I recently shared the story of my unplanned c-section. What I did not get to share in that post was the nitty gritty of what life was like recovering from a c-section. My hope in sharing what I learned is that if you are about to go through a c-section, you can be a little more prepared and have an idea of what to expect, both during surgery and in recovery.
1. Chills and Extreme Cold
During my c-section and immediately after, I was extremely cold. When I say cold, it was probably the coldest I have ever felt. My teeth were chattering uncontrollably and I could not warm up. The nurses brought over blankets that had been heated up. That seemed to help somewhat, but this lasted during my surgery and well into recovery.
Since the birth of my daughter, I have done some reading about why this happens. Apparently it is a combination of a few things. Since most women are awake during their c-sections, it happens as a reaction to the anesthetic and because of the loss of blood that happens during surgery. I have also read that in addition to the above mentioned reasons, it is also your adrenaline kicking in. While all of this is normal, it is something I was not prepared for.
2. Having your arms in a T shape on the table
While this is standard procedure, it was not something I thought about. I had heard about this in our hospital birthing class, but because a c-section was not on my radar, I had forgotten about it. This is done to prevent sudden movement because mom is awake during surgery. It does not hurt. Some hospitals will strap Mom’s arms down. It is just something that is a little hard because once that baby is born, you do not get a chance to hold them until after the surgery is finished up.
3. Lack of Sleep
I will be honest and say that the hardest day in the hospital was the day after the birth of our daughter. Our daughter was born in the evening and so by the time we got to our actual room it was probably close to five hours or so after the birth. I was exhausted because I had pushed for a long time before a c-section was called. Not only that, but I had just had major abdominal surgery. The nurses (bless their hearts) came in promptly every two hours or so to check my vitals and administer pain meds. I felt like that first night I had hardly any sleep. The next day was pretty much a blur. I was running on little sleep and still had to manage to feed baby and coherently talk to the pediatrician, my OB, the nurses, and my husband.
4. Useless Abs
When you have a c-section, they cut through abdominal muscles to get to the uterus and baby. Therefore, things we take for granted, like sitting up with ease, laughing, and coughing, are extremely painful. I can remember having to hold a pillow in front of my stomach when I had to cough or when I wanted to laugh. My husband was a trooper and helped me out of bed for the first week at least. Another thing they have you do is blow into an instrument to make sure you are keeping your lungs clear. I completely took for granted how much we use our ab muscles.
5. Terrifying Bowel Movements
Seriously, having a bowel movement scared me so much! I know how crazy that sounds, but what I never thought about was how much those abs help you do that seemingly easy and natural task. Do yourself a favor and accept the stool softeners and milk of magnesia the nurses offer and recommend. It will make your life a whole lot easier. It does get better. Trust me.
6. Learning to Pee Again
While we are on the topic of bodily functions, you almost feel like you have to learn how to pee again. They usually keep the catheter in for that first day or so post surgery. Because I was so weak, they wanted me to get more rest before attempting to do things like going to the bathroom and showering. I felt kind of silly having my husband wait outside the door when I went to the bathroom, but he was only doing it in case I needed anything.
Because my body had essentially taken a break from going to the bathroom, that first time was quite interesting. In addition, the nurses want to measure the amount of urine that comes out to be sure there was no damage to the bladder during the delivery or due to the catheter. Be prepared to have to measure that for the first few times you go to the bathroom after you are allowed to go on your own.
7. Lifting Challenges
After your surgery the doctors will tell you that you are not supposed to lift more than baby and the car seat for six weeks. This is to allow your incision to heal completely and to prevent a surgical hernia. If this is your first baby, that may not be too hard to comply with. If you are like me and had one child (or more) at home, this proves to be a little more difficult. At the time of our daughter’s birth, our son had just turned two. Of course he still loved to be picked up and cuddled, but I couldn’t do that. I also could not lift him into his bed or into his car seat in the car. The list of things I could not do for him goes on.
However, despite that, we learned ways to adapt. We put a step stool in the car and by his bed. My husband would lift him and set him in my lap at bedtime so we could still cuddle to read books. If my husband was not home, he learned to climb in the chair next to me and then climb up on my lap. When we were out somewhere and needed the stroller, I would ask someone in the parking lot if they could help. I also had a lot of help from my mom friends at playdates or at the library. They would meet me in the parking lot and graciously help me take my stroller out and place my son in the stroller so I did not have to lift. I also wore my daughter a lot to help with this, too.
It sounds so daunting and it can be. Trying to overdo it is not worth the risk of what can happen if you do.
8. Wear High-waisted Underwear
I know how unappealing that sounds, but it is important that your underwear doesn’t touch the incision area, as this is painful. Anything you can do to avoid contact with that area is helpful.
9. Nursing Tricks
If you are a nursing mama, it may be helpful to you to utilize the football hold, which is holding the baby on your side instead of across your abdomen. This is to prevent baby from kicking or pushing on the incision. It may be helpful to do that if you are a bottle-feeding mama, too. I have never tried to bottle feed in that position, but I assume it would work out just fine and might help protect your incision area.
10. Accept Help
With the birth of any child, whether they are born via c-section or not, accept help from others. Do not try to be Wonder Woman and try to do it all. A lot of times, people want to help. Allow people to make meals for you. Have people come over to hold or rock baby so you can get some rest. If you have older children, allow someone to take them for a few hours. Let a group of mom friends come over to bring you food and give you some fellowship time. Know that you do not have to do it on your own.
As I look back over my list of things I learned, I realize how scary and hard this may seem. If you are about to go through a c-section, try not to worry. The recovery is more grueling than that of a vaginal birth, but it is manageable. Try to remember that a healthy baby and mommy is always the goal. No matter how this baby comes into the world, that is the best way for that particular birth.