C-Section Experience & Recovery Guide
The following is personal experience, not medical advice. Please communicate with your health professional for personal care.
When Ryan and I took our 8 hour birthing class, and they got to the cesarean section (or C-Section) portion, I purposefully closed my book and went to the bathroom as a faith extender. I didn't want any thought or part in a c-section. My body was created to birth and birth vaginally I was going to do. Except when I didn't.
If you've stumbled upon this blog because you too had or are having a c-section, I want to give you great love! BIRTH is BIRTH. You still birth a baby whether through your belly or vaginally. Birth is partnering with God, to bring a soul to the Earth. It's a Kingdom process. If you hold a baby at the end of the process, you gave birth. Please, C-Section Mama, don't let anyone (you included) tell you otherwise. There are different hurdles for each type of birth so it's not fair to compare. I will be the first to say, C-sections are a surgical procedure and experience, they don't feel "organic". I would have never expected to feel the presence of God like I did in an operating room. The lights were not low, there was no music, there were no essential oil smells . But when I heard both of my babies' cries for the first time there was a WAVE of the presence of God I can't express. There were tears and songs that busted from me and it was a holy moment. Practically, it wasn't what my "Birth Plan" had desired it to be, however the Lord has a beautiful way of redeeming and the spiritual aspect of becoming a mom was everything AND MORE.
I have had two c-sections.
2019 : Oliver was breech. We tried all the things short of a manual turn from my doctor (because I had zero peace about that route). Turns out I have a heart shaped uterus (bicornuate is the official term) and Oliver was lodged.
2020 : Eleanor had heart rate drops. I so badly wanted a VBAC. A few days leading up to 40 weeks I started sensing a significant drop in her movement. Enough to bring attention. Once hooked up, we found some scary heart rate drops during contractions. (Yes, heart rate drops are normal during contractions, but these were in an alarming level). My placenta couldn't keep up with the oxygen she needed (that's the running theory) and so a c-section happened. I went straight from the doctors office for a "40 week checkup" to the hospital; Ryan rushed Oliver to my mom and then joined me in time for the birth.
*Both interventions were medically necessary, Ryan and I felt the Lord's leading on them, and my doctors truly used it as last scenario. I felt supported, and heard, and loved, and celebrated. I am so grateful for that. I personally believe God's plan is a natural birth - He designed us for it. But I also believe miracles come in many packages and I'm grateful for modern medicine that helped me and my family.
If you've already had a c-section skip over this part. This is to help give perspective for those who may be on the front end of the experience.
Here is what you can expect: *Obviously every hospital and situation is different. Neither of mine were "emergency" meaning I was still "awake" (I didn't have to go fully under anesthesia), and Ryan could be with me. So here's a possible sequence if you also fall into that category:
Shower Prep : You'll be asked to clean with a special soap to prep your skin. Your spouse will probably need to assist. It's not glamours, and smells terrible, but it'll really help prevent a rash or reaction later.
IV : They will give you significant extra fluids. You'll be hooked up for 2-4 hours prior to the surgery.
Surgery Prep : There is nothing "natural" about this. You will have wires and tubes and all the things hooked up all over you. Painful, no. Uncomfortable, yes. They add extra heat to your body through special blankets and continue to monitor you in your waiting room before you go into the operating room.
Birth : You wait and wait and wait and then BAM. Game time. Mom goes in alone and gets anesthesia. You are fully awake and still feel everything. There is a dulling, so it's not the excruciating flesh cutting sensation that's really happening, but you still feel. (So don't freak out when they are starting and you can feel lots of uncomfortable pressure, pulling, tugging, etc, during the surgery). Then your husband (or mom, friend, etc) can join, once you're laying flat and the surgery begins. And once they start, it's FAST. For Oliver, Ryan requested to say a prayer before they begun. From prayer to hearing Oliver's first cry was 13 min. Eleanor's was a little longer due to her situation and caution. It was important to me that the baby had Ryan with him/her the entire time my surgery was being finished. This meant, Ryan stayed with the baby on the side and in the recovery room while they finished my portion of surgery.
