I had an emergency C-section and I loved it

Ashley Bennion shares her eventful birth story.

Photo: iStockphoto

Photo: iStockphoto

Of course, this post should come with warnings and disclaimers in bold neon: I am not a doctor. Yes, I know the risks associated with a Caesarian section. I do not judge your labour decisions. This is a personal account.

And so on. Because, you know, we judge. Speaking of, can we stop the judgment? Let’s. Just. Stop. But perhaps that’s best left for another post….

Some context: My first pregnancy and labour were more or less ‘normal.’ I barely met my doctor, because there really wasn’t a need. Labour started, as it often does, with contractions and leakage, and after 27 hours (OK, maybe not so normal) I gave birth vaginally to my beautiful, healthy daughter. She was on the smaller side at 6lbs 12oz, but I had to push for four hours so trust me when I say, she did not feel small to me. TRUST. She had jaundice, holding us new-parents hostage to worry, and chained us to the hospital for four days.

Breastfeeding was excruciating and, because of the jaundice, I had to feed every 1-2 hours around the clock and then pump, too. Every time. For a month. I didn’t sleep for five days straight. And my physical recovery was ROUGH. The squirt bottle became my frenemy, as I hated using it, but the alternative was worse. Walking hurt, sitting hurt, laughing hurt, sneezing was terrifying and stairs were a new form of torture. “Will I ever physically heal?” played over and over in my head, almost rhetorically, because the answer was an obvious “snort, unlikely.” But after several months—yes, several—I felt more or less back to normal. You know, the NEW post-baby-out-of-curiosity-what-actually-signifies-incontinence normal.

18 months later I got pregnant with my second. A boy this time. And he was off the charts in weight. All of a sudden everything was different. I always met with my doctor. When it came closer to my due date, we were left with some big decisions. Schedule a C-section, or try vaginally? Remember my first delivery? A hard recovery? And she was so wee! In the end my decision was based on doctors’ (yes, that’s multiple “doctors”) recommendations and my old faithful: Better the Devil you know.

Induction was the plan; I’d be monitored closely, and would be taken to surgery in a stress-free manner if it seemed he wasn’t going to cooperate. All the doctors knew me as the small 5-foot 4-inch woman carrying a big baby; the anonymity of that first birth experience, gone. At my fourth ultrasound, about three weeks before I delivered, he was weighing in at an already-impressive 9.5lbs.

We packed the car, got our daughter settled and left for the hospital—wasn’t this civilized! No contractions. No pain. No puddles of leaking amniotic fluid scattered throughout the hospital.

The induction started smoothly; I progressed, they checked on us regularly, we tried to rest. But then his heart rate started dropping. The nurse would emerge from her secret nurse station, change my position and assess things. Maybe it was his positioning? Then the baby’s heart rate would settle and she’d leave again. And this went on and on. We tried not to obsess over every beep and blip on the monitors, over every facial expression she made at those beeps. After a half dozen times or so, the doctor came in. And then another. And another. Until there were about 10 people in the room. I thought my husband might throw up.

“We need to get him out,” the lead doctor said to me. “Now.”

And then, just like on TV, all hell broke loose. “OR 6!!” They yelled as they ran my gurney down the hall. The lights were so bright and stark compared to my quiet, dark, safe room.

“I’m scared,” I whispered pitifully to the lead doctor. “I know,” she said. “Don’t worry, we’ve called a pediatric specialist in from Sick Kids.”

She had to read the consent forms to me, and held my shaking hand to sign. Everything was happening so fast, my poor husband wasn’t even allowed in the operating room.

He thought one of us might die, and he hadn’t been given the chance to say goodbye.

They put me on the table.“I CAN STILL FEEL MY LEGS!” I screamed, stories of people being awake during surgery flooding my brain. They topped up my drugs. The lights were so bright. They cut, then pulled him out. The force of this vacuum was so shocking I screamed again.

I reacted poorly to the drugs and the adrenaline of the surgery. They had to knock me out, but I started choking on my tongue. For the second time in less than an hour, my husband thought I might die.

