When we took the childbirth preparation class before my
oldest son was born in 2009, my husband and I skipped the class where they
showed the Cesarean delivery. I was quite sure I would go into labor naturally
and deliver vaginally, preferably without drugs. I had a birth plan, as all the
pregnancy books recommended, and a C-section wasn't in my plan. But, as the
Yiddish saying goes, "Man plans and God laughs." Or in this case, "... pregnant
woman laughs and Mother Nature sighs heavily."
My birth plan went out the window when my blood pressure
started creeping dangerously high and my doctor insisted on inducing me. I had
heard horror stories about Pitocin inductions, but I had also heard success
stories. I was hoping to be in the latter category. Once again, that hope went
out the window.
The Pitocin drip was started at 6 a.m. and 12 hours later I
had dilated exactly one centimeter. I was in agony, I was scared and I was
exhausted so, with the support of my doctor, husband, best friend, doula and
nurse, I agreed to a C-section even though I had no idea what to expect. The
experience was ... "traumatic" is a good word. The end result was a beautiful baby
boy and a mother who was physically and emotionally depleted.
When my second son was born in 2011, I wanted to attempt a
VBAC (vaginal birth after Cesarean) and my obstetrician was agreeable, provided
the baby wasn't larger than 9 pounds. Once again, my plan went out the
window when the baby measured 10 pounds at my 38-week appointment. We
scheduled the C-section and I delivered a 10-pound, 15-ounce baby about 90 minutes after I arrived at the hospital. I was calm and as rested as any
full-term pregnant woman with a toddler can be. It was a completely different
experience from my first time.
Having experienced two Cesarean births under very different
circumstances, let me share a few tips:
1. Be prepared for anything
Once things took a detour from my one-and-only plan, I wasn't emotionally or physically prepared.
Yes, write a birth plan. Yes, plan
for a vaginal, drug-free birth. But watch the C-section video. Read up on what
is involved in an induction. Anticipate the different scenarios, even if it's
only to run them through your mind and have a sense of how you will react if
your doctor tells you after 12 hours that you're only 1 centimeter dilated. I
could have kept going and maybe the induction would have been successful, but
once things took a detour from my one-and-only plan, I wasn't emotionally or
2. If your obstetrician recommends a Cesarean section, he
probably has a good reason
There are statistics that suggest C-sections are
unnecessary, so this is where it's important that you trust your doctor. If you
doctor is recommending induction or a C-section, do research and ask questions.
In the end, you have to do what is best for you and your baby. And a planned
C-section is a little easier (physically and emotionally) than one that comes
after a failed induction.
3. If you've never had surgery before, the preparation can be
I'd never had surgery prior to my first Cesarean and I didn't know what
to expect. (Again, I should have watched the childbirth video!) There was the
spinal block, which involved staying very, very still while a needle was
inserted to numb me. Then there was the numbness, which meant I couldn't feel
anything from the chest down. That was a terrifying experience the first time,
but I knew what to expect the second time around. Then there was the awkward,
embarrassing experience of being moved around, basically naked, while they
readied me for surgery. I couldn't move, so it was a few mortifying moments of
feeling like a rag doll under bright lights.
There is nothing unnatural about the way any child is born, whether it's vaginally, surgically, with drugs, without drugs, at home, in a hospital or some other variation.
4. When they say, "You won't feel anything," they lie
they didn't exactly lie—I definitely didn't feel anything on the outside,
thankfully. But after the incision was made and the doctor was delivering the
baby, I felt it. It is the most bizarre sensation in the world because it feels
like someone is tugging on the inside of your body. Which they are. But of
course, I couldn't see that so it was just a very weird, very "Alien"-like
5. You will hear your baby before you see him
surgical drape between me and what was going on down below, I didn't get to see
the birth. I wish I had (yes, really), but it wasn't an option. And so once all
that internal tugging was done and my doctor delivered the baby, I heard his
first cry through that wall of blue between us. It was, to be honest, one of
the most profound moments of my life. In both the first and second births, that
was the moment that transcended everything that came before.
6. You might not be able to hold your baby immediately
In my case,
they cleaned my babies up a little, wrapped them in blankets and brought them
around for me to see. But I was still on the operating table being stitched up
and then being monitored in recovery when they whisked the baby off for his
first bath and vitals. This was when my husband left me to be with the baby (at
my insistence), and I was alone for awhile. That was probably the hardest part
of the entire experience for me. After the trauma of a failed induction, I
was pretty shook up when it happened the first time. But I knew what to expect
the second time and just rolled with it. My best friend took over baby-watch
duty while my husband ran back and forth between recovery and the nursery. Soon
enough, I was in a room on the maternity ward, holding my son.
7. Take the drugs they offer you after you leave the hospital
Seriously. Take them. I didn't take them the first time, I opted for Motrin
instead and suffered through. Good grief, what was wrong with me? Don't be a
hero. If you need pain meds, take them. I took them the second time and
promptly had an allergic reaction, but at least I learned my lesson the first
time around. Take the drugs if you need them! (It bears repeating.)
8. Whatever happens, however your baby is born, it is OK
never thought much about the term "natural childbirth" before I had kids, but
now I find it irritating. There is nothing unnatural about the way any child is
born, whether it's vaginally, surgically, with drugs, without drugs, at home,
in a hospital or some other variation. Remember that should things not go
according to plan.