C-Section and Vaginal Birth: 4 Unexpected Differences
When I gave birth to my daughter Avery in 2015, I was a few days past my due date and went to the hospital thinking my water broke. After a quick test, they were able to confirm that in fact, my water was intact, but then decided to go ahead and induce me (high blood pressure and less-than-amazing stress-test results were to blame).
Long story short, I ended up with an unexpected C-section. When the doctor announced her recommendation to operate, I immediately started crying. Mostly because I was afraid of the unknown. I knew I was headed for a major surgery, but I did not know what my birth experience would be.
A few years later, when I gave birth to my son, I had a traditional vaginal birth. So now, with hindsight, I realize some of the small unexpected differences between the two.
Meeting Your Baby
With a C-Section, once your baby is delivered, they bring him/her to where your head rests on the operation table, and you get to have a touching moment meeting your new little one. But unfortunately for mom, the surgery is only halfway over. So, while mom is still being operated on, baby is taken to a different corner of the room (to get the umbilical cord cut, and other things that you likely won’t be able to see). And once you’re done in the operating room, you’re taken to recovery where you start the lengthy monitoring process. All the while, baby is either with dad, or being monitored as well.
With a traditional birth, once your baby is delivered, him/her is placed directly on your chest, and you get to hold your baby for the first time. Once baby is cleared by the doctors, he or she is all yours. The doctors leave the room, and you get that precious alone time with your new addition.
Your Hospital Stay
With a C-Section, doctors are checking for blood clots (you may have leg compression sleeves on), checking on your incision, and monitoring your blood loss. With any birth, there’s always doctors in and out of the room for baby, but with a C-Section, there will be doctors paying a lot of attention to you, too.
With a traditional birth, there will still be plenty of traffic in and out of your room, but the doctors won’t be as concerned with you (they’ll mostly be checking your blood pressure and pain levels). More attention will be paid to baby and the standard rounds of tests that have to completed before you take your little one home.
Reactions from your Family and Friends
With a C-Section, you’ll hear a lot of “what happened??” from people who want to hear what went wrong. For me, it definitely put a damper on my new mom excitement, because it snaps you out of the euphoria you’re feeling. When you get that question, it’s the beginning of a story that you likely are not in the mood to retell.
With a traditional birth, the reactions are as you would expect. While people are likely still interested in your birth story, they’re not on the hunt for details on what didn’t go as expected.
How YOU Feel (Emotionally)
In all honesty, after my C-Section, I felt like a failure. I felt like I was robbed of the blissful experience that moms have when they give birth vaginally It took me months to realize that my feelings were irrational and not helpful. But before I was able to conquer those feelings, there was a definite period of grief on having my ideal birthing plan not translate to reality.
To follow that up, after I had a traditional birth with my second, I felt triumphant. Not so much that I had a vaginal birth, but that I was able to have a vaginal birth after having a C-Section (which used to be rare but is starting to become more common). While I’m grateful that I was able to avoid having another surgery, I know that if I were to require one, I would have been more prepared to properly deal with those emotions.
If you’re post C-Section and are grappling with feelings of loss and/or disappointment, this is a good resource.
If you’re looking for more information on vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC), this is very informative.