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Life After A C-Section

(Please note – this is the fourth in a four-part series on c-sections. If you’ve missed out, please read Deciding On A C-Section  Having A C-Section  and Recovering From A C-Section to catch up.)

It’s time to leave the hospital and head out into the world: just you, your husband, your new baby, and a neat incision.

The staff will talk through a sheet of instructions for you that you’ll only half hear because it’s dawning on you that you’re leaving the safe womb of the hospital and its 24/7 room service and care. You’ll set up a 2-week appointment to visit your OB and check on your scar’s healing, either before you leave or soon after you get home. You will –with great foresight – insist that your husband fill your Tylenol with codeine prescription before you leave the hospital, so there’s no lag time in your doses. You will take a Tylenol-codeine soon before you leave. Your doctor will instruct you to spend the next two weeks holding nothing heavier than the baby.

Ten minutes later, if you’re anything like me, you’ll pick up your baby.

In her car seat.

Let’s just say that’s a mistake and move on.

Once you get home, REST. The ride home is painful, and you’ll feel every pothole and manhole in the road, Percocet notwithstanding.

For the next week your body will be incredibly busy, multitasking. It’s got the new milk thing to do, a newborn to care for, and surgery to recover from. Make sure your bed is easy to get in and out of; you may need a headboard or table near you to help you sit up. You WILL NOT be able to (and SHOULD NOT!!) sit up like you are doing a sit-up. You will have to roll to one side and push yourself up – or even better, have someone help you up. Likewise, you can’t simply sit in bed and lie back. You’ll need to turn to your side, lower your body, and roll on your back.

The first week is by far the worst, I promise. At the end of the first week you’ll feel significantly better, and you’ll feel almost all better (relatively speaking for a sleep-deprived new mommy) two weeks post-surgery. Some important things to think about:

Again, don’t lift anything heavier than the baby. Try to use your nursing pillow every time you nurse. Don’t try anything fancy, like nursing lying down, for a few weeks. If you’re sitting in a deep chair or on a low bed, you may not be able to stand up without assistance. Know this and hand over the baby if you need to.

You won’t be able to have a go at the incision area cleaning-wise for a while. You’ll see your OB around 2 weeks so they can admire their handiwork and make sure everything’s healing well. They’ll remove the bandage at that time, so until then you’ll be cleaning gingerly around it and patting it dry.

The first time you have a bowel movement, it will hurt. Sorry. Urinating may hurt a bit too, in an unclenching-the-muscles sort of way. I found that early pooping wasn’t quite so bad if I supported my incision with my hands; think of holding your guts in.

You’ll also find that coughing, sneezing, and laughing will hurt. A lot, at first. If possible, support with your hands or better yet hold a pillow over the area if you feel something coming on.

The first couple of weeks you’ll feel like you’ve been run over by a truck, but to a stranger on the street you look totally healthy. You’re going from everyone deferring to the heavily pregnant woman – opening doors, giving up seats, waiting patiently for your slowness – to people brushing past you brusquely on the street and forcing you to open your own doors. So here’s what you do:

At the grocery store that usually hopes you’ll bag your own groceries, sweetly explain you just had major surgery and can’t do the bending and lifting. Make someone help you with all that. When you carry groceries inside, go with small loads for a while. And when you’re going in a crowded situation, it’ll be instinctive to cover your scar and protect that area from being hit. Don’t apologize for that!

Because here’s what happens with a c-section:

They don’t cut through the stomach muscles any more, for which I am profoundly grateful. But they do cut through a sheath of connective tissue called the linea alba. See, you have several stomach muscles. Your rectus abdominus is your “six pack” muscle, and runs vertically from your breastbone to your pubic bone. Picture two strips of fruit roll-up, running next to each other, from top to bottom. Now picture them wrapped in cellophane. That’s your linea alba. So the doctor cuts the cellophane, pushes the fruit roll-up strips away from each other, and lifts the baby out through the gap. Then the nice doctor stitches the cellophane back together.

Here’s where it gets painful for your everyday life, though. You also have an abdominal muscle called your transversus that runs sideways all around your torso, like a corset. It inserts into your linea alba, and it tightens automatically every time you cough or sneeze or laugh. So those actions will really hurt as your connective tissue heals back up. Make sense?

Now that I have scared the pregnancy pants off of you, know this: it will all heal pretty fast and you’ll quickly forget about it. I was on the Tylenol-codeine for maybe two days at home, then took myself off it. It’s safe for breast-feeding but made me loopy. And here are the good things about having a c-section:

-You don’t have to worry so much about doing your Kegels after your baby arrives; no pelvic floor stretching!

-No episiotomy

-No sitzbaths

-No fatigue from labor as you start your mommyhood (hopefully!)

-Sex (after the doctor clears you) won’t hurt nearly as much as if you’d had a vaginal birth, though the friction on top of the scar may feel weird at first.

Long-term affects of a c-section are pretty minimal. The doctor will tell you when you can start doing stomach exercises again and for more on that I’ll refer you to my previous blog. Your scar may be numb for a bit, which is normal. It will most likely itch a lot; you’ll find yourself with an intense desire to scratch inappropriately while in public. There’s a great topical solution to minimize the scar; read more about it here. VBACs – vaginal births after c-sections – are becoming increasingly more common, and you can talk with your OB if you’re interested about whether you’d be a good candidate for that for following pregnancies.

A c-section is scary, but remember, it’s getting you a healthy baby. You can recover from it, and you’ll be just as much a mom as the women who went through labor. You can do it!


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