Preparing for a Positive Cesarean Birth
For a lot of women having a cesarean birth is extremely daunting and scary. Being awake during a major abdominal surgery is definitely anxiety provoking not to mention the fear of the spinal block, recovery and all the horror stories people like to tell you about what can go wrong or how hard their recovery was.
The fact is that yes, things can go wrong & the recovery hurts but things can certainly still go wrong in a vaginal birth and recovery from a vaginal birth can also be hard.
Before my first c-section I was so so fearful of the recovery - I thought I wouldn’t be able to walk or move or carry my own baby but to be honest it was painful for the first couple of days but I feel like it was no where near what I had worked up in mind plus I had a beautiful little girl to bond with, love and feed to help keep me distracted.
For some reason a lot of women also feel a huge sense of failure or guilt about having to give birth via cesarean section. Personally, I know and I am 100% proud and comfortable with my decision as it feels best and safest for me. If you’re feeling like a failure please try to let go of those feelings and remember that the most important thing is the healthy and safe delivery of your precious baby and the health & safety of BOTH of you. Holding on to these feeling of guilt or failure is not going to serve any one and will only make you more anxious or low. If you’re seriously struggling I suggest speaking to a therapist about how you can move past these feelings.
Before I start I also just want to share with you that my first cesarean was the most beautiful experience. I walked in to that surgery full of fear of the unknown but once I was in there I felt so calm and surrounded my professionals who helped bring my daughter safely into my arms. Nothing ever compares to meeting your baby for the first time and I truly believe it doesn’t matter how that happens.
In this article I want to share with you some ways I have been preparing for a positive experience again this time round. It may be a long piece so please stick around as there is a lot to cover!
STOP JUSTIFYING YOURSELF TO OTHERS.
Over and over again I see and hear women who are having planned c-sections feeling the need to justify themselves to others. YOU DO NOT NEED TO! This it your baby and your birth, no one else’s. The more we continually justify ourselves over and over again the more we are surrounded by the guilt or feelings of failure. This is the choice or the situation you have been given to birth your baby safely so be proud of it and work with it.
OWN YOUR BIRTH MAMA!
FOCUS ON WHAT YOU CAN CONTROL.
Women often feel like they have had their control taken away when faced with a c-section birth. So instead of focusing on what you can’t control try to spend time focusing on things that you can control.
Write a birth plan of how you would like the day to go but try not to get too worried about everything having to go an exact way.
Ask your OB about delayed cord clamping, skin to skin time and any other things you wish for your first moments with your new baby.
Ask if you’re allowed a birth photographer - some hospitals wont allow one in the operating theater where as some will. If you’re not allowed a photographer ask if you can take your camera, often the midwives will take some snaps for you of your first moments.
Ask about playing your own music in the room.
Request that the room is silent when your baby is born so you can hear their first cry.
If you don’t know the sex of your baby you can ask they don’t announce it but you can wait to see for yourself or your partner can announce.
If you’re able to and not too fearful ask to have the curtain lowered as they pull your baby out so you can see your baby being born.
Ask to be told what is happening step by step if you wish or ask them to not tell you if it makes you more anxious.
Just remind yourself that no birth really goes to plan any way and control can be taken away no matter what way you birth.
POSITIVE SELF TALK
This is something you can do in the lead up to the day. When ever you start to have negative thoughts surrounding the surgery or birth remove them by thinking about the positives of what you’re going to receive - your beautiful baby.
Replace your fearful thoughts with mantras and positive affirmations and journal your thoughts and feelings if you need to.
Around your house place little reminders and post it notes with positive affirmations about your birth. Put them on your mirror, on your desk or fridge so you can see them often. Even set one as the back ground on your phone.
Here’s a few I like:
”My body is capable and strong”
“ I am ready to meet my baby.”
“My mind, my body and my home are ready for my baby.”
“Me and baby are safe”
“The way I birth does not matter, we have a whole life together.”
