I sort of …kind of… had an idea of what a cesarean birth would entail. But like many moms to be with uncomplicated pregnancies – I “planned” for a vaginal birth. To be honest and clear, I wasn’t one who had a huge birth plan typed up with specifics and details, etc. I had a general idea of what I wanted but overall our ultimate goal = healthy baby, healthy mom. Whatever it meant to meet that end goal was enough for me. But, never-the-less when it came to preparing for birth I bought all of the things and researched all of the information I needed to care for myself after vaginal birth. I did little to no planning on what I might want to know or need after a cesarean birth. So when the time came for my son to be delivered and I had reached just around 9 centimeters dilation but things turned into a “failure to descend” I was wooshed away to the operating room and delivered a happy and healthy baby boy via c-section. I was fine with the outcome – my goal was met. We were both healthy and fine. BUT, I had little to no idea as to what to expect in the following hours or even days after my c-section. So here’s a list! Of course, this list is specific to me and may vary from woman to woman – ALWAYS check with your provider before taking my word for anything – I can’t stress that enough.
Part 2 will be a compilation of things many of my readers who had a cesarean birth wished they had known!
What I Wish I Had Known:
- Shaved for incision – I didn’t realize this would happen! It makes sense that it does…but at the time…I heard the words “we are going to have to shave you” and buzz it was done. Just the top. No biggie. But not something I was aware would happen! I have heard however that some may not shave. So it could vary from hospital to hospital.
- Epidural + Spinal – With R, they used the IV from my epidural to give me enough numbing medication for the c-section, but with Q, I had a spinal. The hardest part of the actual spinal was crouching over for a long period of time uncomfortably around my big belly! The spinal poke itself was nothing but a little pressure, warmth, and a poke. Easy peasy! I was a little worried I’d have a spinal headache which some women mention (my mom had it) but I did not get one.
- Skin to Skin – After R birth (my first) I had labored for hours and was really really tired. Because of this, I was a bit more “out of it”. Thus, I was a little shaky and not well equipped to hold or do skin to skin for long following his delivery. Dusty was able to take R and do skin to skin while I was stitched up. The photos from this are some of my favorites of the two of them. The bonding for them was as special as it would have been for me.
- Feeling Pressure During Operation – With R birth, I remember feeling some pressure but overall it was pretty uneventful in terms of operation discomfort. With Q birth, during the operation, I had slight pressure g0ing up into my diaphragm and right shoulder (I did not have this with R) it sort of felt like someone was taking their fist and pushing up into my ribs… if anything it was more uncomfortable and distracting. It didn’t hurt and went away as soon as they were done. I later learned it was the phrenic nerve! Totally normal, totally fine.
- Stitching – The stitching up after delivery can take time. So don’t be alarmed if it feels like forever!
- Post-operation – I had no idea that they’d have to lift me onto a different hospital bed! While it went just fine…it was a bit unnerving to be lifted by a team with just a bedsheet under me – I felt like a whale being transported back into the ocean!
- Eating after – Once comfortable in my hospital bed I had the ability to order food if I felt up to it. With R, I was starving. I had labored and hadn’t eaten in over a day and a half. I immediately ordered a sandwich and soup. I could barely get it down, I ate too fast and felt like I was going to throw up! So when it came time to eat after with Q…I took a few bites – stopped, drank some water and waited before eating more. Slow and steady!
- Changing Pads – (pre-warned, TMI!) After a little while in the hospital room, I started to feel a warmth and then a gush. Well…this was the most mortifying part of birth for me…the blood and fluids that come out post-birth. Dang! And when your lower part is numb…the nurses have to help. They are angels on earth and make you feel so at ease…but being wiped and having your pad changed by another human is perhaps the most humbling experience I’ve ever experienced in body care. It’s not fun. And I heard myself on many occasions saying “I am sorry – this is the worst part.” and they’d smile fluff it off and do their job with grace. Angels on earth I tell you! As the numbing wears off you’ll be able to start cleaning yourself. But don’t be afraid to let them know if you need help being changed -you want to be comfortable!
- IV’s – Afterward they still need to monitor you closely so you’ll have to leave a couple of your IV’s in…it’s really no big deal…just annoying. The one at the top of my right hand was my least favorite because it got in the way of the movement of my hand. I remember asking regularly “can I take this one out now?” 🙂
- Inflatable Shin Guards (aka SCD’s or sequential compression devices) – They were fine…but just obnoxious because of the noise they’d make when they would inflate. Basically…they are like inflatable life jackets for your legs. They inflate and then slowly release air…their purpose is to help massage your legs to make sure to help avoid any blood clots. Genius little things really… it wasn’t until I was up and walking on my own more regularly that I was allowed to take them off for good.
