What to Expect When Expecting… a C-Section

I have a friend who has been asking me questions about what happens during a c-section and I’ve realized from these questions that women need to know the full details on what to expect, ahead of their surgery. It can be a scary thing to think about or even scarier thing to google as you never know what sort of horror stories you’ll get on the good ol’ fashioned Interweb. Well, I’m here to tell ya’ll (really trying to add “ya’ll to my vocabulary and am still unsure if I’m cool enough) how it all goes down, starting from the preparation of surgery and right up to when the bambino is earth side.

To start, I had a c-section with my first child around 37 weeks and didn’t know I was having this c-section until I was induced and things started to go wrong. Long story short, my placenta essentially died and they couldn’t put me through labour as she started to flatline with every small contraction, so I ended up having a c-section. It wasn’t an urgent or super scary thing at the time as I had to wait a few hours due to the piece of pizza I ate before the hospital (woops – turns out eating greasy food before a potential c-section is a big no no… who knew?) but it wasn’t planned by any means. My second c-section was at 36 weeks with the twins and I was definitely in a different mind frame as it was scheduled a week in advance.

Anyway, I’ll run through the more calm schedule of events that I had with the twins as they are similar to what happened pre, during and post… just with less anxiety.

So, the day arrives that you have your c-section! This usually means that you’ll be headed to the hospital in the morning for one of the two (depending on where you deliver) appointment slots. In case they didn’t tell you, there’s still a chance that you will be pushed back in the day as an emergency situation could come in ahead of you and they prioritize those ones before the scheduled appointments, obviously.

You arrive at the hospital and get changed into the super sexy hospital gown and socks while waiting in your room for the nurse to run through the plan for the day. This is usually when you end up sitting in your room for a while before the nurse comes back to ram that lovely IV needle into your hand/wrist or wherever they can easily find a vein. This was one of two things I was most freaked out about before my c-section. I don’t like needles (as most people don’t) and the thought of it jabbing into my hand scared the shit out of me. With my first c-section, this ended up being quite easy and quick which was a nice feeling of relief but with my twin c-section, the nurse couldn’t find the proper vein and tried 4 times before calling in another expert to try finding my not existent veins!!!! See photo below. This was not a great start to the day but again, looking back now, it was such a small non-issue in the grand scheme of things. But yes, it sucked.

After all the needle stabbing, get ready for some more super fun waiting around time. Usually, you are waiting to see the OB for a quick rundown of how it’s all going to play out in the operating room (OR) and then off she/he goes to get ready for the good times ahead. You’re waiting there as they clean and sterilize the OR and get it all ready for you. This is also where you could be bumped if an emergency situation comes in but it didn’t happen to me and I’m not sure how often it happens to be honest. While waiting, this is a great time to ask the nurses all the questions if they haven’t already answered them. They will tell your husband/partner what their role will be and where they will sit once in the OR. They will also most likely tell him to stay seated as they tend to worry about the husband passing out in there… guess that’s connected to the man cold in some way or form. My god.

Finally, the OR nurses come in to say they’re ready for you. Heads up, this is when you will go with them but your husband/partner will not follow. Do not panic but embrace the anxious feeling you are probably enduring. The nurses bring you in to do all the preparations, spinal, etc before your partner comes into the room. You can trust me when I say that you will be happy about this because when you’re laying on an operating table that is more narrow than your body, completely bottomless while a nurse shaves any hair around your hoo-ha and lower belly before ramming a catheter in, you probably don’t want your partner to watch. It’s already a very weird feeling with the 8 other nurses in the room. While you are going though all of the prep, which I will get into more detail on shortly, your husband/partner will be changing into their scrubs and getting the run down on their part and what they need to do once in there. It’s quite a well-run production now that I think of it. Hot tip – Tell your husband to bring his phone into the OR to take pictures when he is allowed!!

Operating table time:

When you get into the OR, the nurses will tell you to hop onto the operating table… I call it a table because its super narrow and not what you would call a bed in any way. If you have ever wanted to feel super fat at the end of your pregnancy, this will surely do the trick.

Once you maneuver your massive body onto the table, they will start hooking you up to all the machines and things– IV bags of drugs, etc (thankfully the hand/arm needle part is already done), blood pressure arm band, the usual. I do know that they give you some form of drug that lowers your blood pressure because I was asking what every item was, while at the same time, also wondering why my anxiety wasn’t as high as it should have been. Yes, I was freaking out and when I freak out, I ask A LOT of questions to know exactly what happens. Pretty sure nurses love that. 😐

So, after that part is sorted, one of the most important people, the anesthesiologist, comes to chat with you and tell you what he will be doing. He needs to give you a spinal (giant needle into your spine) to numb you from the chest down. This was the second biggest fear I had leading up to my c-section. Was the needle going to hurt? Was it going to somehow paralyze me? Was he going to mess up and I wouldn’t be numb enough to not feel things like that movie where the guy was awake and could feel everything but couldn’t speak? All of these crazy questions going through my head ended up coming out and I asked every single one. Yep, he 100% thought I was crazy and I’m ok with it because he passed every question with flying colours and I suddenly felt better. Once I was done drilling him, he asks you to sit on the edge of the table and hunch over. This is when he goes behind you (this is starting to sound creepy) and may place a large clear sticker onto your back. I believe it shows the grid of your spine so that he knows exactly where to put the needle in. It actually made me feel much more calm as I figured it was like having training wheels on a bike and was a sure thing. If any anesthesiologists are reading this and laughing, you’re welcome.

