This post is part of a new blog series, Real Moms, Real Stories, Real Science, in which we tackle some of the tougher topics of fertility, pregnancy, postpartum and motherhood. It’s our goal to both amplify the individual stories of our UpSpring Mighty Moms while normalizing a variety of experiences. We celebrate the fact that all motherhood journeys are different, and that the most important end result is a healthy, happy mama and healthy, happy baby!
Nearly 32% of American women give birth by caesarean each year [CDC]. In fact, it’s now the number one surgical procedure performed in the US! Emergency C-Sections are the majority of those procedures: around 2 in 3 of all caesareans performed, with 1 in 3 being elective.
There are a myriad of things that can prompt an emergency C-Section, ranging from complications during pregnancy to complications that arise during labor itself. Some of the most common issues are a slow labor that is not progressing, a large baby, a baby who is not in the correct head-down position in the womb, or a baby that is in distress [March of Dimes]. It’s also worth noting that receiving Pitocin, a synthetic form of oxytocin that’s commonly administered during hospital labor to speed things along, while safe can lead to a higher chance of caesarean [National Library of Medicine].
Once you have a C-Section, it was once thought that you then had to have ALL your babies thereafter by caesarean. Now, VBAC, or Vaginal Birth After Caesarean, is becoming much more common. Your ability to have a VBAC depends on lots of factors, so it’s best to consult with your healthcare provider if you are considering it as an option [Mayo Clinic].
The basics of the C-Section as a medical procedure (Hello! Major surgery!) are usually the same from mom to mom, but the individual experiences can vary drastically, especially in the events leading up to the operating room. We asked 3 of our UpSpring mamas to share their unique experiences with their emergency C-Sections. Want to know more about what to expect during your C-Section recovery? Read our C-Section Recovery Timeline.
KATRINA FROM MASSACHUSETTS
Katrina has 3 little ones and has had C-Sections all 3 times. This is the story of her first birth.
It was a typical Friday at work in my office. I was 38 weeks and two days so I figured I had a little bit of time left. I went to use the ladies room and noticed my pant leg was coming out of my boots. I bent down to tuck it in, and when I stood up there was a sudden gush of water. When I looked down, my pants were soaked! I called my husband to pick me up from work. He was getting ready to testify in a court hearing. Needless to say, he missed the hearing that day.
We arrived at the hospital, and the nurses joked that my husband really dressed for the occasion (he was in a suit!). Around 10PM, the doctor came in to check me. I hadn’t dilated at all. At first, the doctor thought it was “just a weird presentation,” but once he got the ultrasound machine he realized my daughter was actually breach. I was having contractions, and all my fluid was gone. That’s when I found out I’d be having an emergency C-Section.
My heart sank into the pit of my stomach. Honestly, I was terrified. I’ve had surgeries before but had never been awake for them. My fears were partially realized because the experience was pretty miserable. I guess from a combination of nerves, having something in my stomach, and the medication, I threw up almost the entire time. That led to a slower recovery, so I didn’t get to hold my baby until 4 hours after I delivered. The anesthesiologist said he had never seen anyone as bad as me in his 20 years of experience.
TRACY FROM NEW YORK
Tracy has 3 children. This is the story of her first birth, an emergency C-Section.
In the days before my C-Section, I was not feeling our baby move. He was normally very active, so this was highly alarming. On top of that, the doctor who was “taking care” of me was not the most attentive. She disregarded all my concerns, but at that stage it was too late to change providers. So when I noticed our son’s activity was less than normal, it sent my mind in a million different directions.
After some back and forth with the doctor’s office, we were finally told to come in. When we arrived at the clinic, my nurse set me up with an NST (Non-Stress Test) to monitor the baby’s activity. After 30 minutes and lots of juice (in hopes to stimulate his movements), my OB wanted to send me home just to come back the following day for an ultrasound. Thankfully, my nurse went above her, called the hospital, and told them to be ready for me in Labor & Delivery. My husband and I walked over (he walked, I more so waddled), and when I checked in, I had no idea the events that were to follow were about to happen.
It ended up that I only had one pocket of amniotic fluid left, and our baby needed to come out immediately. The nurse at my OB’s office absolutely made the right call, because if I had waited… it’s possible I could have lost my son. C-Sections aren’t the easy way out. Before choosing a caesarean over induction, I knew no one who had had a C-Section. I had no idea what to expect, but I knew that I had to make this call for my baby. I WAS NOT SAD, nor did I regret my choice.
