As you might know, I had both of my babies via elective cesarean section.
It’s startling, really, that antenatal classes (or at least the ones I attended) are so light on detail regarding cesarean sections (or c-sections) given that 1 in 4 babies are born this way.
Despite leaving the NHS and NCT class knowing a lot about breathing, birthing and pain relief (or I would have, had I been listening properly) I felt that cesareans were brushed aside as an afterthought. If we needed a c-section then so be it, but they weren’t really discussed in any depth. There was more conversation, I recall, on how to avoid them.
Well all the breathing techniques in the world wouldn’t have made my baby turn around, and as I didn’t much fancy a natural breech birth, both of my children were born through elective cesarean section (ELCS).
Here are the things I wish I’d known before I had my elective cesarean!
1) It’s great to have a date!
If you have an ELCS booked in, you’ll know a week or so in advance when D-Day is going to be. Knowing when your baby is going to be born puts you in a lucky position, as it does allow you to make plans for the big day. This is great if you have other children to find childcare for.
However, if you’ve read my story (here) then you’ll know that these things are liable to change at the last minute. It feels extraordinarily unfair at the time – I cried for a week – but if emergencies come in that the surgical team have to deal with then you’ll be bumped. Sorry. It’s best to prepare yourself in case this happens. It probably won’t.
2) You can still make a birth plan
A birth plan doesn’t have to go completely out of the window just because a cesarean is recommended. You can talk to your midwife about the options but if you want to listen to a particular song or make sure that your other half gets to cut the cord then you can write this down in your notes.
3) You’ll feel like the star of a weird show
Seriously there are a lot of people in the room and none of them are just there for decoration.
4) They will do all the shaving for you
This question comes up again and again; pregnant women are obsessed with pubic hair it seems. But they will do it, so leave your lady garden to grow a bit before the big reveal.
5) It doesn’t hurt but it’s fricking weird
Don’t read the c-section horror stories, they account for such a small percentage. If you have an ELCS, it is likely to be a very (strangely) calm affair. Honestly – a friend of mine fell asleep during the surgery! The anaesthetist will be right there next to you, constantly monitoring.
During the actual birth you might feel a bit like a washing machine with something rumbling around your insides. You can kind of feel it, but pressure more than anything and it definitely shouldn’t be painful thanks to the epidural.
6) Stitching up takes longer than getting the baby out
I mean it’s a good thing that they’re taking a lot of care getting those layers of muscle and skin sewn back together as neatly as possible, but be prepared for a bit of a wait!
7) Learn to love (or forget about) your cesarean scar
The scar you’re left with after your c-section will vary dependent on the urgency of the surgery and obviously the skill of the surgeon etc. Often ELCS scars are very neat, and they’re way under the knicker line so you probably won’t see it a lot! However the scar tissue itself might be numb for months or even years afterwards, or the feeling might even be gone forever!
You may also be left with a fetching overhang that no diet or exercise can shift. C’est la vie; it’s nothing a pair of big pants can’t hide. Maybe you’ll be lucky, but there’s no denying that birth rearranges your downstairs whichever way they come out.
8) You can totally breastfeed after a c-section
As soon as you are in recovery the midwives will encourage it as it’s the best way to get the milk flowing. Positioning can be tricky but get them to help you find a pain-free position!
9) In fact, breastfeeding lying down is where it’s at
If you can master this skill, life will be a lot easier! This doesn’t just go for cesarean mums!
10) Massive knickers are the way to go
If your pants sit across the cesarean scar they will irritate the hell out of you (and make your scar angry) so invest in the biggest pants you’ve ever seen. There is nothing sexy about the aftermath of childbirth, I hate to be the one to break this to you.
11) After the op, get yourself mobile asap
Honestly, the sooner you get out of that bed then the easier and quicker your recovery will be. I’m not saying you want to push yourself to do any walking but leaving it overnight until I got up the first time definitely didn’t help, as after my second cesarean I was mobile within a few hours and home the next day.
12) …But seriously, don’t overdo it!
Everyone says this but no one really listens – your insides are healing and although you need to get mobile you need to listen to your body. A quick stroll around the supermarket on day six had me in agony for days; if I’d have been more sensible I wouldn’t have pushed myself and used Ocado instead!
The second time around I stupidly tried to change the sheets of the bunkbeds, ripped a stitch, and the scar is still there now. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!
13) Coughing is terrifying
It’s unlikely you’d rip stitches but it bloody well feels like you might. I’ve heard that putting your hand or a pillow over your stitches if you’re going to cough helps.
14) The less said about post-partum poo the better
Oh god. The first time you poo after a c-section you might think your stitches are going to explode. It is probably worse than the c-section itself to be honest.
Relax, knees up on a stool and eat your fibre, you will be OK! You can do this. Breathe.
15) Bloody hell – be prepared!
Yep, you’ll bleed afterwards just like the antenatal classes said. For some stupid reason I don’t think I was expecting this one, I guess I figured they sucked it out when they did the op or something… but it happened. Be prepared, buy lots of sexy maternity pads.
16) You might have to learn to inject yourself
If you are at risk of blood clots then you may have to give yourself Fragmin blood thinning injections for a while after your cesarean. A pain in the bum (or tummy) but something you just gotta do.
17) You can’t drive after a c-section for up to six weeks
You probably know this already; for your insurance to be valid you need a doctor to sign you off. Mine wouldn’t. Make sure you make arrangements for during this time – beg lifts and see what you can do locally with your baby because it’s a very long time to be stuck in if you’re used to driving everywhere.
18) Repeat after me: A cesarean section is major surgery
Routine, yes perhaps. But it’s a big deal and it takes time to heal from. Even so, some arsehole may utter the words ‘too posh to push’. Even said as a joke you are totally entitled to smack them round their stupid head, as long as you don’t overdo it and rip your stitches.
19) You need to ask for and accept help
Every new mum should accept all the help that is offered of course because babies are hard no matter what route they choose to make good their escape, but physically there will be a lot of things that a c-section will leave you unable to do for a while, like loading dishwashers, making beds (honestly, don’t do it) and cleaning up after toddlers.
If at all possible you need to do as little of these jobs as possible. Don’t be a hero.
20) Your pelvic floor might still be shot
No trampolining for you for a while.
21) Your baby will be perfect
Actually more than perfect; they will have a perfectly round head and probably no bruising compared to other babies that may have taken the more conventional route.
Looks aside, what I’m getting at is that it really doesn’t matter how they made their way into the world, they are still your baby that you carried, and that you are now stuck with through the newborn stage, the subjectively more fun baby stage, toddlerhood, into the preschool and school years, teenage years and beyond.
Their method of birth is immaterial. It may not be what you had envisaged, but ultimately a person is a lot more than the way they were born.
I should know, I’m a c-section baby and I’m awesome.
Pin me for later!