Five things no one has the heart to tell you about c-sections

My first baby was born by emergency c-section under general anaesthetic, following a pretty long labour. Naively, I had never even contemplated that I might need a c-section, let alone a general anaesthetic, and so it took a very long time to come to terms with the fact that I was asleep when my first baby came into the world.

When I found out I was pregnant the second time, I was determined that I wanted to have as much control as possible over my baby’s birth and the only way I believed I could do that was by having a planned c-section. At least this time I would be giving myself a fighting chance of being awake when my baby was born (and of looking less like a hobbit in the obligatory ‘post birth’ photographs).

It wasn’t a hard decision to make.  Not just because I would do anything to avoid a repeat of my first birthing experience (and those photographs), but also because despite having been unconscious throughout my little girl’s birth and so still knowing very little about what happens during a c-section, the procedure wasn’t something that frightened me at all.  And that, readers, is because everyone I knew who’d had a planned section had told me it was a fairly pleasant experience. That’s right: a pleasant experience.

Now, I appreciate the sentiment.  It’s clearly meant well and surely it’s ok to tell a little white lie if it means preventing someone from being anxious about quite a big procedure? Actually no. I’d rather just have the truth, however horrific, thank you very much.

You see, I’m a firm believer in forewarned is forearmed, and so for the benefit of all those in the same camp who have been told by well-meaning friends that a couple of hours in surgery will be an absolute hoot,  I give you my list of 5 things that people just don’t have the heart to tell you about c-sections. [Warning: It’s a bit honest…]

1. It’s not pleasant. It really isn’t.

OK, so it’s not as painful as labour, but there is absolutely no pleasantness in sitting on the side of a bed with your bottom exposed, while someone you’ve met only once (and very briefly) injects you in the back a couple of times, before lying you down on the operating table to have someone else repeatedly blow ice cold air on your body from your feet up to check whether or not you are sufficiently numb. It is also no pleasure to be sliced open, while someone rummages around inside you, pushing your internal organs about while they look for a baby to extract. Yes, it’s exciting because it’s your baby. But the whole procedure does not fall within the commonly understood definition of ‘pleasant’. Do not believe anyone who tries to convince you otherwise.

Just don’t look into the light….

2. Beware the surgical light

No one told me this one. You see, the surgical light is positioned above the operating site. And it can have mirrored edging. A bit of pre-warning here might have been nice. I fast-forward past all the gory bits on One Born Every Minute, but there’s not much you can do when it’s live-streaming from the operating theatre and your own body is the star of the show….. Probably best not to look up.

3. For the first couple of weeks after your c-section, you will contemplate chopping your body off from the neck down

This is because your neck upwards will probably be the only part of you that is not in some kind of discomfort or outright pain. Your wound will still be painful, your insides will feel like they’ve just completed a spin cycle, and your legs and feet may swell up to the point that you fear they may burst. You will get slightly comfortable sitting down for a while and struggle to stand up. You will be slightly comfortable standing up for a while and struggle to sit down. And if you lie flat to go to sleep in a bed, you will fear that you will never be able to get out of the bed again. It gets better, but those first couple of weeks are just the pits.

4. For the first six weeks post-section, you will have a longing to do housework and a big supermarket shop like never before

While recovering from a c-section is the perfect excuse to sit down and be looked after, it will probably be the last thing you want. You will probably want to get back to normal, do the washing, tidy up and make dinner –  particularly if this is your second baby. You will miss vacuuming. With a newborn and another little one to look after, the last thing you need is to be one man down. But you have no choice because if you do too much too soon, you jeopardise your recovery. And you really don’t want that.

5. You would do it all again

Despite all of the above, you’ll have no qualms about doing it all again. Because it really wasn’t all that bad. It sounds worse than it was. In fact, it was really quite…I don’t know….maybe….pleasant?


