10 Things To Know About Cesarean Section

Folks, today I'd like to share with you the things I've learned about having a cesarean section.  No, I'm not an expert, but I've had 2 so I think that entitles me to an opinion - or at least a healthy dose of insider information that might just be helpful to you {or someone you love} someday.

Here we go...

#1.  It's not that bad.  

#2.  It's especially not bad if it's planned.  In my little circle of friends, I am one of three who have undergone the dreaded C.  Of the three, I'm the only one who planned this method of birth {for health reasons} and I did have the best experience during and after.  I would be willing to guess that the trauma and exhaustion of engaging in active labor for HOURS and then having an emergency cesarean is like double exhaustion and I can totally understand why some people report horror stories.  

Because mine were planned, I went into birth day well rested and prepared.  So, if there's any question about your ability to go "vag" and you are not opposed to a cesarean {which I absolutely understand varies}, I'd advise to go with this option immediately.  No reason to traumatize your body and mind in two different ways.

#3.  Go on a vitamin C overload pre-surgery.  I did a ton of research before I had my first and was terrified of getting an infection, being bedridden, not healing properly, etc.  I found a lot of new research that suggests vitamin C as being an integral part of wound healing so I stocked up.  I already eat a ton of fruit but in the days before and immediately after, I literally allow myself to binge on it.  Smoothies and fresh fruit is the route I chose because with both of my births, I craved nothing but cold things to eat {weird, I know}.  At three weeks postpartum, I am still eating smoothies all day, every day.

* Don't forget to ask questions when ordering your hospital meals! I do not eat canned fruit and that is what my hospital serves {besides "Red Delicious" apples and I truly don't know why people still eat those}. I also found out their "smoothies" are drinkable yogurt so I relied on smoothie runs by my awesome husband.

** I also kept my calories up by inhaling nuts. Not unusual for me and rosemary marcona almonds from Trader Joes are my fav.

#4.  Rest as much as you can beforehand.  I realize this is really only possible to do if you've planned your cesarean but it is super valuable for the bonding and healing process immediately after.  If you are well rested, you are alert and able to spend quality time with your newborn in those first few hours after birth and it is so beneficial on many levels.  {This includes your ability to breastfeed which some critics say can be inhibited after cesarean because some of the natural hormones released during a vaginal birth are not released in the mother or the baby.  So, it goes without saying that the more present you are after the cesarean, the more you can emotionally and physically bond with your new baby}

#5.  Ask for a belly binder right away and start wearing it within 12 hours.  Before baby #1, a dear friend of mine from Guatemala mentioned some of the birthing traditions in her culture.  Her mother was a midwife of sorts and her stories were fascinating to me.  One thing that peaked my attention was belly binding because after delivery, as she described it... "you feel like your insides are floating around in your belly".  Even being pregnant for the first time, I could totally imagine this sensation {after all, your organs do shift around significantly during pregnancy} and the thought kinda creeped me out.

Anyway.  I did some research and it turns out, this isn't just a Guatemalan thing.  A ton of different cultures have been doing it for centuries and swear by it.  

So, after my first cesarean, I requested one from my doctor and although he had to order one, it arrived later that day {by the time I had my second, the hospital had begun stocking them so it's catching on!}.  I immediately bound my belly and whoa! what a relief.  No one tells you that just sitting up after a cesarean is hard work.  All of your core muscles are not only out of shape from pregnancy but you are tender and don't want to disrupt the giant, gaping wound at your bikini line.  The binder acts as extra support and makes breastfeeding, getting out of bed, and walking feel so much better.  Seriously.  Take my advice on this one.

Another added benefit from the binder is the ability to continue to tighten it as your uterus - and tummy - shrink.  {Hallelujah!  It shrinks.}  It is believed by some {including me} that the compression of the garment reduces the swelling from the surgery and helps eliminate extra air {aka. gas} from your system.  It is recommended that you wear the binder for 6 weeks, continuously.  I pretty much stick to this because it does make me feel so much less fragile {it feels like a little bit of armor which is especially helpful when you have a toddler who wants to crawl on you at home!}.  I have also found that wearing mine helps keep some of the ache at bay since I am almost never still.

