Thursday, January 27, 2011

Five things every girl should know about having an emergency C-section

Olivia and me at the hospital
Edited to add: Having an "emergency" C-section doesn't necessarily mean you were rushed to the hospital in an ambulance or something like that.  In my case (and in many cases) it's more accurate to refer to it simply as being "unplanned."

I know a lot of women right now who are about to deliver any moment.  So, while I'm definitely not pregnant myself, I have been thinking a lot about pregnancy lately.  And while I'm hopeful (and with every reason to be) that all of these women I know will have wonderful, regular deliveries of their little ones, I am a firm believer in prospective parents knowing a few things about having a C-section.

First, though, a little background info on my own C-section.  Because I think you should understand your source.

If you want to read a little about my/Olivia's birth story and why I needed to have a C-section, skip down to the bottom.  I'm including it for those who are interested, but in case you're pregnant and sick of birth stories and this is already freaking you out, you can skip that part if you want.  And I'll just continue on to what I think you really need to know.

Let me begin by saying that I'm not the research type.  We had one of those pregnancy books that I bought out of excitement, but I didn't actually spend much time looking through it.  I skimmed over the occasional "your baby is this big right now blah blah blah," but that was about it.  And--whoa--did the chapters on regular deliveries and C-sections ever freak me out.  Suffice it to say, I was not a know-it-all when it came to pregnancy.

Or delivery.  Bryan and I took one birthing class which proved to be more informative than practical.  The rest of my information about delivery came from what I remember to be a very short conversation with my sister.  And it is the contents of that conversation which I would like to pass on to you all now.  But let me preface this information by saying that I'm not putting it out there to terrorize you.  I'm sharing this so that, if you do happen to have an emergency C-section, you will be significantly less freaked out about it.  Okay, here we go.

1. Make sure you have someone (other than a nurse) to be with you after the baby is born.
This may seem fairly obvious, but I honestly hadn't thought about it until my sister mentioned it to me.  See, after your sweet baby is born, your husband will be given the choice of either A.) staying with you or B.) going with the baby to give her a bath and do all that fun stuff.

We knew ahead of time that we wanted Bryan to be able to go with Olivia, so I asked my sister to stay with me.  And I am so, so glad I did.  I'll leave out as much of the cringe-worthy details as possible, and just say that, including a painful start to an epidural and whatever other stuff I went through, the worst pain I experienced during the entire labor process was the pain I experienced right after they wheeled me back from the operation room and into my regular delivery room.  On a scale of 1-10, the pain was somewhere way beyond the realm of numbers.  And there was no nurse in there.  It was just me and my sister.  And I would not have been able to reach for a nurse call button even if I wanted to, so I was so grateful that my sister was there to keep calling the nurse and telling her to get her booty in there to take care of me.

And in case you're freaked out (or maybe just curious) I was in so much pain because the epidural and other nice drugs they had given me for the operation had worn off and they were waiting on approval from the pharmacy before they could give me the next thing to help with the pain.  Not like they couldn't have totally seen that coming before the other stuff wore off (don't even get me started on that) but apparently this seems to be a regular policy.  Lame, I know.

So make sure you have someone to stay with you.

2. You will be strapped down during the operation.
In order to keep you from moving when you shouldn't during the operation, they will strap your arms down (you'll already be numb from the waist down anyway--or at least I was).  And they won't be strapped down to your side, it'll be with your arms out, away from your body.

Being strapped down this way will feel scary, but just know that everything will be okay.

3. You will shiver (a lot)
Because your body loses so much heat (your baby, your bodily fluids, your organs being taken out of you and then put back in) and because it happens so fast, your body will shiver.  And it will be more intense than any kind of shivering you've experienced before.  Combine that with your arms being strapped down away from your body and it may conjure up the mental image of someone laying on their back and trying to use their arms to take off like an airplane.  This is about what it will feel like.  And it can be a little scary.  But, again, everything will be okay.

4. The anesthesiologist is your friend.
During the actual C-section, the anesthesiologist doesn't actually have much to do.  So their job is to be your friend.  And they are very good at it.  They sit by your head and tell you that you're doing a great job and that everything will be okay.  Anesthesiologists are nice.  And they don't lie.  You are doing a great job.  And everything really will be okay.

5. The more you walk, and the sooner you walk, the less your scar will hurt
My sister (who had had two emergency C-sections) told me that with her first baby, all she wanted to do was sit as much as possible and baby her scar so it wouldn't hurt.  And she was in pain and had a hard time really getting around for at least a month.

With her second baby, she got up later that day (after he was born) and took just a few steps.  It was all she could handle, but she did what she could.  And each day she'd walk just a little bit more to keep things moving.  And she healed exponentially faster.

After I had Olivia I followed my sister's advice.  I got up and got moving later that day.  Just walked around my hospital room.  And each day I could walk a little more and things didn't hurt so much.  And I healed really fast. 

I hope I haven't totally freaked you out.  Again, I didn't write this with that intention.  I wrote it for those of you out there who may not have a big sister to go on a walk with and tell you what to expect.  I know that, for me, knowing these things ahead of time made such a big difference for me--mentally, emotionally, and physically. 
Olivia and Daddy in her first days at home
Ok, on to the birth story and why I needed a C-section at all...

Note: Out of four girls in my family, three of us have had C-sections.

