During my first pregnancy, I didn’t give a C-section much thought. I was consumed by all things pregnancy, nurseries, tiny onesies, and baby names. I just assumed I’d meet my baby after hours of labor and pushing. I imagined it like a scene in a familiar TV show.
During a 3rd trimester ultrasound, we discovered my little boy was breech. Frank breech to be exact, and as my doctor explained, “folded up like a taco.” I had been smooth sailing through the pregnancy up until that very moment, and the rest of the appointment felt blurry and overwhelming as I scrambled to memorize what the doctor was saying. He assured me everything was okay and explained my options if the baby didn’t flip on his own over the next several weeks. I tried several at-home methods to get baby head down before my next ultrasound, including talking to him in the middle of the night (thanks pregnancy insomnia), but he had other plans. At the next appointment, he was in the exact same position, and bigger. I ultimately decided that a C-section was the way I’d be meeting my baby.
Over the next 5 years, I’d go on to meet all three of my children via C-section. Three major abdominal surgeries. Three recoveries. Three beautiful birth stories. When I look back on the experiences I’ve had, I’ve realized how much of this feat is overshadowed for moms by the arrival of our babies (and rightfully so, they’re pretty amazing, and we made them.) Here are a few things I wish I would have known as that young, unknowing mama headed into her first C-section:
- C-section moms are strong and brave. Sometimes C-sections get a bad rap as if it’s “the easy way” to meet your baby. Um, NO. Women have C-sections for a variety of reasons, with the safety of mom and baby always being top priority. Some women mourn the loss of a birth plan that won’t come to fruition, while others are relieved to know they won’t be pushing a baby out of their body. Whatever the case, C-section mamas are undergoing major surgery and extensive recovery to bring a beautiful new human into the world. There is nothing “easy” about it, and it’s something to be very proud of.
- It happens quickly. After months of waiting for this moment, a planned C-section occurs in a matter of minutes. It’s a bizarre feeling, and incredibly nerve-wracking, to walk your pregnant self into a cold operating room knowing you’re about to undergo surgery while wide awake. All while your partner waits in the hall as you get your epidural. Every time I’ve done it, I’ve been shaking like a leaf (with nerves and because it’s COLD in there!). You power through, because it’s the only way you’re going to get that baby in your arms. Once the operation starts, it’s a blur of doctors and nurses shuffling on the other side of a curtain, and all of a sudden, they’re hoisting a perfect, fresh little human over the curtain for you to see.
- The recovery is no walk in the park. With all three of my C-sections, I’ve realized after the fact just how loopy the meds make me. I understand, of course, that they’re needed to get me through the procedure pain-free. But the first 24 hours of the baby’s life are a bit of a blur. At the time, I don’t notice at all, but looking back at pictures or texts from those first few hours make me realize I probably needed to be asleep. Who can sleep when you’ve just been gifted a new human to take care of?! As moms, we have a hard time prioritizing our needs over our little one’s. It starts from the minute they’re born. The pain is REAL for C-section warriors. When the medication wears off, it’s hard to sit up, nurse the baby, sleep, or even walk to the bathroom. You’re balancing pain management with incision care, with hormones, with postpartum bleeding, with a newborn baby. That first week of recovery is a lot on even the strongest, most experienced mama.
- You’d do it again and again for your babies. All three of my C-section experiences, while perfectly routine, have been HARD. All three times have brought pain, anxiety, and tears. Each time my scar has gotten a bit bigger, and while not ideal, it’s something I’d do again and again in exchange for the dream family I’ve created. I spent 27 total months growing these people inside my body, and this was the way they got to me in the end. I’m thankful for the doctors and nurses who knew exactly what they were doing, who eased my fears, and cared for me when I was falling apart in recovery. I’m thankful for the friends and family who lifted my spirits and told me I was rocking it when I felt unsure in those tough first days at home. Most of all, I’m proud of myself. Proud of my strength to get through three major abdominal surgeries with a newborn by my side. Proud of the self-love and inner pep talks it takes to keep going when you’re overwhelmed and in pain, wondering when it’s going to get easier.
To all the expectant moms, motherhood is difficult, no matter which way you slice it. Every woman has a different story, underwent impossible struggles to meet and care for her baby. When we’re in the thick of it, it’s just HARD. There’s no way around it. But I promise you; it is so worth it. You will recover. You will feel better. And as your kids grow and thrive, you’ll look at them and feel a sense Wonder Woman-like pride that you made those little Hellraisers.