KIMBERLY FROM TEXAS, OUR VERY OWN UPSPRING CHIEF EVANGELIST!
Kimberly has one son; this is the story of his birth.
It was September 6, my long awaited due date. I went to the OB that morning and was told it would probably be another 2 weeks before my baby would arrive. Needless to say, I was disappointed but headed into the office to start my day of meetings. As the morning progressed, I began to feel very, very sick. I tried to tough it out (as we moms do!), but I ended up heading home to crawl into bed. When my husband came home I was feeling even worse, and the baby seemed very still. We went straight to the hospital.
After some tests, they discovered my white blood count was through the roof. I was immediately admitted and given antibiotics. The next morning, the doctors decided to start my induction. After lots Pitocin, still no dilation, but hard labor. My angel nurse thankfully saw the pain I was in and authorized an epidural. Shortly thereafter the baby became distressed. They told my husband he had 5 minutes to change into scrubs, and I was rushed to the operating room.
I had never had surgery before and remember being so scared. I was alone, naked, and shaking vigorously from the meds. I lost all track of time and after what seemed like an eternity, our son was delivered. I was given a quick glimpse of my baby and off he went to the NICU. As the doctor sewed me up, I remember her saying I would have never been able to vaginally deliver the baby due to his size. I remember waiting anxiously in the recovery room to hold my baby for the first time, grateful for modern medicine and the gift that had just been given to me.
MORE FROM OUR MOMS
Is there anything about the experience that was really unexpected to you? Something that surprised you or caught you off guard?
KATRINA: I wasn’t expecting my daughter to be breach because the doctors assured me that her head was down. I realized later they must’ve actually been feeling her butt. I also was not expecting to not be able to hold my first ever newborn baby for so long. Being so sick afterwards was so hard. Even though most of the time I was recovering I was super out of it, it stinks that I barely got to see her. I’m grateful my husband was there to have that bonding time with her.
TRACY: I was amazed that our son was able to still survive with the limited room and fluid he had. I was also amazed by his size at 38 weeks: 10 pounds 8 oz and 21 inches long! No wonder I felt like my bladder was going to burst in my third trimester!
KIMBERLY: I didn't realize I would not be able to sit up unassisted in the beginning. My son choked while nursing, and I panicked while physically unable to sit up in the hospital bed and help him. It was terrifying and also the first time I began to realize what my body had really been through with the surgery.
What helped get you through the whole process? Was there a particular person? Healthcare workers? Mantras? Faith?
KATRINA: My husband was my rock. He assured me that even though I was going to have to have a C-Section, I would be ok and the baby would be ok and that he would be right with me. My nurses were also amazing. I also am super thankful for my coworker who went to my house, packed a bag for my husband and me, grabbed our car seat, and bought and washed preemie outfits. I was planning on putting the car seat in and packing my bag that weekend, but of course, my baby girl wasn’t waiting!
TRACY: My FAITH got me through the difficulties of my experience. It allowed me to walk through the experience feeling less alone.
What advice would you give to other moms who may find themselves in the same situation?
KATRINA: Have an idea about your birth plan and what you’d like to happen, but know that everything could be thrown out the window in a split second and THAT’S OK. As long as you and baby are safe, that’s all that matters and know that you CAN handle anything that gets thrown your way in the process...you just grew a baby!!
KIMBERLY: I think it is very important for all women to fully understand what happens during a C-Section. Even if you have the perfect birth plan, plans don't always go as expected. It’s important to fully understand your options. While I am forever grateful for the procedure that saved my life, a C-Section is major surgery. Partners and family members especially need to understand the magnitude of what their amazing belly birth warrior just endured so they can better help with her recovery.
Finally, ask your hospital or birthing center in advance about their C-Section birth options (even if you’re not expecting to have one). Do they offer a gentle C-Section? Do they allow immediate skin to skin and bonding in the first moments after birth?
TRACY: I wish I knew what to look for in a medical provider when it came to my prenatal care. I would tell other mothers to ask all the questions- nothing is off limits. I would tell them to not be scared to advocate for themselves and their baby. And if their birth plan does not go as planned, to take a deep breath, allow the feelings to come and to pass, and look at the beautiful outcome- their beautiful bundle of joy.
My experience was not typical, but it allowed me to go through that trial to now share it with the world. I hope my story helps other women on their journey and I hope all women know no matter what they are magical, truly MAGICAL!