The first time I had a cesarean birth, it was all very rushed and unexpected and I wasn’t prepared in any way.
I hadn’t even contemplated that my daughter would be born any other way than vaginally. My son- four years later was also born via C-section so I now wear my war wounds like a bad ass warrior mum and I am beyond grateful to the team of hospital medics who delivered my children into the world safely.
But like myself there are too many of us that aren’t prepared for what follows and for some unknown reason there seems to be a quiet hush surrounding the aftermath that no one warns you about.
As I have no medical training I’m going to skip the details of the procedure itself in this post. There are medically trained websites and an influx of information readily available to prepare you in advance of what to expect from a procedural point of view, so today we’re focusing on the things no one tells you about after your baby’s born.
So here’s my definitive list of things to be prepared for:
My daughter was born by emergency section after my waters’ broke at 34 weeks and I was given a nice private room to recover in. Well that first night was a shocker. I have never passed so much wind in my life. In the comforts of my own little room with not a soul around to judge I let myself go entirely, completely unabashed. Second time around, I spent my first night on a ward with other new mums and was a little more reserved. So much so that I held it all in. Big Mistake!!
The following days were agony. I couldn’t walk. No amount of peppermint tea eased that pain and the final straw came when two days later, having not even managed to pass the slightest wind, I crawled on my hands and knees crying out for help to the nurses on the ward. ( Sounds dramatic I know, but if you’ve ever experienced trapped wind, after pains, and the pain from major stomach surgery you’ll know )
Turns out that trapped wind is very common post op and I was given all sorts of lovely peppermint medicines to help me pass the wind. So first bit of advice: Do not hold it in!!!!!!! Let it flow out ladies, trust me you’ll be glad you did. Oh, and start chewing some peppermint gum as soon as you can.
Take an extra pillow you’ll need this for either laughing, crying, coughing, sneezing and all sudden movements to hold in front of your stomach to brace yourself.
Tidy up down there
This one isn’t aimed at the aftermath but I feel its worth mentioning.
The last thing anyone thinks about when they’re nine months pregnant is the um tidiness of their lady garden. I mean let’s be honest; you’ve not seen your feet in three months let alone have the capability or energy to tidy up down there. Hey ladies get your man to do it for you ( wink ) failing that a nurse you’ve never met before will come at you and your precious area with a razor.
You’ll still bleed a lot. They may suction a lot out before stitching you up but you’re still going to need a pack of industrial side sanitary pads to get you through the first week.
You’ll have a catheter fitted in surgery and it’ll remain in for 24 hours. Despite the intrusiveness of this, it was actually painless both when inserted and removed. I can’t speak for everyone on this though. The first time around my daughter was in the NICU ward being cared for which allowed me time to rest and having a catheter fitted removes the need to get up to go to the loo in the night. Second time around, the midwives circulated the wards and even changed my sons nappy to allow me to rest. Which, at 3 am and still slightly woozy from the painkillers was a godsend.
You’ll also have an intravenous (IV) cannula fitted in your hand which is a small tube that is placed into one of your veins. It’ll be used if the doctors need to put medicines or fluids straight into your bloodstream. This won’t be removed until the following day, once you’ve had your catheter removed and you’ve gone for a wee in a cup and the nurses are happy with the level of urine.
Move about as soon as you’re able to feel your legs. The nurses will guide you and help you to the shower which is not easy with a catheter fitted but trust me that shower will feel so good. Walking about after surgery is also said to decrease your risk of developing blood clots in your legs and breathing problems. It also won’t feel like it at the time but it’ll eventually help with your tolerance for pain too. Walking around soon after a c-section should also open up your bowels a little faster.
When I went into hospital in labour with my first, I wore a pair of pumps which I couldn’t get on the day after my daughter was born. So be prepared for giant clown feet.
Postpartum swelling is due to the excess level of fluid that remains in the body tissue after birth. You’ll be given a pair of hospital standard compression stockings to wear. A nurse will come and measure your legs and select the most appropriate size. Now the fun begins. These stockings are not like your regular stockings. They’re tighter and thicker than you can imagine, and you’re also not going to be able to bend down and slide these on effortlessly. So your man or birthing partner, BFF or nurse is going to have to get these on. No easy feat (pun intended) they’re going to cause your legs to itch, sweat and feel like your circulation is being cut off. You’ll also need to repeat this process for the next two weeks. Yay!!
Don’t forget your socks
Hospitals can be uncomfortably hot, especially on the wards. I’ve never understood why they feel the need to crank the heating up. However the operating rooms are freezing which is to aid in sterility. Combined with a paper-thin hospital robe and a body pumped with drugs you’re going to be pretty cold. Remember to take a thick pair of socks to wear. Even if you’re not planning a section and don’t have one I think it’s always good to have a nice pair of chunky warm socks on.
Take the painkillers. Don’t be a hero. You’ve had major stomach surgery and have a new-born to contend with. Take what they give you and don’t be scared to ask a nurse on the ward if they’ve been delayed doing their rounds which happens a lot. It’s best to take them before the pain kicks in.
Post op nausea
I was on nil by mouth for 18 hours before my son was born and was famished by the time I had recovered enough to be able to eat. A very sweet cup of tea and toast was given to me and I wanted nothing more then to chow it all down in record speed, until of course I went to eat and realised I couldn’t swallow the food as I was overcome with nausea. You may feel a bit sick after surgery so take it easy and eat slowly, allowing your body and digestive system to get back to normal.
Your scar will look awful, I was too scared to look at mine and you’ll have a thick plastic clear bandage stuck over the scar for five days until your health visitor will remove it. Remember when you were a kid and the fear of tearing the plaster off was so much worse than the actual process. Same applies here. Best bit of advise, stand in the shower with the detachable shower head and soak the bandage for as long as possible to soften it up first.
Due to the nerves cut during the operation your lower area and the area surrounding your scar will feel numb. A bit like when your arm falls asleep after you’ve slept on it. This numbness, despite being a strange feeling isn’t too troubling and the feeling will eventually come back after about a year.
Rely heavily on your support team/ family/ friends etc during the following days. You’re going to be fragile, overwhelmed, tired and in pain but I promise you’ll heal, your scar will practically vanish and you’ll bond with your baby in exactly the same way as if they were born vaginally.
And finally ignore any negative comments or judgy wudgy types you may unfortunately come across. I promise it’s all totally worth it in the end and you’ll get through it to become a bad ass mama who wears her scar with pride.