I have been very vocal about the bad experience I had with my first birth and my huge fear of having a repeat c-section. I spent my entire second pregnancy trying my hardest to put myself in an optimal position to have a VBAC. It still wasn't in the cards. At 42 weeks pregnant, I had to have another c-section because my adorable baby girl still showed no indication that she would be vacating the premises any time soon -- and it wasn't that bad.
I was having very mild contractions but had not dilated at all. All the weeks I spent doing everything in my power to make this baby come were for nothing. I could have just kicked my feet up and ate Ben and Jerry's all day instead of shuttling back and forth to chiropractic appointments, doing all sorts of new-age exercises and following every old wives tale in the book. Oh well. You can't say I didn't try.
I'm making light of the whole situation because it is over, but I was seriously terrified of having a repeat c-section. Terrified. Having been through one already, it was even worse. I imagined that my experience would be the same: the actual surgery itself was rushed and frightening. The recovery was awful. Thinking about all of these things made me approach this birth with a dread that I cannot even explain. Also throw in the fact that I was convinced I would die on the operating table and leave my children motherless.
If sheer will alone could have made this baby come out, I would have held her in my arms much sooner. But eventually, I had to face the fact that my body was not cooperating and surrender to the operating room. My sister, husband and I packed a bag and drove to the hospital. They put me on monitors immediately. We saw that the baby was doing fine and had a strong heartbeat. One troubling thing that we did notice was that even though I was only having very small, erratic contractions the baby was not responding to them well. She seemed to go into a little bit of distress every time one of these contractions happened. This worried the doctors a little, because they weren't confident that she would actually be able to tolerate the real deal. At that point, I had already surrendered to the reality of the repeat c-section, so I wasn't even going to attempt a trial of labor if the baby wasn't going to be able to tolerate it.
My doctor calmly addressed my fears and explained how an emergency c-section is very different from one that is planned. There would be no rushing, no panicking doctors, no run to the operating room. I would be slowly prepped for a surgery that would take much longer than the first. It would be a calmer experience.
I was skeptical.
Well, since it wasn't an emergency, my sister and husband were able to be with me for the entire prep - except for the few minutes it took to administer the spinal that would render me unable to feel the procedure. I'm not going to lie. It was still clinical and scary. I still felt the tug of the surgeon's hands and my body still responded to the spinal by shaking pretty violently after the surgery. But the general feeling in the operating room was calm. It was a room full of female nurses and surgeons. They were talking me through the procedure and making little jokes that made me feel better. I wasn't comfortable, but I wasn't panicked either. I noticed that the surgery took a lot longer and was a lot less jarring than the first time around. I'm not going to say that it was a pleasant experience, but it wasn't terrifying at all.
My recovery has been much smoother. There are some factors that I believe are responsible for this. The nurses got me up and walking about 14 hours after the surgery. It was hard and painful, but I really believe it ultimately made my healing a lot easier. Get up as soon as you can. You'll be thankful you did. I also brought my own fancy cotton nightgown to the hospital and made sure to take a shower rather quickly. You'd be surprised how much it helps to have washed hair and not be wearing a hospital gown.
Your digestion will be a mess and they will offer you a suppository as a "last resort." Take the damn thing. The only excruciating pain I experienced was from some incredible gas pains. I lived with these pains for a few days and finally gave into the suppository. The pain was gone in minutes. I have no idea why they offer this as a "last resort." Probably because having someone shove something up your butt after having major surgery isn't very glamorous. Whatever.
Become familiar with the "pain scale" because someone will be asking you where you are on it in order to administer your drugs. From my experience, a "five" makes the drugs come. You want the drugs to come - trust me. If responding "five" doesn't make the drugs come, I suggest you just respond, "What fucking number do I have to say to make the drugs come? That one."
I'm not claiming to know what everyone's experience will be. Maybe some people have had repeat c-sections that were horrific. Mine wasn't. I didn't get my VBAC, but my repeat c-section wasn't the same, horrible experience that my emergency c-section was.
And I went home with a gorgeous nine pound 10 ounce baby girl named Frankie. That was pretty awesome too.
(photo: ruigsantos / Shutterstock)