Rarely do women raise their hand to have a cesarean section. It is typically the result of a vaginal delivery that has gone on too long or a delivery complication that gets these women a fast pass to the operating room. In honor of C-section Awareness Month, four moms who are also Associates at the Center for Maternal and Fetal Care at The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio share their C-section stories and hope women who might be faced with the decision hear their experiences and feel more prepared.
They highlight the good and the bad to give other moms a true picture of what C-sections are like in a variety of situations from a planned C-section to ones that result due to an emergency. The common theme they want to communicate to their patients is to let them know that while having a C-section would have not been their first choice, they would do it all over again to know their baby was safe.
Maci Reyes, Medical Assistant, Center for Maternal and Fetal Care, The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio After having her son seven years prior, Maci knew she wanted to get pregnant again, but she and her husband were having trouble this second time around. They had tried for almost six months with a negative test each time, but it finally happened, and at a time when she was least expecting it.
“I was shocked, because before then we would take a test every month and it was always negative, remembers Maci. “I was nervous and really excited. I didn’t tell my husband right away. He was out of town and it was his birthday so when he got home, we surprised him with a onesie that said ‘Happy Birthday Daddy’ and that’s how we told him.”
With Maci’s first pregnancy, she suffered from hyperemesis, which is extreme, persistent nausea, and vomiting during pregnancy and Maci was in the hospital for most of her pregnancy. This time around, she still suffered from the symptoms, but was much more prepared and able to work almost all the way up until delivery.
When delivery day arrived, the nurses broke Maci’s water at 7 a.m. She was looking forward to a vaginal birth like with her last delivery. At 8:30 p.m., after being in labor all day, her doctor gave her news she was not excited to hear. Because the baby was in distress and her heart rate was low, she would need a C-section.
“I never thought I would have a C-section and I was scared,” explained Maci. “My first delivery was so easy, so when the doctor said we were going to have to do emergency C-section; it was the scariest thing ever.”
Maci remembers how her husband helped her through the experience and how the doctor talked her through the whole procedure in the OR. He gave her the play by play, which helped to calm her nerves.
“This was not what I wanted, but once I heard her cry, I was calm,” said Maci. “I would do it all over again to ensure her safety.”
Maci sees patients all day long at the Center for Maternal and Fetal Care and said if she had advice for her patients, she would tell them, “It is normal to be scared, especially if you have never had one. But, if it is something that needs to be done for the health of your child, then you know it is the right thing. It is not as scary as it sounds because you know you are in good hands with your doctor.”
Maci added that although her C-section was painful, it was not a bad experience. The healing processes are different with both a virginal and C-section birth. “I felt like I could get up and do things much faster than with my vaginal delivery.”
Her daughter Malori was born on June 12 and is about to turn 3 years old.
Kimberly Gates, Sonographer, Center for Maternal and Fetal Care, The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio Kimberly found out she was pregnant when she was just five weeks along. It was a wonderful pregnancy journey with no complications.
“My pregnancy was amazing, no problems at all. I carried my son until 40 weeks,” explains Kimberly.
On delivery day, Kimberly’s labor had to be induced because her son was in a posterior position. Also known as a sunny-side-up baby, this is when the baby is positioned head down but facing mom’s abdomen, making labor and delivery much harder.
“My doctor determined it would be safer for both me and the baby if I had a C-section because my son would not turn,” remembers Kimberly.
Kimberly initially wanted a vaginal delivery but safety was her top priority and she was just happy to have her son, Ayden, arrive safely. The C-section went well but Kimberly remembers the recovery being very difficult due to her abdominal muscles having incisions.
“I didn’t realize how much you actually engage your abdominal muscles during the day. I would encourage moms with a C-section to give your body the rest and chance to recover from this major surgery,” said Kimberly.
Two years later, Kimberly had a scheduled C-section to deliver her daughter, Ansley at 38.5 weeks.
“I felt like the recovery with my second C-section was better,” remembers Kimberly. “My body recovered a lot faster with less pain.”
While having a C-section was not the path Kimberly wanted to go down, it doesn’t make her feel like less of a woman or mom especially now as she is raising her two teenagers, Ayden and Ansley who are 16 and 14 years old.
