So, you're having a Caesarean section. If you were planning for a different type of birth experience, do not despair. I can remember how devastated I was when I found out that I would be unable to have my out-of-hospital natural birth—I cried for a couple of weeks. I had spent almost ten months envisioning a beautiful water birth, the final four months trying everything but moxibustion to get my little guy turned, and the final verdict was that he was not budging (cramped space in the one-half of my bicornuate uterus where he resided was to blame); a Caesarean section it would be.
Since my C-section was a planned one, I had plenty of time to hit the internet in search of the best ways to prepare myself for a Caesarean birth. From what I recall, nothing I read really prepared me for what was about to happen and what the aftermath would be; you, my dear friends, are about to be given the good, the bad, and the ... awesome about having a Caesarean section (I'll be you thought that I was going to say something negative, huh?).
First of all, I'm going to tell you what a good friend told me while I was trying to come to terms with the fact that my baby wasn't going to enter this world in a warm bath with lighted candles glowing and Enya softly singing in the background: It is okay to mourn the birth that you wanted, just don't stay stuck there, okay? I don't want you to stay stuck there because the coolest thing ever is about to happen—the birth of your child! You definitely don't want to be down-in-the-dumps for that experience, right?
Once your little one is here, safe and sound in your arms, how it happened is irrelevant—trust me. Caesarean births can be a wonderful experience, and I'm living proof that both mom and baby can thrive after a C-section birth (damn it!). Here are some tips to help prepare you for a wonderful Caesarean section birth:
Find out what your hospital's procedure is regarding Caesarean sections. For my C-section birth plan, several things were important to me: a.) being able to take my placenta home b.) having immediate skin-to-skin time with baby (this was not an option as my son required a bit of stabilization after birth) and c.) absolutely no separation between myself and my baby. I checked hospital policy on these items prior to my surgery and had my midwife act as my advocate. Other considerations may include: asking for the drape to be lowered to view the birth (my husband was not behind the drape, so he saw it ALL), asking that your arm(s) not be restrained so that you may touch your baby and delayed umbilical cord cutting. As a reader suggested, creating a Caesarean section birth plan can help your doctor and nursing staff understand your wishes.
I strongly recommend having an enema prior to your C-section, if you can handle it. Just trust me on this one (or ask a friend who's had a Caesarean section). In an effort to stave off the inevitable constipation from pain meds, I ate nothing but fruits and vegetables for days prior to surgery; but my first bowel movement, five days after surgery, was one of the most painful and horrific experiences I've had to-date (and likely the same for my husband as well). If only I had followed the nurse's instructions to have a bowel movement when I felt I needed to ... instead, I was too afraid of splitting my midsection open and continued taking laxatives for days. The horror that ensued was just ... I can't put it in writing (you know it must be bad because I will write about most anything). But, if you email me, I might give you the gritty details (especially if you're having second thoughts about following nurse's orders). If I have to have another Caesarean section, I will be having an enema prior to surgery; enough said.
Hire a doula, if your hospital will allow you to have one in the operating room with you. I was beyond blessed to have a midwife who had privileges at a local hospital; not only did my midwife put me in contact with a surgeon she trusted, but she was also able to assist in the C-section birth of my son (as my husband put it, "I didn't realize she'd be so ... hands-on [elbows deep]"). With my midwife there each step of the way, she also served as my advocate: She reminded staff to fetch my husband as the surgeon was just starting the incision (true story—my husband saw EVERYTHING), she had the hospital bring the warming station into the recovery room with me so that I wouldn't be separated from my son, and she was right there to help my little rooting champ find my breast to kick off what would be a long and successful breastfeeding relationship. In my case, my midwife acted as a doula would, being my advocate before, during, and after my C-section, as well as answering the five million questions I had. If you have any apprehensions about your Caesarean section birth, definitely consider hiring a doula to help ease your mind. Doula, midwife, or not, don't be afraid to be your own advocate.
You CAN have a successful breastfeeding relationship with a Caesarean section birth, despite all of the negative articles you may read. Let your doctor know that you plan on having immediate skin-to-skin contact after your baby's birth, and would like to breastfeed as soon as possible. I had a bit of a delay because my son had a lot of fluid in his lungs, was extremely jaundiced, and had difficulty getting his temperature stabilized. The twenty or so minutes I had to wait did not effect bonding or breastfeeding. In other words, it's not the end of the world if you can't have immediate contact; the health of both you and your baby are the most important things. Honestly, I don't think my son was traumatized or even remembers that he didn't get to see me the first half hour of his life; he was busy trying to adjust to life outside the womb. And please, please, please call a lactation consultant if you are struggling with breastfeeding—I did, and it saved my breastfeeding relationship with my son.
Get out of bed and walk as soon as they give you the go-ahead. You'll hear this from almost every woman who's ever had a Caesarean section—get mobile as soon as possible. I was cursed from the get-go, and what I thought was a blessing was a hindrance. A shift change (and apparent room mix-up) meant that I was in my recovery room with my catheter in from 9 am until 9 pm, and I was loving every single moment of not having to get up to go to the ladies' room every fifteen minutes; iced water never tasted so good! The problem with this is that while my husband was running my placenta home to refrigerate, I was finally being moved from recovery to my hospital bed ... 12 hours after surgery. I hadn't walked or moved from bed, and now I was left alone with a [nasty, unhelpful] nurse's orders to void my bladder and hit the call button when I did so; I was living my own version of The Long Walk and that bathroom seemed a mile away. Because it took all that I had to make it to the bathroom on my own (hands wrapped around my midsection to catch the intestines I was positive would come spilling out), I did not attempt the bowel movement that I should have; not walking and not taking that all-important bowel movement proved to be two big mistakes. Just walk as soon as you're able and avoid the discomfort.
Buy a support belt for added confidence and mobility. I wish I had purchased an abdominal binder sooner (or prior to having my Caesarean section), as I would likely have been more mobile and confident walking around postpartum (I clutched my midsection while hunched over for at least a week after surgery). When I did get an abdominal belt, I got the bamboo Belly Bandit and found it to be too cumbersome to be practical or worn outside (and leaving the house is when I needed the support most).
These are just a few tips I have to offer after experiencing my own, planned Caesarean section birth. Of course, emergency C-sections don't provide the time for any type of planning, but remember, as with any birth, a healthy mother and baby are the desired result. As always, ask your doctor or midwife for suggestions based upon your specific hospital's policy.
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