nicole bensen

Unexpected surgery

So, there I was, 36+ hours after checking into the hospital, 33 hours into Pitocin contractions (if you know, you know), 16 hours after my epidural (best invention ever, IMO*), and the doctor said, “We’re going to need to get you into surgery.” 

UGH.

Having an unplanned c-section by definition wasn’t in my plan—especially after delivering two babies previously without surgical intervention. 

But, I’m getting ahead of myself.

If you caught this post on my personal page, you know we have a happy ending to the hospital story, and we’re in “the good part” with our beautiful baby, but let’s just say I used my wellbeing and happiness training during my stay at the hospital. 

Three wellbeing tools I used:

  1. Visioning (to get through contractions)
  2. Breathing (to lower my blood pressure)
  3. Acceptance/acknowledgment practice (when I was told I would have to have an unplanned/emergency c-section)

Visioning

When the contractions got the point where I was shaking and the tears were streaming down my face, you can bet your giant beach hat and unicorn floatie I was using visioning to imagine I was walking on a white sand beach, looking out at the clear, turquoise water, feeling the warm sun on my SPF-covered skin, and hearing the waves gently reaching the shore. It didn’t take the pain away completely for me, but it was useful for shifting my focus and helping me hang on until the blessed anesthesiologist walked in the door. 

Breathing

To lower my heart rate and blood pressure, I used the 2-to-1 breathing technique. I inhaled through my nose for a count of anywhere between 4 to 8, then exhaled for at least double my inhale. For example: inhale through your nose for a count of 5, then exhale slowly through your mouth for a count of 10. 

Acceptance practice

When circumstances don’t go the way we anticipate, it can be frustrating or disappointing. Having an unplanned surgery definitely fell into the frustrating AND disappointing camp for me. 

In Module 2 of Next Level You, I share more about this, but in essence, practicing acceptance doesn’t mean you like or agree with what’s happening; it’s just acknowledging what IS happening. The more we can accept the present reality, the less we suffer. Being mad about the weather doesn’t change the weather. 

So, at that moment I was told I would be heading off to surgery, I looked at my husband, took a few deep breaths and said, “I accept this is happening…I’m having an unplanned c-section.” (Again, with tears streaming down my face.) “It is what it is. I’m feeling sad and disappointed about it, and I’m allowing myself to feel sad right now. I know there are so many people in the world who’ve had this happen too and felt the same way.”

If you’ve never tried this, it can sound a little silly, I know, but I’d encourage you to try this the next time you have a situation that upsets you. It’s not about trying to make your feelings go away; it’s allowing reality to be what it is without trying to fight it or “see the silver lining.” (See: toxic positivity) 

So, there you have it, three mental health tools that work when you’re having a rough day at the office or an unplanned c-section. 

*Having a baby is such a personal experience. I have respect for people who have babies at home, in hospitals, in fields, with epidurals, with a birthing pool, with doulas, with doctors, and everything in between. You do what’s right for you.

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