Your Complete C-Section Birth Guide: What to Expect
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*This is part two of my series on cesarean birth. If you missed part one, check out: 6 Tips for a Gentle Cesarean: Practical Advice for Achieving the Birth You Want.
As a mama who has had three c-sections, I know how overwhelming it can feel to face this type of surgery. If you’re reading this, chances are you have a scheduled cesarean coming up.
In this post, I will go over every little detail for what you can expect. (You’ve been warned! It’s long!) Being prepared can ease your mind and make the surgery a little less daunting.
Remember, however, this was just my experience. I’m sure every hospital works differently, so be sure to ask your doctor lots of questions. 🙂
For my third c-section, I chose a “gentle cesarean” to have the birth I had always dreamed of. I wanted to see my baby being born. I wanted to hold her right away. And it was everything I could have hoped for.
The day before the c-section birth
The day before my scheduled cesarean, we had an appointment to go to the hospital for a pre-op consultation. At this appointment, my husband and I checked in at Labor and Delivery.
I was given a hospital band to wear around my wrist and was sent to a triage room.
A nurse came in and checked my vitals and talked to me about what to expect during my pre-op. The anesthesiologist came in next and talked to me about what kinds of medications they would use during and after the surgery. We discussed allergies I had, and I gave him a copy of my birth plan to review.
The anesthesiologist and I also discussed what kind of anesthesia would be used. Since I was having a repeat c-section, he told me that they would do both an epidural anesthesia, and a spinal block. This way, if the surgery took a little longer due to scar tissue or other circumstance, they could add more medicine in the epidural if the spinal started to wear off.
Next, another nurse came in and took some blood. I’m not sure what they tested it for, but she told me they would have the results back in time for the surgery the next day.
Finally, another nurse came in to give me instructions for the next day. She told me what time to arrive and reminded me not to have anything to eat or drink after midnight. She also gave me a bottle of special soap to shower with, both that night and the morning of my surgery.
The big day!
I scheduled my surgery months in advance, simply because I wanted to be the first surgery of the day. I did NOT want to wait around all day, hungry and cranky.
Of course, the negative side to that is that we had to get up really early. Like before daylight.
I got up around 4am, showered with my special soap, put on a little makeup, and triple-checked my hospital bag. (Did we remember the birth plan? Got the camera? What am I forgetting?!)
When we arrived at the hospital, we went to labor and delivery and both got hospital bands for our wrists again. I was sent to the recovery room (where I would be after surgery as well) and given a gown and footie socks.
After changing, I was hooked up to monitors where the nurses could watch the baby’s heart rate and movements.
Then the waiting. And waiting. And waiting. Turns out there was an emergency and my surgery got bumped back almost two hours. I was already nervous, and this extra waiting only added to my stress.
My doctor came in to check on us and discuss my birth plan again. (Seriously, he was amazing. He even came in on his day off to do the surgery just for me.)
Finally the anesthesiologist that I had met with the day before came in and told me it was almost time to go. He answered my questions and gave my husband scrubs to put on.
They gave me a drink that was in a little plastic shot-glass type container. This is to neutralize any stomach acid. And let me tell you, it is GROSS. It tastes very sour, so your best bet is to hold your nose and chug it all at once.
Once I had downed the shot, I walked from the recovery room across the hall to the operating room.
They had me sit on the side of the operating table while the anesthesiologist got everything ready to do the spinal and epidural. The nurse stood in front of me and encouraged me to hunch over and lean on her while they inserted it. She talked to me to try to distract me from what was happening. But really I just wanted to zone out and try to relax as much as possible. The initial sting was sharp and painful, I’m not gonna lie.
Once it was in, they laid me back on the table and put the blue drape up so that I couldn’t see what was going on. This was a little awkward because I suddenly realized I was naked (when did I lose my hospital gown?) and someone was inserting my catheter. Then the buzzing sound of a shaver. (Insert red face. When will this be over??) They also put a blood pressure cuff on my arm and a pulse-thingie on my finger.
At this point, my doctor and lots of people entered the room. Everyone was rushing around, counting instruments and getting ready to begin. The anesthesiologist kept pinching my belly to make sure I couldn’t feel anything. The anesthesia had made me very cold and I was shivering. Thankfully, someone put warm blankets on my legs, which really helped.
Finally, they brought my husband in to sit beside me, and we were ready to go. Closing my eyes, I tried to relax. I tried not to listen to the noises of the surgery. I chatted with my husband some, but mostly I was quiet, anticipating the “big moment”. It wasn’t painful at all. I felt some pressure, but mostly I didn’t feel anything.
She is here!
My doctor peeked over the drape and let me know the big moment was about to happen. The anesthesiologist and another nurse stood on either side of me and got ready to lower the blue drape. (We had a clear drape on the other side of the blue one so that I could see her being born.) Finally the drape was lowered. Unfortunately, they lowered it right over my face and I missed the actual moment. Ugh. But, I quickly moved the drape over and then I saw her! She was crying and wet and cute and it was so surreal. I could see the cord still attached to her. It was an amazing thing to witness. My doctor let the cord continue pulsing for about 90 seconds, collected her cord blood for banking, cut the cord, and then handed her to a nurse who immediately brought her to me.
They placed her on my chest and I cried. She was so beautiful. She stopped crying and put her hand on my face. We stared at each other and in that moment, a beautiful bond blossomed that could never be broken.
I held her on my chest for a while, talking to her and kissing her face. Suddenly, I felt a warm liquid. “She peed on me!” I exclaimed. Everyone in the operating room laughed and cheered. A nurse took her from me to put her diaper on. She then handed her to my husband who had his turn to hold her.
At this point I was feeling impatient and ready for surgery to be over. Finally, it was finished. The team moved me from the operating table to a bed on wheels. They put the baby in a little isolette and my husband pushed her behind me as they wheeled me to the recovery room where we originally started.
The nurse helped me sit up and I was able to latch her right away. My husband and I watched her sweet little face and marveled at the perfection God had created.
After we bonded for a while, a pediatrician and a nurse came in to check her. They brought a little scale with them and weighed her. We were so surprised she only weighed 7 pounds 11 ounces. Then they took her footprints and changed her diaper. Once we had been in recovery for about an hour, we were both moved to our room.
Overall, my birth experience was amazing. It wasn’t perfect, but it was pretty darn close. I loved my birth and I am so thankful that everything went so smoothly.
Do you have any questions about a c-section birth?
PS – Check out part 3 in my series on cesareans! 9 Can’t-Miss Tips for C-Section Recovery: Lessons I’ve Learned After 3 Cesareans
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