Celebrating C-Section Mamas
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard it. That having a C-section is the “easy” way out of the childbirth experience; a ‘kick-back, relax, get cut open and get your baby plucked out of you’ way to welcome your bundle of joy to the world.
I usually hear it from people who have never experienced a C-section nor know anyone close to them who has. Or – sometimes – mamas who believe childbirth to be a competition, with only those going all-natural deserving a prize.
As a two-time C-section mama, I’m here to tell you … 1) I’ve never seen anyone leaving labor and delivery with a “best birther” trophy, no matter how their baby arrived. And 2) C-sections are not easy. They are SO not easy that if I were to have a third, I would seriously consider trying for a vaginal birth because a vaginal birth sounds like a dang walk in the park. (Joking, of course!)
In honor of C-Section Awareness Month, here are several things I wished I had known before my first unplanned, unexpected C-section. Knowing these things greatly helped me during my second, planned yet still traumatic, C-section:
C-sections are major surgery. Like, 4 inch incision, abdominal muscle separating, uterus wall cutting MAJOR SURGERY. The Penn Medicine Chester County Hospital blog sums it up pretty well. With my first, I probably wasn’t in tip-top physical condition prior to the C-section, which I believe slowed down my recovery. With my second, I went in with a greater focus on my physical and mental health and stamina.
- You will be under anesthesia or have an epidural or spinal block, and you’ll have a catheter inserted prior to surgery. Traditionally, this means your ability to hold baby independently right after surgery are slim-to-none (I haven’t had immediate skin-to-skin with either of my babes); especially in the case of general anesthesia and spinal blocks, it’s just not safe for you or baby. The earliest I held my babies was in recovery, usually about 30 minutes to an hour later.
- Your care team will encourage you to stand up, move, shower, and go to the bathroom as soon as possible. You will not feel like doing these things. DO THEM. Gently, easily, gingerly get out of bed, go to the bathroom, and freshen up – you will feel a million times better and be better equipped to love on your little one.
- Rest in the hospital. Yes, between the nurse visits, the technician visits, the housekeeping visits, the visitor visits (pre-COVID) … rest. Because when you get home, you will not rest as much as you should, no matter how large your support system is.
- But when you do get home, treat yourself gently.
- If you live on two or more levels, try to create small necessity stations for you and baby on each floor, so you don’t get caught without your pain medicine or baby’s diapers & wipes.
- Allow yourself extra time to get in and out of bed; if you’re anything like me, you’ll be rolling out and hoping to stick your landing up to 6 weeks post C-section!
- Take advantage of friends, family, neighbors, InstaCart, and Uber. Do not try to be a hero and drive anywhere. You will seriously set yourself back.
- Wear your binder! And have all the comfy clothes and mesh underwear and giant pads on hand. A good binder and premium mesh underwear will make you feel like a new woman.
- Take your medicine. Get the super-strong ibuprofen from your doctor, take your stool softeners, ask for the prescription simethicone (gas relief medicine), and drink as much water as you can. In my experience, your first bathroom trip will be a doozy – and so will subsequent visits for at least a week or so – so try to make it as easy on yourself as possible.
- Resume all activities slowly, and under the guidance of your doctor. Rushing exercise, sex, driving, or even just a walk outside before you are ready could make you feel like you’re taking one step forward, ten steps back. And that can feel really defeating. Slow and steady wins this race, mama.
Real talk side note: ALL OF THIS is easier said than done for many of us – my second C-section baby and I came home to three older siblings, two dogs, and a traveling-for-work husband. Expectation setting with your family and preparation in advance will be your best friend.
Overarchingly, take care of YOU. In my experience, there will be plenty of people who want to see the baby, hold the baby, and ask about the baby, but very few people remember to take care of mama. Try to eat regularly. Try to shower regularly. If you need help, ask for it. Your hormones will drop significantly in the week or so after birth, and you will feel the “blues.” If you feel anything more severe or persistent, tell your medical provider. All things I wish I had done the first time around.
But perhaps most of all, enjoy your baby. No matter how your little one arrived, rejoice in this time with your newest love. Take it from me: the days are long, but the years are so, so short.