And then I came to, and held my son. He was perfect! Healthy and beautiful, and without the battle wounds my daughter had. Breastfeeding was a cinch. He slept well, didn’t cry, no jaundice. We left the hospital in two days—so quickly that I had to hit a clinic a few days later to remove my staples. I felt like myself! I could walk! I could sit! I could take the stairs! Good riddance squirt bottle! Of course there was pain, but it was manageable, way more so than when my daughter was born.

In the end, the emergency surgery had lasted half an hour, max. And yes, it was terrifying. Even writing this and remembering it in closer detail has me shaken. Was he going to be OK? Was he even going to survive? For minutes not a single person in that operating room knew. But he did and he’s healthy and after the delivery, everything went perfectly. A far cry from the challenges with my first, not to mention the months and months of recovery. Would I opt for a C-section birth again? In a heartbeat.

Oh, and my son? He was 11-pounds.

This article was originally published in April 2014.

Read more:
A beautiful C-section
C-section recovery
Hospital checklist

5 comments on “I had an emergency C-section and I loved it

  1. I am not judging, simply offering a counterpoint to your story. My first child was breech, and at 37 weeks with low amniotic fluid, they scheduled me for a C-section 2 days later. He appeared to be 7lbs by ultrasound. He had other plans and kicked his way out that night. My labour was fast, going from nothing, to my water breaking, to 10cm dilated in less than an hour. I had to not push for another hour until the OR was empty. He emerged with low apgar scores and was in fact, 8lbs 5 oz. I did not get to hold my child for two hours, as I reacted poorly to the anaesthetic and threww up on everything in sight. Within a week my incision hurt so badly I couldn’t stand up straight, but the Drs and even Emerg thought I was being an over-reacting wimpy first-time mom. First I could stand straight, then I couldn’t walk, then I couldn’t even lift my child. I developed an infection in my incision that 3 weeks later resulted in me being re-hospitalized as a result of the abdominal abcess. I was on IV antibiotics and had a tube sticking out of my gut to drain the pus and fluid, and after three days had to have part of my inicison (and my abdominal muscles!) re-stitched shut. I developed scarring as a result, which is believed to have had some impact on our fertility as we had issues conceiving a second child. I was every horror statictic that you read about and think, “that won’t be me.”

    When I did conceive again, do you think I would let anyone near me with a scalpel? No way! I had two scares with pre-term labor, but at 37 weeks, I was out the door, run down the hill and back up, thai food, acupuncture, castor oil. Every trick in the book. 48 hours later, I was in labour. The one part I didn’t understand about a VBAC is they don’t offer you medication, you have to ask. So there I was, thinking it wasn’t far enough along to have meds yet, and they told me it was time to push. 6 hours of contractions, 2 hours of pushing. Out “popped” a 9lb7oz baby. I say popped, because some parts of my anatomy did! The tear was so bad they had to take me to the OR to fix it, and I got to get free bowel-continence lessons at the clinic where the guys go after prostate surgery. So again, I was the outlier, “that would never happen to me”. But I could pick up my child. I could have my toddler sit in my lap. I could drive my car.

    So sit on a donut pillow, high fiber diet and re-potty train myself at 32? Or be gutted like a fish again and hope that the infection wasn’t triggered by the stitching material and that my abdomen won’t be a pus-filled waterballoon? I would choose the VBAC again, and every time! You don’t know what the horror is until you’ve lived it. I know the lesser of the two evils.

    Thankfully, the beauty of modern medicine is that we have ensured there will never be “another time”. Snip Snip!


  2. I’m glad that you came out of your labour ok, and had a beautiful, healthy baby. That’s what matters, right? No matter how you get there, in the end, what matters is that everyone is thriving.

    I don’t think we can necessarily correlate labour and delivery, to a woman’s recovery. I don’t think A+B=C here. Look at the stories you, and PeeGee shared. Mine would also be different. And my recovery’s are different for each child, too. There’s no way you can ever say, “If you do _________ during your labour, you will have a healthy baby, who will breastfeed like a champ, and you’ll be jogging and having sex 10 days after the baby is born.” It’s just not something that anyone can 100% know. Each labour/delivery is different. Each baby is different.

