Oh, the dreaded Cesarean.
Some women may have left home expecting to push out a human at some point over the next few days. Only fate has something else in store for you. Maybe you were laboring for hours with little to no dilation. Or perhaps you’re almost at the finish line only to have things in the delivery room take a dramatic turn.
Now it’s time for an emergency C-Section, the doctors tell you, as you’re whisked into surgery. One second you're lugging around a huge belly. The next moment an entire little person is being cut out of you.
There are many different scenarios that can lead up to a woman having this surgery. It’s a medical event laced with excitement, fear and oh so many surprises. You expect a certain amount of pain with your recovery. You anticipate a week or two out of commission.
Despite this awareness many women are still are caught off guard. They weren’t expecting all of the physical and emotional side effects the surgery truly entails. A C-Section is so much more than all those episodes of ‘A Baby Story’ you may have watched.
Laying on the operating table with a surgical sheet separating you from the other half of your body is only the beginning. The reality of the before, during and after of a C-Section runs so much deeper. For some reason, many of the surprising effects of a C-Section aren’t that widely discussed.
This surgery is a game-changer. Let’s get into all of the surprises this surgery can throw your way!
15 Being Offered An Anxiety Drug
Just before I was wheeled into surgery I was an emotional wreck. My anesthesiologist asked me if I wanted anything to ‘take the edge off’ during the surgery. I was a ball of nerves so I quickly obliged.
When the news broke that I would need a section, I quickly prepared myself for all the mental gymnastics I was about to embark on. In an instant I had to accept that I’d be having major surgery and be becoming a mother. It was time to put on my big girl panties. Little did I know, modern medicine has made it that so that a woman doesn’t have grapple with a zillion emotions during a C-Section.
Are you prone to panic attacks? Do you battle extreme anxiety on a regular day? Find comfort in knowing there are medications available to help you get through your surgery.
14 You May Not Remember The Child’s Birth
Now, remember how awesome I thought it was that you could be offered anxiety medications during your C-Section?
Well, there is one semi-huge drawback. Don’t be surprised if these medications work so well that you don’t even remember the entire birthing process. Take it from me, it can happen.When I think back to surgery I remember being wheeled in and my husband sitting near me. I recall hearing my son’s cry and him being brought to my face. The rest of the event is a blur!
Know that accepting any anxiety drugs means you won’t be fully coherent during the operation. And while it may seem like an ancient practice, many women are even put to sleep for the surgery for various medical reasons.
The thought of not remembering my own child’s birth never crossed my mind. Until it happened. While it sounds depressing, find comfort in the fact that it happens to many women.
13 Feeling Sensations During Surgery
We can only hope that our C-Section is totally pain free. Ideally you want to feel absolutely nothing during the surgery. You pray your epidural works so perfectly that you’ll be welcoming your child blissfully unbothered by all the cutting and splicing happening just beyond the surgical curtain.
Unfortunately this is not the case for many women. Some report feelings of pulling, tugging, shortness of breath, cutting and even a burning sensation, like I did. Upon feeling this slight burning I remember yelping out to the staff, “It’s burning!” It wasn’t anything unbearable. However naturally I didn’t want to feel anything related to my stomach being cut open.
While it may not happen to you, don’t be surprised if you don’t have complete numbness during your surgery. And don’t be embarrassed to yell out if you feel something.
12 You Can Barely Hold Baby
Throughout pregnancy, you just know that you’ll be an extremely hands on mother to your child. You imagine jumping into motherly duties like diaper changes and burping as soon as you get home from the hospital.
Have a C-Section? Time to put all those plans on the back burner.
To my shock and awe I could barely hold my newborn 9 pound son in my lap. Anything coming near my incision was a no-no. So given this revelation, I was confused about how I was supposed to take care of him. How was I expected to breastfeed across my lap? How could I bond with my son when I didn’t want him or anything else touching my lower stomach?
This entire predicament came as a complete surprise to me. I never imagined not wanting to or feeling able to hold my own child. Many women don’t know what to make of this kind of scenario. The good news is medical practitioners can show you how to hold your child to lessen the amount of discomfort.
Here’s a secret. The football hold nursing position works absolute wonders for a C-Section recovering breastfeeding mother.Give yourself and your body some time as it heals and make sure you’re as comfortable as possible.
11 Feeling Like A Failure
Whether you give birth vaginally or surgically here's something that remains the same. Your postpartum hormones will quite possibly have you feeling like an emotional wreck.
