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I wish we could all have the birth we want, but life has a way of teaching us a lesson through the milestone life event of labor and delivery. If you’re faced with a c-section, either emergency or planned, a positive mindset and planning can only HELP you feel more empowered, safer, less scared, and promote healing and a quick recovery.
Many women are disappointed and afraid when they are told that a c-section is their best option. I know I was! In preparation for my first birth, I was judgmental in my evaluation of c-section stories that I heard. I incorrectly assumed that c-sections were usually necessitated by the ignorance of the mama and “poor” choices made during the labor.
However, when my number was up, I was thrust into the exact cascade of interventions I knew I should avoid, but I had zero control over it. Ironically, I had not prepared to be open-minded and that would have saved me a lot of angst and had a positive impact on my birth experience. After all, if you’re mentally prepared for a c-section, it won’t happen, right?!
Best Laid Birth Plan
For my first birth, I thoroughly researched all of the benefits of a natural labor and delivery, and that’s why I wanted one so badly. It’s the best for the baby and is often transformational for the mama. Additionally, I’d watched a couple of documentaries that convinced me a hospital wasn’t a safe place to have my baby, which was not helpful.
When I ended up with a c-section I was a bit traumatized and felt that my baby was completely ruined though he was only moments old. I’m not usually much of a drama queen, but man, when I have something in my mind that I want so badly, it’s tough not getting it. It was a spoiled brat moment, I guess. After a few days, I did come to realize it didn’t matter how he got here, my baby arrived safe and healthy and that was ultimately ALL that mattered! Plus, many c-section babies go on to be excellent and successful humans.
My selfish wish to have a beautiful birthing experience was undoubtedly secondary; welcome to motherhood! If you’ve ever felt “less than” because a c-section was your birth experience, here’s why C-section mamas are beautiful, strong and brave.
With my second pregnancy I had hoped for a successful VBAC (vaginal birth after a c-section), but also knew there was a 50% chance of another c-section. I knew it was essential to prepare equally for each type of birth. Luckily I had the benefit of one birthing experience on my side, so I knew what contractions were and I knew the process for a c-section. I had also done extensive reading about natural birth and hypnobirthing.
However, once again life decided to teach me the lesson that planning is futile. Clearly, I’m a slow learner. My baby girl was extremely comfortable in the breech position and could not be coaxed out of it. Only 3% of babies are in the breech position past 37 weeks – what luck. Now not only would I have a c-section, but it would be
How to prepare for a C-Section Summary (details below list):
- Mentally prepare
- Ask your provider about the c-section process
- Ask your provider about options for “gentile c-section.”
- Do your research
- Prepare your body
- Food limits
- Know who your support people will be
- No heavy lifting
- Have formula on hand
1. Mentally prepare
Whether you plan to have a c-section or not, it’s wise to know as much as possible as a precaution. One in three women in the U.S. have a c-section, so it’s not planning for an obscure situation. With my first pregnancy, I wanted a natural birth SO badly, and I KNEW I could do it. I was determined and did not doubt that I would have the natural birth I wanted.
Welcome to parenthood; it’s not about you, and you don’t always get what you want. All that matters is your child. When things started going sideways and I entered a cascade of interventions beyond my control, I was pissed. I was so mad that I couldn’t relax and manage the contractions well. If I had been able to relax maybe my cervix would have dilated enough to let my baby through, but instead, I ended up with an emergency c-section because our son was in distress. Then I was furious. And terrified.
2. Ask your provider about the c-section process
Be sure to get as much or as little detail as you would like. There are a lot of great videos on You Tube, as well!
If you’re NOT strep B positive, ask your provider about doing a vaginal swab to transplant the vaginal flora to the baby’s face, to mimic what would have occurred in a vaginal delivery. Babies live in a sterile environment and passing through mama’s birth canal is how their gut bacteria becomes established. Since c-section babies take a different route, there’s an alternative solution. (If you are strep B positive, you can still be proactive by taking probiotics after the birth.) Read more about this concept here.
4. Ask your provider about options for “gentile c-section”
It’s important to know what elements of a gentile c-section can be accommodated. You can make some choices that are similar to a natural birth. This is comforting and makes you feel empowered! I’ll hit the major points below, but this article has more general information and this one is more detailed.
- Arms NOT strapped down to the table
- IV in non-dominant hand
- Move EKG monitors on top of chest to the side so baby can be on your chest immediately
- Mirror to be able to watch my baby come out or have the drape dropped to see the baby come out
- Be guided through the procedure and told what is happening
- Have skin on skin contact immediately – can do this after pediatrician checks baby, but it doesn’t take long
- Slightly delayed cord clamping to take place, 30 seconds
- Would like to have my partner cut the cord (it’s more like a trim since he can’t cross into the sterile field to do the initial cut)
- Minimal separation from the baby, want the baby to be with my partner or me at all times
- Delay baby’s bath and weight
5. Do your research
I had what they called a “tap block” administered by the anesthesiologist at the end of my surgery. This enabled me to delay taking any pain medication for 24 hours, and I believe enabled our daughter to latch much better than our son did with my first c-section. It also enabled me to bond instantly, having fewer drugs clouding my mind. Here’s some additional information about it, so you can discuss it with your provider.
6. Prepare your body
Stool softeners are a must; I even started a few days early. Blood-loss during surgery is inevitable, so it’s wise to up your iron. (Sidenote, the stool softeners help combat possible constipation due to increased iron, but if you’re getting iron from a food source, this shouldn’t be an issue.)
I had virtually no swelling after my first c-section, and I think that was because I always stay very well hydrated! I have some friends who had pretty bad swelling. It feels counter-intuitive, but keeping your body hydrated ensures it processes medication well. Even though an IV is administered before surgery, those fluids don’t seem to function the same as water that was processed through the digestive tract.
8. Food limits
Clarify how many hours before the c-section you need to stop eating. Keep in mind a pregnant lady’s digestion is slower than usual. Also, fat takes much longer to digest than other macronutrients.
9. Know who your support people will be
Will your husband and/or mom be there? What about other family members? Are you hiring a doula? You will likely need a bit of extra help since you’ll be recovering from major surgery while caring for your newborn.
10. No heavy lifting
Be mindful of your daily routine and anything that involves lifting something heavier than your future newborn. Pushing and pulling are also important to keep in mind. For example, we had a toddler who was still content in his
11. Have formula on hand
If you’re planning to breastfeed, just know that it can take a bit longer for your milk to come in after a c-section. Honestly, I was adamantly against using formula, until one of the hardest nights ever when I couldn’t get our son to latch. I didn’t have any milk to pump, and I had no way to feed my starving newborn at 3:00 am. You don’t have to use it, but it’s comforting to know you have it and it could save your sanity. It’s also a good idea to have a few bottle options available in case one is easier for baby.
Shave your legs up to your knees because they put some compression apparatus on your lower legs to help circulate the blood and with hairy legs, they ITCH terribly! You can also shave where the incision will be, if you prefer to do it yourself. (Keep in mind, if you have a scheduled c-section you’re not permitted to shave within 24 hours of surgery.)
I was determined to not have a c-section with our first child, but when our second child was breech, I’d accepted a second c-section was the most likely scenario. These 12 lessons were hard-won the first round and served me well for my second c-section experience! I hope that you can learn from the challenges I had and enjoy a smooth c-section experience 🙂
**Disclaimer, I’m not a doctor, this is all information that worked well for me in my experience.