Something that I found extremely helpful through my first c-section was positive affirmations. Try to find 2-3 short ones that you can memorise to repeat during the procedure. I found this particularly helpful when having the spinal and also the time between them cutting you open and pulling out your baby.
Here’s some I will be taking in with me:
“This to shall pass.”
“ Every moment here is a moment closer to meeting my baby. ”
“ No rain, no flowers.”
“Me and my baby are safe.”
Something that may help you in your heightened state of fear or anxiety before, during or after your surgery is some breathing techniques. Focusing on the breath and breathing deeply and fully can help to lower the heart rate and help you to think more rationally and clearer.
Here is one to try:
THE CALMING BREATH / EXHALING LONGER THAN YOU INHALE TECHNIQUE
WHEN: This one can also be used in times of heightened anxiety or panic but is one I find particularly good to practice every day to set you up for the day in a calm way. I usually practice it at the end of my morning meditation for a few minutes. It is a good one to use when you have noticed you have been feeling anxious for an extended period of time or if your heart feels like its racing.
Place one hand on your chest and on your upper belly.
Breathe in deeply through the nose for 5 seconds ensuring your stomach expands.
Exhale through the mouth completely for 7 seconds.
Ensure that your exhale is at least 2 seconds longer than your inhale to calm the nervous system. If you cannot manage to exhale for 7 seconds try 3 seconds inhale 5 exhale or 4 and 6 etc until you can work up higher and deeper. The longer the breath the calmer you will feel yourself becoming.
Check out this blog for more breathing techniques I love and use.
DON’T LISTEN TO OTHERS HORROR STORIES
For some reason everyone is quick to tell you about their own or their friends, sisters, mothers or third removed cousins horror stories surrounding birth. I don’t think they do it on purpose but the stories cause fear and a negative feeling surrounding your birth. If someone starts to tell you a negative/bad story about a c-section birth ask them to kindly stop and tell them you don’t wish to hear about it. If you have friends or know people with positive stories take those on board but block out the negative ones as they are totally unnecessary for you.
TURN THE IDEA OF CONTROL AROUND
As I previously mentioned a lot of women feel like they have lost control by having to have a cesarean birth but there is another way of looking at it and that is that having a scheduled c-section means you have a set day, time and location for your birth. You can plan and organise your life around that special day. Of course you never know what may happen and you could end up in labor earlier than expected but I really like that I have a date and time that I’m aiming for and can organise everything around that, I’m not just waiting around for this unknown time - it gives me a sense of control.
The other thing is that because it is a surgical procedure there is a set plan of how things will go, how long it will take and you’ll be surrounded by a team of medical professionals who know exactly what to do as they do this everyday. Of course once again things can still go wrong but I love knowing I’m in the very safe and capable hands of my OB.
STAY ACTIVE AND GET SOME AIR/SUN
The days leading up to your birth try to get outdoors for a short walk to clear your mind, get some fresh air and some vitamin D. Its amazing what fresh air and sunlight can do for your mood. Pop in your earphones and listen to your favorite calming music or your favorite podcast to take your mind off things.
PLANNED C-SECTION VS EMERGENCY C-SECTION
A lot of the women I have spoken to over the last few years who have had bad or traumatic experiences in their c-section usually had to have an emergency one after laboring or when something went wrong. From what I gather the difference between not only the procedure and environment in a planned c-section vs an emergency one is huge so is your recovery. For most women who end up with an emergency c-section they have gone through the exhausting process of labor then had to have emergency major surgery which will have an impact on your bodies ability to recover. If you’re here reading this I’m guessing you’re having a planned one so the situation and atmosphere will be much calmer and way more in control, you most probably wont labor first and there is more of a plan of how things will go. Inside the theater room it will be calm, there will be doctors chatting to you and each other and they will make you feel comfortable and calm.