While you’re recovering from your surgery these hormones can really run a number on you. You might be surprised by feelings of self-doubt. Why? Well, your recovery will involve a lot of sitting down. You’ll also probably feel some general discomfort.
As a result, it will be hard to do things for yourself or your new baby. A few days into motherhood and you may be feeling like a total failure. I remember feeling frustrated that I couldn’t stand up to change my son’s diaper. If he started crying I had to buzz for a nurse to come get him out of his crib. Heck. I couldn’t even get to the ladies room on my own.
As a new mother and as a woman I felt like my hands were completely tied. I felt totally inadequate. It’s important to realize that these feelings are completely normal for a new mother.
Even after your recovery it’s a good idea to be open with your family and health professionals about how you’re feeling overall. Extreme depression, feelings of self harm or of harming your child could be a sign of postpartum depression.
10 Shortness Of Breath
When you think of having a C-Section you will probably only consider womb-related issues.
So, I was completely surprised by having shortness of breath in the days following my Cesarean. Why? Well, no one one ever told me this was a possibility. I was however, given a small plastic inhalation device shortly after my surgery. I had no idea what it was for and why I would need it. It wasn’t as if I had been operated on my lungs.
I remember nurses telling me to use this contraption to take a few deep breaths at least three times per day. I also got to take home the small device. And thank goodness I had it because boy did I need it.
Throughout the early days of my C-Section recovery there were moments that I couldn’t quite catch my breath. So I’d grab my hospital inhaler and take a few breaths. I just about instantly found my lungs feeling a lot clearer. About a week after my surgery my lungs were operating normally again and I didn't need the inhaler anymore.
Later on I read that shortness of breath was indeed a common side effect of having major surgery.
9 Walking Works Wonders
As you’re recovering from a C-Section you will be tempted to stay still. You won’t feel like doing much moving. Being bed-ridden will sound like the order of the day.
What’s ironic is that walking can actually speed up your recovery.
That’s right. the more you walk the faster you’ll feel like your old self again.
As soon as your catheter is removed (yes, you’ll have one of these inserted) it’s time to get up and moving! While painful at first, walking will also improve your bowel function and blood circulation.
About a day after my son was born one nurse suggested I try some walking. I looked at her like she was crazy. I thought she might have been trying to push me too hard.
When I got home I realized the nurse’s advice was totally on the mark. The more I allowed my body to stretch itself out by walking, the better I felt and the more I could do on my own.
8 Bleeding Happens After C-Sections Too
This one’s kind of embarrassing so excuse my ignorance.
I mistakenly thought that having a C-Section meant I wouldn’t have to deal with certain post-birth occurrences. I thought vaginal bleeding was reserved for vaginal deliveries. Boy was I wrong. It doesn’t matter what your route of birth is - mother nature cannot be tripped up. I quickly learned that cesarean moms also deal with lochia (blood, mucus and vaginal tissue) discharge for weeks just like non-cesarean moms. This also means you too will have to wear giant-sized pads.
It turns out there are many similarities in the recovery of each delivery method. Both entail night sweats, postpartum bleeding and a contracting uterus.
Moral of the story? Don’t go into labor and delivery misinformed like yours truly. Prepare yourself as much for any birthing scenario. Outside of your incision, many of the after effects of a cesarean are surprisingly similar to those of vaginal births.
7 Painful Laughing And Coughing
Meeting your child for the first time is typically a joyous occasion. It’s always awesome to receive visitors to welcome your addition.
Now that giving birth is finally behind you, you and your loved ones can share in a few laughs. There’s usually at least one or two funny stories to tell after labor and delivery is over and done with.
Unfortunately, after a C-Section, you’ll quickly find out that laughing and even coughing is generally out of the question. Anything that shakes your body puts a painful strain on your incision. For a day or so I didn’t know what to do. Since my lungs were acting funny, every now and then I felt like I needed to get out a good clarifying cough.And god forbid I'd have to sneeze. I wondered if an ah-choo might make me burst at the seams - literally.
So, what can you do to ease this discomfort?
Nurses suggested that I hold a pillow against my stomach during laughs, coughs and sneezes. You can also wear supportive maternity belt or underwear to make you feel less loose, so to say. Both of these tricks helped immensely.
6 Painful Pooping
I was totally unprepared for passing my first stool. Once again I mistakenly assumed that having a C-Section wouldn’t really involve any complications pertaining to my anus or vagina.
