I was never one of those people who dreamed about being pregnant. You know that type — the women who take pictures every week with the fruit that’s the size of their growing fetus, or who write love letters on Instagram to the wriggly baby inside of them before it’s ever born. More power to them … but that’s not me. In fact, the whole experience of being pregnant was bizarre and confusing — a mixture of concern at the alien-like movement in my belly and yet awe at the complexity of everything that needs to happen (and typically manages to happen!) to produce a healthy child.
All this to say, when I became pregnant I did not have a flowery birth plan. My birth plan was simple: keep everyone healthy and get this baby out. Keeping pain to a minimum was also on my radar — a drug-free birth never sounded like much fun.
Because of this outlook, I was not heartbroken (like many women are) when I learned I would need a C-section with my first child. In fact, I ended up with a C-section for both of my kids, one due to a complete (and stubborn) placenta previa that did not move, and the other for gestational diabetes which is a risk factor for failed trial of labor after Cesarean. After two planned and frankly awesome surgical birth experiences, I felt compelled to encourage other women who may be staring down this path with horror and dread. I loved my C-sections, and you can too!
(Now, I must stop here and provide a caveat. I know that C-sections are major surgery. I know that they are performed far more often than is medically necessary, statistically. I know they come with risks that are generally greater than those associated with vaginal births. Moms for whom this is their only or safest option for delivery don’t need to be reminded of these things. Trust me, THEY KNOW. What they need is encouragement that they, too, can love their birth.)
So what makes a scheduled C-section so awesome? Let me count the ways…
1. You can make a plan.
I’m a type-A person. I love a good to-do list, an instruction manual, a set of checkboxes for reaching a goal. I LOVED knowing, with some certainty, when my babies would arrive. I was comforted that my family could book flights in advance and I knew they wouldn’t miss it. I orchestrated my work schedule and maternity leave appropriately. I didn’t have to hastily pack a hospital bag while leaving a trail of fluid all over my house. I could make plans without (much) fear that this baby could arrive any minute. It was a planner’s dream!
2. You can be well-rested, well-fed, and relatively clean.
My husband and I went on a date the night before both C-sections. We ate steak and baked potatoes and talked about the past and the future. We reminisced and dreamed. It was lovely having a “last supper” before everything changed. I also ate a midnight snack (right before the no-food-for-8-hours deadline), and took a morning shower before heading to the hospital. Did I need to look great for those post-birth photos? No. But did I? Heck yes! I had clean hair and rested eyes from a full night’s sleep the night before. It might sound silly, but looking like myself in those early hours sure helped me feel a bit more comfortable when everything else was scary and new.
3. It’s quick and easy.
A planned, uncomplicated C-section takes about 45 minutes. My second baby was born just 18 minutes after the procedure started. I was back in recovery and texting photos within an hour of being wheeled in. The procedure itself is straightforward (from a patient perspective)– get admitted, receive IV fluids and any necessary medications, have the spinal block placed (which hurts less than getting the IV, truly!), and then lie there while the team does their thing.
You can choose to see the delivery if they offer a clear drape, or you can zone out and talk to your partner or the medical team about your favorite dishes at the Cheesecake Factory (I did both). Another bonus is that you can ensure your trusted OB is the one there for the birth; because there’s no emergency, the surgery can feel relational, light, and joyful for you.
4. They get a peek at your insides.
All right, maybe this is just me, but I loved knowing that a team of trained doctors got to see what’s going on in my body and give it an all-clear. I have a family history of cancer on both sides, including reproductive and hormone-fed cancers, and it’s comforting to know that my ovaries look great and that my uterus has been inspected. As a worrier by nature, this little piece of peace has been important for me.
5. You don’t have to get up to pee.
To be honest, one of the things I was most worried about before my first C-section was having a Foley catheter. It seemed like it would be uncomfortable and invasive, and potentially painful to put in, leave in or take out. Fear not! The catheter is inserted after the spinal block so it’s not painful to put in, and I couldn’t feel it at all once placed. What I did feel was relief. After 9 months of constantly feeling the urge, it was such a nice change of pace to have 24-hours of freedom from the bathroom. This meant that I didn’t have to worry about my bladder waking me up in those rare moments that I got some sleep that first day. When you’re working around a hungry baby, medication schedules, vital sign checks, family visitors and more, eliminating (pun intended) the need to pee is a gift.
6. Everyone has to do things for you.
I like to be busy, and I generally don’t do well sitting around. I like to be in control! But here’s the thing: a C-section forces you to sit back and accept help from those around you. You’ll leave the hospital with a list of things you can’t do, and there will certainly be plenty of things you wouldn’t want to do even if you could. You’re recovering from surgery! While you may not be able to bend over to change diapers or lift the car seat into the car (definitely DO NOT lift the car seat!), you can lay back and snuggle with your brand new baby. And that’s exactly what we should all do after birth. The limitations after a C-section can protect you from trying to do too much in those early, precious days. Let them!
These are just a few reasons why I loved my birth experiences. I know, however, that a C-section is not, and shouldn’t be, for everyone. And yes, the recovery can be difficult. But if you do find yourself with a surgical birth on the calendar, please know that it’s not all bad.
At the very least, you’ll have your sweet baby in your arms safely, and that alone was enough for me.