Let’s admit it, we’ve all fantasized about the ideal birth. The moment you find out you’re pregnant, you start looking into birthing classes. Will you do it Au Naturale? Bradley? Lamaze? Hypnobirth? There are so many options and so many classes, but I didn’t find one that prepares you for a C-section.
With C-section rates over 30%, you’d think something would be offered to educate us on exactly what to expect and how to make the best out of a surgical birth experience. Sure, the general birthing class might skirt the issue of C-sections, but when I had my first, I had NO IDEA what to expect. Now that I’ve had three, I feel like kind of an expert. Well, maybe not an expert, but a C-section guru of sorts. So, I am going to impart my wisdom in a blog series called “C-Section Secrets.” This week: things I wish I had known BEFORE I went to the hospital for surgery.
They shave your Hoo-Ha. Yep. I wasn’t expecting that because frankly, why would I? It makes sense that the area would have to be sterilized etc., but I just never went there. And I mean literally never went there, because that area had disappeared from sight months ago… and you know, out of sight out of mind. I will say, knowing this piece of information the second and third time around, I came to the party prepared and boy did the nurses appreciate it. So, if you can, do a little grooming yourself or make an appointment to get waxed. It will save you from an awkward moment with the nurse. Probably TMI here, but knowledge is power, right!?
The operating room is freaking BRIGHT! I had never had prior surgery, so this was the first time I had stepped into an OR. It’s no Grey’s Anatomy people. No dimmed incandescent light. Just BRIGHT cold fluorescent lighting. The room is cold, and it can be a bit scary if you don’t know what to expect.
Your anesthesiologist is your best friend during surgery! Most of you know they put a tent up over your chest so you can’t see the doctors working on you. In my experience, the doctors talked to each other and not to me. If it weren’t for my anesthesiologist, I wouldn’t have had a clue what was going on. They stick with you through the entire surgery asking if you need more pain meds and walking you through what’s going on. Befriend the guy with drugs!
Expect weird smells and lots of pressure! Just because you are numb from the waist down, does not mean you can’t feel anything. There is A LOT of pressure, tugging, and pulling. It doesn’t hurt, but you can feel those sensations. My first C-section I felt like someone was jumping on my chest and it freaked me out. Turns out that is normal. I will say, if you are ever uncomfortable, tell your anesthesiologist. He has all sorts of prescription painkilling goodies and will do his best to make you comfortable.
Smells you ask? Yes… I remember my first c-section I was wondering what that burning smell was. Almost like burnt popcorn. Turns out the smell was me and caused by the cauterizing tool they use to minimize bleeding during surgery. Again, kinda gross, but now you know.
Having a catheter is weird. Not weird feeling, because you don’t feel it, but just weird in general. They will insert the catheter after your spinal block and really you wouldn’t notice it at all in recovery if it weren’t for the tube taped to your leg connected to the bag full of pee on the side of the bed. I must admit–it is pretty nice not having the sensation of having to pee (especially after you’ve spent the last few months having to go every two seconds.)
They will take the catheter out 6-12 hours after surgery. That is when it really feels weird. It’s like you have to pee, but your body has forgotten how. All I can say is relax and prepare to sit on the toilet for a long time. Turn on the water in your bathroom and just sit there. It will eventually happen, but it can be frustrating, and I found myself feeling almost panicky at the sensation of not being able to pee. It will happen… you just have to give it time.
A nurse will come and “massage” your uterus. I use quotations because it isn’t really massaging as much as pressing near your incision freaking hard. It hurts, and I wasn’t prepared for that, but it helps contract your uterus back to its normal size and lets them make sure it is shrinking as it should.
PREPARE YOUR HUSBAND! Since you have just had major abdominal surgery, you can’t do much. So what does that mean? Your husband (or someone else) has to do A LOT those first few days. He will be the one changing pretty much all those diapers until you are up and moving. Don’t forget newborns eat every 2-3 hours and you can’t get up to get the baby. Your husband will need to hand you the baby to feed and fetch you water when you need it and hand you your phone so you can take cute pictures and help you out of bed when you are struggling to get up and… the list will go on. He should be happy to do it, but giving him a heads up will prepare him for the job he has ahead.
So there you have it. Things I wish I had known before my first C-Section. Are there things that surprised you or you’d wish you’d known about your birth experience?
Read the second part of my series here: C-Section Secrets Part II: Have a Birth Plan!