Typical C-section, from the nurse’s perspective

One of the L&D nurses’ blogs I keep with recently had a post about what happens during a C-section from the perspective of the nurse, starting with the prep. It was quite interesting to read, and since about 1/3 of American women who plan a hospital birth will end up having a C-section, you may feel better knowing what is in store. When I was in labor the first time, I was continually reminded of all of the labor stories I had read while pregnant, and although my experience wasn’t just like any of those other women’s, each part of it was just like someone’s experience. So, although it wasn’t a “textbook labor”, I felt comforted in thinking, “Oh, So-and-so in Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth felt just the same way when she was in labor,” and so forth. Similarly, you may feel more comfortable and relaxed, if you do end up having a C-section, if you have a good idea of what to expect.

So, you should read it, but I want to talk a little bit more about one aspect of this in particular. The post was inspired by a comment she had received from someone who was upset during her C-section, because

After my husband and baby left the room and they took down the sheet, I looked down and saw that my legs were in “frog” position and people were pushing on my stomach and looking between my legs. I was so upset that no one told me what they doing or gave me more privacy (the room was still full of people and I had made it really clear I have vulnerability issues.)

While the blogger agreed that this was normal practice, that normally it is explained to the woman what is happening. At the end of the post she talks more about this:

This is the point when the doctor pushes on the abdomen really hard while having the woman frog legged to fish out any large blood clots in the vagina. However, unlike the anonymous commenter’s experience, I’ve always seen the woman being told this is going to happen. There are people that are in the room but they are all busy doing whatever they need to do before they leave the OR so they really aren’t paying attention to the manual expression of blood clots from the vagina.

I can understand this. They see C-sections so often, and see naked women so frequently on the operating table, that they are pretty much inured to it. However, the women who undergo the C-sections are not so accustomed to it. It reminds me of the scene in You’ve Got Mail when Tom Hanks’ character tells Meg Ryan’s character that his gigantic bookstore forcing the closure of her little bookstore was “nothing personal.” She retorts, “It was personal to me.”

When I worked at a pharmacy, the first time I told somebody that this medication would turn his/her urine blue or orange or red, I’m sure I blushed. Before long, it didn’t bother me any more. I just got used to it. But the customers weren’t used to it, and I’m sure quite a few of them were quite embarrassed — perhaps at having contracted a urinary tract infection (or yeast infection, or constipation, or any other not-so-nice medical problem) — but I never thought about it a minute after they were gone. But it was personal to them. To me, it was just yet another customer getting yet another prescription for yet some more pills — we filled hundreds of prescriptions every day, and knew most of the customers by sight — but to them, it was not this way. They were a lot more important to themselves than they were to us. Which is only normal, and as it should be.

This attitude is probaby endemic in any profession, not just health-care. I can easily imagine bankers and plumbers and mechanics and gas station attendants — anybody and everybody — having this type of attitude about people they wait on. It’s personal to you; it’s just not to them.