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C to the section

My first five kids were born via what some people deem the old-fashioned way. Then the exit sign flickered out.

The next two babes were born via c-section, both undeniably necessary. I have no regrets regarding either delivery. Mr. Baby is scheduled to arrive in an OR, too. I’m fine with that.

Here are some general observations about c-sections. They are in no logical order. If you are a dude or otherwise squeamish, this may be too much information:

1. There is a big difference in recovery time between emergency and scheduled c-sections. If you have an emergency c-section, like I did with Beatrix, you have to recover from labor and major abdominal surgery. Plus, the doctors were in a frantic hurry to get her out, so I felt quite battered after she was born.

With Archie, it was more leisurely. Even though I wasn’t expecting to have a c-section that day, there was a happy, chatty, mellow pace that made the surgery and recovery much easier to manage. There were lots of laughs in the OR, good music, and a blessed vibe. Don’t automatically assume the OR is a cold, heartless, life-defeating, grim place. The moment I heard my two c-section kiddos cry, those ORs were the happiest rooms on the planet.

2. Beatrix was born at a hospital where I wasn’t allowed to eat real food until I passed gas. The spiders had to bark. I had to step on the duck. My hospital gown had to cough. Naturally, I was beyond hungry, so after a couple of days I lied and said I had finally accomplished what most people do with great ease in elevators and other enclosed spaces. I figured I needed real nutrition to make yummy milk, so I’d risk the grilled cheese sandwich. I never noticed any ill effects from eating the foods I obtained via false pretense.

3. Archie was born at a hospital where you could order anything off the menu, any time of day. There were no menu restrictions. It was pretty awesome. They called it room service, and I took advantage. It didn’t matter that I just had big time surgery. Bring on the macaroni and cheese and chocolate cake! They didn’t care. Unfortunately, this other extreme did have ill effects. So my advice for anyone having a c-section is to be moderate when eating during those first few days of recovery. Don’t starve, but don’t go nuts in the name of making milk. Common sense.

4. After Archie’s birth, they put special compression boots on my lower legs to prevent blood clots. I wore them for about 24 hours and I admit I liked them. Every 10 minutes or so, they’d tighten and massage my calves. I was stuck in bed with an IV and catheter, so why not let my legs in on the party?

5. I was terrified of getting the spinal when I was being prepped for Archie’s delivery. For some reason, it scared me more than an epidural—probably because epidurals are usually done when you are already in pain, so you welcome the needle and the relief it brings. But the spinal was fast and practically painless. I had nothing to worry about, and it took effect pretty much immediately. Which brings me to…

6. You must have a catheter with a c-section. Ask them to put it in after you’ve had your spinal. They will leave it in far longer than they do after you deliver vaginally (if you needed one at all). That was annoying, but I understand it was necessary because when you are sliced open, a lot of organs are displaced to get the baby out, including the bladder. It may take a few days for it to be back to normal, fully-functioning condition.

7. The swelling after my c-sections was insane. My legs looked like Greek columns. My hips to the tips of my toes were two solid cylinders. The only thing missing was a statue of a stern, seated Abraham Lincoln between my legs. Swelling after childbirth is very common, but it was definitely worse after my c-sections. I attribute it to extra IV fluids and meds? This time, I’ll be thankful it’s summer and can wear flip flops home from the hospital.

8. Even if you have a c-section, you will still be rocking the giant pads and mesh undies. The good news is that the postpartum deluge is shorter and lighter, at least in my experience.

9. Take the painkillers. Do not take them late. Do not skip them. After a few days, I slowly backed off the painkillers because I was worried about them contaminating my milk. By one week, I was completely painkiller free. The first two days or so were pretty ouchy, even with the painkillers. I wrote about what happened when the nurse decided not to bother me on the second night after Archie was born. Worst pain of my life, and I am not kidding.

10. Both my c-section incisions were closed with glue. I appreciated not having staples or external stitches. My scar is pretty seamless, which I attribute to the glue. They like to take a look at your scar every chance they get, which is a good thing I suppose. In other words, don’t bother with pajama pants.

11. Before you are taken back to the OR, you must drink a horrible liquid that comes in a little plastic cup. It tastes like black licorice + fire + 300 year old sauerkraut + fish. It’s an antacid.

12. In my opinion, any woman having a c-section needs someone to spend the night with her, especially the first night or two. Nurses are wonderful, but they are busy and can’t always come running immediately. I was zonked out of my mind after Beatrix and with Archie I was rocking the Tube and Boot look and couldn’t go anywhere. You can’t care for the baby other than nursing, so you’ll need someone to diaper the baby, swaddle, rock, and transfer the little bundle between you and the rolling crib. This is especially true if your hospital has a rooming-in policy, where babies are only kept in the nursery if they are sick or need a lot of extra attention.

