What I wish I’d known about c-sections

I started to feel like I would need a c-section toward the end of my pregnancy. We went for an ultrasound, and they told us that Connor’s head was measuring ahead of the rest of his body. Two weeks to be exact.

I didn’t understand what that meant in terms of size except that his head was slightly large. And, since I am a little small, I asked about the possibility of surgery. A woman’s body does fantastic things during childbirth, of course. So they told me, Let’s cross that bridge when we get there.

I woke up on my due date, Sept. 2, 2011, having contractions. And we crossed that c-section bridge when, after 12 hours of labor, they told me Connor was stuck.

I confess that I took the drugs as soon as someone offered, so none of this was a big deal to me when it started happening. I knew I was in the capable hands of people who performed the procedure daily, and I felt confident we would be fine.

And we’re great now. But when I look back on my childbirth experience, it wasn’t anything like the one I’d pictured and prepared for.

So, here are a few things I wish I had known before my emergency c-section.

The surgery was terrifying

Rolling into the operating room was no big thing to me. I knew what a c-section entailed. But when the reality of everything happening set in, along with the fact that it was happening to me, I started to panic.

Two men I’d never met before were stationed over me. One held an anesthesia mask on my face, and the other held down my arms. They were just doing jobs, but I’m claustrophobic and was very worked up from the start.

I felt pressure when the doctor started to make the incision. Then, I felt his hands reaching in and pulling Connor out, squirming. That’s when I began to scream, which I now regret. I just didn’t know what else to do with that anxiety — like being on a rollercoaster.

When it was over, which was very quickly, I heard one of the strange men say, “That was really bad,” which made me feel like I’d done something wrong. It was the first instance of mommy guilt that I can remember having.

The doctor told me Connor had arrived healthy and I was all stitched up, then a nurse gave me something that knocked me out.

I didn’t get to hold Connor for the first time for hours

Photo credit: Nikki Henson

I’ve spoken to others who said they didn’t sleep after their c-section, but I was out for a while. And when I woke up, they told me I couldn’t hold Connor until I could wiggle my big toe. Otherwise, there was a chance I could drop him.

But I couldn’t move anything. I laid there like a knot on a log, as my grandma would say. Derek came to sit with me and told me I did a good job which was a sweet little lie.

He showed me pictures on his phone, and I tried to talk to him about Connor, but my words were slurred. Plus, I was shivering so bad my teeth chattered.

The next stretch was like that scene in Kill Bill where Uma Thurman stares at her foot, saying, “Wiggle your big toe.” That was me, just very pale and short. And in a hospital bed under a pile of blankets.

Despite all the discomfort of surgery and the after-effects of anesthesia, I had one focus. I wanted so badly to jump up and run to hold Connor.

Unfortunately, though he was born just before 7, it was almost 10 before I got him in my arms. But my goodness, it was a moment when we were finally back together.

The mommy shame for c-section moms is strong

I didn’t know until my c-section that some people don’t consider it “real” childbirth. As if I am somehow less of a mother because medical professionals deemed surgery necessary for the life of myself and my baby.

I’ve also felt judgment from fellow c-section moms who didn’t sleep after their surgery. Everything went well for them, so they don’t know why anyone else would have had a different experience.

I’ve pondered that I did something that made the staff think I needed to be fully sedated and prevented me from being with Connor immediately. But I’m not ashamed of becoming afraid in that situation. So, even if that is the case, I’m not holding it against myself.

Even though my experience was terrifying, it was obviously such a crucial moment in my life that I have to look back on it fondly. And, in looking back, I like to think I’d be much better at it if I went through it all again now.

READ MORE: Death by ovarian cyst


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