Skin to Skin : If possible PLEASE request this. Within about 30 min of Oliver being born I was able to have quality skin to skin/nursing in the recovery room. But with Eleanor they let me have skin to skin immediately, as they were finishing my surgery. It was only 2-3 min in the operating room, and then after my surgery I was able to have a long hour with her fully nursing/skin-to-skin. But wow! That was such a special wink from Jesus to me. He knew how badly I wanted a VBAC and having that immediate rush of birth and skin to skin (as best as I could in this situation) was really special to me.
Room Change : As alluded, after surgery you'll go to a waiting room for skin to skin and nursing until they transfer you to your actual room. (Cue the tears) There is NOTHING on this side of heaven like those first cuddles, glances, "Hi, I'm your Mama. I love you" skin-to-skin minutes. *With Eleanor I had some reactions to the anesthesia and had terrible itching and shaking. It was very odd, and I had to speak up for Ryan to take her for a bit as my body re-calibrated; which it did within an hour.
Bed-Ridden: Once in your room, don't expect to get out of bed. For me the surgery isn't the worst, it's the recovery. I don't want to candy coat so here it is - the first 72 hours is really hard. You'll be poked and wired, and hooked up for a bit. Nurses will check your incision and bleeding, your catheter (meaning you'll be going to the bathroom in a tube not walking to the toilet) and so forth and so on. You won't get a shower for at least 24 hours. Even with medication the pain is incredibly high. You still are bleeding a ton vaginally (for a few weeks)....Oh ya, and you have a newborn you're trying to nurse and bond and figure out what in the world you're suppose to do to keep yourself and this tiny human alive!
Recovery [First 7 days] : See tips below. But overall, you need help (a husband, sister, friend, etc). You're in major surgery recovery and pretty much need to be in bed. You'll have a huge bandage over your incision you need to baby very carefully. After a week or so you'll have a followup with your doctor and the bandage will be removed.
More Recovery [First month] : No driving, stairs only 2-4 times a day, no picking up your toddler if you have one, you'll start feeling much better but still take it slow.
Lots of Recovery [First 12 weeks] : At 6 weeks you'll have your "clearance" appointment where you're doctor will make sure everything is healing well. But even when you get the go, (take it from experience) you still need to be mindful that you had major surgery. I still had vaginal bleeding for about 8 weeks as well.
Here are my tips from my two experiences :
Switch your mindset and expectation. [The goal is healthy mom and healthy baby. Take a breath and mental reset : you will have about an extra trimester of recovery afterwards.]
Request skin to skin asap. [It is SO good for both you and baby]
Take medication on exact times for 10 days. [Set alarms on your phone. Trust me, don't skip what is prescribed.]
Stool Softener for 7 days. [Again... trust me on this. I like Colace.]
Move slowly; but move. [The sooner you move the faster you recover. It's a fine balance of taking it easy and keeping your muscles going. Slow 5-10 min walks every few hours around the hospital or your home make a big difference.]
Fresh towels during showers. [This keeps your incision clean and bacteria free from repeat towels.]
Focus on nursing; have help do diapers, etc. [Let them help! Your body has gone through a lot and needs time to recover.]
Start a probiotic with your baby soon. ([C-section babies miss out on really valuable God given goodness that comes from the vagina lining so a probiotic can give them some of those benefits back.]
Take time to process. [You can be disappointed in the birth process and still so proud of your body, and so very grateful for your baby.]
Fuel yourself with good protein rich foods as you heal. [Eat more than you think you need and then double that.]
Whether you selected a C-Section experience or a C-Section experience selected you, you should be so proud of yourself and your body! Congrats Mama! You did it! You are a Mama!
Praying Quick Recovery and Great Grace Over You, Abby *Don't forget... The Cirkles are cheering you on!