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I’ll never forget how it felt to hear “OH, you took the easy way out!” during the first few weeks of my son’s life. He was born right smack in the beginning of the holidays (like, the week before Thanksgiving that year), and we were dealing with feeding issues. The swelling in my feet and ankles just refused to go down, I was exhausted (duh) AND recovering from a major surgery, and here we were dragging our brand-new, teeny-tiny little baby to family gatherings during cold and flu season.

In other words, the last thing I wanted to hear was that I “took the easy way out”. Not only was it said, but it was generally accompanied by a pat on the knee and a somewhat condescending wink. Sometimes that would be followed by a knowing glance the person would share with another woman.

I got to hear all kinds of stories from the women who were ‘real’ warriors. 30 hours of labor this, episiotomy that, blah, blah, blah… And of course the complaining was always capped off with a quick, “but it was all worth it” at the end. Uh, ok.

“I wish”, one woman said, “that I could have just relaxed on a table while a surgeon did all of the work!” She then laughed at her own joke. As if I had gone to some all-inclusive resort and sipped a (virgin!) daquri and had a pedicure during my c-section. Yeah, that’s how it went.

Here’s the thing. I know a lot of people think that c-sections happen purely by a ‘selfish’ choice made by the mom. That generally isn’t how it goes, though. A lot of women face c-sections for a number of reasons…Reasons, I might add, that are no one else’s business.

I actually did not have a choice. When it was confirmed that O was breech and couldn’t turn around (he was sharing a small space with a rather large tumor, after all) my doctor immediately scheduled the surgery. When I asked if there was anything else we could do, she explained how dangerous it would be to attempt to go the natural route and that she wasn’t really willing to do it. Not only was my life at risk, so was O’s. I even asked her to turn him, which she said would be ridiculously painful for me and likely totally ineffective.

Thanks to hormones and a lot of misconceptions, I felt like an absolute failure. I was so embarrassed to tell people outside of my family, and I was always quick to justify it by saying, “but I have no choice in the matter”.

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The morning of my c-section, I felt strangely calm. It was incredibly early, and the 30 minute drive to the hospital was a piece of cake…No traffic, no rushing, just the BF and I chatting calmly.

They did one last ultrasound to see if he had managed to flip… I silently prayed that he had, and asked if they would be willing to induce me if that were the case. The nurse said that might be an option, but then promptly confirmed that he was still breech. So much for a last-minute miracle.

The BF had to wait while they prepped me and got the epidural going. I don’t really remember the epidural being too terrible, but I do know that I was terrified I would move and paralyze myself. After all, that needle was pretty huge and it was going right into my spine. I was also perched rather precariously on the edge of the operating table and shivering because damn it was cold in that room. Also, probably from what ever they had in my IV. At any rate, the very first epidural attempt was successful and it took no time to work. In fact, they were instructing me to move my legs and I finally had to laugh and let them know I couldn’t, could they please help me?

Once I was situated on the table, a green curtain was erected to block my view of the lower half of my body. I remember my doctor asking if I felt something, and when I replied “What?”, she smiled and said I was ready to go. Apparently, she had pinched the inside of my thigh as hard as she could to make sure I was numb. Even though I felt nothing, I asked if she thought she should try again…She just smiled and told me everything was fine.

“Well, you’re not the one about to be cut open, you know?”

She laughed and made a big show of pinching me again, just to humor me. I was still nervous, but I hadn’t even felt her move my leg. I couldn’t stall any more.

The BF finally got to come in, all suited up, and sat on a stool next to my head. He and I stared at the green curtain while the final prep work was being done, and finally Dr. Stephenson let us know they were getting started. The BF and the anesthesiologist talked about hunting, and they passed the anesthesiologist’s phone to each other over my head to look at pictures of an elk he shot on some trip. It was all very surreal, and then I noticed smoke wafting up from behind the green curtain.

Oh yes, they cauterize your incision as they cut.

I felt absolutely nothing, and I was surprisingly calm. I thought, “this might really be a piece of cake”. There was a lot of chatting, mostly the BF because he can be a bit of a nervous talker. Then, the six-foot-tall, 185-ish pound doctor that was assisting said, “Ok, you aren’t going to like me much after this part.”

Then he leaned on the left side of my stomach with what had to have been his entire body weight. I’ll admit, I did panic a bit when I suddenly couldn’t breathe and thought  he was going to break my ribs. I made this ridiculous “OOF” sound as every bit of oxygen I had in my body was forced out, and then I realized that he was grunting a bit as well from all of the force he was putting into it. You see, a baby is definitely bigger than the incision they make, and it’s not like they come out easily. No, there’s a lot of pulling from the operating doctor and a TON of pushing from the assisting doctor. That part sucked and I hated every second of it. My whole body was rocking from the force he was using, and I swore I was about to fall off of the table. There is actually nothing especially gentle about a c-section, and the “piece of cake” thoughts I was having ended rather abruptly the second they started actually working on getting O out.

