So you have to have a C-Section... What to Expect and How to Survive It.

The following was written on an ipad with one hand while nursing, around 3 AM after having baby #4, my third C Section.  The advice and emotions are very raw and real.  The writing is sometimes choppy.  If you are planning on having a CSection or worried your natural birth might progress into an emergency c-section, this advice might help.  If you are going to the hospital for a vaginal birth, many aspects of this experience will apply to you as well.  I am closing comments on this post as it is of a very personal nature and I am simply writing to help moms who are getting ready to endure surgery to welcome their babies.  Feel free to email me if you are one of those moms and would like to comment.

So you have to have a c section.

It is bad, but maybe not as bad as you fear. I will not recommend a c section, but I will say recovery from 2 of my 3 sections was easier than the recovery from a very difficult vaginal birth.

What to expect:

Ask your doctor if... Have preferences, but consider that they do thing a certain way because that is the way they do things best...i.e. staples vs disposables sutures, etc. Be vocal, but be rational.  You don't want the nurses to resent you.

Ask for a hand. Grab for a hand. Even if you are too shy, feebly say, can you please hold my hand?Nurses will rush to you and hand holding can really really help when your husband isn't in the room yet.  (Did you know he isn't in there while you are getting the spinal and all "arranged" on the operating table??) Close your eyes and focus hard on that hand. Do not be afraid to squeeze, but focus hard on keeping shoulders down and relaxed. Talkback to the anesthesiologist...nicely. Fearfully.

Ask for a catheter AFTER spinal or epidural. Ask as strongly as you can. Do not be rude.

If you have to have catheter without spinal, ask for a little local anesthetic. Then when they say breathe in and out, do it strongly and focus. You do not want the nurse to have to try twice.


...lightly massage your clitoris. Ask the nurse if it is ok to "rub here" if you are uncertain.  You are not trying to have an orgasm by all means and you are not even trying to turn yourself on at all. Rather the tube into your urethra? Is located right under the clitoris and a little bit of rubbing can ease the pain along with the basic fact that the feel good nerves in your clitoris can be a welcome relief and counterbalance to the pain you are feeling nearby. Rubbing your clitoris lightly through a light layer (like a sheet) seemed to work best. Humming very lightly also helped me.

Side note...ask your nurses, but I have never had them say no to self massage whether it is your clitoris after a catheter, your arm as burning pain meds go into an if or your upper belly for gas, etc. You, the patient, know your physical limits very well and massage is almost always helpful and comforting. Ask, ask, ask if you feel a little self massage will help. This is not the time to be shy about such things.

In the operating room...

In the operating room, grab that nurses hand, ask if you can flex hands, move arms a little.  Your arms will feel dead and weird and moving them a little helps.  Ask your husband to rub your shoulders if you start to tense up and have pain.  Air bubbles can do that to you during the surgery.

Do not be afraid if you smell burning flesh. It is yours, it is normal and it probably is not as bad as you imagine. It is shocking and mind blowing that smell, but be aware it is coming and you will not freak out. You should NOT feel it.

Hear suctioning? That is your blood and fluids. This is a good thing later when you are recovering, bleeding. Sounds weird, but it is normal. 

Watch your baby. Put your eyes on her and focus. Remember. 

After surgery...

After surgery, get the catheter out as soon as possible and pee as soon as possible by yourself. Use a little warm water poured over yourself into the toilet to help you go the first time. This is the first step back to normal. Do it as soon as they will let you. Again, a teensy bit of massage might help here, but do NOT bump your incision.

Pee a lot. Drink a lot. Embrace Colace and give yourself alone time to make gas. Massage your own upper belly to help produce gas. Do not let it build up. Limit visitors if you need to pass gas. Not kidding. Do it.

Embrace the pain meds and rub your forearm as they go in to relieve burning. 

Take the drugs when rolling over in bed really starts to hurt. This is not the time for martyrdom. 

Use two boppies.   Yes, two.   For you mainly, but also for baby. They wedge against your back to help you sleep on your side. The second one is tougher than a pillow under your nursing elbow and arm. If you are awake, laying baby next to you in a bobby is a great way to have her close without holding her on your belly. Do not fall asleep like this. Make sure boppy is very secure on bed and keep a hand on baby at all times. Great alternative to getting out of bed to put baby in her bed. If you are getting out of bed to put baby in her crib, slowly stretch your belly to full standing height and posture. Slowly. Stretch. And pee. Every time. And try to pass gas. Turn the TV on loud so your husband cannot hear and pass gas. Seriously.

