Birth · Lists

C-section Realities No One Tells You

The other day I was asked about my recovery after having a c-section. How traumatic was it? How long did it take to get back on my feet?

It made me think of all the crap no one tells you, the little instances of weird and wtf that seem to get swept away in the flurry of baby’s arrival.

It feels like you’re being unzipped.

Yup. When they’re ready to pull that baby out of you it’ll feel like they found a magical skin zipper in which to infiltrate your guts. You don’t feel pain. They make damn sure of that, but it’ll still feel like they’re rifling around inside of you, like a human purse. 

You’ll breathe like it’s the first time.

Breathing while you’re pregnant sucks. It feels like someone’s on your chest that’s gradually steamrolling your lung capacity. I’d imagine it’s a gradual relief during a vaginal birth but for a section, when they yank that baby out of you, it’s instantaneous. It’s like you’ve been walking around in a sleeping bag for the past 9 months and finally take your first full lungful of air.

C-section babies don’t always clear lung fluid quickly.

Scariest on the list. Apparently C-section birthed babies don’t cough the same way natural birthed babies do. The surgery interrupts that instinctual step so the doctors need to intervene. Tavish had a bit of fluid in his lungs when he came out, but was quickly remedied. We were told this is normal so don’t fret.

You’ll lose your spatial sense for a few moments.

Once you’re good and numb, you’ll be lifted from the bed onto the operating table. It’s going to feel like you have like you’re falling off the side, like you have no control. It’s terrifying but have faith that there at least 5 people in the room. No one will let you fall.

You’ll shake. A lot.

Once they stop dosing you with the spinal, your body is going to go into a sort of lifeless tremble. You’re numb but your body is going to fidget. You will shake all over, go into mild shock and it will be violent. You’ll be safe of course, but extremely dizzy and probably nauseous.

It lasts for about 20 minutes to half an hour.

I couldn’t hold Tavish for the first 30 minutes of his life because I was terrified I was going to drop him or shake him like a martini.

Nothing will make sense for a while.

Similar to the above, everything will feel a little fuzzy. When the drugs wear off, your body starts thinking for itself again. I probably repeated answers to a question about 20 times to the same person once we were allowed visitors. Like the shock, it passes quickly and it’s one of those things you don’t realize you’re doing until after you’ve done it.

You’ll be expected to pee the next day (and they’ll watch you).

Who the hell can pee when someone’s watching?

Moms, that’s who.

The day after your operation the nurses will come in and take your catheter out. They’ll make you stand up, walk and expect you to pee. Standard stuff except for the part when they come in to the washroom with you.

Whoever said motherhood is a forfeiture of privacy, probably had a Cesarean.

So you’ll sit there after gingerly easing yourself into the toilet seat and you’ll have a nurse with a front row seat. Catheters tend to make your bladder lazy which can cause all kinds of problems for the recently carved. The nurses will sit there squirting warm water on your snaz until you get going. 

On the bright side, it breaks down all barriers with your nurses. 

You’ll be hunched over for a few days.

Yeah the extra 50 something pounds is gone but your skin is going to feel extremely tight the first few times you stand up. I couldn’t stand up straight for my first few trips to the washroom until I could brave the strain of pulling skin. It’s normal. Your skin has been sewn back together, it’ll take some time to adjust to proper posture. Take it slow and try to straighten out slowly, think of it like stretching.

The Gorefest.

You’re a mess down there. But fortunately c-sections don’t bleed near as much as vaginal births. Initially, the nurses will clean up most of the gunk but you’ll still bleed for about 6-8 weeks. It’s easier for the nurses to hose you down rather than teach down yourself, so let them go for it.

Just don’t freak out the first time they change your massive pad and it looks like the elevator scene from the Shining. 

Get as many pairs of hospital underwear as you can.

Make friends with granny panties. The super stretchy undies the hospital sets you up with are going to keep you very comfortable. They’re high enough not to roll down onto your incision and tight enough to stay that way. Extremely useful when you need to change pads.

Seriously, ask your nurses nicely and bring some home. No other underwear will feel as good until the sensitivity of the surgery has faded.

The first drive home is awful.

Thank God we live 5 minutes away from the hospital.

If you thought labour in a car was bad, wait until the ride home with a fresh wound.  Add potholes, brake pedals and bumpy roads to the mix and you’re in for a ride from hell. 

Pooping.

Ah yes. Pooping is going to suck the first time and continue to suck until you regain your ab strength back.

All of your lower body functions are going to take some time to get their shit together. (Pun intended).

Whatever you do, don’t strain! Not that you really can – just trying will hurt all over. Do yourself a favour and get some colace pills, take a digestive enzyme or try milk of magnesia if you can find it. If all else fails just imagine soft serve ice cream shortly descending into the bowl. 

You’re welcome.

Sitting is hard.

I needed my husband to get the baby for me whenever he needed a feed while we were at the hospital. When we got home I was healed enough to pick him up but couldn’t get up or sit quickly or comfortably.

Tavish and I spent the first three weeks in bed because it was an easier angle to feed him on and easier for me to get up. It gets better but you really do need to work at it.

Thread might peek out of your incision.

Ick. When I could finally see my lady bits and was brave enough to look at my battle wound, I noticed that there was a little black thread poking out of my incision. I immediately thought that my sutures were coming undone and if I pulled it my guts would pour out.

I asked my doctor about it, turns out a thread tail was poking out where they tied off the closure. Apparently it’s pretty common. At doctor’s office they simply pulled it out and clipped it off painlessly. My guts are still intact.

Take your meds with every feed.

Don’t skip on the ibuprofen and acetaminophen.

I alternated between the two at every feed (approximately every 2-3 hours for the first few weeks). Near the time for my next dose, I’d start to feel a dull ache. Skipping even once in the first month brought on a world of pain, so stay consistent.

Starfish sex.

To my in-laws, I warn you now: keep scrolling.

Sex didn’t change much after my C-section. My libido was the same but hip movement even after the recommended 6 weeks can be painful. Sometimes I had to just lay there until I got my pelvic strength back. On the bright side, orgasms are still a thing and far better than they were while pregnant.

Take it easy though. 

The main thing I noticed was that my skin would feel tight around the scar depending on our position. Depending on the way you’re sewn up and what side they tied off, you might feel a pull from right to left under the incision while you’re bumping uglies. Adjust your playtime accordingly. If he’s grabbing your hips, make sure he’s not pulling your skin too tight. Yeow!

I realize these may sound a little scary and some really are. I won’t lie and say they fade quickly. The pain is very real and it sucks when you’re given very little time to heal and expected to rest while taking care of a baby, entertaining visitors and functioning on intermittent sleep. However, I believe being prepared for the worst will remove most of the shock factor.

With help and patience, all of these will pass and your body will amaze you. By 6 weeks, the pain had faded. By two months I was able to do the household chores and move comfortably.

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