How a C-Section Can (Unexpectedly) Affect You

This post is part of an editorial series, “Healthy Mama,” brought to you by the Fort Worth Moms Blog and Texas Health Care Privia Medical Group North Texas, which includes Dr. Elisabeth Wagner, Dr. Mickey Hooper, Dr. Bea Kutzler, Dr. Doug Decker, Dr. Jamie Erwin, Dr. Kathleen Cammack, Dr. Emily Maas, Dr. Jennifer McLeland, Dr. Lindsay Breedlove, Dr. Martha Guerra, Dr. Danielle Burkett, Dr. Robert Zwernemann, Dr. Jay Herd, Dr. Ingrid Kohlmorgen, and Dr. Martin Read. We hope these pieces provide you with helpful information, encouragement, and answers as you make decisions for your own health.

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While pregnant with my first child, I spoke with so many friends. I asked questions to learn about breastfeeding, foods to avoid, and what to expect with motherhood. A few friends had had cesarean deliveries (C-Sections), but oddly it never came up in conversation. As soon as my doctor said, “We need to prep for a C-section,” I wished I had asked them.

My C-section wasn’t scheduled and, looking back, the surgery itself wasn’t bad. My anesthesiologist was great. I do wish he warned me about the shakes — a type of reaction to the spinal anesthesia. My upper body shivered as if at the North Pole. This lasted until after I was in recovery.

Surgery at HospitalBe Prepared

I wasn’t prepared. I knew nothing about pain meds I was given. They made me so groggy. I refused my second dose. I called my doctor to request something else. I remember the disbelief of the staff as I took ibuprofen.

Next was getting up and getting those compression devices off my legs. I didn’t know about those either. Because I couldn’t feel from the waist down, I had no idea when they were put on. The devices circulate blood, preventing blood clots.

Two days post-partum, we were home with a prescription and a belly band. The belly band is exactly what it sounds like. It was Velcro and went from my belly button down to the middle of my hips. There were also explicit instructions to hold my incision area while laughing or coughing, and not to drive or to walk up the steps for a few weeks.

After being home one week, I attempted to move the car myself. What a mistake! Who knew that abdominal muscles were used to drive? There was no strength to lift my foot a few inches for the brake. It took weeks before I no longer felt like my insides would fall out if I skipped.

I thought back to my birth plan and the talks I had with my OB/GYN. I was prepared for everything. Everything except a C-section. Never did I think or ask how C-section could impact me emotionally and physically.

My second pregnancy also ended with an emergency C-section. Until that moment, it hadn’t dawned on me how I subconsciously longed for a vaginal delivery — to use my own body, my own strength, to welcome my child to this world. With my third pregnancy, a VBAC wasn’t even an option. When the doctor told me, I suddenly felt deflated, as if I would never “give birth.” 

C-Section scar
Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

You Are a Strong Woman

We hear wonderful, amazing stories of childbirth. People ooh and ahh, they tell her how strong she is. No meds? “Wow, you are superwoman.” Thirty-six hours of labor? “Oh my goodness, how did you do that?”

I did not have that story, that experience. I never thought it would make me feel that less of a woman. You may feel your body has failed you. In emergency C-sections, everything can happen quickly, and you may feel as if you had no control. You may even feel anger towards the medical staff. After a C-section, you can’t hold your baby immediately (something that saddened me). How many of us dreamed of that moment? The physical pain that accompanies your caesarian can make it weeks or months before you can hold your child without cringing in pain.

In a follow-up appointment after my third C-section, my OB/GYN asked how I was doing. I gave the generic answer that I was healing well. She remembered my reaction from that first talk about this pregnancy. She gently told me that I was no less of a mom, that my scar was the first of many sacrifices of motherhood. In two of my pregnancies, the child was in distress. The choice was made to sacrifice my desires for the wellbeing of my sons. Isn’t that a huge part of motherhood — sacrifice?

My OB/GYN added that, even with planned C-sections, the way a child arrives doesn’t matter.

Do you hear that, ladies? It does not matter. I’m saying this to women who have had C-sections. To the friends of these women, to their mothers and sisters; watch not just what you say to this new mom, but how you say it. She has scars you cannot see, and they hurt just as bad.

Share Your Story

It will help you and others.

For those mommas who may be expecting and preparing for the birth of a child, include C-sections in your talks with medical professionals. Be more prepared than I was. It will help you to make the best decisions for your child and yourself. Research and know about VBACs and if you will be a candidate for one.

To my fellow C-section moms, your childbirth story is just as amazing as everyone else’s. Share it and take pride in it. If you struggle with recovery — whether it be physical or emotional — share that too. Whenever my boys are old enough, I will remind them of all that their momma had to endure to get them here, and that I literally have the wounds to show for it.

Michelle is a native of New York City. Before Fort Worth, she lived in Philadelphia - where she attended Temple University (go, Owls!) - and then in Chicago. Michelle is married to Carree, a retired Army veteran, who also works with FEMA providing disaster relief assistance. They are parents to rambunctious boys: Carree II (2012), Camden (2013), and Carter (2014). Prior to working as a special education teacher, Michelle worked in project management where she used the M.S. degree she earned from Northeastern University in Boston. Her days are now spent patching up holes in walls while avoiding stepping on cars/dinosaurs, and couponing for the weekly Wednesday circular.


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