.
"There is no 'better' or 'easier' way to bring a new life from your body out into the world."
The shower always helps
If you are feeling frustrated from feeding, the baby won't settle and your feeling really teary, hand over the baby for ten minutes and take a hot shower or bath. No matter how tired you are or how low, this really does make a difference. If you are home alone, try to stick it out until the baby does settle and then take a pamper session in the bathroom. You deserve this. You need this!
Having a baby is a huge change — giving birth is overwhelming and life-changing. Having your baby by c-section can be a scary prospect especially if it is unplanned. But there is no 'better' or 'easier' way to bring life into the world.
Keep an open mind to what is coming your way. Perhaps feeding won't work out; perhaps the birth plan goes askew and maybe you will struggle to handle things initially — but going with the flow is your first major lesson of parenthood. And those little, amazingly adorable cuties will continue to keep you guessing... for about the next 18 years.
Image via Pexels.com
Read more: Ask the midwife: Things to know before you leave the hospital with baby
Read more: 100 essential tips for new parents
Read more: Our ultimate guide to throwing a baby shower