I quickly realised on the operating table at 9:15 of the 25th of November minutes away from having a caesarean section that I knew very little about what was going to happen. We had skirted over it at my NCT classes because the tutor said that it was very unlikely any of us should have them so if we wanted any in detail information to contact her separately - I probably should've taken her up on that offer. C-sections are so common and can be both planned and unplanned but for me, I’ve found there's always been a bit of a stigma around them. The bad c-section experiences are talked about way more than the positive therefore, I was pretty nervous about what was going to happen after my 7lb 6oz baby arrived. Having now had a c-section (I found the whole experience amazing!), I can now reflect on my experience and here are some of the things I found to be untrue...
1. “You haven't really given birth.”
This is probably the biggest myth surrounding c-sections - it’s surprising I know but it couldn't be less true. When a baby is born, they’re born - you’ve given birth, Congratulations you fantastic woman!
Saying a c-section isn’t giving birth because you haven't done so vaginally, is like saying McDonald's isn’t a fast-food because it's not Dominoes Pizza. Albeit, these two types of birth are extremely different. More and more c-sections are happening every day and with the majority of these being unplanned, this means that the likelihood of an expectant mum having already been in labour for a number of hours with those god-awful contractions, just like a vaginal birth, is pretty high. Most of the time, it's simply that something has crept up in labour and it’s time to get that baby out.
2.“It’s harder to breastfeed after a c-section”
Breastfeeding is a journey. It’s harder for some than it is for others, absolutely but this isn't determined by how you gave birth. The medicines given during a c-section are fine for breastfeeding and everyone's milk tends to come in between two to six days after birth. What may be more difficult is the positioning of breastfeeding - exploring different angles to find the most comfortable and having someone pass the baby to you before you start breastfeeding so you don't need to stretch is definitely a good way to start a beautiful journey with your baby. (And if you can’t or don't fancy breastfeeding, that is ok too. Fed really is best!)
3. “Recovery will take forever and you won’t be able to hold your baby”
Having a C-section is major surgery and this is sometimes forgotten when you have a new pink wrinkly baby occupying all of your headspace and you really do need to rest ....but recovery is usually pretty quick and you will be able to hold your baby! As mentioned before, having someone pass you the baby so you don't use any muscles to lift and resting for a good chunk of the day in the early days will really help. Getting up and having a little walk to keep the body moving is good. After B was born, we needed to stay in the hospital for 5 days and I honestly think these 5 days did us the world of good. I didn't walk more than 500 steps a day and really kicked back and enjoying sniffing his head. After 2 weeks, I felt right as rain and itching to drive but was reminded that on the inside, I still needed more time to fully recover.
4. “Your scar will be big & visible”
Firstly, you’ve given birth to a wonderful little human, if the price to pay is a scar that will be so often hidden under my underwear/bikini then so be it! So many women are concerned about the scar that will reside on their abdomen. I was one of these! When the anaesthetist asked if I had any questions before they started my c-section, I requested a small and low down scar - what on earth was I thinking? As with most scars , they fade and gone are the days where every c-section cut is from hip to hip, the average is around 4 inches long. When I first inspected my scar, I was surprised at how short it was, the other half reminded me very quickly that had I had a natural birth, it would've come out of somewhere much smaller, true say! Eventually, you’ll be left with a white line that will forever remind you of how amazing you are to have carried a human for 10 months!
5. “Once a c-section, always a c-section”
Not true. Back in the 1960s, the c-section rate in the UK and amongst some other countries such as the US and Austria was around 5%. The majority of c-sections back then were because it was assumed labour was not progressing and that the baby was stuck - you know the usual “baby too big” or “pelvis too small” - if this was the case and the mother fell pregnant again, she would have another c-section. Thus, the c-section rate has risen. Thankfully, we’ve come along way when it comes to giving birth and having to have repeat c-sections isn't necessary. In fact, The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists say that around 60-80% of women who have c-sections go on to have VBACs’ (Vaginal birth after C-section). Sure, there are things that doctor and other medical professionals might want to check out first to ensure that it’s safe for you and your baby to go ahead with a VBAC but in most cases, its a green light!