(Post originally from Two Tiny Feet, One Big Heart)
Like I explored in the last post, I never thought I was going to end up having a C-section. So honestly I didn’t even prepare for that possibility. I didn’t know what to expect and all my postpartum plans didn’t factor in that possibility. So, in the aftermath of things, I feel like I definitely could have been more prepared. So, I am sharing the 10 things I wish I had known about having a C-Section.
- Emotions run high. The high intensity of emotions during labor and delivery during a vaginal birth or a C-section are the same. You will still be excited, fearful, and feeling like you are riding an emotional roller-coaster. And seeing your baby for the first time in the OR or in a labor and delivery room will bring you that rush of emotions either way. I cried like a baby when I saw my little bundle of joy for the first time. I probably would have either way. Only difference was, I could not pick her up right away.
- Breast-feeding might come with some challenges. First of all, you will not have the opportunity for a latch-on right after birth. However, depending on where you deliver, you might be able to so as soon as you are in the post-op room (like I did). However, after surgical birth, your milk might take longer to come in. Now this is where it can become tricky if your plan is to exclusively breastfeed. Because depending on what hospital you are in and who your support system is, you might feel more pressured to feed the baby formula. I will tell you: it is hard to hear that little newborn cry and not think you are starving your baby. Specially if everyone around you thinks and says that. However, baby’s stomachs are very tiny and were made to thrive off the small amount of colostrum you are giving them. If you are in a breastfeeding friendly hospital, have good support, a lactation consultant, and your baby isn’t losing more that 10% of their birth weight, you will do just fine. Actually, in that scenario, your longer hospital stay might come as a blessing in disguise. Besides these issues, the pain in your stomach from the c-section might also challenge breastfeeding, since it will be harder to try different latch positions and having the baby’s weight on you for so much time (you need to breastfeed a newborn 8 to 10 times a day and in the beginning they feed for longer periods of time) might pose a challenge.
- How am I bigger than when I was pregnant? I didn’t have any expectations of leaving the hospital with a beautiful postpartum figure like all those wonderful celebrities. I didn’t even have expectations to fit into my regular clothes. So, I brought my maternity jeans and some sneakers in my bag so I could be comfortable when going home. NEVER did I expect to NOT FIT INTO MY MATERNITY JEANS! What??!! Well, it happens that after a C-section you get swollen. Not pregnancy swollen. Worst. And depending on how much medication and IV fluids you got, the worst the swelling! I barely fit into my jeans. Just enough to get by and be really uncomfortable the whole ride home. But the sneakers? Not a chance! Fortunately, I always have a pair of flip-flops in the car, and I managed to get those on my ginormous feet. Never saw that one coming!
- Abs are important muscles and not just because you want to show them off. You will finally understand the importance of your abdominal muscles. Oh my, are they involved in pretty much every little thing you do. You will definitely appreciate them much more after this experience, but just after you cringe and swear every time you sneeze, laugh, walk, sit, hold your baby on top of your stomach, go to the bathroom, and so many other mundane daily activities you will do. But don’t worry, “only” for 6-8 weeks.
- You WILL need help, even though you think you can do it all on your own. If you are anything like me, you will think and you will want to do everything by yourself. You want to enjoy your baby in peace and quiet once you get home from the hospital. Have some alone family time and enjoy the wonders of a newborn baby. You will reject your mother’s offer to fly in ahead of time and will be pissed when she shows up anyway. Boy, was I wrong. Mom, I apologize for being so stubborn! Thank god you did not listen to me and came anyways. Coming home after a c-section is delightful. But physically there will be so much you shouldn’t be doing. And it will hurt to get up from the couch and the bed. So if you have someone around that will hold the baby and bring the baby to you, help out with the cooking, the cleaning, and taking you and the baby to your appointments, you will appreciate it! Husbands/partners are great help, of course! But depending on their leaves from work, they might not be home to help. So if you can, have a plan B!
- You’ll still have postpartum bleeding. I guess I just never gave this one too much thought, but of course you will still have bleeding, just as if you had a vaginal birth. Were you happy that you didn’t get your period for 9 months? Well, you’ll make up for it in the 6 weeks after birth! Have many pads (the big ones, too) in your house for when you come back from the hospital. You will need them.
- The c-section scar. Healthcare professionals will judge your scar like its artwork and ask you who the “artist” was if it is a good one. Apparently, I was lucky. Every nurse that came in to check on me made a wonderful surprised face and asked me “Who did your c-section? Your scar looks amazing!” Of course, for you, it will never look amazing, because it’s your body. But, if nurses say it looks good, you should take the compliment and feel good about it! Also, I have to say, Bio-oil, really helped me with the scar. It’s looking so much better and lighter. I tried the silicone strips first, and just didn’t like them. They would get caught up in my clothes and I ended up not putting them on because of the inconvenience. Don’t forget to ask your doctor when it’s ok to start applying any type of product on your scar.
- Medication. Even if you don’t like taking medication, you WILL be taking painkillers! I hate taking meds and will only do so when I really, really, really need to. I took meds for more than 6 weeks after the c-section. Not the super strong ones. Those I took for about 2-3 weeks. But, I continued taking Ibuprofen for a while. I was in pain for a bit longer than expected. The midwife said it was because I was lifting weights before the recommended timing. So, if you have another option, please don’t lift your child’s car seat before you should. I was by myself with the baby after week 3 and had some last-minute doctor’s appointment that I had to go to, so really had no other option. You can do it, but you will just be stalling your recovery.
- Getting dressed. Clothes will be uncomfortable and soft pajama bottoms with no elastic band or nightgowns will be your best friends. I remember even some of my underwear feeling bothersome because they would sit right on top of the scar. So keep that in mind when choosing your outfits for the first couple of weeks.
- Weight loss. People say that it’s usually harder to recover from a c-section, with regards to losing the baby weight. I didn’t experience that. Let’s be clear. I am not one of those people who can eat anything and not put on weight. Quite the contrary. So, I was surprised to begin with that I only gained 34 pounds during my pregnancy. Specially when I did not exercise regularly or pay too much attention to what I ate. I did drink LOTS of water, which probably helped. But just because I was always so damn thirsty! Anyways, postpartum, the weight just slowly started shedding off, again without any particular diet or exercise. I was exclusively breastfeeding for 4 ½ months and continued breastfeeding even after introducing solids, up to today (11 ½ months). I do think this was the main reason. Today, I am 7 pounds lighter than when I got pregnant. I am pretty scared about what will happen when I stop breastfeeding, though. I WILL have to start a regular diet and exercise regimen if I want to keep it up. So, for me at least, besides being really swollen after birth, I don’t think there was a difference with weight loss due to the c-section.
So whether you are planning for a c-section or not, factor it in ahead of time. Know who will be helping you if you need it (you always need it, but you know what I mean) and look into products that might help with c-section recovery. For instance, it was too late for me when I found what seems to be these wonderful underwear for post c-section: C-panty.
There you have it. I am curious to know what you would add to this list! Comment below.
This post is also available in: Portuguese (Portugal)