When I finally went into labor with Olivia (after my due date--bah) my contractions warranted a trip to the hospital, but once I got there I wasn't really progressing well enough to have the baby on my own.  Given the option to go home and keep working at it on my own or stay at the hospital and have some pitocin to help things along, I chose the "don't send me home I just want to have this baby" option.  So they started the pitocin.  Then it was putting the baby in distress, so they stopped the pitocin.  Somewhere along the way (I honestly don't remember, but I think it was before they stopped the pitocin) I chose to have an epidural.  The pain from the contractions actually wasn't that bad yet, but I decided to get the epidural before the pain intensified.  And, given my personal circumstances, this was a wise choice.

I remember at some point (toward the beginning of the whole ordeal) asking the nurse about how much longer she thought it would be before I had the baby.  She told me that, of course she couldn't be sure, but she thought I'd have the baby no later than that evening.  She said a specific time (which I can't remember at the moment) and I remember watching that time come up on the clock and then sinking into despair as I watched the clock keep ticking on, with still no baby on the outside of me yet.  And as the clock kept ticking this thought kept playing over and over in my mind, like a broken record stuck on panic: "I don't want to be cut open.  I don't want to be cut open."

I knew it was coming, but my coping skills were shutting down.  Having an emergency C-section is a complete emotional drain.  That's not one of my numbered points listed above, but that really is the first thing you should know about having an emergency C-section.  Because it's not what you plan on.  It's not what you hope for and dream about.  And coming to terms with that is what I think is--emotionally--the hardest part.

My doctor came in and told me he was going to have to do a C-section.  I cried.  Which I think startled him, actually.  Haha.  He said that her head was just too big and she wasn't going to fit.  I only ever dilated to an 8.  Then they got me into the operating room and started getting things ready while Bryan got suited up.

And, by the way, real operating rooms are not the way they always look in the movies and on tv shows.  On the big screen, operating rooms are always kind of dim and calm (and there's always a big window for people to look in through--why is that?).  But in reality, operating rooms (or at least the one I was in) are bright and not pretty and very COLD.  It's not a dreamy place to have a dramatic conversation with the occasional "Scalpel!" thrown in.  It's an operating room.

And by the time I found myself in the operating room it was well into those wee hours of the morning.  I had been in labor for almost an entire day.  I was exhausted in every way possible.

Things happened quickly after that.  They put up a big blue sheet so I wouldn't have to/be able to see anything.  And I was glad about that.  Bryan got to peek over and watch it all happen.  He said it was amazing, watching her come out.  Medically-assisted miracles are still miracles.

And although it's an abrupt ending, I'm going to stop there.  Because I think anything more would just be blabbing about a birth story and not really anything very helpful to you.

I wish you all the best in your own birth experiences.  
May you never need to put this advice to any practical use.  :) 

Much love (and hang in there all you pregnant ladies),


Melissa said...

thank you!!! I am having a scheduled c section on the 16th and I haven't done too much reading up on it because people don't give information, they give horror stories. I really appreciate this post and the information!!

Bree said...

Thank you for sharing! Even though I've got plenty I've time before I have to start thinking about this (although yes, August will be here before I know it!), it's never too early to start gathering information & opinions for others. I think not being prepared would be more scary than going in with at least the knowledge of what might happen.

Amanda said...

I think all of this is excellent information! I had an emergency c-section in June. I think emergency is a scary word in itself. My birth story sounds remarkably like yours - dilated to 8, cried when they said c-section, been in labor more than a day, exhausted, emotionally drained. There wasn't really an "emergency" - my daughter wasn't in danger, they said I could have kept trying, but I had been at 8 for 3 hours. I think it's good for people to know that in most cases, emergency simply means not planned. And I also highly recommend getting up and moving as soon as possible, made recovery much easier! Thanks for sharing!

Marissa said...

Thanks Katie! My due date is a month from today, and I am definitely concerned about the possibility of a c-section. I don't have an older sister to show me the ropes, so thanks for stepping in! Great information!

the23rdelf said...

You hit the nail on the head with your tips. My first was an unplanned c-section (11 days late so my son was a big, tall boy) and with my second I went into labor the night before my scheduled C. I got to the hospital at 5cm and they yelled a lot, and it worked out that I had her about 12 hours ahead of schedule. The only thing I would move way at the top would be your comment about medically assisted miracles are still miracles.

Kristie said...

I will say this, not having any c-sections, is that you will shiver a lot, regardless of the c-section. I had a natural delivery with the first, and then the blessed epidural with the other two. And after all three I went through an hour or so of freezing/shivering. And then my body figured it all out.
Other than that, I liked this post. Very good info, especially when you are having your first kid.

Maydijo said...

Some of this varies from place to place. I've had two c-sections (one unplanned, one planned) and was never strapped down. Also, a nurse (or actually, several of them) never left my side until I was fully recovered from the anaesthetic and back in the room with my husband and baby. Also, I didn't shiver - they were very good at keeping me warm. With my first c-section, which was unplanned and all rather dramatic, it was a bit scary; the doctors and nurses were very nice, but I could tell this wasn't going the way it was supposed to go. (But never fear, I came out of it with a gorgeous and healthy baby girl, and everything worked well enough to get me knocked up the next time around!) With my second c-section, we were all very relaxed and cracking jokes with each other all the way through the birth.

Definitely, definitely, defnitely, get walking as soon as possible afterwards. I was climbing stairs 3 days later and it was fine. Also, definitely listen to the nurses. Nurses are somewhat sadistic when it comes to pain management (I work in a hospital, so I can say that), if you present with your thumb half-cut-off they're likely to tell you to suck it up and be a big girl. So if a nurse tells you you need pain meds, listen to her.