Inside: Having anxiety about a scheduled c-section is completely normal! Here are 7 ways to overcome your fear of a c-section – must-have advice from a mom who’s had a scheduled c-section herself.
Most women have a dream birth plan: a home birth, a birth in water, a drug-free birth, a fast, easy birth (ha!).
I didn’t. To be honest, my headspace was completely different when I had my twins. Previously, I had two miscarriages, struggled with infertility and failed treatments, and now here I was at 40 years old, a high-risk pregnancy with twins (via IVF).
With my twin pregnancy, I struggled A LOT with anxiety. I had no dreamy picture of a natural birth or one without drugs; I truly didn’t care how my babies made their entrance.
I just wanted them OUT and SAFE. So, if a C-section (cesarean section) made their arrival faster and safer, that was fine with me.
As it turned out, Baby A was head down, and Baby B was transverse. My doctor told me that there was a chance Baby B could flip and go head down after Baby A was delivered, but no guarantee.
I wasn’t willing to risk any complications; I opted for the C-section.
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My Scheduled C-Section Experience
On the day of my delivery at 37w1d, I was all nerves. But once they hooked me up and I heard the ‘swish, swish, swish’ of those heartbeats, I could finally exhale.
An hour behind schedule, I was finally wheeled into the operating room. My husband, the doctors, even some students (we were at a university hospital) filled the bright room. I was given a spinal tap as anesthesia, tapped and tilted backward to make sure I was numb as far north as I needed to be.
My doctor smiled at me, gave me a thumb’s up, and hung a sheet right at my waist to block my view. As she talked me through each step, I felt a little pulling and tugging, and then I heard, ‘You have a boy!’
“And here’s the second!”
Laughter. Disbelief. Relief.
We had our boys, safe and sound.
The nurses cleaned up our sweet newborns, shouting Apgar scores across the room, and unbelievably, all was well.
The staff wheeled me into recovery, placing my boys on my chest to nurse. Upon a closer look, they determined my babies needed NICU time for minor breathing issues (not uncommon with C-sections, as some fluid isn’t squeezed out of the baby’s lungs as in a vaginal birth).
While I was disappointed not to have the boys in my room, my body had time to rest and heal.
But happily, we all went home together on Easter Sunday, 3 days later.
The Challenges of a C-Section Recovery
All things considered, a C-section recovery is not that bad.
My most intense post-op symptoms were at the hospital: the cold and shivering coming off anesthesia, gas pains (which loosening the belt band over the incision greatly helped), and that 1st pee after the catheter was removed.
Beyond that, it was the general soreness you experience with any surgery.
Certainly, there was pain. Yes, I needed to sit up gingerly and go easy, but I was not incapacitated by any means.
In fact, I was able to walk up and down the stairs carrying laundry baskets soon after (not recommended, but doable).
7 Ways to Overcome Anxiety About a Scheduled C-Section
For the most part, the fear of the unknown is the scariest thing about a C-section. Feeling fear is totally normal, and it’s definitely heightened knowing the life of your unborn baby is involved, too.
And yes, as with any surgery, there is risk.
But it’s important to not let fear take over – for your health and the health of your baby. Here are some things that helped me through my C-section fears:
1. Keep the end goal in mind – that beautiful baby in your arms.
One way or another, that baby has to come out, and it’s going to hurt. But knowing that on the other side of the pain is a beautiful baby you’ve been aching to meet, well, it really does make the pain worth it.
Even if a C-section wasn’t your ideal birth plan, don’t lose sight of what – or who – is on the other side!
2. Realize C-Section recovery isn’t worse, just different.
When a 7-pound baby comes out of your body, there will be pain while until your body bounces back, whether a vaginal or C-section birth. C-section recovery is just a different kind of pain.
Yes, you’ll be healing from surgery, but you also won’t have unplanned tears and other painful aspects that come with a natural birth, which sometimes take longer to heal.
3. Be prepared for your post-op care ahead of time.
Knowing what to expect and what you need for post-op care can definitely lessen fear. I had great care before and during the delivery; however, my post-op care was seriously lacking.
I didn’t know I needed to loosen that belt after surgery.
I didn’t know how painful removing the catheter would be.
I didn’t know it was better to take pain meds when offered to stay ahead of the pain rather than wait until I was actually in pain.
No one offered to help me shower.
Those were things I was in the dark about. Being mentally prepared can reduce fear of the unknown.
I definitely recommend talking with your doctor about your C-section before the big day!
4. Arrange for help at home.
If you have people who can help with meals, household tasks, or running errands, arrange that ahead of time. This will alleviate your concerns about what you can and can’t do after your C-section (especially while driving is a no-no).
Having help allows you to focus your energy where it needs to be – on healing and getting to know your sweet new bundle of joy.
5. Know that while it’s major surgery, it’s not that major.
Yes, your surgery requires anesthesia. Yes, your belly and your organs are getting cut open. But this is a standard, common procedure.
This isn’t open-heart surgery. The incision is very small. And while it’s a surgical procedure, it’s rare for there to be complications.
What helped me was remembering ‘possibility vs. probability.’
Sure, complications are a ‘possibility’ but they were likely not a ‘probability.’
6. Remember the positives of a C-section.
If you’ve always wanted a natural or drug-free birth, well, no, it’s not that. But you don’t have to deal with the pain and duration of labor.
You avoid the agony of delivery. You are alert and coherent and fresh the first time you hold your baby in your arms.
Plus, it’s fast. In about an hour, you have your baby.
And the recovery time is pretty fast as well.
7. Trust and pray.
This was the most helpful of all to me.
After going through miscarriage and infertility, you realize that we truly have so little control. Doctors can do so much, but they aren’t God.
Creating and sustaining life is God’s domain. At some point, we need to release our (perceived) control and trust God.
This was a daily, even hourly, exercise for me. I had no choice but to trust.
Praying (a lot), reminding myself of the goodness of God in the Bible, listening to worship music, deep breathing exercises – all of those things helped my heart and mind to be at peace.
Editor’s Bonus Tip: Take a birth class specifically designed for moms planning a scheduled c-section.
Every birth class out there seems to be geared toward moms who are planning on a vaginal birth.
Maybe there’s a bonus section for c-sections, but I mean, are you really going to pay for a class with one measly bonus section? Yeah. I didn’t think so.
But the frustration of not finding a course designed just for scheduled c-section mamas is OVER!
I was SO thrilled to learn that Liesel from Birth It Up recently decided to create a version of her birthing course specifically for mamas who are planning a scheduled c-section. So if you’ve been looking for a more concrete, practical way to ease your scheduled c-section anxiety, THIS.IS.IT.
Learn from a labor and delivery nurse who has SO much experience with every kind of labor and delivery. She knows her stuff.
Your Scheduled C-Section? Worth It in the End
When you lay everything out on the table, while a C-section can seem scary and risky, there are very few things in life that wouldn’t fall into that category.
There’s so much we can’t control, but we can control our thinking and mindset. Releasing your anxiety about a scheduled c-section and receiving peace is the very best thing you can do for yourself and for your baby.
And there is such a great reward on the other side.
You’ve got this, Mama! It will be worth it. I promise.
Kate is a former high school English teacher and current SAHM to her 5-year-old twin boys. A lifetime New Yorker recently transplanted in Tennessee, she keeps busy by learning her new way of life in the South, doing home decor and DIY projects, blogging at A Hundred Affections, substitute teaching, and figuring out how to survive in a house outnumbered by boys. And she loves Jesus very much.