After a long 39 weeks, I finally welcomed my baby girl into the world. For the sake of the transparency that I offer about topics I discuss, here’s what I have to say about childbirth, based on my experience.
For some reason I haven’t thoroughly researched, there’s discourse surrounding the way people give birth. I think generally speaking it doesn’t matter which way a person gives birth. It should be a choice made by the pregnant person. No one should be shamed for the way they give birth. It’s divisive for no reason.
There are benefits to both vaginal birth and c-sections. I wouldn’t say one is easier than the other; each one brings about its own risks and side effects. Some are shamed for choosing to have a c section as if it’s not a “real” birth. Some are shamed for using pain medication during a vaginal birth. I find all of the discourse arbitrary. All I advise is you research both options of delivery and the use of pain medication as thoroughly as you can. Talk to your doctor about your concerns, and make a decision from there.
To put it bluntly, childbirth isn’t easy. A pregnant body is able to change to carry a baby and deliver it, but that doesn’t make it easy or painless. Society downplays the dangers, sacrifices, and pain that come with pregnancy and childbirth because there’s a worthwhile, beautiful outcome. Your brain also releases chemicals to make you forgot just how awful the experience was. I was asked by some friends how I would rate the overall pregnancy and childbirth experience. I said and stand by the overall experience being a 2/10. Granted, my pregnancy encompassed special circumstances that added to its awfulness, but that was my reality. It wasn’t fun for me at all, yet shockingly, I would do it all again. I look at my daughter and would repeat it all again in a heartbeat.
If you don’t know by now, I’m not going to sugarcoat my thoughts or experience surrounding pregnancy and childbirth. If you’re looking for something to ease your mind surrounding this, don’t keep reading. Look somewhere else. I’m not saying this to be intimidating. Everyone’s experiences are different and there’s no point in psyching yourself out based on my personal, unique experience when you’re looking for comfort. Some of my experience may be relatable, some of it may not be.
To me, childbirth is a trauma regardless of the way you deliver your baby. Vaginal birth comes with hours of contractions and hours of pushing a six to ten pound baby out of your vagina. For the people who do it without pain medication, I salute you, cause that could not be me. C-sections are quicker and less painful in terms of the initial delivery, but have other side effects that don’t make it any less painful of a process.
I haven’t heard many people’s experiences with childbirth. Because of this, I will share mine. There shouldn’t be a mystery surrounding childbirth and pregnancy. I wholeheartedly believe it needs to be discussed with more authenticity. I think the reason it isn’t is so people don’t get turned off from the idea of having kids.
I got a C-section because of my autoimmune disease, but if I had a real choice, I would probably still choose a c-section. The idea of vaginal birth is too traumatizing to me. It scares me, especially when considering the perianal and vaginal tears that you can experience alongside of the delivery. The c-section I got was traumatic in a different way though, so you really just need to pick what’s best for you and your situation and know that the pain and discomfort is temporary. The end is an accomplishment and it will be worth it.
My c-section was scheduled. The date was chosen by my Obgyn based on my due date. I researched what I could to have some sort of understanding about what I was going to experience, but stopped when I realized it was making me more anxious. I couldn’t eat when I woke up and ended up going about eighteen hours without any food or water. I got to the hospital a couple hours earlier than the scheduled time. They gave me IVs, went through a bunch of health questions, discussed rules surrounding Covid, answered any of my questions, listened to the baby’s heartbeat, and took my vitals. They also monitored me for contractions, which I was having at the time and had been having for weeks prior. Some of them I couldn’t feel. They just weren’t occurring often enough or consistently for it to be labor. My c section got pushed back because of an emergency one. When the time came about three hours later, they walked me to the operating room.
It’s cold in there, and not just because they regulate the temperature for the baby’s entrance. Everything’s sterile, the room is bright, and the instruments for the surgery were extra shiny. There was also a pediatrician, my obgyn, another obgyn who was helping with the procedure, an anesthesiologist, and three nurses compacted with me in this overly bright room. Eventually my mom would join us. Luckily, everyone was pretty welcoming.
