So, gearing up for the possibility of a c-section, huh?
Regardless of whether you are having a natural birth or a planned c-section, it is important that you prepare for both circumstances. I mean, this is birth. We all have plans and ideals for how we want our births to go, but it rarely happens that way. Our babies have their own plans of exit, and so, it becomes critical to stay open-minded and flexible towards all possibilities. C-sections are normal, common, and FINE. Keeping this frame of mind -no matter what others except your doctor have to say about it- is key to having a relaxing and safe delivery. If we create this image in our heads of it being this big scary monster to avoid at all costs, we will be tense and anxious. The most important thing is for mommy and baby/babies to come out of the experience safely and healthy.
I had planned for a natural birth, but still did research on c-sections as well, just in case. I have a thing where I need to be prepared for as many circumstances as possible. After being induced (long story that I will share some other time) and enduring 17 hours of labor (thank goodness for epidural!), my baby did not want to push her way out. To prevent getting an infection, I was told I would need an emergency c-section.
“Cool, let’s go for it,” I replied, cool as a cucumber. Or maybe just mellow from the meds, I dunno.
“Let’s go for it,” my doctor repeated, smiling and probably relieved.
I was amazed at how fast it went. I’m still amazed at how fast it went. Within 32 minutes of being wheeled into the operating room, I, along with my husband, met our sweet, slightly confused baby. Looking back on it now, I would do the whole thing all over again as it happened.
However, despite all the research I did, there were some things I experienced that I was woefully unprepared for, simply because no one ever talked about it. I’m still annoyed that no one warned me about those things. Well, don’t you worry, preggo babes. I’M talking about them. NOW. If I had known some of these after-care tips, my experience would have been less…. Wtf-ish.
Here is my list. Please be advised that I am putting it all out there and am not about to sugar-coat anything. Sugar-coating won’t help anyone and will only contribute to being blindsided. So please read with caution and with the understanding that I am only sharing tips based on MY OWN experience, and my intention is not to scare anyone. As always, talk to your doctor about all of this and your own feelings. And remember… you will be fine.
1. Don’t fear the shaking and shivering.
Allow me to set the scene. My baby had just been born, I was stitched back up, and I was about to be wheeled out into the recovery room, where I would spend the next hour/hour and a half to be monitored. Then, I started shivering. It started with my hands, and slowly spread to my whole body. The shivering turned to full on shaking, and there was nothing I could do to stop it. I tried to gain control and relax my muscles, but all to no avail. Even the muscles in my face were shivering so hard, that I could not talk. I had NO idea why that was happening to me, and I was shocked that the nurses weren’t freaked out like I was. Before the shaking got too bad, I had managed to ask if my shivering was normal. The nurse responded that it was a completely normal reaction I was having that I lot of people experience after surgeries, as the anesthesia and pain meds simultaneously left my body. My body was reacting as if it was experiencing withdrawal. I will add here that my baby was fine, she was completely unaffected. This was just my own body’s way of coping, and all I had to do was wait it out. So, I did. For the next 3 hours. BUT just because my experience was that long, doesn’t mean yours will be. Yours could be much, much shorter, much less intense, or non-existant altogether. The point I am making is that I wish someone, anyone, had warned me that something like this could happen, so I wouldn’t have been stressed about it. Even so, I did my best to focus on bonding with my baby as she lay on my (shaking) chest- to be honest, she was lulled by the movements lol- and to focus on the fact that the nurses monitoring me were not alarmed at all. Regardless, communicate as often as you can with your nurses and doctors about what you are feeling… the more they know and the sooner they know, the better.
2. Hug your pillow like it’s your long-lost best friend.
Hold a pillow against your belly HARD whenever you have to sneeze, cough, vomit (see the next tip for this one) or laugh to help with pain and keeping your stitches intact.
3. Keep your pillow close, and your vomit bag closer.
I vomit after coming off anesthesia. I know this about myself now. However, I was not prepared for that reaction as I was taken into my post-recovery room. Luckily, my mom or my husband or someone was standing next to the emesis bags (a.k.a. the blue or white vomit bags) and was able to grab it and give it to me just in time. This is a normal reaction, I was later told. So, learn from me, friends. Have someone ready with a pillow to give to you to clutch to your stomach (which I did not do and risked busting open my brand new stitches), give you a vomit bag, and feed you ice chips or chilled water afterwards, just in case. *Bonus sub-tip, since I just mentioned ice chips: you will be on a clear liquid diet at first. Drink a good amount of water, eat ice chips, and eat clear soup… stay hydrated.*
4. Pass gas.
Just do it. It doesn’t matter who is in the room. From the moment you set foot in the hospital to give birth, all modesty goes out the window, and truth be told, no one cares! Anyone will understand. All that matters at this point is your health and your baby’s health. Air gets trapped into your body after surgery, and it is necessary that you let it out during recovery. It is an indicator that your stomach and intestines are back in working order. Drinking warm liquids also aid you in passing gas.
