I always said that my birth plan was to go with the flow, and to have “a healthy mom and a healthy baby.”
I didn’t want to get my heart set on certain things happening, because knowing my personality, it would be harder for me to accept when things didn’t go as planned that way. I didn’t know what to expect because I had never been in labor before. So I planned to just play things by ear and see how they went.
As labor progressed and then didn’t anymore, it became clear that we needed to have a c-section in order to deliver Raleigh safely. There was no hesitation from us—we were okay with the decision.
I knew C-sections happen often, and I know lots of people who have had them. I have a nursing degree and I did my internship on the same labor and delivery floor of the same hospital that I delivered at. I was in the operating room for several c-sections during my internship.
But what I didn’t know, was what it was like to actually have a c-section.
I didn’t know what to expect afterwards.
No one had ever told me what it was really like to have one, and what to expect after mine.
I wasn’t prepared for the recovery process.
Here are things I wish I had known before having my c-section. Had I known these things, I think my recovery would have been less anxiety-filled, because I would have known what to expect.
1. It is major surgery.
Yes, c-sections are pretty common these days. I heard a statistic that said as many as 1/3 of babies are born this way. But still, it is major surgery.
2. Getting up to walk is ROUGH at first.
It’s going to hurt like heck when you get out of bed and walk for the first time, which they make you do relatively soon after surgery. You will feel like you are 100 years old and you can’t stand up straight. You will likely shuffle around as you remain hunched over. This is NORMAL.
3. Each day gets a little bit better.
You will feel a little bit better with every day that passes. I was told this by one of my nurses who had 4 c-sections herself and was pregnant again. I consider her an expert.
4. Take medication for the pain.
You will be offered narcotics in the early days after surgery. I didn’t take the narcotics because I’m prone to nausea as a side effect. But I got some IV medication that was like strong ibuprofen, and when I went home, I rotated ibuprofen and Tylenol for the first week or two. If you can stay on top of the pain, you will be able to move better and care for yourself and your baby better.
5. It hurts like crazy to cough, laugh or sneeze.
Holding a pillow against your incision, or pressing on it with your hands might help a little bit. But in those early days, it’s going to hurt, period. I tried my hardest not to do any of these three at first. Some places might make you practice coughing to clear your lungs. [I read that in my baby book.] No one made me do that at our hospital.
6. The water retention in your body will likely get worse before it gets better.
You receive a lot of IV fluids in the hospital during labor and during the c-section. These made my already swollen face, legs and feet even bigger before my body started to get rid of the excess fluid. Really, my whole body was swollen. It will go away over the next week or two.
7. Accept help when you go home.
Cooking help, cleaning help, child care help. Accept it all because you will need it. Remember, you just had major surgery.
8. You need to take care of yourself.
Expect to be taking care of yourself in the early days as you recover enough to take care of your baby. I didn’t anticipate how hard it would be to try to care for a baby while I was recovering too. I mainly focused on feeding Raleigh in the early days and Matt did the rest of everything. Once I started to feel and move better, I took on more of the responsibilities.
9. Be careful with how you move.
Don’t do anything resembling a sit up or anything that strains the ab muscles. Don’t try to use your abs to sit up from laying down on your back. [Especially if you’re holding your baby. I accidentally did that.] Roll to your side and use your arms to push yourself up instead.
Sleep in a recliner if laying flat hurts too much at first. If you overdo it, you might injure yourself and possibly cause problems with your incision. I tweaked things at least once, although thankfully not to the point of needing to go in for treatment. But I sure did get sore from it.
10. Use an abdominal binder.
This might help you feel more stabilized as your incision and muscles heal. I didn’t use mine until after a week or so, but I wish I would have used it right away. It would have offered me some support when I needed it badly.