C-Sections Are Easy...and Other Lies

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

I've heard it once, I've heard it too many times..."C-sections are the easy way out."

original photo by Mathieu Photography of Daphne's birth

Now, I'm not one to get a megaphone and stand on a soapbox, but there are times and places when the record needs to be set straight and that is one of those comments I just can't bite my tongue if I hear it.

I've had three c-sections now (two unplanned, one scheduled) and I'm here to pull back the curtain on the topic and debunk some common myths about cesarean sections once and for all.

Since most women don't plan for a c-section, many are fearful and undereducated when the time comes to get one if the need arises.  With nearly a third of all births ending in surgery today, it still shocks me how much is left unknown to the mother prior to entering the OR.  Since it's so rarely anticipated, many mothers-to-be don't feel the need to understand what might happen if they need a c-section, often leading to disappointment and fear if their birth plan leads down that road.

If you are pregnant, I hope this list not only stirs up some good questions for you to consider, but I hope it helps shed some light on a very confusing topic that can feel too controversial to ask questions about (after all, if you are asking questions about c-sections, how serious can you be about planning a natural, drug-free birth?  Right?  Rubbish.)

Here we go.

1.  C-sections are the easy way out.

Let me dispel this myth in one sentence:  There is no easy way to get a human body out of a human body. 

I labored for 20 hours before my first c-section and it didn't make me any more of a hero than when I waited patiently for "my turn" this last birth.  They don't install a zipper to easily access the baby the next time - so, even if you've had a cesarean in the past and know what to expect, there is still a new scar and a long recovery to regain feeling and control of those stomach muscles that have just been cut through.

While it might take a shorter amount of time to get the baby out, a c-section (usually) has a much longer recovery with different hurdles to overcome than a vaginal delivery.  (Note, I didn't say harder, just different - every birth and every woman is different!)  But, I will tell you that having your body cut in half to remove a human is not easier than pushing a St. Bernard through a pinhole.  Neither are short of a miracle.

2.  You can't do skin-to-skin.

False.  I was the first person to hold my baby girl as soon as she was safely out of my body.  The doctor placed her directly on my bare chest and I immediately got to snuggle her up since my hands were free to move (even if I did have an IV in and a pulse monitor on my finger).

With my first two c-sections, my husband got to do skin-to-skin with the babies before I did.  The hospital we were at only offered it like that and we didn't know to ask any different at the time.  But, as I learned more, I knew to ask about it this last birth and was able to experience the "first hold" for myself (magic!)

Skin-to-skin is beautiful and healthy, and I would absolutely encourage it regardless of your birth plan.

3.  You don't bleed as much.

Sorry to say, this is not so.  In fact, during the c-section you lose much more blood than in a vaginal delivery.  But, many women believe that's where the bleeding stops - in the OR.  False.

While the placenta is removed in the surgery, there is still plenty of blood and tissue that needs to be shed after the birth.  Just as in a vaginal delivery, this makes its way out naturally and blesses you (ha) with a period that can last 6-8 weeks after the birth.  So, buy those Hummer-size pads for overnight protection and stock up - you're gonna need them no matter how this baby comes out.

4.  Resuming sex will be easy.

This is another myth that many women aren't asking enough questions about.  Look, clearly you were sexually active prior to the pregnancy, so why are you shy about asking your doctor about resuming sex after you've been given the green light (around 6 weeks, same as with a vaginal delivery).  Truth be told, your body has been through trauma so any activity (whether walking, kayaking, or having sex) is going to feel different at first.

Your hormones have crashed after birth and might be going haywire (which could cause night sweats, vaginal dryness, and other uncomfortable sensations) and if you are breastfeeding your skin is going to be super dry.  All this to say, tread lightly and patiently.

Your sex life will resume, but not without its setbacks.  Talk to your husband about your physical limitations and set your expectations accordingly.  Be liberal with lubrication, take a deep breath, and know that the more honest you are up front, the easier it will be to help get your intimacy back on track.  However painful it may be in the beginning, rest assured that your body is still healing and this frustrating phase is only temporary.

5.  C-sections aren't natural.

Name me one thing that is natural about experiencing a miracle?  The myth isn't that c-sections are natural, the myth is that childbirth in any form is.

By definition, a miracle is supernatural.  True, your body can't inform itself to be prepared for surgery.  No, labor may not precede every birth.  But, when you hold a new creature in your arms for the first time and witness their first breath and cries and feel your heart melt at the sight of them, there is no denying that all the preparation in the universe couldn't have come close to readying you for this moment.

No miracle is natural, so the shock and exhilaration of being part of one is going to feel extraordinary regardless of the means it took to experience it.

No doubt there is a lot of confusing information about childbirth floating around the internet.  It can be hard to wade through the fact and fiction and prepare yourself for what to really expect.  The best thing I can tell you is to try and learn from others' stories and do your best to learn the facts of multiple scenarios.  While a c-section might be the last thing on your mind, it also might be necessary when the time comes and the more information you are armed with up front, the less scary or disappointing it can be.

Don't let the joy of a miracle be stolen by the fear of the unknown.  Have more questions about c-sections?  Comment below or hit me up at emily@pardymama.com

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