PREPARING FOR THE BIG DAY:
Some things to do to before the big day is here - these may also help to keep your mind off the surgery part:
Ask lots questions. If you have any fears, anxieties or are unsure about something talk with your doctor to discuss anything that is worrying you or you don’t understand. Your doctor can walk you through the C-section procedure step-by-step and give you info about what to expect post op in hospital and for your recovery.
Pack your bags ( do this a couple of weeks in advance just in case - check out whats in my bag HERE )
Organise a carer for your other children - you will be in hospital for 3-5 nights.
Buy a little present for your toddler or kids to bring to hospital for your new baby.
Download some podcasts to listen to while you’re waiting for your surgery or after in hospital.
The night before eat a nice healthy meal that wont block you up after all the meds. You wont be able to eat for around 8 hours before your surgery.
Make sure you get a wax or shave down there otherwise they will do it for you at the hospital and no one wants that awkward moment right?
If you’re struggling with fear or anxiety make an appointment to see a psychologist a few days or week before to help you talk through those feelings.
See your women’s health physio a week before and chat about how your body is now, get any adjustments and talk about c-section recovery too.
Have a pregnancy massage a few days before.
Journal your thoughts and feelings leading up to the day.
Use essential oils to calm your self the night before.
Talk to and spend some time connecting with your baby in the days leading up.
THINGS YOU MIGHT LIKE TO KNOW ABOUT THE SURGERY & RECOVERY IN HOSPITAL:
The spinal block stings but only for a minute, its not the painful horror that people will tell you. Just stay calm and still, it will be over quickly.
Its a strange and weird feeling losing feeling of your legs. They will check and double check and triple check that you have no feeling before they begin. If you have any kind of feeling make sure you tell them so they know!
You wont feel pain but you will feel a weird sense of tugging and hear some weird noises. Try to stay calm and remind yourself you’re about to meet the love of your life.
The anesthesia can make you cold and extremely itchy especially when its wearing off particularly. This is normal try to stay calm it will pass.
It can also make you feel nauseated let your anesthetist know and they can sometimes give you something to help you not throw up.
As the spinal anesthesia wears off you can feel shaky and shake uncontrollably. Don’t worry this will pass. Speak to your doctor if you’re worried about this.
The morphine or pain meds they give you can make you feel extremely drowsy or nauseated. It will pass.
It can take a while for them to get the baby out and they may still need to use forceps. Try to stay calm and not worry.
Stitching you up takes longer than getting baby out a lot of the time.
Your baby and partner may leave the room while you’re being stitched up. Try to stay calm and know you will be reunited very soon for bonding, more skin to skin and breastfeeding.
You will have a catheter inserted and it wont be removed until the next day. Its a strange feeling when they remove it but it doesn’t hurt.
Getting up will bloody hurt the first time - there’s no sugar coating that part. You will feel like it’s impossible to stand straight or take any steps BUT you must get up and move as soon as you are able to help with your recovery. Each time it will get easier and you will be moving normally again!
You will feel puffy and swollen with lots of IV fluids being pumped into your body you will be extra fluidy.
It’s going to hurt to laugh, cough or sneeze. If you need to hold a pillow over your incision to do so.
Each day will get easier, it hurts but its not unbearable. You’re a warrior and you will be okay!
Accept the pain meds when you need them. There is no point in allowing yourself to feel extra pain than you need to.
Stay in hospital for as long as you can for your own recovery. I know the thought of your own home and bed is nice but this short period of time is so crucial to your recovery. Not only will you be able to relax and recover you will have the help and assistance of midwives, doctors and physios to gain knowledge on your recovery, help establish breastfeeding and help with your new baby. You will never get this time again with your baby alone with out the responsibilities of life so try to take it in as much as possible.
Accept help from everyone in hospital - this is your time to rest, relax, heal and bond with your baby. You are going to need help showering and going to the toilet - accept it and allow it.
Don’t do anything that strains the ab muscles.Don’t try to use your abs to sit up from laying down on your back. Roll to your side and use your arms to push yourself up.