13. I found it helpful to nurse as much as possible as soon as possible. I always heard that c-sections interfere with milk production and nursing, but it wasn’t true for me. My milk came in at the same rate it did when the old internal exit sign was still glowing. You will need more pillows after a c-section to keep the baby’s weight off your tummy. Archie ended up in the NICU (not because of the c-section but because he was 4 weeks early) and I had to pump. My milk still showed up on time, despite me being deeply worried it wouldn’t.

I’m sure I am forgetting a lot. My memory will be jogged soon enough.

What am I leaving out, c-section sisters?

23 comments to C to the section

  • Hey thanks! This is exactly the kind of skinny I need. 🙂

  • fern

    Rock on. In a rocking chair. After my second c-section a nurse-midwife told me that there was a study done that showed that women who had c-sections that rocked in a chair for 20 minutes 3 times a day left the hospital one day sooner than those who didn’t. That part was not true for me, but I did feel much better much sooner, especially at home. You get your circulation moving without putting any real stress on your body. Sort of like mini exercise. It really works.

    Also, if you are a little sad because you had a c-section (planned or unplanned), because you really wish your body had worked the way you thought it should, don’t let any nurse (or anybody else) say to you, in a judgemental, nasty tone “your not going to be one of ‘those’ women who are upset about the c-section, are you?” Sorry. Just had to vent. 21 years later. Some things just stay with me.

  • My first was a planned C (stubborn footling breech); my second was an attempted VBAC, but an unhurried C after 25 hours of labor after my water broke. The first 19 hours were unmedicated, so I had an epidural for about 6 hours before they did the bolus of meds for the surgery.

    If you have to have the C, do it scheduled, as late as possible in the pregnancy. If your doctor is fabulous, perhaps they would allow you to go into labor BEFORE the C.

    My physical recovery after the first, planned, one was MUCH better. Hello, no marathon of labor. BUT, my emotional recovery after the second was lightyears better. I think it because I sobbed my way through labor and got all the nasty hormones out of my system. All in all, I would rather have all the gut-wrenching sobs out of my system BEFORE I am trying to take care of a newborn.

    And yes, eat lightly until you poo.
    .-= Kimberly´s last blog ..And HEY- there are pictures! =-.

  • don’t try to wiggle your toes while you have the epidural in. it will piss your brain off.

  • “Don’t automatically assume the OR is a cold, heartless, life-defeating, grim place. The moment I heard my two c-section kiddos cry, those ORs were the happiest rooms on the planet.”

    THANK YOU. Yes.

    Recovery from my planned c-birth was a bazillion times better than from laboring beforehand. My nurses were always pretty adamant about me being up and walking around. I also don’t remember having the cath in that long. ??? Maybe one of those memories I have happily suppressed.

    A BIG yes to having someone stay the night if you can. My oldest was nearly 10 lbs, and I made the fool mistake of sending everyone home the second night (my sister had stayed with me the first night). Trying to lift that big ol’ baby out of her bassinet to nurse her. GOOD LORD. I wanted to die.

    My biggest advice – and really, this could go for v-birth mamas, too – is HONOR THE BABYMOON. Clear two weeks for doing very little other than eating, nursing, and sleeping, and take it so easy on yourself for the first six weeks. Respect your body. Allow it heal. Embrace the sleepy.
    .-= Megan@SortaCrunchy´s last blog ..Links for 2010-07-20 delicious =-.

  • Jenn

    This is the kind of stuff they should talk about on Discovery Health during Baby Week!!

  • The title of this post is genius. It made me “HA!” out loud. 🙂
    .-= Sarah@ Life in the Parsonage´s last blog ..Gus =-.

  • I never had a c to the section, but I can vouch for your theory about IV fluid and legs that could double for Greek pillars. They pumped me full of fluid for Kieran’s birth in May; they wanted me to be good and hydrated before they gave me the requested epidural. And boy, did I get hydrated. My face visibly puffed, like a marshmallow in a microwave.

    Childbirth is so glam, isn’t it?

