My C-section was expected, but not planned. I’d been diagnosed with placenta previa, meaning that the placenta was covering my cervix, and in a vaginal delivery it would have to come out before the baby. That’s a bad thing – in general, it means that the mother will lose a massive amount of blood in a natural birth, and that mother and baby are less likely to survive. A c-section makes birth much, much safer in these cases (no death! Yay!), but of course I over-researched everything and found a fascinating article about a midwife, ca. 1700, who had managed to save some mothers and babies with this condition. (https://inamay.com/mother-and-child-were-saved-the-memoirs-1693-1740-of-the-frisian-midwife/)
After an initial bleed at dinnertime on my 40th birthday, I got a helicopter ride up to Brigham and Women’s Hospital, where I was put on bed rest. A few days later, they determined that I had an amniotic fluid leak and rushed me off to get my c-section. Of course this happened right after my husband, with no cell phone, had gotten on the bus back to the Vineyard. He would not be able to return until the following day, so I called my friend Sioux, who lived just across the river in Cambridge, to come be with me through the operation. She was a much, much better doula than my husband.
The operation went quickly and smoothly, and little Christopher was fine… except that once he was in the NICU he started having apnea and bradycardia, which resulted in an excessively long NICU stay. He’d been born at 34 weeks gestation, 6 weeks early, and had to stay in for 7 weeks, which was ridiculous. Having to travel back and forth between home and the hospital was exhausting. We had a 2 ¾ -year-old at home, so we couldn’t just leave her.
Physically, I have to say that recovering from the c-section was a piece of cake, much easier than getting over the exhausting multi-day induction I’d had with my first. (Now pitocin, that's exhausting!) I was up and walking (a little) the next day. My main complaint was that the hospital pushed opioid pain killers, which I took once but really didn’t need. I was fine with just Ibuprofen and Tylenol, and took those for less than a week. About 5 or 6 days after the birth I was back in Boston, schlepping my breast pump around on buses and generally feeling very tired.
In short, my experience was that having a C-section – without labor first – was no big deal, but having a baby in the NICU sucked.