An unmedicated birth wasn’t important to me, and I said yes to an epidural as soon as it was offered. I never thought I’d have a C-section, though. We dutifully stocked up on products to help with vaginal birth recovery but had no prep for C-section recovery. Most of what I knew about C-sections came from my mom, who had one with me nearly 30 years ago.
Nora’s heart rate started to drop about 24 hours after I got to the hospital. The medical team went back and forth on whether I needed surgery. I remember starting at the monitor and watching the heartbeat line dip anytime I had a contraction and having a bad feeling in my gut. We hoped we’d see improvement, but I started to panic that she was distressed. Vagner spoke up and told the doctor that we were getting concerned. Soon after, the anesthesiologist said that her heart rate didn’t look good and we were going into surgery as quickly as possible, which will forever be one of the scariest moments of my life.
Within minutes, Vagner was in scrubs, and I was being wheeled back. I was terrified that I’d somehow feel them slice into me, but they do a thorough job making sure your lower half is completely numb. Vagner watched the actual procedure, but I wasn’t interested in seeing my organs! I heard Nora cry for the first time about 25 minutes after we got to the operating room,.
The nurses whisked her off to the nursery to ensure she was okay because she was premature. My torso and legs were still numb, and I felt tired more than anything. Once the numbness wore off, though, the pain hit me like a train. I have decent pain tolerance, but I still struggled in the hospital. I felt back to normal physically within a couple weeks, but it wasn’t easy to get to that point. Here are a few things I wish I’d known.
1. Take The Medicine
The first couple hours after Nora’s birth were a whirlwind, and I didn’t start feeling bad physically until the next day. My doctor gave me Percocet, and I didn’t plan to take it because I don’t like how narcotics make me feel. Reader, this was not the right choice. Ibuprofen did what it could, but I was still feeling too much pain to walk. I started setting an alarm every six hours to make sure I never missed a dose. I also used a heating pad which helped a lot.
2. Get The Right Underwear
Frida Mom makes disposable C-section underwear that I lived in for the first few days. It’s painful to have any friction on the wound as it heals, and having the right clothes helped. Even after I’d recovered and only had a scar, it would get incredibly itchy for months after my surgery. I could only wear high-waisted underwear and this 4-pack from Amazon was a lifesaver. I still wear them when I want smoothing under an outfit without having to put on shapewear.
3. Listen To Aftercare Instructions
Fun fact: you aren’t supposed to lift anything heavier than your baby for the first month of C-section recovery. I had no idea, and it was hard for me to chill out and let my body heal. I honestly don’t know how I’ll navigate this if I have another C-section down the road because I imagine Nora will insist on being held, but I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.
4. Cut Yourself Some Slack
We collectively talk about C-sections like they’re easy-breezy, which is a disservice to the birthing parent who goes through the procedures. Not to be graphic, but the doctor literally cuts into your abdomen to get to your uterus and take the baby out. It’s a major surgery that carries several risks and complications. The pressure on women to “bounce back” from C-section recovery is toxic. I know that not everyone has support from family or friends, but if you do, take advantage of it! Don’t feel pressured to get back to normal.
5. Ignore The Naysayers
I wasn’t picky about my labor and delivery ahead of time — my goal was a baby and a pleasant birthing experience. Simply put, it sucked to go into labor a month early. It sucked even more to be panicked and hurried into surgery when she was close to crowning. But what sucked most? How weird folks can get about your birthing choices. I know that some people don’t view birthing as a medical experience. For me, it was. I resented the messaging “natural” birthing was best because “women were ~made~ to do this.” Had I labored at home, there’s a good chance things would’ve taken a turn for the worst. A C-section isn’t the easy way out, and it’s really no one’s business how you give birth anyway.
Whether you’re preparing for a C-section or recovering from one, I hope you found my post informative! Best of luck to you — we’re all in it together.