Ah, the c-section. Whether it’s the iconic film scene of an alien bursting out of some poor chap’s torso or a picture of medieval torture in a history book, the images that come to mind when discussing c-sections are not usually happy ones. Let’s be honest: you’re getting major surgery, taking a tiny human out of a bigger human, and are (most likely) going to be awake for it all. So if anyone tries to dismiss your right to be a little antsy, well I won’t say what to do for legal reasons, but you get the idea. This isn’t meant to scare you, of course. But I always thought that the unknown was the scariest thing. At least if someone had told me what was going to happen during the c-section, I’d know what to expect. So that’s what I’m going to do for you. Here are all the gross, scary, awkward things that will happen before, during, and immediately after your c-section!
10. Paperwork & Red Tape
Even if you thought you were super smart and preregistered with your hospital prior to giving birth, there will still be paperwork to fill out and red tape to deal with for a solid twenty minutes. We arrived nice and early to our scheduled c-section, yet when we checked in at the desk (after my impromptu puke session in the parking lot bushes), they didn’t have my name right and had me listed with a different OBGYN. But we perma-sickies are used to knowing more than the hospital staff, aren’t we?
9. You Will be All Sorts of Exposed
I knew my c-section wasn’t exactly going to be a fun getaway to Club Med (that’s still a thing, right?), but I didn’t expect to feel so much like a patient and not a person. That’s no reflection on the staff, it’s just the nature of the beast. After waiting for what seemed like an eternity in the lobby, my husband and I were taken back to our room where I was told to change. No undies or socks or jewelry, just a gown and a a gross hair net. Then a nurse came in and shaved my lady area and acted like it was a totally normal thing to do. This was my introduction to how matter of fact the staff would be about all the private and embarrassing aspects of the ordeal. In some ways it was reassuring, but at the end of the day it’s still very awkward when someone is silently shaving you.
8. You Will be Alone… a lot
After the grooming session was over, I was told my husband would have to leave and no one would be allowed back in until the surgery was about to begin. Suddenly I was alone, just waiting for a nurse to come in, and full of time to daydream about all the things that could go wrong. Even after the pre-op stuff started, it’s still just you and a handful of people. Technically they had more people on staff than usual as a precaution for my high-risk pregnancy risks, but without a loved one there you still feel very alone… and nervous.
7. Yak City, Sick, Yak Yak City
Okay, my not-so clever spin on a line from a rap song may not be funny. But you know what is funny? Telling the nurse like nine hundred times that you’re GOING to puke, have them nod but do nothing, and then letting a glorious waterfall of vomit wash over them. It didn’t feel great, but a small part of me thought “maybe next time you’ll listen to me when I say I’m about to upchuck.”
The actual point of this entry is to warn you that you will definitely puke at some point. It may be when they’re poking or prodding or it may be when your internal organs suddenly shift as they finagle a human out of you. Which brings me to my next point…
6. Lines and Wires and Garishness, Oh My!
Second time in a row I’ve tried to be punny, but whatever, it’s who I am! Aaanyways, no one really told me the frequency with which people would simultaneously be both in and making holes in my body. First there was the three-attempt IV in my arm (EDS makes for lousy veins), then there was the two-attempt spinal block (scoliosis doesn’t help much), and then there’s the fact that someone has their hands INSIDE of you. It’s like the dentist, “You won’t feel pain, just pressure.” Yeah, right. I didn’t feel the scalpel but it felt like someone was sitting on my chest AND pushing my stomach and lungs up into my throat.
5. So… c-c-cold… might… die
Another one I wasn’t warned about, surprise! Not only will you be freezing due to lack of clothing, but they keep the operating room super sterile and apparently that is synonymous with ARCTIC. Oh, and the spinal block. Unlike a vaginal birth, you have no choice about whether or not to use some kind of anesthesia. And spinal blocks give you this horrible sensation of internal cold and uncontrollable trembling. Super fun symptoms to have when you’re puking while horizontal. But the cold! Maybe it’s just me, but being freezing cold with nothing to do about it was ridiculously aggravating. It helped to imagine this, though:
4. Here Comes Baby!
Nothing can really prepare you for the big moment. Most of the things they don’t tell you about c-sections are negative, but this is a rare positive surprise! I cannot put into words the mixture of intense emotions that surged through me when the big moment arrived. I was extremely relieved he was healthy, so excited to meet the little thing that was once smaller than a blueberry inside me, in awe of the fragility of this new life, nervous that I wasn’t going to be a good enough mom, and just blown away that this HUMAN came out of ME!
3. Alone Again, Naturally
I may be in my late twenties, but I love me some melancholy 70s music. As Gilbert O’Sullivan so poignantly states, “Reality came around. And without so much as a mere touch, cut me into little pieces.” Except I was cut just once, maybe six inches wide. Boy, did reality come around, though. After the awesome moment that you hear your baby’s first cry (of many), you are on your own again. I wanted to do the “natural” c-section thing, but with my severe shaking and unstoppable, frequent vomiting, they couldn’t bring the baby near me. So off he was carted, my husband went with him, and I was alone on the table getting stitched up. I guess I should have figured this, but the “finishing up” portion of the c-section took about forty-five minutes and was much longer compared to the “pre-baby coming out” part. Emotions were running high, I just wanted to be with my baby, but this is one you just have to endure.
2. EXIT ONLY!
Warning: TMI ahead.
Pee-pee holes, as adults often call them, are meant for one thing and one thing only: to let urine out of your body. In other words, it is an exit only. This is why I hate catheters and do not like when grumpy nurses with cold hands wake me up and fiddle with a tube in my sensitive area.
Oh you thought the c-section was the end of people all up in your nether regions? Haha, nope! You will be woken up just as much, if not more, by the hospital staff than your own baby to check out your “stuff.” P.S. you don’t get to wear underwear for a while. You’ll lay on a doggy pee-pad while Carrie-sized amounts of blood just pour out for way too long. I thought that since it wasn’t a vaginal birth, it was normal down there. False. You’ve just had a baby taken out of you (a significant trauma) and the blood has to go somewhere. So expect your “exits” to still be examined for a while after the surgery.
1. You Want Me to Do WHA?
Hey you know how you just had a baby and you’re super achy but have somehow managed to muster what little strength you have to care for your baby? Well now they want you to freaking WALK. The audacity! They stress the importance of getting vertical and walking, and I get it, but does it have to be so soon?
Apparently, yes. You really do need to get up and walk. In the end, walking when I did – and doing it often – significantly helped with the healing process and getting my bowels moving. Trust me, do not underestimate the value of getting your tummy factory up and running again!
So there you have it: ten things that you probably didn’t know about the whole c-section process. Some parts of the experience are super unpleasant, some are just awkward, but in the end you get an incredible reward: your very own baby! Its resale value is slightly less now that it’s out of the original packaging, though. (GET IT?) But for real, I’d do it all again (maybe take a few more stool softeners) because nothing compares to the moment when you look into your baby’s eyes for the first time. Oh, geesh, where’s my Kleenex?