I like the "naked boppy" that you can buy covers for.  Being able to wash those covers is a GOOD THING!  My mom bought me these pretty pink covers for baby girl :)

Take the Colace. It is a miracle from God. Not kidding.

When the nurses ask you if you need anything, always say ice water and ask for your meds before you really really need them. Your moving around will help your recovery. Embrace the pain meds while you are in the hospital. At home is the time to cut back as quickly as you can. 

When the nurse tells you to remove the dressing from your c section, do it in the shower and do it slowly. Do it with a mirror if possible and ask your husband if you feel any pain at all if you are anywhere near the incision. It feels very scary...turns out I was pulling from the wrong direction. Go slow. Stop when you have pain. There is no rush. You can do this. 

When you are done, have a chocolate.

With baby...

Nuks are not the devil. If you are an old pro at breast feeding and baby has been latching and eating fine for a day or two, a nuk can save your sanity. After two hours of cluster feeding straight, my babies got a nuk and I have never had any nipple confusion issues. This is different for different moms, different babies, different boobies. Trust your gut. If a half hour of baby in her bed with a nuk gives you half an hour of sleep, you will wake up looking at the world with fresher eyes and look at baby with a smile on your face instead of a grimace. Do not overuse it, but do not be afraid. Side note...taking nuks away from our babies has been far easier than breaking our one thumb sucker of his for thought.

We like the hospital nuks and also name brand nuks.  Our babies have never liked cheap alternatives -- the shape is different.

Lanolin. I told you to bring it. If you didn't, ask for the free tube. Ask for it the second your nipples start to hurt. Place baby socks on top of your nipples, under your bra, for added relief. Breastfeed only on one side if baby is content, then feed on the other the next feeding if nipples are really sore. Relax. Trust your gut. Do your best breastfeeding, but remain calm. Do not let the lactation consultants scare you. Ask them some questions to show you are not hostile towards their agenda, then decline their help if you feel you do not need it. (A great question for them is can I please put some lanolin on my nipples?). The can be a fabulous help, but they can also make you feel like poopy if you want to take a little break from nursing and use a nuk or daddy's arms as a replacement for mommies boob once in awhile.

If you buy ANYTHING before birth, BUY LANOLIN.  

If you start to feel any weird feelings towards our baby while nursing, stop, put her down and find a nuk, a nurse or a daddy. Drink water, pee, sleep and go back to baby, the world will be different. Sometimes pushing through your emotions and the pain is putting a bridge between you and baby instead of building a bond. Trust your instincts...and rub your clitoris.

Learn how to swaddle before having baby. Buy light swaddle wrappers for baby. Enjoy dressing her in socks and shoes and dresses and whatnot if you is fun. Do not feel like you have to.  The swaddler and diaper are the essentials.  Other clothing is just icing on the cake.

Bring a premie outfit, a newborn outfit and a 0-3 outfit.  Just in case.

Embrace the mesh panties. Take home the extras from the bathroom. You might enjoy them for longer than you would expect, mainly because the go over your incision without any pulling. Vaginal moms, break out the new panties ASAP. They make you feel normal again. Same thing for your own pads when you are ready for them. Until then, embrace the crazy thick hospital ones and use them up. Cleanliness feels so good after birth. This is not the two days to save the earth.  These are two days to focus on feeling clean and healing.  Embrace disposables.

An extra large sports/sleep bra and loose, long  shirts are my outfit of choice in the hospital along with a robe for throwing on to walk the halls. I do not like ANY pants or shorts at all after a c section. These lingerie shirts can be a great way to get back into real clothes from a hospital robe without feeling uncomfortable in any way.

Chapstick. Lotion. A brush. Deodorant. Face wipes. Sponge.  (HERE is my baby bag toiletries must haves.)

A little fragrance helps you smell good, but can also help out a little with a stuffy smelling room.

...and finally, the nurses.

Little presents for the nurses are fabulous. It allows you to feel like you are giving a tiny bit back to these people that do everything for you. A nice note about them with their name can be even better.

Leslie...pregnant...slow iv drugs. Gate conversationalist.
Selina...anesthesia talked me off a ledge. Without her, might have needed general again.
They all held my hand.

...and the end result?  all worth it.

To see more photos click HERE.
To see the nursery click HERE.



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