5. Breathe deep like your life depends on it… because it does.
The doctors should give you a device called an incentive spirometer (pictured below) that measures your breathing and how deeply you can inhale. If they don’t, it’s ok, you can still do the breathing exercises yourself. Breathe in as deeply as you can and then breathe out. Do this 10 times every hour for a couple days immediately following your surgery. This helps prevent pneumonia and other respiratory issues that could occur after surgeries. It’s crucial and there is minimal effort involved to do this. Set an alarm and/or have someone remind you every hour to perform this exercise, because it is too easy to forget about! Ask your doctor when you can stop doing it.
(Photo Source: healthykin.com)
6. Make yourself walk.
Do this sooner rather than later, and only after you get your nurse’s and doctor’s permission. It’s going to be painful and you’re going to be like what the hell. But fight it and walk at least a few steps. Push through BUT only do as much as you can; definitely don’t overdo it. You will realize when you are about to reach your limit, so pay attention to that feeling. Walking speeds up your recovery and diminishes the chances of developing blood clots in your legs, which can be quickly and quietly lethal. Here’s the best part though: in a week or two, this horrid pain will DRAMATICALLY decrease. You will wake up one day and you will literally feel liberated. The sun will shine brighter, the birds will sing prettier, the angels will float down from the heavens….. ok ok, I’ll stop. The pain does not disappear completely, but it does decrease that quickly. It’s like magic, I’m not even kidding.
7. Don’t get up without help.
So yayyy you’re going to get up and walk! BUT you need to make sure you have someone helping you and physically supporting you while you do that. Do not get up and move without someone’s support in case you fall. At this point, you will be weak (I mean, come on, you just had surgery) and can fall easily, and that would just suckkkk.
8. Keep your bathroom door open.
When you can walk without assistance, still use the bathroom and shower with the bathroom door open. Like I said earlier, by now, modesty is put on the back-burner. There is no such thing anymore as you recover. Your safety is what matters most, and keeping the door open will allow you to call for help much more easily, if you need. The nurse in your room will also be able to see you if you have fallen. Always let someone know where you are going, as well.
9. Don’t lift anything 10 pounds or heavier.
For the next 6 weeks, you can’t lift anything 10 pounds or heavier. No laundry baskets, no heavy trash bags, no older kids, no groceries… you get the idea. You will want to, but please don’t. Get someone to help you. Even if you feel fine, don’t do it. It will hurt later and definitely delay your recovery. Be strict with yourself about this. The only thing you should be lifting at this point is your baby.
10. No intercourse for the next 6 weeks.
This isn’t from me, it’s the doctor’s orders. Recovery will absolutely be delayed otherwise. This is all I can say about that.
11. Keep calm and delegate on.
6 weeks is a long time to move slowly, and you may get impatient. No, scratch that. You WILL get impatient. You will be itching to get up and back into your normal routine. You may want to try to bend down to pick up a stray sock on the floor or rearrange books on your shelves or anything else of that nature. Resist the urge because even a simple task like those will make your whole body ache. I have experienced that firsthand. Allow other people do things for you and allow yourself to be pampered. Even after 6 weeks, your abdominal area can still be numb and sensitive (total recovery time is between 8-12 weeks). I had my c-section a year and a half ago and I’m still numb and tender in some spots, but I am getting back to normal very slowly.
12. Load up on some good entertainment.
I highly recommend using this time to catch up on that book/movie/tv show/audiobook/podcast/whatever you have been neglecting. Binge watching Jane the Virgin helped me make it through those first months of waking up every 2 hours to feed baby while battling hormone surges and the lengthy recovery that c-section entails. Honest to all that is holy, I made it through in one piece because of this show, and it distracted me from wanting to do chores and run errands. Plus, Jane just gets me.
13. Remember that you deserve your own patience, compassion, and mercy.
Cut yourself some slack and be compassionate towards yourself. Recovery is long, painful, exhausting, and irritating. Cry as much as you need to, it helps to vent it all out. Your hormones are crazy right now, on top of it all… stupid raging hormones need to sit down and shut up, am I right? Don’t think about how you look, either. None of that matters. You will do a fantastic job, and remember that your baby loves you.
This may seem like a lot. Once you go over this a few times, you’ll be fine. Heck, print this out and take it with you to the hospital when it’s time for the big day, if you need!
Bottom line, you’ll do great, you C-Section Champions, you.
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