  • Oh yeah!!! An honest review… Never ever having had a C-section I am always told like any birth story: how fantastic a C-section is – no pain, you just lay there and your baby is whipped from within and every woman has the right to this surgery because it make the whole hideous birthing experience “invisible” … or it was a drastic emergency, major drama and total anesthetic, but you as usual add a touch of reality!!! I had a feeling there were pro’s and cons!!! And I have to say that postpartum deluge gets less with each child – amazing but true. All the best with your Number next!!!
    .-= se7en´s last blog ..This Week 19 July at Se7en… =-.

  • Not to be morose, but my unplanned C-Section (after 23 hours of labor) convinced me that I never wanted to have kids again. (Either that or the screaming buddle they handed me that never stopped screaming…) And my scar is still numb 5 years later.

    .-= Bonnie´s last blog ..Blue Blood =-.

  • Jen

    I’ve never had a c-section but I’ve been in the OR many times as a provider.
    I love your list. May I make a copy to keep for myself…or even show some patients?

  • Genevieve

    My first was a C-section after 18 hours of labor and so my next two were also C’s. I was annoyed by the women who believed I “elected” to have C’s — PLEASE!!! With the marshmallow face, the legs like columns and all the extra pain, YEAH!!! I am still envious when I see my sisters who gave birth vaginally and are home the next day….they look so much better after giving birth than I did for the six months following….

  • i was so starving after mine and there was no diet restrictions so I ate a cheeseburger. It was delicious. And didn’t cause me any nausea.

    As for the swelling, because I was in labor so long before mine, I requested some compression stockings while still in labor. They stayed on basically the rest of the time in the hospital and the morning after the section my legs actually looked SKINNIER than before giving birth. My face? That was another story, but you can ask for them or bring them from home.

    The first time I asked for pain medicine i didn’t ask what they were going to give me. Foolish. They gave me something called demerol, which in my medical opinion, is just about the worst opiate pain med out there. It has lots of metabolites (which cause side effects) and made me feel really, really drunk. So from then on I asked for something called toradol. It’s great – it’s not even a narcotic, just a really fancy and strong ibuprofen. But it worked perfectly. No head rush, no drunk feeling, no weird dreams. When I came home I had a bottle of some percocet but I think i took one and decided I didn’t like how it made me feel. So I just stuck with 600mg ibuprofens.

    I hadn’t heard about that stuff I had to drink before I was in the OR. You are not kidding about how awful it was.

    My biggest annoyance was how ready I was to get out of bed before they actually let me. The foley catheter had to stay in for 12 hours after and I think the minute I could I asked for them to take it out. Then they let me get up and go to the bathroom. And finally after that I could shower.

    The spinal makes you feel very strange in that you can see your body but it has absolutely NO sensation. I would touch my leg or stomach and it was so odd because I couldn’t feel at all. It was like a mushy alien body or something.

    you’re getting close, right?? I’ll be thinking about you in the days to come.
    .-= Aubrey´s last blog ..Aahhh =-.

  • Very interesting! I’m glad to know the info, since even the best-laid plans and all that…

    I will say, however, that after pushing for 2 hrs with my second-born, it certainly FELT like a statue of Abe Lincoln was between my legs in the days following. Talk about swelling. Egad.
    .-= jenni´s last blog ..Here’s the thing… =-.

  • This was the most indepth childbirth prep I have read. Nice work! You should really write for the “What to expect” people.

  • I just thought of one more:
    It’s really common after the baby comes out for your blood pressure to drop quickly. For me, this meant I was suddenly overcome with an overwhelming desire to vomit. All I could do was retch, but they gave me some medicine to bring my pressure back up and then I was fine.
    .-= Aubrey´s last blog ..Aahhh =-.

  • This is a pretty great breakdown. Of course you should include the caveat that every woman is different and every experience is different. I have had virtually no swelling with my recoveries! I had the compression things on the legs for the first time this past delivery and I loved them! They felt great–a nice massage every ten minutes. I have actually managed without someone in the room with me the first night the last two deliveries. When I had my fifth baby (4th surgery) I was able to have this drug called Astromorph instead of the usual spinal. It was great! None of that wooziness after surgery because I didn’t have to start the pain meds so soon. But they aren’t using it for surgery anymore I guess. Bummer. I have a ridiculous fear of becoming addicted to painkillers (thanks Oprah and Dr. Phil) so I only take them in the hospital! After that it is all Tylenol for me. My doctor has always let me eat real food as soon as I want it, thank goodness. I’m always paranoid I won’t be able to “go” when they take the catheter out and will have to have it put back in w/o the benefit of anesthesia to block the discomfort. Thankfully that has not happened.