The needle went in and it was fast. Honestly, it wasn’t bad at all (thank you calming drugs that went into the IV beforehand) and immediately after he pulls it out of your back, the nurses lay you back down to wait for the drugs to do their thing.

While laying there, there’s a lot going on around you but everyone seems to be waiting for the spinal to take effect so that the real fun can begin. Once the drugs start moving up your body, the nurses will then do the shaving, iodine and sterilizing of your body (I think) before popping in the beautiful catheter (you won’t feel a thing). This is the part where you will be very happy that your partner was not in the room just yet. Picture laying on a skinny bench, legs are shoulder width apart or less and you’re bottomless with a bunch of people standing around staring at your vagina before opening your legs and adding a pee-catcher to your urethra. Sounds lovely right?

During the pee-catcher installation, the anesthesiologist will begin asking you if you can feel things. He pokes you from your legs up to your chest while asking if it’s a sharp or dull feeling. You will most likely say “dull” but really, he’s poking you with something sharp. It’s a super weird feeling but kind of fun and very assuring. You can’t feel anything but somehow, you can feel him poking your skin. It also made me realize that these people really know what they’re doing and all you can do in that moment is trust them and tell them exactly what you’re feeling. They are the experts. I will add a fun tidbit that came out of left field after revceiving the spinal though… my arms and jaw were convulsing/shaking as if I was freezing cold and of course, I asked why this was happening and he said that it is a very common side-effect from the spinal. Keep this in mind and maybe warn your partner about that so he doesn’t think you’re having a weird reaction to the drugs. It also makes sense as to why your arms are strapped down. Take note – your arms will be strapped down like a crazy person and that is normal.

So once all that fun stuff is complete, they cover you up with the blue sheets before your partner comes into the room. Thank god! He strolls in with his full Grey’s Anatomy scrubs and sits right beside your head on a little stool. This is a sign that things are going to begin soon. Ladies, I would warn your partner about this and tell him to have some solid conversation planned to distract you. This helped me as I could look at him and focus on that during surgery.

The OB surgeon comes over again to give you another play by play of what’s going to happen. Fun fact – I’m pretty sure that the actual procedure itself is about 10 minutes and then they stich you up and get you and the baby all organized before sending you out to your recovery room. I liked knowing that ahead of the surgery. “Ok it’s only really 10 minutes til the baby comes, I can do this.”

Surgery:

So, the surgery begins and if you have a solid anesthesiologist, they will fill you in on what’s happening and give you a synopsis on the progress. This was super helpful for me the first time as he would warn me about the pressure and tugging before it happened. However, if yours doesn’t do this for you, I will give you a rundown below.

You won’t feel any pain. They will cut you open and you will feel a bit of pulling or movement, but nothing extreme. Once they open you up and get ready for the baby, you will feel pushing on your stomach, above the incision as they will be trying to push the baby out through the hole. Think of someone pushing from your upper stomach to push the baby down and out through the exit. Like when you try to get the toothpaste from the end of the tube to the nozzle. It doesn’t hurt at all but it’s the most feeling you will feel throughout the procedure as they tend to push hard. It’s just an awkward sensation really but it’s all part of the process and then before you know it, your baby is out and that’s it! This is where they may lower the sheet and let your husband take photos of the gross little alien you just delivered before they take him/her a few feet over to the baby weighing station and do all their post-delivery baby checks. This part is weird but I like it because I know the baby is out and my husband gets to go over and check her out/cut cord and give me the coles notes of what’s happening. The doctor is also beginning to stitch you up at this point but you don’t fully realize what’s happening as your adrenaline is running high and there’s so much going on around you. You will again feel some tugging and pulling when she’s stitching you up but by that point, the baby is on your chest or beside you in dad’s arms and you don’t notice whatever else is happening.

After enjoying that moment for a while, the nurses will escort your partner and baby out to your recovery room while you again, are lying there naked on the table and getting cleaned up. Hello whores’ bath! Once that part is complete, the nurses will shift you into a wheely hospital bed that is more normal sized and bring you into the room with your partner and baby. From there, they will again lift and transfer you onto the more comfortable hospital bed, which you may as well get well-acquainted with as this will be your bed for a few days. This is when you will begin the recovery process which includes immediate baby thrown onto nipple time that may bring a whole new set of challenges but hey, you can handle anything now that you’re done the surgery part and have a brand-new bambino in hand!!

That’s it! Honestly, it’s not too bad but if you are a very “in control” person then this will be a bit harder for you as you really just have to trust a lot of the nurses and doctors along the way. This doesn’t mean you can’t ask questions as you definitely should but just try and remember how many of these surgeries are done each day and how “routine” it is for these medical professionals. They know what they’re doing.

I think I covered everything in here but if you have any questions, definitely feel free to reach out via Instagram! I will do a hospital “must pack” list next. And not just crap that you won’t use… the real important things…like ear plugs.