#6.  Get out of bed as soon as you can.  I know it's hard.  It's not going to feel great.  But it is so necessary {you can't get your catheter out until you do, it helps prevent blood clots, etc}.  The second your nurse suggests it, trust her.  She knows what she is doing.  I found that once I conquered getting out of bed, I felt so much more confident in my ability to return to real life and it is kind of a treat to get out of bed and take a shower.  

#7.  Peeing is going to be weird.  Once you've proven your ability to stand and your catheter is removed, your nurse will want you to pee on your own.  It will take FOREVER.  TMI?  Sorry, here comes some more... I found that smelling something {I grabbed a bar of soap} was distraction enough for me.  It relaxed me somehow and over the next 5 minutes, I was able to, trickle by trickle, empty my bladder.  The next time, my nurse was so thoughtful to bring in a vial of peppermint oil for me to sniff and that totally worked too.  The delay goes away and soon you'll be a peeing machine but those first few pisses are going to be odd.  You'll feel like you're being potty trained again.  

#8.  Drink water.  This helps with #7 plus you have nurses at your beck and call to refill your bottle any time of the day so why the heck not?!  It's kinda like luxury room service.  I wish I had someone at home refilling my water for me.  Especially because my hospital has amazing crushed ice.  

Not only will access be super convenient and make you feel like a princess, but it helps eliminate a lot of the pregnancy bloat and, best of all, enhances your glorious and magical milk production.  I still sport my Big Gulp sized, hospital jug and find that it helps me drink about 136 oz a day!  Gold star for me. 

#9.  Don't rush yourself.  This includes that inevitable itch to get home as soon as possible AND your extended recovery.  Recovery for a cesarean section is estimated at 6-8 weeks, on average.  Some take much longer.  Follow your doctor's instructions as closely as possible.

My second cesarean was far easier to recover from than my first {maybe because I knew what to expect AND/OR I had a toddler to take care of at home so I had to put my big girl panties on} and by day 5 I was off all pain meds except for Ibuprofen when I needed it.  With my first I was on oxycodone for a full 2 weeks.  To each his own, I say!  Every cesarean is obviously different and the guidelines for recovery are simple enough to follow - especially if you have help.

On the other hand, I myself do tend to attempt martyrdom so I struggle with asking for help.  Take my advice, just do it!  Everyone around you will benefit from your honesty and quicker recovery and you'll avoid a lot of fights that make you end up looking like a crazy person.  {I was going to give you a dialogue of one such instance but deleted it to avoid personal humiliation}

#10.  Enjoy your experience.  I know this is a weird way to end this but it needs to be said.  Cesarean sections are not exactly heralded in the birthing world.  Truth is, there are probably a lot of them that could be avoided, they are intrusive, sometimes dangerous, scary, can come across as vain, and... I'll just say it... kind of make you feel like less of a woman.

I remember crying before my first because I knew that there was an element of traditional birth that I was about to miss out on.  For me there would be no exciting rush to the hospital because my water broke. Chris and I wouldn't get to play Uno and watch crappy movies as the contractions increased. And I wouldn't be able to relate to an ancient rite of passage that women from the beginning of time have experienced and cherished.  Feeling and pushing and "birthing" would not be a memory for me. The romance of how I always imagined it to be was out of my reach.  And I grieved it.

Over time I came to realize that you can't really miss what you don't really know.  For me, giving birth to my children via cesarean section is what I know.  It's MY experience, good and bad, and I wouldn't trade it for the world. I am a true believer that the Lord knows me so intricately and always has a plan - even for the details like this.  For whatever reason {ahem, I'm I control freak, maybe?} he knew that this journey would be mine.  So, try to embrace it as your own and enjoy it for what it is.

At the end of the day, you will still have that amazing, noodle of a baby to cuddle and sniff, and... hey... you'll still have your vajayjay intact.  So, it has its perks.