I never considered the possibility that I would have a c-section. My first son was born at home without complications, and my husband and I were planning another home birth for our second child. My second pregnancy was just as easy and enjoyable as my first (yay for no morning sickness!), and at my 35-week appointment, the baby was in a good position with his head down.
Much to our surprise, at 37 weeks, we discovered that our baby had moved into the transverse (sideways) position. Suddenly I was faced with the possibility that he might have to be born via c-section, and I was absolutely terrified. I cried. Over the next two weeks, I tried everything to get the baby to move – handstands in the pool, chiropractic care, funny positions on the couch, and finally, an external cephalic version in the hospital. Nothing made him budge.
At 39 weeks with a still-transverse baby, I had to accept the fact that a c-section was going to be the only safe option for delivery. I cried about it some more, but then resolved to be mentally prepared for the experience so that I could be relaxed and happy on my baby’s birthday. However, most of the resources I found online about c-sections were covered with admonitions about how to avoid them and reminders that it is MAJOR ABDOMINAL SURGERY that shouldn’t be taken lightly. (Seriously, why does everyone have to say that phrase over and over in all caps? I get it already!)
So there I was, nervously facing a scheduled c-section, having tried everything I could to avoid it. I didn’t want to be a panicked mess on the day of my baby’s birth. I spent the next week working to find a sense of peace, and in the end, I had a beautiful c-section experience. If you’re in the same situation as I was, I hope these suggestions will help you to have a joyful birth experience as well!
I only had a week to get used to the fact that my baby was going to be born via c-section. Every time I thought about it, I was overwhelmed by scary images of being sliced open on a cold operating table and being left with a Frankenstein-like scar afterward.
Then I remembered a little word trick that some natural-birth advocates use. If you’ve read many natural birth books, you’ll notice that lots of them don’t use the word contraction – they say things like surge or wave. Why? I think it’s because contraction has become too synonymous with pain, so for many women, it automatically invokes a sense of fear. Use a different word, and you don’t think about the pain aspect so much.
Therefore, I made a conscious effort not to use the words c-section, operation, or surgery. It was simply birth. This took my mind off my fears and reminded me of the joyous event that was going to take place.
I checked into the hospital about 10 days before my due date to try an external cephalic version, a procedure where the doctor tries to turn the baby into the right position with his hands on your belly. Unfortunately, it didn’t work for us. I had to stay for an hour after the procedure so that they could monitor the baby, so I took the opportunity to talk to the nurses about what to expect on the day I checked in for the birth. Although it made me nervous to talk about it, I knew I needed a play-by-play of what was going to happen.
I also watched some YouTube videos of c-sections from the perspective of the parents. It was such a relief to see those moms smiling and talking through the procedure. It wasn’t torture at all! (Warning: There are a lot of YouTube videos out there with graphic footage of what’s happening on the sterile side of the curtain. I steered clear of those – that was more detail than I wanted or needed!)
Finally, I asked a few close friends about their c-section experiences and recommendations. Not only did I get some great practical advice, but it helped remind me that these friends are happy, healthy, active women who recovered just fine – and so would I.
Each night before bed, I would close my eyes and visualize our arrival at the hospital, getting an IV, getting in a wheelchair and being rolled to the operating room, receiving the anesthesia, having my husband sitting by my head, and finally, seeing our baby for the first time! The first time I went through the visualization process it made me extremely nervous (yes, I think I cried). But after a week of doing it, I felt a lot more confident!
While I was in labor for my home birth two years ago, we played gentle music and kept the lights low to create a relaxing atmosphere. Unfortunately, you can’t really control the ambiance in the OR – the lights will be very bright and the doctors and nurses in the room will probably be chatting away about what they did over the weekend. (Actually, the chatting was kind of comforting – it reminded me that they knew what they were doing and it wasn’t a tense life-or-death situation!) However, I really wanted to have my own music with me, especially for the 10 or 15 minutes between the start of the surgery and the time when we got to see our baby!
I made a playlist on my iPhone and asked my husband to lay it down next to my head. Once our son was born, my husband walked to the other side of the room to take pictures while the nurses cleaned him up. For those few minutes while I was alone and still being stitched up, I had my music to keep me happy and relaxed. I think I even might have been singing along to it out loud – I was just so filled with happiness that I couldn’t help myself!
For those who aren’t familiar with the concept of “birth affirmations”, they’re just short, positive statements that you can repeat before and during labor. Typical natural-birth affirmations might read:
- My body knows how to give birth.
- My baby will be born easily.
- Each contraction/surge brings my baby closer to being in my arms.
I’ll admit, when I first read about birth affirmations I thought they sounded stupid. I rolled my eyes and swore I would never do something that lame.
Lo and behold, though, when I was in a particularly intense part of my home birth labor, I grabbed my copy of Birthing From Within in desperation and started spouting off affirmations like crazy. And it helped! I was in labor land and my brain wasn’t working the way it normally does. I didn’t need a lot of logic, I just needed the repetition of those easy, positive statements – it really gave me an enormous boost of confidence and energy.
Therefore, in preparing for my c-section experience, I thought that affirmations might help to clear away any last-minute nervousness. My list of c-section birth affirmations was a little different, but included things like:
- God wants us to rejoice at the miracle of birth – no matter how it happens.
- God designed my body heal quickly and easily.
- I am thankful that my baby can be born safely this way.
- I will feel no pain; only joy at the birth of my son.
- I trust my doctor, the anesthesiologist, and the nurses.
It’s now been two weeks since the birth of my son, and my recovery has been fantastic! I’m so thankful that my c-section experience turned out so great. If you’ve been through a c-section, comment below with your advice on how to prepare!