Last week (August 12th, 2016), I had a repeat c-section and gave birth to my second baby, Daniel Cooper. This birthing experience was completely different from my first time around but both produced healthy baby boys. My first c-section was unplanned and had to be done because of what the doctors call "failure to progress." Basically, after three days of labor and three hours of pushing my son hadn't moved an inch and it looked like he wasn't going to, so before things got worse we opted for a c-section.
When we found out that we were pregnant again I knew immediately that I didn't even want to try a VBAC (vaginal birth after c-section). It wasn't worth the risks for me. Everybody's situation is different, a VBAC may work for you rather than a repeat c-section, but if you're on the fence, I thought I would share Daniel's birth story with you and the pros of having a repeat c-section.
When I was around 30 weeks along in my pregnancy with Daniel I got my c-section date of August 12th, which meant I delivered at 39 weeks instead of 40+. You get to pick your surgery date (at least at my hospital) but the earliest you can deliver is 39 weeks. I chose the first possible date because I just couldn't even deal with being sick any longer than I had to. In theory, delivering a week early meant that I wouldn't have to deal with going into labor at all. Second pregnancies are much different, your muscles have already been stretched out so you are much more likely to deal with contractions for a longer period of time. That was me. Between it being my second pregnancy and the ridiculous humidity, I was having contractions off and on all day the last few weeks leading up to delivery.
The Thursday night before my Friday morning surgery was sort of surreal. We just kept saying things like, "By this time tomorrow our families will have met Daniel" and so on. Friday morning was a bit weird as well, I got up and dressed and curled my hair slightly (because my stick straight hair would look ridiculous coming out of the hair net after surgery so since I could make myself look a little bit put together I did) and put on my bare minimal make up. We had to be at the hospital by 8:30 which meant we got to spend some time with our two-year-old before heading into the hospital, Seth and I both appreciated that. Our pastor, Seth's boss, was also able to stop by our house to pray with us before we left.
At the hospital I walked myself into check in and triage, it was sort of a weird experience. It's hard to explain but it just felt weird to walk myself through all of this knowing that in a few short hours I'd have a baby. While weird it was also peaceful, something I didn't get to experience last time. Not that I expect birthing to be peaceful but I didn't expect it to be traumatizing.
We were in triage for two hours and my surgeon and anesthesiologist and nurses had all been in and they gave Seth his scrubs to put on. Seth got all ready and we got ourselves mentally prepared for the operating room only for our delivery nurse to come in and tell us that there was an emergency patient in Labor & Delivery so we were put on hold since I was a stable patient. Our surgery time ended up getting pushed back two hours which was frustrating just because we were so ready to meet Daniel but I'm glad they were able to help the emergency patient instead of making her wait.
When it was finally time for us to head into the operating room, I literally walked myself into the room and sat myself onto the operating table. Such a bizarre feeling. Last time I had already had a few rounds of pain medication and two doses of the epidural and I had been pushing for three hours so I obviously was not walking or really all that aware of every little detail. I sat myself on the table and they got me oxygen and then into position for the spinal. The epidural did not hurt nearly as much as I remembered and once that was done they finished prepping me, Seth came in, and then the surgeon came in and he got started right away.
About five minutes into it I heard Daniel's first little sounds and of course started crying right away. Once he was fully out they lowered the curtain slightly and held Daniel up so we could see him. I couldn't really see anything but his feet but the first thing Seth said was, "Abs! He has hair!" I never thought I'd have a baby with hair, I was bald until I was two and William still has some areas on the front of his head where hair has barely grown in. But alas, baby Daniel has hair! Because I had much less medication in my system this time I was able to turn my neck and watch as they examined Daniel while the surgeon continued working on me. Once the surgeon gave the nurses the go-ahead, they placed Daniel on my chest for skin-to-skin while the doctor finished up with me. The whole thing took less than an hour. It may not be a "traditional" birthing experience but it was still a beautiful miracle. God gave doctors and nurses the wisdom and skill to perform c-sections in order to save lives, it's just amazing what they can do. I will never stop being in awe of what God has made possible.
