What My C-Section Taught Me About Motherhood

“The days are long, but the years are short.”
“Sleep when the baby sleeps.”
“Change is the only constant.”
“Expect the unexpected.”

If there’s one cliché piece of advice that truly sums up my experience with motherhood so far, it’s that last one – to expect the unexpected. For me, this lesson started from the second we started trying to conceive our first child, got a little louder during pregnancy, and was shouted from the rooftops during my birth.

We did all the “right” things leading up to birth. Bought the gear, did the research, took the classes. We studied, we made spreadsheets and lists, we packed and re-packed our bags. At the end of the day, we were PREPARED.

Each of those things were critical for us in their own way, but nothing can fully prepare you for birth (or parenthood), especially one that goes differently than you could have ever expected.

My C-Section Story

My birth began as an induction, which was not what I wanted. But I was ten days overdue and was considered advanced maternal age, so there was an increased risk with each day of pregnancy past my due date. Induction became inevitable and it was the safest route.

The short version of my birth was that labor started on its own with a little bit of help, and I then labored for 36 hours with very slow progress. I pushed for over three hours with almost no progress, and our care team eventually helped us decide that a C-section was the best way to go. That baby was simply not interested in coming out.

The longer version of my birth story is that the difficulties of labor paled in comparison to my C-section. It was super traumatic, involved a significant hemorrhage, and cost me the first few hours with my daughter as I remember very little of those first precious moments. We had excellent care, my body was just exhausted and didn’t handle the procedure very well.

A C-section was not what I had hoped for with birth. And mine was not remotely what I would have expected even if I knew it was coming. And while there are things that I would have preferred to go differently during my C-section experience, it was one of the many things in our entire parenthood journey that have made me think that the iconic parenting book should be rewritten and retitled to “What to Expect When Everything is Unexpected.”

C-section Awareness Month

April is C-section Awareness Month. While most people know what a C-section is, there are still so many misconceptions about this routine procedure. When I was younger, I remember having a conversation with friends where I said that if I were to ever have a baby, I would want to have a C-section because it would be easier. This is perpetuated in media, too, in which C-sections are often called “the easy way out” and looked at as being done out of convenience.

It wasn’t until I was pregnant that I truly realized that there is nothing easy about a C-section (or really any easy way to give birth). I was terrified of the possibility of having a C-section, even though I felt appropriately educated about them because of the in-depth birth class we took. While my own C-section was especially traumatic, the majority are not. Since my own birth, I have learned a lot more about the myths and realities of C-sections that I want to share in case they’re helpful to anyone else.

Myth: Doctors perform C-sections when labor is taking too long for their own convenience.

Reality: Most, if not all hospitals have strong protocols and systems in place for shift changes, which debunks the myth that doctors push for C-sections when they are simply trying to hurry along birth. There is certainly a growing spotlight on the conversation around unnecessary C-sections. While some parts of the U.S. have higher rates of C-sections during certain times of day, this is not the reality in the majority of cases. As with everything, talking to your provider to get the facts about their policies before you go into labor.

Myth: C-sections are easier than a vaginal delivery.

Reality: C-section is a major abdominal surgery that has a long recovery time. While C-sections are routine and are generally safe, there are still risks. And they are certainly not “easy”.

Importantly, C-section recovery takes significantly longer than recovery from a vaginal birth. On average, the hospital stay following a routine C-section is 2-4 days. With a vaginal delivery without complication, you can plan on about 24-48 hours. Once home, recovery from a C-section can take anywhere from 4-6 weeks. Recovery with a vaginal delivery is closer to 3-4 weeks with a much lower impact on mobility.

Myth: You can’t have skin-to-skin or the “golden hour” with a C-section.

Reality: Many hospitals will place a baby on your chest with assistance as soon as possible after birth, especially if requested. Depending on how the procedure goes, golden hour can still happen, there may just be a delay as your medical team works to close your incision. If there were complications, this can look a little different.

Myth: You cannot have a vaginal delivery if you’ve had a C-section in the past.

Reality: Having a C-section does increase the odds of having subsequent C-section births, but it is certainly not impossible. About 13% of people who have had a C-section will go on to have a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean), and many OBGYNs are becoming more comfortable with performing them. VBACs do need to take place in a hospital and are not possible for everyone who has had a C-section previously, but can be done safely in many cases.

Myth: A C-section is not a “real birth.”

Reality: Easily the most harmful narrative around C-section is that it is not a real birth, which can be one of the earliest forms of mom shaming that happen in parenthood. It is simply not true. C-sections are medically necessary and are legitimate, valid ways of giving birth. They require strength, bravery, and resilience just like a vaginal birth. Each form of birth has its own challenges and its own upsides and downsides. No matter how your baby comes into the world, it takes enormous courage and (hopefully) love. There is nothing any more or less real about any birth.

More resources
Myths and facts about Cesarean delivery
Having a C-section
Top 10 common myths and misconceptions about C-section deliveries and the realities of the procedure

For more information about International Cesarian Awareness Month, check out this post.


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