    One thing–once the cath is out try to get up and walk around as much as possible! It is hard, but it helps recovery big time. Oh, and my incision bled a little bit around the staples (5 surgeries) and I was eager to put on real clothes, so the nurse suggested I put a pad on it to keep it from being irritated by my waistband. Genius!

    Oh, and I learned to stay at the hospital as long as insurance allows. Even though I have kids at home that miss me, I learned I need the relative peace of the hospital for as long as possible. Once you are home it is hard to really allow yourself to rest the way you need to, and the family tends to forget you are recovering from major abdominal surgery. Or that is how it seems in my house.

    Can’t wait to see pics when new baby is here.

  • Sarah

    Great post. I had an emergency c section 4 months ago. Afterward, for weeks I had horrible itching on my face, hands, and chest. I also would wake up with my hands and feet swollen or numb. Months later I’m still experiencing occassional swelling in my hands when I wake up. I’m guessing the c section drugs didn’t sit well with my system. Anyone else experience that?

  • amy

    I forgot about the boots.

    The Breast-Friend nursing pillow saved me so much pain after my c-section. I would highly recommend it, so much better than shifting pillows and boppies and it totally protected my incision.

    About the meds – couldn’t agree more, do not skip them, do not get behind. Everyone worries about the meds hurting the baby, but they don’t, at most they make them sleepy and that’s good for a sore mom.

    ORs are cold. I found it shockingly cold. It doesn’t mean they are coldhearted, but they are cold.

  • 3 c to the sections here 🙂 Breech, failed VBAC and scheduled–although labor started before the c/s date so they moved it up. I would add…

    1. Ask them about keeping you flat on your back in recovery. I had terrible nausea after #1 and #2–but they kept me supine after #3 (different hospital) and it made ALL the difference in the world.

    2. If you are planning to breastfeed, make sure they know in recovery and they should let you do it ASAP. My 1st baby was having some breathing issues, but then they brought her to me and she calmed down…so they let me nurse her and she went to town. She just wanted mama’s boob!

    3. You can still have a birth plan, even if it’s just between you and hubby. I had a firm rule that no one saw or held the baby besides dh until I got to. DH stayed with them during the well baby check while they finished my surgery. And he knew I wanted the baby as soon as possible.

    4. You may want to limit visitors the first 24hrs. B/C my 1st was scheduled, I ended up with 20-30 visitors the first day. Out of control!! I was much more careful with the next two babies.

    5. Get up and walking ASAP. Helps so much with recovery.

    6. Don’t overdo it with the cranberry juice. I don’t know if all hospitals offer it, but mine gave me as much as I wanted. And it tasted so good. I drank WAY too much after baby #2 and ended up hobbling to the bathroom over and over again, dragging the isolette with me b/c I was too freaked to leave the baby alone, because I gave myself a huge case of the runs.

    7. Your hubby doesn’t have to be the one spending the night with you 🙂 I knew a good nights sleep for hubs would serve me much better the next day when I wanted him around–so I had a sister stay with me the first night. By the second night, I was ok on my own.

    Ok…I’ve hijacked enough of your blog 🙂

  • Katie

    I had a C with my second. I was always terrified of them, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought. The part about not forgetting to take the pain meds…so true! I forgot once, and only once. And anyone heading toward a C-section, be warned-rising from a sitting position will not be easy for a while and brace yourself if you have to sneeze or cough…keep a pillow handy to hold on your incision just in case.

  • Rachel P.

    I just had a C section six weeks ago to deliver my third child. The biggest piece of advice I can give is make it very clear that you will need at least 24 hours to get to know your baby with limited visitors. With labor, you have time to transition into the idea of waiting for your baby and the baby’s arrival. With C section, you need time to transition into that same mentality and you just had major surgery. Not to mention, it is really embarrassing to have THREE pastors come by to congratulate you with a tube for your urine trailing off the bed. As for the drink before surgery, huh? What’s that?

  • i wish i’d known that having an emergency c section took longer to heal from than a scheduled one. while mine wasn’t strictly emergency, i went through the entire labor, pushed for 2 hours and couldn’t get her out, so i opted for a section. it took me well over 3 weeks to begin to feel normal again, actually at 3 weeks i remember a sort of break down i had because i didn’t think i’d ever feel right again. when i asked friends who’d had sections if that was normal, they thought that they remembered feeling back to normal about 2 weeks. they told tales of doing all kinds of herculean things that made me want to cry. later, i realized the full 12 hour labor plus 2 hours of pushing (which pushed everything but the baby out) played a major role in my recovery. and now, 18 months later, i’m fine. 🙂
    .-= melissa stover´s last blog ..The weekend update =-.

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