When people ask me about having my son, my story always seems to invoke sentiments of pity when I talk about having my c-section. It’s kind of funny to me, because before I gave birth (and yes, having a c-section is ‘giving birth’), I really didn’t care how it happened. My objective from the start was (a la Mad Max): “two will enter, three will leave”. However that was going to happen was pretty much fine for me. I’d also heard horror stories from my friends from their births – and it really didn’t seem to matter if they had a natural, vaginal or c-section birth. Frankly I had no expectations.
But let’s give c-sections a fair shake here. There’s actually loads of reasons why they’re a great option if that’s the route you end up on. I kind of loved mine.
1. Access to Hospital Resources
I got to stay in the hospital for five days. I know people don’t usually brag about length in the hospital, but it was SO helpful. I had access to the nursery so that we could get some sleep while the nurses rocked our fussy baby (rooming in is a crock of shit when you’ve been awake for 36 hours straight). We had meals provided to us by the hospital cafeteria. I had access to pediatricians and doctors for whatever questions arose. More importantly – I had nearly 24 hour access to lactation consultants. I think we saw three of them several times a day. When we started to have latch issues, they came up with creative solutions to ensure that the little guy was still getting breast milk and I was still expressing as we worked to solve the problem. That kept the little guy fed which allowed us to get three hour stretches to catch up on our sleep, while we strategized how to fix the latch issue. I believe that our breastfeeding experience was successful BECAUSE I had a c-section.
2. The recovery is not that bad
The recovery was fine. I was armed with some terrific percoset, anti-gas pills (you get gas bubbles up in your chest from the surgery) and strong ibuprofen. To be honest, I didn’t even use half of it. There was some pain in the initial first couple of days, but I recovered fairly quickly. I barely have a scar! I had a post-op appointment with my OBGYN two weeks after the c-section, which was an extra opportunity to chat with my doc about any questions I had about the postpartum period. I was even able to take the stairs and go for short walks within a day or so of getting home from the hospital.
I interviewed a couple of women at my OBGYN clinic who said that they had done both – a c-section and a vaginal delivery. Interestingly enough, while they did say that the recovery is longer for a c-section, they also caveated it with the observation that each route had it’s problems. Neither was better.
However, I will state that everyone experiences recoveries differently. I’m just presenting the experience of having a fairly breezy recovery.
3. Your bond with your baby will be fine if you have a c-section
Vaginal birth is not required to bond with your baby. My friends who had c-sections didn’t feel as if their bond was impaired because they didn’t do the baby mud run (that’s my nickname for that thing where they put the messy baby on your chest and let it to crawl up to your nipples to kick-off the bonding/breastfeeding process). They didn’t do skin-to-skin right away. But guess what? They all have beautiful bonds with their babies. We place so much emphasis on how critical those first moments are – but we’re not ducks. Our babies don’t imprint on the first nurse/mom/doctor that they see. If that was true, my baby would have bonded with the 25 year old med student with the cool Bryce Harper haircut since he was standing next to my OBGYN as she pulled my baby out of me.
My bond with my son ended up taking eight months to form…not because I had a c-section, but because I had perinatal depression. Studies suggest that method of delivery does NOT create a higher likelihood of getting perinatal depression. Plus, the fact that I had prenatal depression made me more likely to have postpartum depression…and the prenatal depression was clearly not linked to delivery method. Given that my depression eased up substantially after stopping breastfeeding, this suggests other causal factors.
So even if I had done all of that bonding crap that hospitals gush about, it wouldn’t even have happened because I had a chemical imbalance. But guess what? Now I’ve got a terrific bond with my son and it’s going to continue to grow because…we’re a family. We’re going to go on adventures and help him learn about the world together. It’s the 18 years that he’s going to spend living with us that’s going to form our bond, people.
4. You don’t pee when you sneeze/laugh
I learned about this for the first time when I was 30, from “Orange is the new Black”. Why do we keep this a secret?
Then as I was pregnant, my mom and other mothers warned me that ‘things’ would be forever changed after my delivery. When I ended up having a c-section though, I was super psyched that everything remained (mostly) intact. I don’t pee when I sneeze. I don’t pee when I laugh. My lady parts were not destroyed. People ask me if I would try for a VBAC if we end up having a second kid and frankly my response is knee-slapping laughter. Why tear up two exits when I can stick with just one? Why destroy my pelvic floor? Why would I want to pee a little when I sneeze? Nope, I’d like to keep all of that perfectly intact.
5. At the end of the day, you’re in it for the “kid” experience
The birth experience is a very small part of the kid experience. You do the birth thing for two or three days. You have the kid for a lifetime. Yes, yes, we can talk about how all these women have been doing this for thousands of years. For some women it’s a totally empowering experience and that’s awesome. But the objective isn’t to have a perfect birth experience…it’s to extract your baby out of your womb and into your arms. Once you’ve got that sweet little babe in your arms, does it really matter?
Don’t mistake me here. I’m not saying this to make people feel bad if they had a traumatic experience. Birth can be scary, unpredictable and painful. It’s OK if you felt cheated of the perfect experience. It’s OK if you have PTSD from your birthing experience.
But I am trying to soften the regret or trauma of not experiencing birth the way you dreamed of it. Hold onto the fact that the real prize is not being able to say you labored for 50 hours without ‘medical intervention’. The real prize is the little squalling boy or girl that enters your life…and forever changes it in all the best ways.
So if you find yourself heading toward a c-section, you’re not to be pitied, you’re just another mother who is getting shit done. You carried and had a flipping baby. That’s pretty amazing.