The first thing that happened was the epidural injection. You have to hunch your back for the anesthesiologist to find the right spot in your spine to inject. I felt a spark rush through my thigh that scared me and brought tears to my eyes. The rest of the injection didn’t hurt too much. Almost instantly my legs felt tingly. They lied me on the table and hooked me up to more IVs and a heart rate monitor. They told me I shouldn’t feel any pain but I would feel touching, tugging, and pulling.
They did their various tests to ensure I couldn’t feel pain. I also couldn’t feel the difference between hot or cold below my chest; the blocker really worked. As I’ve said in my previous post, I’ve suffered from nausea my whole pregnancy. I was nauseous waiting for the c-section partly because there was no food in my stomach. The epidural is known to make people nauseous. No matter how hard I tried I couldn’t move my body. I couldn’t hear anything but ringing out of one of my ears. When I told them, they assured me it wasn’t because of the epidural, that it was probably because of the environment. I realized I was having a little panic attack.
I tried to swallow the nausea but I couldn’t. I mustered enough strength to tell the anesthesiologist I was nauseous. He handed me a bag and I proceeded to throw up in it. But I couldn’t lift my head, so I was throwing up out of the side of my mouth. I barely made it into the bag. Some of it was on my gown and chin. As this is happening my mom got brought it. The procedure had already started. My hearing came back, I continued to throw up, and I tried to stay calm. My mom and the anesthesiologist checked in with me periodically to make sure I was okay.
At some point I was warned I would start to feel some tugging. I could feel it as they reached in to pull out my baby. Before I knew it I heard her crying. I felt like crying but because of the shock of the situation I couldn’t. My mom went to cut the umbilical cord and talk with the pediatrician who did a routine check up. The doctors finished closing me up. I was too nauseous to hold my daughter, but I got to see her up close once the check up was done. After the procedure, they moved me to the recovery room where I stayed with my daughter and my mom for a while. They continued tracking my vitals and those of my newborn. I still couldn’t feel my legs and I felt out of it from the procedure. I have no idea how long the procedure took, but I don’t think it was much longer than an hour.
Society tends to downplay the fact that a c-section is a surgery. After a c-section you’re instructed not to do anything pretty much. You can’t push or pull anything. You can’t lift anything heavier than your baby. You can’t do housework. You can’t drive. You can’t exercise. You can’t go up and down stairs too much. For me, it was hard to find a comfortable position to sleep in. I didn’t realize how much we use our abdominal muscles until it hurt to use them.
I spent three nights in the hospital. The epidural from the c-section didn’t wear off until the next day. I got two different pain medications every six hours. I had a urethral catheter put in during the procedure and when it was taken out the next day, I had to remind myself how to pee. I also had to convince my body to poop. It hurt to laugh, sneeze and cough, sit down, stand up, walk and do anything that required abdominal muscles. It’s been about two weeks since my surgery and it still hurts to do some of those things. My incision site is now almost fully healed.
Alongside the surgery recovery, is the recovery from childbirth and adjusting to a newborn in general. You start bleeding from your vagina again as your uterus begins to shrink. You can feel cramping and contractions still. The colostrum from your breasts transitions to milk. The hormones are still there and all over the place. My emotions were everywhere. The risk of postpartum depression exists. You learn more and more about your baby and engage in taking care of them day by day.
Officially it’ll take about 6 weeks to be fully recovered from the c section. I miss the self sufficiency and walking with ease, though moving and walking day by day slowly gets easier. I think the stigma around c-sections has contributed to my unrealistic expectation of a speedy recovery. I fell into the trap of not showing myself grace. I have gotten frustrated with the recovery process, forgetting that I had a surgery. I had a baby. It’s unrealistic for me to be back at one hundred percent so soon after those major life events. Childbirth is a whole spectacle no matter how you delivery. A lot goes into it and the recovery. And on top of that, often times, you have a new baby to adjust to and take care of. There’s a reason push gifts exist.