In recovery they continued to monitor my vitals and helped me get Daniel into position for nursing. To my utter surprise (okay, I'm laughing about the fact that I am using the word "utter" in a sentence about breastfeeding, it's too similar to udder, ha!), Daniel latched on right away! With William it took us a good week to get into a good groove with nursing so I was mentally preparing myself for that stress but Daniel knew what to do right away. Praise God! Once I had some feeling back in my legs we were able to head to my hospital room.
I had gestational diabetes during my pregnancy (just like in my first) so they had to monitor Daniel's sugar levels starting right away. At the first test his sugars were 38 when they like them to be at least above 40 but then they dropped to 35. We opted to supplement with formula (we did that with William too) and Daniel took that very well and his sugars quickly rose above 50, which meant they didn't need to monitor his sugars anymore. This was a huge relief because if they had dropped one more time they would have had to put Daniel in the NICU temporarily. We are so thankful that in less than 24 hours Daniel's sugars were at a healthy level and didn't need monitored any longer. With William it took much longer for his sugars to get to a healthy level so nurses were constantly checking on us every 2-4 hours. So once Daniel was healthy, we didn't need to be checked on much at all. So we actually got to rest in the hospital. There were stretches when we only saw our nurse once during her whole 12 hour shift because we didn't need anything. It was much different than last time when they had to check on us around the clock. I was planning on staying in the hospital for as long as they would let me but we opted to go home on the first day possible because things were going well, I felt great, and we wanted to be at home as a family of four.
Daniel has continued to do well at home and I'm working on taking less pain meds and walking around a bit more each day. William has taken to his new role of big brother quite well, although often his hugs end up being more like strangles to his little brother, #2yearoldproblems. We are loving being a family of four even though it is seriously exhausting having a two-year-old and a newborn in the house. But I wouldn't trade it for the world.
If you are considering a repeat c-section, I highly recommend it, especially if the reason for your first c-section was something that is likely to happen again (i.e. failure to progress) and especially if your doctor recommends it. I know many women feel that doctors recommend c-sections even when they aren't necessary but that option is there for a reason. It's not "unnatural" or "the easy way out" and it's worse or better than a vaginal birth, it's just a different option because each woman is different and has different needs and a different body. God made c-sections available for a reason and they have saved a countless number of lives, both mamas and babies, since they became an option in the world.
Wondering what the pros and cons are of a repeat c-section? I thought I'd make up a little list for you, just to share more of my experience with you.
Repeat C-Section Pros & Cons
- longer recovery than a vaginal birth
- activities are limited
- longer hospital stay
- it is major surgery
- faster recovery than the first c-section
- less/lighter vaginal bleeding
- you can better plan ahead
- you know what to expect
- longer hospital stay (I see this as both a pro and con)
- forced to rest longer
There are more pros and cons to having a c-section but these are the ones that stood out to me in regards to having a repeat c-section. Being able to plan ahead was huge for us, my brother was able to take off work and stay at the house with William while we were in the hospital. If I didn't have a scheduled date we'd have to have had multiple people "on call" to take William for us and most likely we would have had to call them in the middle of the night. And the lighter vaginal bleeding....um it's amazing. Last time my body had been through both labor and surgery and experienced so much trauma that I bled heavily for 6+ weeks. This time I've already (at 6 days post-op) been able to go down to a thinner maxi-pad. So much more comfortable. Obviously everyone is different but all of my friends who had repeat c-sections reported lighter bleeding as well.
Whatever you decide to do, whether a VBAC or repeat c-section, I know you'll make the right choice for yourself and your baby. Don't let anyone make you feel guilty for your choice before or after the fact. You do you, mama. If you had a repeat c-section, what were the pros and cons for you? Also - how adorable is my baby boy? I know, he's just the cutest. ;)