C-sections ain't what they're cracked up to be. Take it from me, I've had 3. So if, as a Dad-to-Be, you find yourself accompanying your wife/partner to the OR for the birth of your beautiful baby, there are a few key things you should really be aware of.
Because these key things will make a HUGE difference to your partner's stress levels. And being aware of them means you'll be one she'll have to thank for an overall calmer experience.
So let me begin by setting the stage so that you can see the C-section through her eyes. The more you understand how she's feeling, the easier it will be to support her.
First things first, unless it's an emergency, it's not unusual for your wife to have to walk herself into the OR. And then get herself up on the operating table. For the express reason of being cut open. It's a bit like you having to take that walk knowing that it's only a matter of minutes before that man with the mask over there will be slicing dangerously close to your most delicate of areas. It's unnerving.Once on the table, she needs to lie flat on her back - something she hasn't attempted for months. Mainly because there's a fully grown baby inside her. And feeling the full weight of that baby on top of her feels, well, really weird.And once the procedure begins, she's suddenly very aware that she's being sliced open just behind a thin cloth. The fear of that cloth falling down giving her a front row view of the slicing is something she does not want to be focussing on!However the biggest surprise for her will be that although a spinal block or an epidural blocks all pain, neither block any of the feeling. This results in the oddest sensation that somebody is rummaging around inside her body. Like she's some kind of shopping bag. This is odd. Very odd.
Best thing you can do? Distract her. In any and every way you can. Well except for maybe juggling with the surgical instruments or dancing around the OR. But anything else goes. Here are my top 3 recommendations.
- Put some music on. And not necessarily the music she expects. As the first C-section I went through was an emergency, we didn't have time to grab the cd I had planned on. But when we got into the OR, the team started playing the last song I would ever have thought of. The great Barry White's "You're my First, my Last, my Everything" Which immediately made me laugh and reduced my stress by about 50%. Still brings a smile to my face over twelve years later.
- Talk to her. Chat about the last holiday you took. That night you went out on the rip with your friends and ended up coming home with a traffic cone on your head. Anything that has nothing to do with what's going on behind that cloth. She'll ask you for updates when she wants them. It might seem strange ignoring the obvious but the distracting chats I've had with my husband and usually the anaesthetist made a big difference to me. Besides distraction is one of the great parenting tools so you may as well start practising it now.
- And finally, if she really doesn't want to be distracted and would rather focus on what's occurring, there are two things you can tell her that will increase her calm. Firstly that it only takes about 10 - 15 mins for baby to be born and secondly that although it's an unusual situation for her to be in, it's a very normal and common one for the surgical team. For them, it's just another day at the office.
So now that you know what to do for her, what can you do for you? Can you still be involved in the birth of your child? But of course!
Your choices are:
- watch the entire thing
- peep over the cloth at the point of birth
- not look at all.
The first time, hubby didn't look at all, the second time he had a peep and the third time, he watched the whole thing. Having done all three, he recommends watching as much as you can. After all, it's not something you see every day of the week. And remember you can also ask to cut the umbilical cord if that's something you want to do. Just let the surgical team know in advance.
The great thing about C-sections is that once baby is born, you'll both be so enamoured by your new addition that your partner will almost completely forget that she's still in the middle of a major operation. And with you doing an incredible job of keeping her well distracted, she'll be able to achieve the kind of birth most mums want - calm and stress-free.