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28 thoughts on “Five things no one has the heart to tell you about c-sections”

  1. These are so true, particularly number 4. My partner stopped me from overdoing it, but there were still SO many times that I just did too much because I’m useless at delegating tasks! #KCACOLS

  2. i had a planned c-section first time around and hope to have it again with our second. it isn’t really “pleasant” no. i was incredibly anxious before and during. Once it was done, i felt much better. The recovery for me was fine and i think the main thing to remember is everyone is different. Yes, recovery is typically tough but some friends who had natural had a far worse time in recovery than i did. a few still have problems now…five years on. so yeah, it def isnt the easy option and I think it’s good for mums to be prepared and know what to expect if they did need a c-sec. Thanks so much for linking up at #KCACOLS. Hope you come back again next time!

    1. It’s so true that everyone is different. I know some people who have had amazing recoveries from c sections and some (like me) who took a very long time to get back to normal.

  3. I started reading this with a bit of angst to be honest! I had an emergency section but was down for a planned due to placenta praevia. Therefore I paid close attention to the very minute mention of sections in my antenatal classes. The one big, massive thing that I made sure I didn’t due was look at anything shiny! The reason for the angst is that it annoys me when people give sections a bad name because they’re really not that bad. Like you say ‘pleasant’, no matter how tongue in cheek 😉 #kcacols

    1. And that’s the strangest thing because it should be anything but pleasant given that it’s quite major surgery, but I suppose it’s because you can’t feel too much, you’re being operated on for a wonderful reason and you get a baby half way through! Still, I wouldn’t fancy doing it every week…..

  4. I have had two sections and your right they are not the easy option. The staff were amazing for both as they were under very different circumstances. Due to sections both my self and my two boys are alive and healthy and with out them this could have been very different #Blogstravaganza

    1. That’s the thing to remember – they’re far from being the loveliest of experiences but I’m so grateful that they’re an option.

    1. I hated the recovery too. More so with the second but that’s probably because by then I had another child to look after and just wanted to be up and about. It was so frustrating being unable to do anything.

    1. Some people really do take it all in their stride and have really positive experiences. I honestly think that the more prepared you are (especially if it’s a planned section), the better the experience will be.

  5. All so true!
    I had an emergency c section followed by a planned one and all I can say is, the planned one is slightly better. I would never choose to have a c section unless you have to have one as it’s a major op -mums forget that sometimes. The recovery is long especially when you have a toddler to look after….I]my scar was neatened during the planned c section only for it to open again as I was doing too much! Anyway, good post. #thatfridaylinky

    1. Oh no! I panicked about my scar opening all the way through my recovery. I had an infection and kept imagining all kinds of complications. I was really bruised afterwards and also managed to convince myself I had internal bleeding! I didn’t of course, but I got so stressed about the ‘what ifs’. So glad it’s all over with now.

  6. I agree – I wish I knew more about c-sections before I had one with my daughter. I found not knowing these things made it ten times harder x #DreamTeam

    1. I know. When I had my first, I only knew the very basics about csections and thought there was no need to read up on them because my pregnancy had been so straightforward. I thought emergency csections were extremely rare, but I was quite wrong!

  7. Our twin girls were born By C-section I have to admit I wouldn’t of wanted to go through it, maybe my wife was lucky but she recovered quite quickly really interesting read Thank you for linking to #Thatfridaylinky please come back next week

    1. I’m always amazed at how quickly some people recover. I couldn’t stand up straight for ages, but I know some people who were comfortably up and about in just a matter of days later.

  8. I was told I might need a planned c-section with my third. I didn’t, but had to wait until a week before my due date to have the final decision made. I was so nervous! I think I would have been sick and would have dreaded the recovery. I take my hat off to anyone who has gone through a c-section then recovered whilst looking after a baby. No small feat I’m sure! Thank you for sharing your experience with #Blogstravaganza

    1. Oh, that must have been nerve wracking! I think the few days before the planned c-section were worse than the actual procedure in many ways. I felt quite sick for about a week beforehand, just from thinking about it!

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