I was exorbitantly constipated and unable to pass a stool for several days.Then were the fears that the necessary straining would somehow rip open my incision. That thankfully didn’t happen. However, I’ve never been so constipated in my entire life. When I was finally able ‘to go’ it was an absolutely terrifying (but freeing) experience.
So be prepared for some serious straining to pass that first postoperative bowel movement when it finally decides to make an appearance. You’ll also most likely be sent home with a stool softener. Take my advice and take it!
Along the same lines, passing gas about two days after your surgery is an important milestone. This is not the time for any shyness. When you’ve got to go, go!
5 Shedding Your Privacy
So about that shyness.
One thing that a C-Section will teach you is how to be dependent on other people for usually private activities. You’ll definitely need help with personal hygiene among other things. Are you a super discreet person? Do you pride yourself on staying fresh and springy for your partner?
Well, get ready to throw that out of the window. Honey, you just had a C-Section. It’s time to get comfortable with people seeing you naked and assisting you with bodily activities. Even the most private woman will be surprised at how quickly she can adapt to this.
Why? Because she has no other choice! When I got home from the hospital I was pretty sore. I couldn’t do much of anything for myself. I couldn’t lift, bend or barely walk.
My husband had to help me with things I never would’ve imagined. Like bathing and changing sanitary napkins from the flow of postpartum bleeding. (I know!) A cesarean will force you to leave your discretion at the door. Get prepared to bare it all until you’re back on your own two feet.
4 You May Not Need Your Painkillers
I remember being sent home from the hospital with what looked like my own mini-pharmacy. I had stool-softeners, blood pressure medications, and of course pain-killers.
I’ve never been a person who shied away from pain relief. While I was in labor I opted for the epidural. And as mentioned earlier, I accepted anxiety medication to relax my nerves during the C-Section.
So I knew I would not be shying away from taking painkillers for my recovery. Pill bottles beckoned me from on top of my dresser. I was armed and ready for whatever pain surgery was sending my way. To my surprise, I barely needed to take that many painkillers. I might have taken two to three painkillers tops - for a C-Section!
For having had major surgery, it’s amazing to not have had to drug up to get through my recovery. This is the way I wish it to be for all C-Section recovering mothers.
3 A Quick Recovery
Simply put - the human body is amazing.
Now, those first few days post surgery were trying to say the least. I felt like I’d never be able to walk again. When I tried to stand straight upright my insides felt so weak I wondered if they would spill out. Twists and turns were completely out of the question.
Yet, about five days later I was able to stand up. I could surprisingly walk around my apartment with relative ease. Two weeks after my C-Section I was strolling up and down Manhattan blocks.
To this day I’m shocked by how quickly a cesarean recovery can be. It’s unbelievable how quickly your body can heal itself given it just went through. I still glance at my scar in bewilderment.
Here’s another astounding fact.
Some women find themselves up and walking just a few hours post-op! So as you're trudging through your most difficult moments of recovery, don’t underestimate yourself. Your body’s strength can definitely surprise you.
2 Incision Makes You Avoid Intimacy
You’re six to eight weeks postpartum and your doctor has just given you the green light. You know the light I’m talking about.
The ‘all clear’ to do the deed.
You’ve finally gotten comfortable with your baby’s weight on your mid-section. But now you’ve got to think about your husband potentially being there too? I didn’t care what my doctor said. The thought of sex didn’t sound safe for my scar tissue!
Don’t be surprised if the idea of being intimate with your partner after a C-Section completely freaks you out. Some women need more than the doctor’s ‘okay’ to feel comfortable having sex with their husband again.
Quite a lot has gone on down there so take your time and don’t feel rushed. Many new mothers report months passing before they feel in the mood again.
Plus, you can always experiment with positions that don’t involve too much weight on your waist.
1 You’ll Be Willing To Do It Again
There’s no doubt about it. C-Sections are hard work. There is physical pain and temporary constraints.
Your emotions are all over the place, especially if you're a first time mother. You’re trotting through a loss of independence. And counting down the days until you start feeling like your old self again.
At the peak of your C-Section recovery you may feel like you will never subject yourself to another surgery again. However what if you want to have more children? If you do there’s a good chance you’ll have to revisit a C-Section down the line. While, many women opt for VBACs (vaginal births after cesareans), doctors often recommend repeat Cesareans to lessen the chances of complications.
I remember meeting a nurse in recovery who told me she had had three C-Sections and was thinking about having a fourth. She simply enjoyed motherhood that much.
Sources: Parents.com, Babble.com, TheBump.com