I was looking forward to experiencing a natural birth for the delivery of my first baby. I had it all pictured in my head. That picture never came to be however, because ‘nature’ had other plans.
At 31 weeks, I started having contractions. As it was quite early, I was placed on medication to help stop the contractions – calcium channel blockers. I was also given a series of steroid injections in case the contractions continued and the baby was born early. The steroid injections would better prepare my baby’s lungs for breathing. Well, my little Miss was determined to make an earlier start at life, and after a couple of scares following routine checks, we were whisked away for an emergency cesarean section. In the end of course, I was happy for whatever option the doctors decided would be best and safest for me and my baby.
However, for those of you who may think it, please make no mistake about it. Having a cesarean is NOT the ‘easy’ way out, and I wasn’t at all prepared for any of the below reasons why.
1. You May Feel a Disconnect Between Your Expected and Actual Experience
For medical reasons, I was unable to have an epidural. The doctors opted instead to put me under general anesthetic for my safety. I went to sleep, woke up, and had a baby! Do you have any idea how strange that feels? There was sort of a gap or disconnect between my expectation and my actual experience, and I felt kind of weird about it.
2. You May Not Be the First to Hold Your Baby
Having had a general aesthetic, it also took me around 2 hours in recovery time before waking up to see my baby. In the meantime, my husband had had his first photo with our baby and touched her. I loved that he got to experience that, but a part of me was slightly sad that I didn’t get to see and touch her first.
3. You Need Help When You Want to Hold, Feed and Bathe Your Baby
At the beginning, you can’t just pick up your baby whenever you want. A cesarean is a major surgery affecting the use of your core abdominal muscles, and it takes a fair amount of time to heal. You need to ring and wait for the nurses to pick up your baby and put him or her in your arms. You may also need help re-positioning your baby for breastfeeding, and bathing your baby can prove quite difficult too. It felt immensely disappointing to me, and I cried quite a bit over the fact that I couldn’t do these things for my baby on my own.
4. You Have to Deal With Feeling A Bit Useless and Scared
Its not just picking up the baby that you need help with. You also need help taking off your surgical stockings, undressing and getting dressed, getting in and out of the shower, walking up and down stairs, and picking up anything heavier than your baby, to name just a few. It left me feeling more than a little useless. I started questioning whether I was going to be capable once I got home, and once hubby went back to work. I was scared. When was the pain going to subside enough for me to be able to function the way a mum needs to function in order to her look after her child?!
5. It Hurts Like Crazy When They Pull Out the Surgical Drain
When I woke from my surgery, I had a few tubes in me. A catheter, a drip, and this other funny tube coming out from the wound site full of blood. This other funny tube was a surgical drain, responsible for draining any pus, blood and fluid from around the surgical site in order to help minimise chances of scar tissue and infections forming. This isn’t the bad part. The bad part, is the extremely painful and horrible feeling that comes when they yank this thing out! Yikes! I was expecting it to feel like a catheter removal, but instead it was so painful that I vomited. I also had to hold myself back from the reflex reaction of kicking and screaming. I couldn’t hold back from swearing though!
6. Passing Wind and Doing a Poo Hurts Like Mad
Be prepared for the fact that prior simple pleasures – like passing wind and doing a poo – will hurt like crazy for while. You may be put on fluids for your first day post surgery for this reason. Anything passing via your colon can feel like a balloon is pushing its way through your insides. If your doctor suggests laxative support, it may be worth a try to soften your stool, as well as your pain.
7. You Can't Drive for 6 Weeks
I didn’t know, but driving was not allowed until 6 weeks post surgery. Forget about taking a break and driving over to the shops, even if it’s to grocery shop. Apart from short (and very slow) walks, you can start to feel a bit limited unless you have a companion on hand to take you out and about.
8. You Can't Exercise Your Lower Abdominals Until After 12 Weeks
I have to admit, I was keen to exercise my abdominals to start trying to get my pre-baby body back. I was advised that I needed to first give my lower abdominal region 12 weeks to heal before doing any exercises like sit ups, in order to avoid injury to the area.
I was told that I should also not lift or carry anything heavier than my baby for 12 weeks. Those abdominals need time to heal without the stress of holding heavy items. It can be frustrating to have to wait, but also to still rely on the help of others.
9. Sex Can be REALLY REALLY Painful
The usual advise is to wait until around 6 weeks before having sex, after your check up with the obstetrician. However even after this time, sex can be extremely painful. Some women report it hurting for months, or even a year later.
10. You Should Wait 1 Year Before Trying For Another Baby
According to my obstetrician, it takes up to a year to recover from the surgery, and hence it is best to wait for a year before trying for another baby. I have friends who are older mums or endometriosis sufferers and hoping to start trying for a baby again as soon as possible. Instead, they have to wait a year; and a year can have fertility implications in their situations, which creates feelings of anxiety.
Eleni Fegan is the founder and Managing Editor of DearBub Blog and Magazine which began from a personal journey of research and healing. Her motivation for DearBub is beautifully summarised in her Editor’s Letter: “I realised that there is beauty to giving voice to our experiences, and raising an awareness that we are not alone in them. I realised the immense power that ‘sharing’ had in transforming our sense of self and being through creating connection”.