I had my dream birth plan. It was carefully crafted, revised multiple times to include small details like the playlist I hoped to give birth to and represented the birth I had always dreamed of. All of my diligent planning went out the window, though, when my little girl was “asynclitic” (basically, had her head cocked to one side), and we were too far into labor for them to try and correct her position. I was encouraged to push with no luck: she wasn’t budging.
My kind doctor came up to me, patting my free, IV-less hand, and said, “we know you don’t want to hear this, but baby isn’t coming out. So she’ll have to be born up top.” Tears began to roll down my cheeks: I had planned. I planned, and I prayed, and I sat on that damn bouncy ball, and I resisted an epidural until I was “at a 6.” So, in the spirit of keeping it real, mama, I’m going to tell you a few things I wish someone had said to me before being wheeled into that operating room for a c-section.
1. You didn’t do anything wrong.
In my heavily medicated stupor, I began recanting everything I’d eaten, thought, or dreamt of during my pregnancy. Had I caused the need for cesarean delivery? Was this a direct result of hoping so hard NOT to have a c-section that I somehow willed it into fruition? No, sweet mama! A c-section often occurs due to medical necessity for you or your baby(ies). It does not call for fault, blame, or guilt.
2. Don’t look at the screen they put up.
This is a logistics thing: some hospitals put up a thin sheet or screen to keep you from watching it all transpire, though I am pretty sure they would have allowed me to witness it if I had asked. I was in no shape to do this, though, and only glanced at the screen occasionally to see a bit of blood splatter. I don’t recommend this for the faint of heart.
3. They might pin your arms down.
Again, a lot of surgery is logistical: my incredible team of doctors and nurses told me they “didn’t want me to feel the need to help” and would be strapping my arms down for the duration of the birth. I didn’t mind it that much, but it does make you feel like Frankenstein.
4. You will talk about some weird stuff with that much pain medication.
(At least I did.) One of the things my husband regrets most in life is not recording me talking during our daughter’s birth. I was talking about everything from buttholes to race relations, and he was laughing hysterically. Which quickly switched to crying hysterically the moment he saw our daughter.
5. C-section “Sitches” Get Stitches—and They Dissolve Now!
A few of my aunts told me to make sure I made an appointment to remove my stitches. So I called the hospital and my doctor’s office to double-check—but it felt like I had no stitches to speak of. It turns out that many c-sections now include being sewn back up with dissolvable or absorbable stitches, glue (Dermabond), or sutures. I, personally, was thankful for one less thing to think about during the newborn phase.
6. It hurts like hell to laugh, but do it anyway.
I had multiple visitors who wanted to help distract me from being so sore and tired, and the deep belly laughs that ensued hurt like a new mother. But, those sweet moments snuggling my baby girl and laughing as family came by in good spirits are some of my favorite memories of her first few days.
7. You’ll still bleed, despite not having a vaginal birth.
I thought I’d miss out on the whole “mesh undies and adult diapers thing.” Not only was I wrong, but I was cramping and bleeding heavily period style for about two weeks. The bleeding lessened after that and I made sure to look for any signs of large clots or an increase in bleeding.
8. You might feel like you’re missing an organ.
This might just be what I like to call “Empty Womb Syndrome,” but I was genuinely afraid my care team forgot to put something back in after taking my daughter out. Which is an excellent segue to my next point…
9. C-sections are increasingly common, and your doctors know what they’re doing.
Surrendering control is one of the most challenging parts of motherhood. It has been for me, anyway: not only can you rarely control when they enter the world, but you can rarely control how they go about it either. Your doctors and nurses have likely attended dozens (if not hundreds) of cesarean births: trust that you are incapable, knowledgeable, and compassionate hands. Everyone’s goal is that mama and baby alike can thrive. Unless you feel as though your rights are being violated or you are otherwise disrespected, understand that they will do everything in their power to make your birth as easy and safe as possible.
10. You will feel emotional about having it—but you did it, mama.
I’ve mentioned the word “birth” several times because this is as much a birth as any. And your sweet little one is now healthy and earthside with you. A c-section was not in my birth plan, to be sure, but it went incredibly smoothly and helped in a moment that could have become scary for myself and my little girl alike. So embrace the scar that has given you the unique and incredible opportunity to become your little one’s mama: because, in the end, your birth plan should always result in a healthy, happy baby. How they arrive is meaningful, but it will not take anything away from you if this medical necessity becomes your reality.