My first baby was born by emergency c-section under general anaesthetic, following a pretty long labour. Naively, I had never even contemplated that I might need a c-section, let alone a general anaesthetic, and so it took a very long time to come to terms with the fact that I was asleep when my first baby came into the world.
When I found out I was pregnant the second time, I was determined that I wanted to have as much control as possible over my baby’s birth and the only way I believed I could do that was by having a planned c-section. At least this time I would be giving myself a fighting chance of being awake when my baby was born (and of looking less like a hobbit in the obligatory ‘post birth’ photographs).
It wasn’t a hard decision to make. Not just because I would do anything to avoid a repeat of my first birthing experience (and those photographs), but also because despite having been unconscious throughout my little girl’s birth and so still knowing very little about what happens during a c-section, the procedure wasn’t something that frightened me at all. And that, readers, is because everyone I knew who’d had a planned section had told me it was a fairly pleasant experience. That’s right: a pleasant experience.
Now, I appreciate the sentiment. It’s clearly meant well and surely it’s ok to tell a little white lie if it means preventing someone from being anxious about quite a big procedure? Actually no. I’d rather just have the truth, however horrific, thank you very much.
You see, I’m a firm believer in forewarned is forearmed, and so for the benefit of all those in the same camp who have been told by well-meaning friends that a couple of hours in surgery will be an absolute hoot, I give you my list of 5 things that people just don’t have the heart to tell you about c-sections. [Warning: It’s a bit honest…]
1. It’s not pleasant. It really isn’t.
OK, so it’s not as painful as labour, but there is absolutely no pleasantness in sitting on the side of a bed with your bottom exposed, while someone you’ve met only once (and very briefly) injects you in the back a couple of times, before lying you down on the operating table to have someone else repeatedly blow ice cold air on your body from your feet up to check whether or not you are sufficiently numb. It is also no pleasure to be sliced open, while someone rummages around inside you, pushing your internal organs about while they look for a baby to extract. Yes, it’s exciting because it’s your baby. But the whole procedure does not fall within the commonly understood definition of ‘pleasant’. Do not believe anyone who tries to convince you otherwise.
2. Beware the surgical light
No one told me this one. You see, the surgical light is positioned above the operating site. And it can have mirrored edging. A bit of pre-warning here might have been nice. I fast-forward past all the gory bits on One Born Every Minute, but there’s not much you can do when it’s live-streaming from the operating theatre and your own body is the star of the show….. Probably best not to look up.
3. For the first couple of weeks after your c-section, you will contemplate chopping your body off from the neck down
This is because your neck upwards will probably be the only part of you that is not in some kind of discomfort or outright pain. Your wound will still be painful, your insides will feel like they’ve just completed a spin cycle, and your legs and feet may swell up to the point that you fear they may burst. You will get slightly comfortable sitting down for a while and struggle to stand up. You will be slightly comfortable standing up for a while and struggle to sit down. And if you lie flat to go to sleep in a bed, you will fear that you will never be able to get out of the bed again. It gets better, but those first couple of weeks are just the pits.
4. For the first six weeks post-section, you will have a longing to do housework and a big supermarket shop like never before
While recovering from a c-section is the perfect excuse to sit down and be looked after, it will probably be the last thing you want. You will probably want to get back to normal, do the washing, tidy up and make dinner – particularly if this is your second baby. You will miss vacuuming. With a newborn and another little one to look after, the last thing you need is to be one man down. But you have no choice because if you do too much too soon, you jeopardise your recovery. And you really don’t want that.
5. You would do it all again
Despite all of the above, you’ll have no qualms about doing it all again. Because it really wasn’t all that bad. It sounds worse than it was. In fact, it was really quite…I don’t know….maybe….pleasant?