I had a c-section. And I wish I could say that I had an all-natural vaginal birth of my twins. But I got extremely sick during labor, my blood pressure was dangerously high, and my vision became altered. I was diagnosed with preeclampsia with HELLP syndrome after having contractions for four hours at the hospital. What was supposed to be the happiest day of my life suddenly became life or death.
I can tell you that there is nothing convenient about a c-section.
Of course, I was sick -- so the inconvenience was heightened by this fact. The drugs to stabilize me. The drugs to keep me from having a seizure. The drugs to keep me from having a stroke. It pains me to know what these drugs were going to my twins. My heart just stopped thinking about it. What a scary experience it must have been for them as well.
But scheduling a c-section out of convenience is like thinking that making a Thanksgiving dinner is easy -- maybe it is if you know how to baste a turkey, but don't forget all the time that goes into cleanup. The difference is that with a c-section, you can't have someone else do the dishes.
And that's exactly it: You can schedule a c-section so you know exactly when you are going in the hospital -- it's tidy, it's a solid in the date book -- but the recovery time is much longer, the scar is forever, and the numbness may be, too.
There are many reasons a woman must have a cesarean birth -- my reason is just one of them. And if you choose to have your baby via c-section, then that's your choice as well. But don't fool yourself into thinking it's convenient. Many c-sections go smoothly, but there are additional risks as there are any time a person has to go through major surgery. It's not a little slit and the baby pops out. Here is an example of a c-section procedure (not all are exactly the same).
- The epidural is a shot given at the base of the spine. It numbs you from the waist down. Dead weight numb.
- A catheter is inserted into your bladder. I had to have mine prior to being numb because of my emergency situation. My parents walked in when the doctor was inserting it. It was horrifying and felt like a straw was going around my clitoris.
- Your arms are tied down Jesus Christ style. A sheet goes up once you are lying down on the operating table. You cannot see what's happening on the other side of the curtain. You cannot wipe your own tears (of fear or happiness) from your eyes.
- A low transverse (horizontal) incision is made because it has a lower incidence of blood loss and infection. The doctor cuts through the tissues that lie above the uterus. Tissues and your abdominal muscles will be pulled apart, and then your uterus is cut open. Seven layers in all. Your skin is stretched to make a clear opening for baby to come out.
- Your baby's amniotic fluid is suctioned away and the baby is pulled out. Sometimes forceps or a vacuum extractor is used to help baby out.
- You will hear your baby cry, but you cannot see her yet. My daughter was delivered first. She cried immediately and when she was finally brought to my side of the curtain, I couldn't touch her. My husband rubbed her cheek against my cheek. They were working on getting my son out, who didn't cry. I was panicked. But he was fine, and I got to feel his little face on my cheek, too.
- You will be alone. The babies went back with the doctors and my husband left the room to tell our family that we were all okay. I was alone, with the doctors who were removing my placenta and then stitching me up. It felt like an eternity.
- You may shiver uncontrollably. When I was moved to the recovery room, I began shivering. I still couldn't feel anything below my belly button and I was having convulsions. It's a side effect of the epidural. Everything hurt and I felt itchy at my feet even though I couldn't feel them. I kept asking my nurse to scratch my feet. She was but I didn't feel it.
When I was admitted to a room with another new mom as my roommate, I remember being envious. She delivered an hour after I did, but she was able to walk around because she had a vaginal birth. She didn't have to deal with her body regaining feeling again and she didn't have to worry about the stitches in her abdomen. It took me two weeks to be able to go number two without it hurting my incision area. Two weeks that I couldn't cough without extreme pain. I continue to have pain in the area when I have gas nine months later because those nerves take a long, long time to heal.
There are also c-section complications. Infection in the uterine tissues occur in almost 40 percent of women. Postpartum endometritis is 20 times more likely with a cesarean. There is up to a 15 percent chance that your incision can get infected. And urinary tract infections are common because of the catheter. The risk of blood clotting is five times greater for women who have a c-section than those who deliver vaginally.
There are complications from a c-section that extend to any future births including preterm or breech baby, low birth weight, and a ruptured uterus. The more c-sections you have, the more you put yourself at risk for placenta previa or placenta accreta. C-section babies have a great risk of neonatal respiratory distress in the first few days of life because when a baby is born vaginally, the lungs receive pressure during the birth and excess fluid is naturally pushed out. They also are affected by the drugs the mom must take and can be lethargic and not always up for breastfeeding. They often score low on the Apgar scale as a result. Though rare, the fetus can also be cut during the incision.
I want to make it clear: I love my c-section babies. It was the route they had to take to come into this world. I won't even judge a woman who chooses to have a c-section because she is scared to have anything come out of her vagina (we all have our hang-ups), but even that woman should understand all that comes with choosing a c-section. It was a lot of things to me, but it was not convenient.
Do you feel a c-section can be convenient?
Image via tifhermon/Flickr