By Heather Long
The idea for this topic has been on my mind for some time, practically since my son was born, to be honest. I remember thinking “Why did not one of my friends ever mention any of this to me??” I was literally one of the last of dozens of friends to have children, so I remember being surprised that I was so ill-prepared for a C-section. I think people naturally just tend to forget traumatic events like childbirth, especially since they are so elated about their baby.
Obviously, everyone has different experiences, but interestingly enough, it was only after I had my son and started talking to other women that I realized that many of these occurrences are actually quite common. Below are 5 things that I did not know about a C-section.
- You are not going to be able to move around much AT All. Even the littlest of tasks can be very painful or uncomfortable. Getting into and out of bed? You may need a step stool. Literally. I had to use one since my bed was so high. As a matter of fact, I even slept in the guest room for 1-2 weeks, since that bed was lower, and therefore easier to maneuver into. Stairs are a challenge. I only did them twice a day….coming down in the morning and going up at night. Getting up from the couch was uncomfortable, and I even struggled with holding the baby. If I was not feeding him, I pretty much could not comfortably hold him, as he would brush up against my incision site. Therefore, I would expect that you would need someone with you for the first couple of weeks after giving birth. I was fortunate that my husband was home, but I honestly don’t know how I could have physically cared for Gavin without him. Those C-section moms who also have toddlers at home? I can’t even imagine.
- Piggybacking on the above…….you likely won’t be taking your baby on many errands without someone coming with you. Those car seats are no joke. I could not lift the car seat with my son in it and get him into the car by myself. Also……travel strollers?? You won’t be lugging them out of the trunk by yourself. After a couple of weeks, when I was itching to get out, I either ran errands briefly myself, or my husband would always come with me. On occasion, I would meet a friend somewhere who could help me with the physical part of lifting Gavin/stroller/car seat. The one thing that would have been more useful was the snap and go, as I would not have had to lug the massive travel system around with me. It was not until about 6 weeks postpartum that I could get out by myself with the baby, and even then I had to take it easy, or I would ultimately be very sore that evening.
- Working out after 8 weeks? Please. In the US, most short-term disability provides 6 weeks for a vaginal birth, and 8 weeks for a C-section. After having a C-section, this seems like a joke to me. (I cannot speak for a vaginal birth, as I know those have their own set of challenges, but I can say that C-section women should really be given 12 weeks). I feel very lucky that I was off with my son for just about 5 months. However, I was absolutely still healing at 8 weeks and experiencing soreness when I exerted myself too much. If I had to go back to work at 8 weeks, I would certainly have done so, but I also would have had to make sure I was resting considerably at my job, not standing/walking too much, etc. By 8 weeks postpartum, I was taking light strolls around the neighborhood with a couple of my girlfriends. I am talking 1 mile at a leisurely pace. Of course there are always exceptions to anything (my friend Tracy was able to run a couple of days after giving birth), but overall, to insinuate that most women can and/or should be hitting the gym two months after having a C-section is absurd.
- Be ready for a bump! And I am not talking the postpartum bump either. I remember frantically calling my doctor when my son was about 3 weeks old, as I had a golf-ball sized lump on my incision site. Of course, I was terrified it was some sort of infection. While that can occur, in my case it was strictly scar tissue. The weird thing was that it did not crop up until a few weeks after giving birth. I affectionately dubbed this lump my “C-section shelf”, and would joke that it was so large I could set a can of soda on it. At my doctor’s advice, I would massage the scar tissue a few times a day, and after a couple of weeks, it dissipated. (Although, unless you have amazing genes or get a tummy tuck, that region is never really all that smooth again). **Plan on wearing loose-fitting clothing for a while, in case you experience this common event.** Luckily, Gavin was born in early September in North Carolina, so I pretty much wore dresses or linen shorts for a good 6-8 weeks. If you have a C-section in winter or a colder climate, look for sweatpants or loose-fitting pants that don’t rub your incision site. And…..don’t forget high-waisted underwear. Think Granny panties, ladies. Charming, I know, but at least they might guarantee that there won’t be any Irish twins in your future 🙂
- Okay, this one is not exclusive to C-sections at all, but I literally had no idea this was a thing. Be prepared for night sweats!I am not talking a few sweaty strands of hair in the morning, either. I am talking full-fledged, “change the sheets at 3:00am” sweats. I have no idea how this escaped my attention or why no one ever mentioned this to me. There were a couple of nights after Gavin was born that I was panicking, taking my temperature, convinced I had picked up a deadly virus at the hospital. Nope, just hormones. I am sure this was mentioned somewhere in one of the 12 bazillion baby books I had, but let’s be real. During my last summer of freedom, I had better things to read than books that would likely only freak me out. #beachreadsforthewin. Luckily this only lasts for about two weeks postpartum. My advice? Keep a change of clothes and a couple of towels right next to your bed, so you can quickly change if needed, and slap a dry towel or blanket on your sweaty sheets.
Once I started to relax and stopped putting so much pressure on myself to “recover by 8 weeks”, I eventually started to feel better. I think I just felt a sense of frustration that no one had really been honest with me about the challenges of a C-section birth. While I still was not 100% by 12 weeks, I certainly felt light years ahead of where I was at 8 weeks postpartum. I was even able to begin very light jogging, but only for short distances. (One mile or so).
The bright side……I have heard that each subsequent C-section surgery does get easier and easier. I am not sure if that is just because you know what to expect, or because the body has “been there, done that”, and is able to recover faster. I suspect it is a little bit of both. For those of you ladies out there struggling with recovering, either physically or mentally, from any type of childbirth, don’t be afraid to seek help. We are all only human, after all.
Tell me….if you had a C-section, what was your experience? Did you recover quickly, or was it a struggle? If you had more than one C-section, were the subsequent recoveries easier?
Want more Heather? You can check out her blog Real Life Mama here.
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