Kimberly adds, “That scar is well earned, and I never look at it in shame. I am a mother and the privilege and love that comes from that outweighs the procedure.”
Brenda Gonzales, Medical Assistant, Center for Maternal and Fetal Care at The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio Brenda got a big surprise when she went in to get her IUD taken out.
“I went in for my annual check-up and instead found out I was pregnant!” said Brenda.
While Brenda’s pregnancy was considered high-risk since they could not locate the IUD, her overall pregnancy was uneventful.
On delivery day, Brenda arrived bright and early at 6 a.m. to get prepped.
“I was so nervous, and the labor wasn’t progressing,” remembers Brenda. “My son, Jeremiah, had turned at the last minute and they saw he had his cord wrapped around his neck, so they sent me right away for a C-section.”
Brenda said her C-section went really well and was happy with how she was sewn up using stitches instead of staples.
Brenda’s biggest piece of advice for moms regarding C-section recovery is to take your medications when you get home. “The recovery wasn’t what I expected,” said Brenda. “If I didn’t take my meds they sent me home with I wouldn’t have known what to do because even sneezing hurt, but the meds helped a lot.”
Yvette Sancho, Office Manager, Center for Maternal and Fetal Care, The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio Yvette had two pregnancies and both children were delivered via C-section. Her first pregnancy was a complicated one. At her 20-week anatomy scan, she found out her baby had gastroschisis, a birth defect in which the baby’s intestines extend outside of the abdomen through a hole next to the belly button.
She was watched closely throughout her pregnancy but knew she and her baby had a tough road ahead as this was a condition that would require several surgeries and months of NICU time.
“Due to her condition, my OB determined it would be safest for her if I had a C-section,” remembers Yvette. “It wasn’t something I wanted. I wanted to have the whole birth experience and really experience labor, so I was pretty disappointed.”
Yvette’s C-section was planned, but baby Alejandra had a different plan. “I actually started to go into labor,” explains Yvette. “It was 4 a.m. and I woke up and my water had broken, and I was like ‘oh boy, it’s time.’ So, we rushed off to the hospital and waited for the physician to come in to perform my C-section.”
Alejandra’s gastroschisis was one of the worst the doctor had seen. She had several surgeries and after three, the doctors determined there was not much more they could do for her and they transferred her to another hospital for palliative care. Sadly, she passed away four months later from internal bleeding.
“She would have been 21 years old,” said Yvette. “The more and more I have talked about it over the years, it really helps me to tell her story.”
Looking back on her experience and her C-section, she said that even though it wasn’t what she wanted, and it was a longer and more painful recovery, she would do it all over again.
“Was the C-section something I wanted? No. Did it go well? Yes, it did. But, it was hard afterwards,” remembers Yvette. “It was like learning to walk again. I could not laugh, cry or cough without being in pain. The hardest part was having to get up and walk again. My baby was in the NICU, so I had to get to her which became my motivation to get up and walk!”
For many women, a C-section is their first surgery and Yvette reminds patients that it is normal to be scared of the unknown, but trusting in your physician is the key.
Yvette did get pregnant again many years later and had a second, scheduled C-section since she had a C-section for her first pregnancy.
“Lila was born on October 1, 2009. I was scheduled for her delivery and went in very early in the morning,” remembers Yvette. “I was ready. I had done this before, and I felt prepared.”
Yvette remembers being nervous as she was wheeled into the operating room, but Lila was out within a couple of minutes and all of that fear disappeared.
“She was beautiful and had so much hair,” explains Yvette. “Having had a C-section before, I was prepared for the procedure and the recovery process and it was a lot easier this time around.”
For women who are scared to have a C-section, Yvette would tell them, “If it is going to be in the best interest of you and your baby, it is worth it. We have come such a long way in medicine. My daughter was in and out in several minutes. Before you even have a chance to be afraid of it, it’s over.”
If you want to learn more about C-sections, you can view a video that explains the procedure here. If you would like to talk to an OB about your pregnancy, our team of OB/GYNs and MFMs would be happy to consult with you.