If your experience was anything like mine, your first C-section sucked. Being rushed into major surgery after enduring hours of physically exhausting labor is nobody’s idea of a good time. As the birth of my second child approached, I was seriously dreading going through all that again. However, I was pleasantly surprised.
Here is what I wish I knew going into my second C-section:
1. A C-Section Is Not as Traumatic the Second Time Around
Let’s just lay it out there: An emergency C-section isn’t the dream outcome when you go into labor. You’re tired, you’re scared, and you’re in pain. You feel completely out of control. A planned C-section is a different cup of tea altogether. I got a good night’s sleep, then I waltzed into the Labor and Delivery ward of my chosen hospital at a previously agreed upon time. The nurses were expecting me, and I had already filled out all my admissions paperwork. I was given IV fluids, which took about an hour. Then I was taken into the OR, where my OB was waiting for me. She was able to deliver my baby because we were able to plan ahead, which I appreciated.
The entire thing took maybe 20 minutes start to finish, and then I was wheeled into recovery with a beautiful baby girl. I don’t want to minimize the seriousness of a C-section; even when preplanned it is a major surgery, but it’s completely different when you are both physically and emotionally prepared going in.
2. Recovery Is Easier When You Know What to Expect
The first time around, a C-section is a walk into the unknown. You may push yourself too hard physically because you don’t understand your limitations. You don’t know how much pain is normal or when it will go away. The second time, you know what you’re getting into, and you are able to make much more thoughtful, informed decisions. You know what your incision should look like, you know how much it will hurt to get in and out of bed, and you know that it will all feel better sooner than you would expect. You also know that you shouldn’t pick up that case of bottled water by yourself, and you may need some help transferring clothes from the washer to the dryer the first couple of days.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s still going to hurt like hell. You may still find yourself Googling “Infected C-section Incisions” in the middle of the night. But, you also know that you can handle it. After all, you’ve done it before, which is good, because…
3. You Shouldn’t Expect as Much Help the Second Time Around
I think this holds true for all second babies, not just those born via C-section. The fact is, nobody makes as big of a deal over the second baby as they do the first. With my first pregnancy, I felt like the first woman to ever give birth in the entire world. He was the first baby in our family in over 20 years, so it was a huge deal for everyone in my life. My husband took six weeks off work and my mother moved in with us for a couple of weeks. Then, my best friend came and stayed another couple of weeks. I had all the help I could ever want. I didn’t have to worry about cooking, cleaning or laundry. All I had to do was nurse the baby and sleep when I could.
With my second, I was on my own chasing a preschooler, caring for a newborn, and recovering from major surgery within two weeks. It sounds terrifying, but it was doable. Although I did think longingly of the days after my first was born.
4. Your Baby May Have Some Problems in the First Days That Wouldn’t Occur With a Vaginal Delivery
We had a little scare when our baby was a few hours old. She started coughing/vomiting up clear fluid to the point where she was having trouble breathing. Turns out, her stomach and lungs were full of amniotic fluid. The nurse suctioned her out, and she spent a couple of hours in the nursery so that the nurses could observe her most closely. This is fairly common among scheduled C-section babies when the mother doesn’t experience any labor. Usually, uterine contractions squeeze some of the fluid out of the baby while they are still in the womb. When there are no strong uterine contractions, babies are born with the fluid still inside them. It’s not serious, but it can be scary if you’re not expecting it.
5. A Repeat C-Section May Not Be Your Only Option
For me, a second C-section was the right choice. However, if you don’t feel a repeat C-section is right for you and your doctor agrees, there could be other options. Vaginal birth after C-section (VBAC) is growing in popularity. If you are interested, you and your doctor should discuss if you are a good candidate.
A C-section definitely wasn’t in my birth plan the first time around, but I made it through with a healthy baby, who probably would not have been here otherwise. While I definitely wasn’t looking forward to repeating the experience, the second time was much easier, both physically and emotionally. Being rested going in and knowing what to expect physically made a huge difference in my recovery. Major surgery is never fun, but with this one, at least you have a beautiful baby in your arms when it’s all over. And that makes it totally worth it.