Tuesday, May 12, 2015

expecting the unexpected: preparing for an emergency c-section

When I was pregnant, c-section was the last thing on my mind. I had plans, my friends. I knew exactly how this whole labor and delivery deal was going to go down. I was going to start having contractions. Husband and I would start timing them. We were going to stay home and labor until I got to 3-1-1 (3 min apart, 1 min long, 1 hour). We would book it to the hospital where I'd give birth vaginally (without an epidural) to my beautiful baby boy. It was gonna be awesome and by the book.

We hardly even used the term "c-section" during my pregnancy. Why would we? We had no reason to expect one. I was healthy, low-risk, and having a perfect pregnancy (well, besides the PUPPP rash). Baby was head down, and at my 36 week appointment I was already dilated to a 2 and 70% effaced. Things seemed perfect.

Now on the other end of my delivery, I wish we would have discussed c-section a bit more. I wish I would have prepared myself for one "just in case."

Here's what I recommend doing before your delivery date comes around.

1Discuss it. What will you do if you end up needing a c-section? Do you want your husband to stay in the room with you? Or would he get queasy, pass out, and knock over your surgeon (not recommended) at the sight of blood? Would you prefer if he didn't look? Or do you want him to watch the whole thing and give you a play-by-play because you've watched too many episodes of "Grey's Anatomy" and are into that kind of thing? Will your husband stay with you once the baby is born, or will he go with the baby to the nursery? Have a frank discussion about what you want if things end up going that way.

Luckily, Husband and I did once casually talk about whether he would stay with me or go with the baby if we ever had a c-section. He thought I'd want him to stay, and I wanted him to go with our little one. I was so glad that we had talked about that, because when I was actually on that operating table, I was too exhausted and too foggy with medication to even recognize that the crying sounds coming from the other side of the surgical cover were coming from our baby. (No lie: I actually asked what it was.) I definitely wouldn't have been able to convey those wishes to him. But since we'd talked about it, he knew what to do, and he stayed with our little one.

2Don't plan crazy events for the first month postpartum. I've heard of women planning to run 5ks 3 or 4 weeks after their babies are born. And if you have an uncomplicated vaginal delivery, that could totally be doable. But try to wait until after delivery to schedule those types of things. If you end up with an emergency c-section, those are plans you have to cancel and, in some cases, money you will have wasted. C-section recovery is tough. Make sure you remember that as a possibility when planning.

3Recognize that c-section is not the worst case scenario, and prepare yourself emotionally that it is a possibility. It was very difficult for me for the first while after delivery thinking that I had failed and that my birth experience was bad. I'd spent all that time during pregnancy reading about how my body was made to give birth, and yet somehow that hadn't happened for me. I wish I had given myself time to think about c-section and how it could be a beautiful, wonderful, empowering experience as well.

4Freezer meals. This is a good idea even if you don't have a c-section, but even better if you do. After a c-section, even just standing up or walking around is difficult and painful. I remember almost passing out trying to take a shower even two weeks postpartum. I could barely get dressed. Cooking dinner? Forget about it. I wish I would have taken the time to make freezer meals for us. It would have given us a bit more variety than the cold cereal in our cupboard did.

5Decide who you want to be at the birth carefully. Determine what would happen if you were to have a c-section. If your mother or sister or best friend is going to be there, talk to them about what you expect to happen in case of a c-section. Recognize that for the first 12 hours after birth, you will likely not be up to having guests (unless maybe you're superwoman--in which case, that's pretty awesome). I was exhausted and pumped so full of morphine for those first twelve hours I didn't know which way was up. I could barely talk to my husband, let alone entertain guests. I was grateful that people waited for me to give them the okay to come.

6Talk to your OB/midwife about c-section. Tell them your expectations. Do you plan to breastfeed? Tell them so! Make sure your baby is brought in to nurse as soon as possible to establish that breastfeeding relationship. Do you want delayed cord clamping? Make sure your doctor is aware of that! Delayed cord clamping is still acceptable in lots of c-section situations (as long as the baby doesn't require immediate medical attention once it's out). Talking to the doctor about their specific procedures for c-section will also help you feel more at ease if things take a turn for the unexpected in the delivery room.

7Do your research. I spent hours and hours reading up on vaginal birth during my pregnancy, but I never once looked up anything about cesareans. When my doctor determined that I needed a c-section, I was terrified. I knew nothing about c-section except that it would involve slicing me open! I wish I would have read up on the procedure and what I could expect. (I'll be writing a "What to Expect During a C-Section" post soon, so stay tuned!)

8Try some relaxation tracks. Because I was trying to do Hypnobabies for a natural vaginal delivery, I had some relaxation tricks up my sleeve. Lying there on that operating table staring up at the surgical lights made me very jittery and panicky. I was grateful that I'd taken the time to learn how to calm myself down and breathe deeply. Plus, it was nice to go to my happy place for a little while after all of those contractions and hours of pushing. (Bahamas, anyone?)

9Stock up on ice packs (or bags of frozen peas--whichever you prefer ;). Ice packs are great for vaginal deliveries as well, so these won't go to waste if you don't end up with a cesarean. Putting ice on my incision helped enormously with the pain. I had my husband run out to the store for some a few days after I got home from the hospital. I only wish I'd had them sooner!

10Focus on the end goal: your baby. It became easier for me to come to terms with my c-section when I reminded myself that how my baby got here didn't matter. All that mattered was that he got here healthy and alive and happy.

Any other c-section mamas out there? What would you add to this list?

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