Given the choice of delivery method, I’d go with the stork every time. But limited to the more barbaric options of squeeze vs. scalpel, the lesser evil is less obvious. I didn’t have a choice, exactly, since my c-section was unplanned – nor do I have a basis for comparison since it was my first rodeo (although it more closely resembled a circus). I’ll do my best anyways to attempt to sort out the pros and cons of a c-section delivery and postpartum recovery.
Although C-sections are generally considered safe, they do carry additional risks compared with a vaginal birth. It is considered major surgery and requires an incision through the abdomen and uterus to deliver a baby when vaginal birth is considered too dangerous or difficult. The necessity in my case was documented as “failure to progress” because my jerkface cervix didn’t dilate past 7 cm and the baby was engaged in the pelvis (resulting in a disturbing cone-head) but essentially stuck there. Basically, a c-section carries the same risks of any surgery including severe bleeding, scarring, infections, reactions to anesthesia and longer-lasting pain, plus it can increase your chances of requiring a c-section for subsequent deliveries – should you be that kind of a masochist.
C-section recovery is said to be longer and more difficult. I don’t know about the “more” part since I’ve never experienced a vaginal delivery, but I can firmly say that I wouldn’t describe my recovery as long or difficult. In fact, I keep saying that I feel like I got off easy. Within a couple hours of delivery I was back in my room and moving slowly but feeling pretty good. I had an extra night’s stay in the hospital along with a few added annoyances (a urinary catheter, continued IV fluids, compression cuffs on my legs, bi-hourly vitals checks).
Pain-wise, I’ve experienced worse. I’d say re-setting a broken bone trumps a c-section and both procedures come with a parting gift of far better narcotics (hello, Oxycodone) than you’d get with a vaginal delivery. That said, I never found I needed to take them every 4 hours as prescribed and after a few days I stopped taking them altogether and started hoarding the last 6 pills for a rainy day (jokes…sorta).
You can’t exercise for a full 6 weeks (not that you’d want to) but I’ve been quite active around the house and started going out for walks right away. Thanks to my trusty Fitbit, I know that since April 28 (3 days after delivery) I have walked no less than 5000 steps per day and have usually been clocking more like 7000-9000. I think that says something for how good I’ve felt. Right from the get-go my vitals have all been great and my incision has been healing perfectly – I barely even notice it’s there. Getting the staples out on day 4 was a cinch and the rest of the sutures will dissolve in 6 weeks.
Lastly, but certainly not leastly – I’d be remiss not to mention my unscathed nether regions. As my mom kept saying, “at least you can sit down!!” or, to put a finer point on it as my friend Bryan did, “hey, at least you didn’t blow out your vagina!!” There is definitely something to be said for this. Every day without tearing or stitches in your crotch is a good day in my books. And I haven’t had to deal with fear of that first post-baby poop or pain/stinging when peeing or bathing. With that, I can only assume it will also be easier to resume, shall we say, recreational activities, when I’m cleared for that.
For me, this would be the area where c-section loses some major points. For starters, you can’t drive for 6 weeks (!), nor can you lift anything heavier than your baby and you’re supposed to limit stair-climbing as much as possible. In other words, this would be a good time to have a chauffeur, maid and bungalow. Thanks to my parents living a block away from me, I have the first two pretty much covered since my mom walks over and drives me around for errands and appointments and has been picking up and dropping off my laundry (2 flights of stairs and a laundry basket would not be do-able for me).
Andrew helped me out by relocating all our shit to the main floor in the morning (bassinet, pump, pillows, diaper bag and a bag of personal stuff for me like my makeup, etc.) so that I can have everything on hand on one level of the house – and then trucking it all back upstairs for the night. Sure, it’s a bit of a fuck-around, but actually quite manageable once we got into the rhythm of it. Since we live close to where he works downtown he was also able to pop in at lunch sometimes to see if there was anything we needed. In this respect, I’m very lucky to have the support and resources that I do and I imagine most people would struggle more with the logistics of these post-operative recovery restrictions than I have.
The head games
I spent a while second-guessing the series of decisions that resulted in the c-section in the first place. Did I need to induce when I did? Did I need the epidural so early and did that stall my labour? Could I have tried harder? The size of the baby, the fact that she was cone-headed from trying so hard to get into the birth canal for so long and the impression my operating OB-GYN gave me afterwards all pointed to the fact that this particular baby was not keen on exiting through the gift shop, and the outcome probably would have been the same no matter what I did or didn’t do. But you wonder. It was a bummer that I was in such a daze immediately after she was born, but it is what it is. I did feel a little bit like I missed out on a part of the whole birthing experience (pushing is sort of key in the whole deal) but really it’s more that I traded one experience for another. Ultimately, there is no easy way to bring a baby into the world and we are very lucky that both she and I have had no complications or issues since leaving the operating room.
She’s perfect. And I’m getting there 😉