C-section coulda woulda shoulda
In this month’s Natural Mom column in the magazine, I described my experience giving birth via repeat c-section and how, even though it was my second time under the knife, it wasn’t any easier than the first; in fact, in some ways, it was more difficult.
I’m OK with that second cesarean (I’ve even managed to make peace with my first one), but there are still some things I would have done differently, had I known to do them differently.
I didn’t do a ton of research prior to my second cesarean because (1.) I was hoping and praying and counting on a VBAC and (2.) I thought, “I’ve done it before; I can do it again.”
I wish I’d done more research. I think I would have been less nervous in the operating room, and I would have asked my doctor for some things I didn’t know I could ask for.
In my research for the column, I came across a white paper on the International Cesearan Awareness Network website called “Family Centered Cesarean,” and I think it is a must-read for any woman preparing to undergo a c-section, whether it’s your first, second or fifth.
If I could go back and redo Ben’s birth, I would have asked my doctor to let me go into labor before doing the c-section. I wouldn’t necessarily labor with the intention of delivering vaginally; rather, I would labor to ensure a more successful breastfeeding experience.
Labor is what kick-starts your body’s milk production. When you skip it, production is delayed. My milk didn’t come in until seven days after Ben’s birth (three to four days is normal), and I had a low supply, which I think is due mostly to the c-section without labor.
I also would have requested a doula be prepped and ready to come into the operating room with me after John left with our son. Being alone while the doctors finished surgery was probably the scariest part of both of my c-sections. Hospital policy only allows one person in the operating room at a time, so there’s no reason someone else shouldn’t be allowed in the room after your partner leaves.
Some other things that ICAN suggests requesting, but which were allowed me automatically, is waiting to insert the catheter until after the spinal block has taken effect (I imagine the procedure would be highly uncomfortable without meds), not strapping your arms down (mine were strapped down during my first surgery but not my second. There’s no medical reason why your arms should be strapped down, so objecting against this shouldn’t be a problem), and allowing your birth partner to announce the sex of your baby, rather than the doctor. John was the one who told me Ben was a boy. We’d decided to keep the gender a surprise until his birthday, and after he was delivered, there was this silence — no one said anything. I realized our doctor was waiting for John to announce Ben’s sex, and I’m glad she did.
The best thing you can do to prepare yourself, whether it’s your first, second or 15th c-section, is to know and understand the procedure, have a plan and know what you want your experience to be like. Don’t be afraid to ask your doctor for some of the things mentioned above. Chances are, he or she won’t just cut you off with a hasty no. If your doc seems hesitant, discuss your wishes with her. Have a conversation. If she’s a good doctor, she’ll listen to you and be open to your requests. If she diminishes them in any way, makes you feel stupid for asking or tells you they’re impossible to fulfill, you might consider switching providers.