    So I will wish all the expectant mothers out there one thing: I hope you have a safe and speedy delivery. Safety first. :)


  3. Oh my goodness, reading your story has flooded me with memories of my C-section and I’ve got shivers – the good kind, I think!
    You were VERY brave and I’m so happy for you that you are able to look back on that memory and see it with such a positive outlook.


  4. I went from being a natural-birth enthusiast to a scheduled c-section enthusiast. Here’s how it happened:

    My first baby was born at home on my bed after 8 hours of labour and almost no medical help – I called the doula and midwife in about two hours before she was born. The birth went well, typical, pretty fast. It was incredibly intense but I lived through it, sustained a moderate tear and generally healed up quickly. It was a great birth and one that I planned for and wanted. Yes I was sore as hell down there for 5 weeks and my vulva has never looked the same after that.

    My second baby was a healthy full term pregnancy and I was again set up at home, this time with a birthing pool and doula and midwife at my side early on. I was Group-B streptococcus positive (GBS). I had cervical sweeps when i was 1 week late and almost 2 weeks late. My labour started one day at home, and I had the antibiotics as prescribed for GBS. At some point during a slow labour the midwife failed to hear a heartbeat. She called the ambulance, I was rushed to the hospital. Emergency c-section. Long sad story short: my baby died. They tried for 20 minutes to try to get her breathing again but no. She was stillborn. She was perfect, good weight, good chromosomes, basically healthy in every way but she died from GBS infection (we had an autopsy done). Grief, profound loss and depression followed.

    What had I done wrong? Chances are that had i been in the hospital I would have had a successful birth. Of course I’ll never know for sure. There are a thousand ways that story could have turned out differently, but it didn’t.. It was the worst thing ever to happen to me and my small family. It almost destroyed my relationship, and my outlook on life.

    Three rocky years later, after 3 miscarriages (one molar pregnancy and two chromosome defects – I had analysis done on the products of conception) I was pregnant again and this one was sticking. This time, this earth-girl-natural-mama went completely in the other direction: I had a OBGYN who specialized in high risk pregnancies and scheduled a C-section as soon as I could. There was absolutely no way I was going to run those chances again. I went in for non-stress test the last several weeks before the due date, mostly for my peace of mind, to make sure he was breathing properly, My son was born healthy at his scheduled hour in the hospital. I was well-taken care of and healed up quickly.

    Would I have another c-section? In a heartbeat. My healing time was much faster and my vagina suffered no trauma from the birth. Yes, it was a little nerve-racking, mostly because of my fears and anxieties from my tragedies. But I learned after that first emergency c-section and the healing time in the hospital after that, they take good care of you at BC Women’s Hospital. My fear of doctors and hospitals contributed to my choosing the natural route the first two times. I’m not so afraid anymore.

    Like commenter PeeGee says – you don’t know the horror until you’ve lived it. Well, I’ve lived the horror of a natural birth gone wrong. I would choose a scheduled c-section next time no hesitation, and i tell my friends and let them know its OK to have a c-section. There’s a tendency in our world to mistrust doctors and hospitals and have a back-to-nature mentality – “if cavewomen did it, I can too”. But we are modern and should happily take advantage of modern science and procedures. When you are dealing with life and death, there’s really no place for your pride or your fears. Do what’s best for the baby and rejoice in a successful birth. Medical science is amazing, and thank god for it!!


  5. Thank you so much for sharing your experience. This could be my story (my firstborn was a whopping 10 lbs 10 inches!) and, although I started out very pro-natural birth I am eternally grateful to the ER doc who performed my emergency C-section. It was terrifying for my husband and only later, in recollection, for me, but I’ve never been more thankful for anything or anyone. Had I not had the operation, there’s no way my son would be alive and there’s a decent chance I wouldn’t either. These are the stories that too often aren’t told. Many women, including virtual strangers, assumed I was disappointed by my C-section. Nothing could be farther from the truth. In fact, I’d do it again in a heartbeat.

    Thank you for sharing. We need this counter-discourse to the natural birth cheerleaders who forget about the very real and present dangers of birth, even today.


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