If you’ve been through an emergency c-section, the thought of having to repeat the procedure may send you into a panic. You have every right to be scared – an emergency c-section can be traumatizing. But if you are spending a follow up pregnancy feeling stress and panic at the thought of the possibility of another surgical birth — I’m going to try to ease your mind a little.
A planned c-section is a completely different animal than an emergency one.
I spent my entire first pregnancy hell-bent on having a “natural” birth. I sort of single-handedly blame Ricki Lake for this obsession — as luck would have it The Business Of Being Born debuted right before I found out I was pregnant. It terrified me. The documentary paints surgical births in a terrifying light. It was just scene after scene of women crying, not being heard, and doctors admitting they’d never even attended a totally natural birth. I was like, “What?” I didn’t want to be one of those terrified women in a hospital gown. I wanted to be one of those smiling women pushing a baby out in her bathtub. I was determined!
Then my son’s heart rate plummeted at one of my weekly prenatal visits, I was rushed to the hospital, and what seemed like minutes later — he was born.
So, we’ll start there. One of the biggest differences between an emergency c-section and a scheduled one is the rushing. There’s no rushing in a scheduled procedure. With my first birth, it was all panic: a staff of doctors literally running me to the operating room. There was no small talk once we got in there either — just rushed directives. The necessity to quickly get the baby out made the prep rushed and the actual extricating of the baby from my body was an almost violent experience. I don’t know how else to describe it.
But the worst part of an emergency c-section is the complete upheaval of what you had planned. It’s shocking. Everyone will quickly remind you that “the health of the baby is what matters most.” Well, obviously. You’re still allowed to have feelings about a jarring surgical experience. And you will.
Because of the trauma of the emergency c-section, I was even more adamant about trying for a non-surgical birth the second time around. Unfortunately, my body does not like to go into labor. I was 42 weeks pregnant and I had to give up on the idea that I could have a vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC). I had a panic attack before I got to the hospital. I was so scared of repeating the experience I had with my first child. I mean, really — terrified.
When I got to the hospital, there was no rushing. Doctors and nurses were calmly entering and exiting my room. I was able to pick the time that the surgery would take place. The doctor, who knew my apprehension and fear, tried to prep me for what a different experience it would be and ease my mind. She was so right.
The actual surgery itself took twice as long, which may sound awful, but it wasn’t. Doctors are able to move slowly and gently when there isn’t a baby’s life on the line. There was joking and laughing and small talk. That may drive some women crazy – but I loved it. Yes, you are still undergoing major surgery; I’m not saying it was a walk in the park. But it was calm, bearable — a totally different experience than my first birth. When I talked to other friends who’ve had repeat c-sections, their stories echoed my experience. Many of them said their recovery was easier. I second that.
If you’ve been through an emergency c-section and you want a different experience, make sure you get a doctor who fully supports your VBAC wishes. But if for some reason the VBAC isn’t successful, please try not to throw yourself into a panic at the thought of another surgical birth. A scheduled c-section is a very different experience.