Obviously, I didn’t fall off of the table, and obviously, this was how they had to do it. I knew that, but I still didn’t like it.

Once they got him out, they brought him over so I could see him, then he was taken to be cleaned up and weighed. BF got to go over and watch, and on the way back to his seat I saw his eyes get wide. He told me later that when he turned around, he saw my guts all sitting on my stomach just waiting to be put back in my body. And blood. Like, a lot of blood.

Yeah, another fun thing. They have to pull your ab muscles apart like curtains and remove the organs that are in front of your uterus to get the baby out. Easy way out my ass.

So I did cry a little tear, but then I started to feel very weird. Everything sounded like it was in a tunnel, my vision was starting to blur, and I felt a bit nauseated. I tried a couple of times to tell someone before I finally managed to get the words out…If you’ve ever had one of those dreams when you’re trying to scream and just can’t, that’s exactly how I felt. The anesthesiologist said that was totally normal, pushed something into my IV, and within seconds I was fine again.

I don’t remember a lot about being wheeled back to my room, or holding my boy for the first time. We had to wait an hour before my parents could come in, and I do remember asking the BF to take a picture of me holding O. I look a little confused, maybe a little tired, but I don’t exactly look excited. Then again, I was mid-sentence when he took the picture so that could be part of it.

I was told I’d have to stay in my bed for the remainder of the day, probably, because even after the numbing wore off I wouldn’t be able to comfortably get in and out of bed to pee. I thought that was pretty stupid, and as soon as I could feel my legs I asked my nurse to let me try to get up. She laughed, but then relented and started moving blankets and getting my catheter ready. The look on her face when I successfully stood up and started shuffling around the room was priceless, and she was still shaking her head as she took me in the bathroom to take out my catheter.

That part, by the way, doesn’t suck at all. It’s just a little pop! and it’s gone. Pretty painless.

The time I spent in the hospital was great. Nurses were coming in to take a look at O because word had gotten around that he had a ridiculous head of dark hair. We had a few visitors, but nothing too crazy. The BF went out to get us ice cream and brought Blizzards to all of the nurses. I was kind of sad when they told me we were released.

The recovery sucked. I wasn’t in a ton of pain, but I there were definitely times when I was reminded I had been cut open. I also had some gas bubbles that seriously felt like they were ripping my stomach open. Coughing, laughing, sneezing, sudden movements…all were painful, even if I had just taken pain meds. I wasn’t allowed to pick up anything heavier than my baby. Do you know what’s heavier than an eight-pound baby boy? Damn near everything. I couldn’t drive, I had some trouble getting in and out of chairs by myself, and pooping was absolutely terrifying. I don’t know that it’s possible to overdose on stool softeners, but I’ll bet I came close.

TMI? Sorry.

Then there’s the stuff that happens no matter how you get the baby out. Nothing is worse than talking to your best friend when you suddenly pass the mother of all blood clots and have to quickly shuffle to the bathroom before it falls out of your diaper. Because, yes, you are basically stuck wearing diapers for a few weeks.

Oh yeah, that’s definitely TMI.

There’s also the long-term stuff that you never hear about. My ab muscles separated, so here I am over two years post-baby and they’re finally coming back together (it’s taken some work, I’ll tell ya). I also have weird sensations from the scar tissue (that’s also from my second surgery) that feel a lot like something moving around in there. I can’t feel the area around my scar…except when it itches. Then I can feel the itch, but I could attack it with a cheese grater and feel no relief. That’s a blast and a half.

So, over two years removed from my sweet boy’s c-section arrival, do I still feel like a failure?

Nope. Not even a little bit.

I realized at some point that, as long as your child is healthy it doesn’t matter how you got him or her here. Having a c-section was the very first thing I did as a mother to ensure my boy’s safety. It wasn’t fun, but if I could do it over again I totally would.

And yes, I have a gnarly scar to show for it. I have actually come to love my scar for what it represents.

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Photo courtesy of Portraits by Natalie, because it’s surprisingly difficult to take a photo of your own scar. http://portraitsbynataliegomez.com/

After all, if my kid ever asks where he came from, I can show him my scar. Certainly can’t do that if you squeezed yours out the old fashioned way, can you?

Good God, I’d hope not.

Did you have a c-section? How did it go?

Happy Cesarean Awareness Month!

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