THINGS TO AID RECOVERY
Belly bands, abdominal binders and support garments will be your best friend. Try to use something as quickly as you can to support your core and back. It will also aid in the recovery of abdominal separation and can support your wound.
Eat a healthy and nutritious diet. Your body is recovering from major surgery as well as recovering from birth/pregnancy PLUS will be producing breast milk to nourish your baby. The most beneficial thing you can do is too eat a healthy diet full of nutrients and DO NOT starve yourself. A diet high in protein, good fats, enough carbs as well as high in vitamin A(dark green vegs) , vitamin c (to help produce collagen) , vitamin D and calcium can help you recover.
Drink plenty of water. Its so important to keep up your water intake for recovery as well as milk production. Try to aim for 3 liters per day.
Don’t do anything to strain the abdominal muscles. Practice rolling on to your side and using your arms to lift yourself from laying.
Avoid lifting anything heavier than your baby for the first few weeks. This can and will be hard if you have small children but you must remember the longer you allow yourself to heal at the start the quicker your recovery will be.
Ice your wound to reduce inflammation.
Keep moving. Try to move around and do short walks around the house but don’t over do it.
Avoid exercise until at least your 6 week check up. Do not listen to or feel pressured by what you see others doing especially on social media. Exercising after a major abdominal surgery too soon can have long term damage on your wound, back, core and pelvic floor. Slow and steady always wins the race here.
Watch for signs of infection and report immediately to your doctor if you’re worried.
Accept help from everyone around you especially if you have other young children. You need your rest. Rest is the best way of recovering as your body needs time to heal.
SOME C-SECTION MYTHS:
I wanted to share with you some myths and things I’ve heard that simply aren’t true!
You wont be able to have skin to skin with your baby after birth. Wrong, Unless there is a problem you will be able to have lots of cuddles with baby as soon as they have been checked to make sure they’re breathing properly. If for some reason you are unable to due to a medical reason , your partner sure can so make them aware. Speak to your hospital about when you’re able to do your first skin to skin.
You wont be able to hold or carry your baby for weeks. Wrong, you will be able to hold your baby straight away and you will be able to carry once you can walk.
You won’t be able to breastfeed and they will give your baby a bottle in recovery before you have the chance. Breastfeeding is encouraged in all Australian hospitals so unless there is a medical reason or issue as to why you can feed your baby in recovery you will be able to do so. It may be uncomfortable at first but you can ask for help from the lactation consultants and midwives at your hospital for more comfortable positions.
You wont feel the same connection to your baby as you would if you had a vaginal birth. I totally disagree, I’m pretty sure it doesn’t matter which way your new baby entered the world as soon as you hear that first cry and see their little face you will be in a bubble of love and you won’t even be thinking of how they entered the world and your baby knows no different other than you are his/her mama.
You wont be able to have a vaginal birth next time. Depending on the reason for your c-section there is still a high chance you can deliver vaginally next time. This is called VBAC and something you can speak to your doctors about.
Your arms will be strapped down. I have read this on lots of forums and websites where women are worried about being strapped down. As far as I am aware this doesn’t happen in Australia but of course ask your doctor if you’re worried. My arms were completely free during my first c-section.
This time around I have been doing the Hypno Bubs Hypnobirthing Australia Course. I’ve honestly been a little slack with keeping up with it but they help you with so many tools and ideas on how to have a positive cesarean section with the dedicated “Positive Cesarean Course.”
Find the link here to check it out for yourself.
I really help this article has helped in a little way.
Please feel free to reach out via Instagram or email if you want to chat further.
Good luck with your positive cesarean journey - I cant wait to hear and see your baby joy news. Send me your baby pics on insta or email, I would love to “meet” your little ones!!
Lots of love and positive thoughts,
Note: this blog is written based on my own experiences and is just an outline based on generalised info. I am no way a medical professional nor do I know any one’s personal situation other than my own but just want women out there to know that it is possible to go in to their c-section in a positive mindset. Of course things can go wrong with any type of birth but going in as calm and confident as possible can help you to have a more positive experience.