- Blood pressure cuff – the blood pressure cuff was on my arm for a while after having both Q and R, it went off automatically and would take my blood pressure regularly to ensure all was safe and good!
- Pulse ox – This little gadget is on your finger and monitors oxygenation saturation, which ensures you’re properly receiving enough oxygen.
- Bellyband – after R birth a nurse handed me a belly band. I didn’t know what it was – but once she helped me put it on I was like “ohhhhh.” it was amazing! So if they don’t give you one…ASK for one immediately. It made all the difference.
- Walking Afterwards – After R, I remember feeling so nervous to walk so soon after the delivery but it’s so important to do it. I did get up, shower, do my hair and make up for our photoshoot with him as a newborn (so it couldn’t have been TOO bad). I remember being surprised at how it felt to shuffle across the floor to the bathroom and how much I appreciated the guidance of the nurse and the belly band for support. After having Q…it was a lot easier and didn’t concern me nearly as much. I was able to shuffle unassisted and really didn’t have much of a problem or hesitation. I will admit that I think it was harder afterward with R because I had labored so long and my uterus and abdominal muscles had been worked to the max for so long – and then to undergo surgery on top of it all – makes sense! My planned cesarean was hands down easier than my emergent one.
- Catheter + Peeing – Since things moved so rapidly with R I didn’t even realize I still had a catheter in after he was born. It wasn’t until I saw it hanging next to my bed that I realized it was still in! Taking out a catheter is a piece of cake and didn’t hurt at all – the nurse will do this for you…but trying to reconnect my mind to create the sensation to have to pee post-operation and post-catheter was hard!!! With R it came more easily – but with Q, I had to sit and focus on it for a while. They want you to pee within a certain time frame and have a specific amount of output to be sure that all is well with your bladder after surgery.
- Stay Ahead of Pain Meds – Dusty was a great advocate and helped me so much in watching the clock and ensuring that I was on top of pain meds…about 20-15 min before my next dose he’d call in a nurse because by the time they came, got the meds out, entered the info into my chart …it was time for me to have them. Have your spouse/significant other keep track of your medication schedule and what you should take when. Can’t stress this enough!
- Tired, Very Tired – you’ll be tired no matter what type of delivery you go through. It’s hard to sleep when you have a new baby, people coming in and out, your inflatable leg things going off every so often…with Q, I finally had Dusty stand at the door and ask people to come back so I could sleep for 2 hours uninterrupted. I know that medical professionals have to do their job and they are only looking out for Q and I…but it was tough to find a long period of time where Q and I both could sleep – if she was awake my instinct was to be awake in case she needed me…it didn’t matter if Dusty was holding her or not.
- Showering – Taking a shower for the first time after both deliveries was amazing and one of the best things. It was a slow shower…slow getting ready. I remember even needing to rest a little in between brushing my hair and blow-drying it. But overall taking some time to care for yourself and revisit your body and what it needs was really healing.
- Enjoy the Food and Service – Little did I know how much I’d appreciate hospital food being delivered to my bedside. Yes, I wanted to get home more than anything but…there is something to be said of bedside meal delivery!
- Ingrown Hairs – As my incision healed I’d occasionally get painful ingrown hairs along the incision line. Sometimes they’d get red and hurt a bit but would clear up on their own. If yours doesn’t, or you see drainage – let your Dr know!
- Skin Puckering at Incision – I had a little bit of puckering skin at the end of my incision with Q, at first I wondered if my skin was going to be like that forever it looked strange! But…after I healed… it disappeared and everything smoothed out.
- Uterine tears – I didn’t find out until we went to make the decision about doing a planned cesarean with Q …but after laboring so long with R and then going into a c-section…your uterus is thinner from contracting…and more wear and tear on the uterus makes it a bit more pliable…so when it came time for my c-section the uterine tissue was more delicate (makes sense right?) while removing R via the c-section I did have a uterine tear on my left side (which now explains the pain I felt post-op). I did not tear with Q…so I did not experience more pain post-op. Having this uterine tear also created more risk for me when considering a VBAC. Just good info to be aware of!
- Post-op Dr Visits – I wasn’t aware that you’d have to take your baby in to see their Dr or Pediatrician so soon after delivery for their first initial well-child check. I want to say it is within the first week or so. This is tough no matter what kind of delivery you have but was especially hard after a c-section. Leaving the house was rough! Make sure to have a game plan on someone coming with you and if you have multiple children have someone on deck to watch the other(s) at home so you can just go with the baby and your spouse/significant other. Make it as easy on yourself as possible!
Overall, both of my birth experiences were unique and lovely in their own way. They truly go by SO FAST.