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Deciding On A C-Section

My recent blog on the whole birth experience started me thinking back on the recovery part a bit more. These days, someone says to me, “Oh, you had a c-section? How was it?”

And I smile and say, “Oh, it wasn’t so bad, really. Not bad at all.”

And my husband looks at me as if to say, “Woman, are you CRAZY? Do you not REMEMBER???”

And the truth is, no, I don’t, fully. I’ve blocked the bad bits out.

But when I dig deep and force myself to go back through those memories, I have to admit, yes, it was bad. And at the same time, not so bad. C-sections are terrifying; you’re having major surgery and then are immediately expected to care for a newborn! And the whole recovery thing is often glossed over by the doctor; they’ll go into graphic detail on the fantastic method they use of closing your incision, but talking about recovery will simply say, “The first week will be bad.”

Bad as in how? Bad as in 80’s hairstyle-bad? Or bad as in repeatedly run over by a truck bad?

So I thought I’d pass on my experience with a c-section and hopefully, if you are planning to have one or have just had one, you’ll find a little sisterly solidarity. This series is in four parts, and so I don’t bore everyone who didn’t have a c-section with a week of incision talk, I’m publishing each entry over the next few Fridays. If you are about to have a c-section and can’t wait for me to take my sweet sassy time, email me and I’ll send you the whole shebang.

First off, let me say this: I know I said in my earlier post that we should not judge anyone else’s birth decisions. And I mean that. But let’s talk for a minute about the c-section thing. Statistics have c-sections being used for 29% of all American deliveries right now. That’s greater than one out of every four babies born by surgery! I remember hearing that statistic in my Lamaze class and looking around the room at the nine couples and thinking, “Wow! That means that two or three of those other women are going to have a c-section.” Never entered my mind it would be me. I also remember thinking that the statistic was probably lower at our New York hospital and there’d only be one or two women in our group with c-sections. The final total? Out of nine women, four of us had c-section. Three of them (mine was the exception) were emergency. So yes, it can happen to you, and yes, you should pay attention when they cover that part in Lamaze class.

Now, I obviously endorse the surgery since I had one myself. But if you are thinking about having a voluntary c-section, here are a few things I want you to consider –

To start with, I think some doctors are performing c-sections too frequently. I think they’d rather perform surgery than risk malpractice. Again, I am NOT SAYING that c-sections are frivolous. But I do think some OBs view them as an easy solution.

Second, please consider why you want a c-section. Remember, this is major surgery. If you are considering this because you’d prefer not to go through the pain of childbirth, I’d encourage you to consider an epidural instead. Every surgery carries risks with it: risks to the mother, and risks to the child.

I have had four surgeries in my life, including a very painful shoulder surgery where they operated on the actual bone. Ouch. The c-section was by far the most painful post-op. There’s a reason they put you on a morphine drip. And give you control of the dosage. Doped out of your mind is probably not the way you’d like to first meet your child. Or spend the next few days with him.

So if you’re thinking of this as a way to circumvent labor, remember that an episiotomy is a much more superficial operation than a c-section.

If, however, your doctor is recommending a c-section for health reasons, or you end up needing an emergency c-section, please know that you are in no way a worse mother for needing one. You will be able to breast-feed while on the pain medication, and you will be able to hold your child. Remember that the best birth is the one that results in a healthy mom and healthy child.

So bottom line – please don’t have a c-section if there’s no medical reason to need one. But if you do need one, know that you will be ok, you will get through it, you will recover, and you will barely remember it. I promise.

Next I’ll talk about why I scheduled one, and what you can expect on the big day. 


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