Our birth experiences are often scary and challenging and not what we had expected. Modern medicine has made c-sections possible. And I will forever be grateful for having that option. It ultimately saved my baby’s life.

It only takes a few minutes for things to get underway after an emergency Cesarean birth is ordered. You have nurses entering the room, making you sign documents for the anesthesia and surgery. You also have other nurses unplugging you from the machines while your partner is handed white plastic scrubs to be in the operating room with you.

It can be difficult to deal with things that don’t go as planned, especially when you are a first-time mother who is unprepared physically and mentally for a C-section birth. Not to mention all the things you need after the surgery to take care of the wound.

The stages

My experience with an unplanned C-section following a traumatic labor makes me intimately familiar with the emotions associated with it. It literally felt like a roller coaster of emotions; you first start by freaking out, being scared, sad and then happy after it’s all over.

As much as I didn’t think it would happen to me, I wasn’t prepared for anything other than a natural birth. The last 16 months have taught me that births are normally unpredictable, and every birth is unique. 

my baby after c-section
Dad and Levi having bonding time. Photo by Amairani Hernandez/CALÓ NEWS.

Over the last few years, Cesarean births have become more common. In 2020, California had a 30.8% Cesarean delivery rate, ranking 27th in the nation, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

There are other mothers out there who have experienced what I have, and it helps to know that I’m not alone. I also have a few friends and coworkers who have also had C-sections, and I’m always interested to know what their experience was like. 

There is nothing more frightening than making a last-minute decision to have surgery. It also entails a long, painful recovery–both physically and emotionally. In my case, a C-section was not what I wanted. However, a year later, I am here to tell my fellow C-section moms that it is OK. We are going to be OK.

5 tips

Here are five things all C-section moms need to know.

The scar will fade away

After surgery, I had this big bandage across my abdomen. I initially thought the incision was quite large. For the first few days, I pretty much ignored the fact that I had been cut in my abdomen, and truthfully, I was scared to see what it looked like. After two weeks, I was able to see the incision after my doctor gave me the green light to take off that big band-aid. I remember going home and looking at myself in the mirror, glancing down and realizing it was barely visible. A year later, my scar still looks like a thin, light line, which I think of as my tiny souvenir of everything I had been through.

The pain will go away

My post C-section recovery was exhausting; I was too medicated to hold my baby after the surgery. I was also exhausted because I had been there for two days trying to deliver my baby naturally. With all honesty, it will hurt to sit up, it will hurt to laugh, and it will hurt to do basically anything. After I was discharged from the hospital, the ride home was the worst. Any little bump on the road would hurt me. The pain was horrible! What’s even worse is trying to get up at night from your bed to use the restroom. The pain on a one to 10 scale was definitely a 10. But just like your scare, the pain will go away. 

The incision won’t open, so don’t panic

A day after giving birth, my nurse asked me nicely to stand up and start walking around. It was only me and her in the room. My partner was in the ICU with our baby. I was totally freaking out to find out that they make us walk a day after surgery. I got up slowly and it was very painful. Not only that, but I remember her bringing me a band to put around my stomach. And ladies, this belly band is a lifesaver. I felt like a superwoman after being able to walk. My only motivation for walking was to see my baby in the ICU. I’m not sure where all that strength came from, because even the nurse was surprised by how well I was walking.

Lean on your support team

In my experience, having a supportive team was really helpful. Although my team was no more than two people, those two people were more than enough. My partner and my mom were there throughout this whole experience and to them, I’m very thankful. After a C-section, you need a lot of help. You won’t be able to cook or clean, so don’t even think about it. You’ll need lots of rest so that the body can heal properly. Furthermore, you’ll need help getting up, carrying the baby, showering, changing diapers, sitting down, going up the stairs and even putting on your shoes.

after c-section
My mom stayed over for two weeks to help me around the house and with the baby. Photo by Amairani Hernandez/CALÓ NEWS.

Muscles will re-learn how to function

A month after giving birth, I attempted to exercise, not the best idea at the time. I couldn’t lift weights. My abdomen would get sore easily for about a week or so. I knew my body wasn’t ready, but I kept trying. Three months later, exercising felt much better, however I was still not feeling 100% yet. It wasn’t until a year after giving birth that I felt like my body was in a much better place from the first time I attempted to work out. Practice and patience are the keys to getting back to your previous exercising routine.

Moms, you’ll stop worrying about how your baby arrived

I was crushed by the results of my labor, which were far from what I had envisioned and hoped for. I felt cheated, I felt like a failure. Not only that, but I felt like I didn’t get the real birthing experience. But now, looking back, every birthing experience is real, even for C-section moms. We can all agree that birthing experiences are painful, and becoming a mom requires sacrifices. Even if it wasn’t what you expected, a birthing experience is still a birthing experience. 

At some point, I was intrigued by how many other mothers have had C-sections. I just wanted to know their experience. It was nice for other moms to reach out to me after giving birth and give me advice and share their own personal experiences. Surprisingly, during the time that I was pregnant, a lot of other moms on my social media were as well. And I remember asking myself, “Did this mama actually have a ‘regular’ birth? Or was she like ‘the rest of us?’”

One day, it just didn’t matter anymore. I’m not sure what caused me to suddenly get over it, but I did. What’s more pressing now is when will I ever get a full night’s sleep again, or when will my house stop looking like there was a tornado every few hours.

Regardless of where you are in your recovery, mamas, hang in there!

It’s okay to feel sad, scared, tired or anything less than perfect, we’ve all been there. Time heals you physically and emotionally. Moms, at the end of this journey, every stitch, struggle, and stretch mark is totally worth it. While the birth of your child can seem overwhelming and all-defining in those early days, there is a life ahead of you that will be so much more rewarding and filled with beautiful memories with them. So, hang in there! You got this, mama.

If there is anything I can help young mothers and fathers with, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me at amairani@latinomedia.org.

Follow my Mami & Me column here.

Amairani Hernandez is a native of Los Angeles and a graduate of the California State University of Los Angeles with a degree in Broadcast Journalism. She is a staff multimedia journalist, who focuses on...