My Convertible Life

Friday, March 4, 2011

Friday's 5: Things to Know After a C-Section

When I was pregnant with Junius, everything went pretty much by the book -- got pregnant almost instantly, had minimal sickness in first trimester and happily ballooned up to an extra 50 pounds along the way (including my nearly C-cup breasts, which were fantastic). I had every reason to believe that delivering the baby would be just as straightforward as gestating him had been.

Then my due date came and went. And went. And went.

Ten days later, after two days of back labor, my water breaking, an epidural and whoknowshowmuch pitocin, my OB was whisking me into the OR for an unexpected c-section.

It wasn't until several weeks after I came home and struggled through the recovery that I learned some of my friends had had similar experiences. But they never told me about their c-sections because they didn't want me to worry. I was stunned to realize that they had answers and advice that could have been a huge help during those first couple of weeks -- but I didn't know to ask them.

Today I'm thinking about my friend who is scheduled for an induction with her first baby. I wonder what she knows already or if she's even thought about a c-section -- other than wanting to avoid having one. And I wonder why I didn't already tell her any of these things.

Well, because I didn't want her to worry.

So as I'm sending prayers to my friend for an easy, healthy delivery, I'll share with the rest of you five things you ought to know if you have a c-section (all of which I learned the hard way with Junius and managed much better with Pippi):
  1. Ask for access. If you can talk with your OB ahead of time, ask how much access you can have to the baby in the OR. See if they'll let you hold the baby quickly while you're still in surgery or at least have a free hand to touch that tiny new face (like Pippi in the photo above). See if they can do the initial stuff (weight, cleaning, etc) in a spot where you can see what's happening while you're flat on your back. If you're someone who likes to know what's going on, see if the nurse anesthetist will talk you through the whole process while it's happening. [Also, I'm intrigued by this "natural" c-section, but not sure anyone is doing it in the U.S.]
  2. Take the drugs. Whatever the nurses are offering in the way of pain meds, take them. All of them. Every time they're available. You get no extra credit or superhero cape for toughing it out. Your baby will not be harmed if you're breastfeeding. And you'll be able to enjoy your baby more (and maybe even take a nap) if you're not suffering from incision pain. Did I mention you should take the drugs? Seriously.
  3. It's surgery. This may seem obvious, but it didn't really register for me or my husband after Junius was born. Don't expect to be able to do the things your friends did after a vaginal delivery, like drive a car (two weeks) or walk easily (several days). If you'd had abdominal surgery without a baby, no one would expect you to be up and around in two days entertaining visitors. With a c-section, it should be the same thing -- except that you have this new little person placing a lot of demands on you all of a sudden. Which brings me to #4...
  4. Be nice to yourself. Ask for help and accept all offers. Let someone else make dinner, do laundry, clean house -- this should be true for all new parents, but especially for a c-section mama. You'll need someone else to drive you to doctor's appointments for the first two weeks, so go ahead and let that person take care of grocery shopping and errand running, too (like going to the pharmacy to pick up your pain medicine, ahem).
  5. Keep everything close. Going up and down stairs is particularly difficult at first. Be sure you can camp out on one floor for most of the day -- set up a changing station, a place for the baby to nap (or rock or whatever) and access to snacks for you so you're not having to chase after things. Get lots of pillows for making yourself comfortable. Also, keep your feet up while you're sitting -- something about the surgery tends to make your legs swell for a few days.
Okay, mamas -- what did I miss?


  1. So helpful for new moms! Wonderfully written too! I love the super-hero cape reference. Why do we new moms always try to earn one while simultaneously doing the hardest things we'll ever do? You're beautiful to share. I've already forwarded this to two friends on their way to a C-section.

  2. I did not have to have a c-section, but I did have emergency abdominal surgery when I was 20 and yeah, and I remember all that stuff. You never know how much abs are a part of almost every single thing you do until they are sliced - lol! Oh and trust me going up and down stairs is no great shakes after a vaginal delivery (especially if you had to have stitches *ahem*) I think my BFF who delivered both ways summed it up best she told me "They are both the same in different ways. Either way, you are going to hurt afterwards." :o)

  3. Smart about the pain meds. It was surgery after all! When I had shingles after Colin was born, I took my Advil as often as possible, whether I hurt right then or not - to stave off the pain. Easier to stave it off than sit through it while you anxiously wait for it to start working.

  4. Good suggestions. Though my c-section was 20+ years ago, I appreciated having my hubby in the OR. They provided a screen so he didn't need to see the procedure. I wasn't able to stay awake/alert during the procedure, so he was the one to hold, cuddle, etc. He was the one who had the access. (See #1 above)

    Don't feel like you've "failed" if you need to have a c-section. I felt that I flunked natural childbirth. It took quite a while to get over that point. I just kept telling myself I needed to do what was best for my baby and me.

  5. Specify your desires to see and spend time with your baby ahead of time. If there are no complications and baby is healthy, you should be able to spend time with baby almost immediately. Also, I found having an advocate there for me, someone who knew the hospital, the staff, and the procedure helped. Whether that be a midwife or doula. And, RELAX.

  6. Great suggestions. For some reason I thought I'd never have a C-section. And then back in 2007, there I was, getting wheeled to the OR. I had NO CLUE how tough it would be but I think it would have been SO much less tough had I known. C-section #2? It was a breeze.

    My advice to someone is to try and walk as soon as they'll let you. I waited the first time and I think it made it worse!

  7. GREAT tips!! I had 3 C-Sections, so I'm a bit of a pro now, but these would have been SO helpful to read before the first one... and the second one actually!

  8. I've had 2 c-sections also. The second one was so much easier to recover from just because I knew what I was doing. My biggest piece of advice is to ask for as much colace as they'll give you, and don't leave the hospital until you, well, go. I don't normally blatantly self-promote in comments, but I did write all about my first bm post c-section. It was not a nice time.

  9. Whoops, forgot the self-promotion bit.

  10. Great list! I agree with all of your suggestions as well as the comments. Most of all, don't push yourself. I remember trying to stand up normally and crashing back down because I forgot I needed to be in slow motion. It takes much longer to stand, sit back down and regroup and stand again than it does to sloooooowly ease into the next position.


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