C-Section Survival Guide - Guest post

Welcome back! 
My lovely friend Chloe has written a guest post for me to share with you all, all about getting through a c-section. You can find Chloe, and her amazing artwork, by clicking here. I hope you all enjoy!


I think it is safe to say that never in my entire life had I imagined that both my children would be born via c-section. My first was an emergency one after a long, traumatic labour, and my second was planned. They were very different recoveries, but overall, I found the stages I went through were relatively similar. Having now done both types, I thought it would be useful to compile my tips on preparing for and recovering from a c-section.
Anticipate that it can happen
First off, I would say that it’s essential to approach birth knowing that a c-section is a possibility. It is not a failure, it is not necessarily the last resort, but it can spare you and your baby some trauma. 
Embrace your feelings
If you have an emergency C-section, you may feel like you have missed out, you may feel robbed or sad. Remember that birth is overwhelming whether it’s vaginal or caesarean, but it’s still birth! You have not failed, you have birthed a healthy baby by sacrificing your own bodily integrity, and that makes you incredibly brave!
Waiting to be taken in.

If you’re going for a planned section, you may still feel bad, or you may have fears. That is entirely valid! A c-section is major abdominal surgery, combined with the highly emotional event that is the birth of your child, plus the pressure to make it special and beautiful. If you didn’t care, you wouldn’t feel emotional, it’s as simple as that! If you’ve had a c-section before, fears may come back. I had a panic attack just before my second. In hindsight, it was like an exorcism. All my fears re pain, missing out, being depressed, etc., came out and I was able to have a peaceful birth. Just let it out!
Prepare
Make a birth plan. Even if you are going for a vaginal birth, I would strongly advise having a plan B which includes what you want in case a c-section is needed. Look up family-centred or gentle c-section birth plans. You are still entitled to skin to skin, delayed cord clamping or music. For skin to skin, ask for one arm out of your hospital gown and the blood pressure cuff on your leg rather than your arm, as well as heart rate electrodes on your shoulders, not your chest. They may be doing the surgery, but it’s still your body, your baby and your experience. Have some nice photos of your other child(ren) or scan pictures with you to get motivation and comfort from and make sure your partner knows what you want.
Smiling through the spinal!
Before you go in, they will give you a pair of compression stockings to avoid blood clots and a hospital gown. That’s the glamourous part. In theatre, they will place a cannula on your hand and give you a spinal. That’s the least pleasant part, but it’s over in a flash. Trust the anaesthetist, they are highly professional and do this every day. The spinal is a very odd feeling and you may feel breathless when it starts working. That is purely psychological, but do ask for oxygen if you need, it will help! The anaesthetist is your best friend. Talk to them if you have any concerns or questions. The overall feeling of having a c-section is painless. Both times, I actually didn’t realise the procedure had started until someone started telling me what was happening. It feels like being a handbag and someone’s looking for their keys. 
Baby on its way!

Have painkillers and freezer food at home. Bring snacks, including fruit juice and fruit, your own pillow and earphones to hospital. Pack lots of comfy knickers and pads and a nightie or pyjamas with a very loose waistband. If you don’t feel too self-conscious, forget going home clothes – I came home in my pyjamas. 
Accept that it’s going to be painful and take time to recover from
I’m afraid there is no way around that one. It’s going to hurt to recover from. Again, it will not hurt during, though! Being aware of it helps a lot in approaching the pain as temporary and accepting to slow down and ask for help. In my experience, an emergency section takes longer to recover from, but the stages are the same.
Get up
This is not as scary as it sounds. Take it slow, they will help you mobilise when you are ready, but to me, it’s better to get up early otherwise your bum will hurt like mad! Also, the less time you spend with a catheter in, the better. The second night is the worst as you will be tired and the effects of the spinal will have completely worn off. Mobilise before then and take it easy after. Adjust your bed so your legs are slightly raised when you lay on your back, it will help with blood flow and take the pressure off your bum. Place one pillow under your back and another under your head. Buzz whenever you need help. Ask them to take your baby for an hour or two if you’re too tired.
Get the painkillers
Demand the oral morphine. Don’t let them take you off it until you are ready. They say it makes you constipated (seen next step), but if you drink plenty of water and eat fruit and veg, that’s not a problem. Take a notepad and write down when you had your meds or just ask regularly. Take the codeine, paracetamol and ibuprofen at home for as long as you need and don’t skip them at night as you’ll get stiffer. I found it easier to put all my tablets in a bag that I carried with me around the house with a water bottle. You may also require injections to prevent blood clots. Get your partner to do that for you if you can.
Don’t panic when you get after-pains
 They hurt, they’re normal. They’ll pass. Drink lots again and take your meds. If you breastfeed or pump, they’ll be worse, but again that is normal and just your uterus contracting.
Go to the loo
This is going to be terrifying, so don’t rush too much. Drink tons, eat well (send your partner to buy you food if you can rather than subject yourself to hospital food). Remember that you’ll get more impacted if you don’t. You can also ask for an extra laxative/suppository to help get rid of any blockage At home, you may want to use a stool to get your knees up when you’re on the loo to avoid straining unnaturally.. Glam? Who cares, you’ve already been naked on an operating table. I followed all these steps this time and I can honestly say they made one hell of a difference!
Watch your bleeding
I was one of those na├»ve women who didn’t really think about bleeding before giving birth. And of course, you will bleed post-partum regardless of how you give birth. It’s like a heavy period at worst, so if you see any clots or your flow gets worse, get in touch with hospital. Heavier bleeding can be a sign that you’ve overdone it, so do listen to your body. When you first get up, remember that gravity is not your friend and don’t panic if lots of blood gushes out. The midwives will help you clean up and get changed.
Short-term recovery 
Short-term recovery is getting over the initial, more intense pain. It took me 2 weeks the first time and a few days the second time, but everyone is different and there is no deadline for feeling better! I found sleep, food and water absolutely essential. Any moment you can find to get extra sleep, take it. Wear comfy clothes too.
Long-term recovery
This is about finding your old balance, posture and movement back plus getting rid of the general aches. You may feel great during the day and achy in the evening for a long time. Your tummy will also take time to get sensation back. Long-term recovery will take weeks. Now’s not the time to go on hikes or move the furniture around. Listen to your body when it’s telling you to stop. Have your partner lift your other children and crouch for hugs. Keep moving moderately but regularly! Get your muscles stronger, especially your back’s. Do your pelvic floor exercises. (I do mine while feeding baby.) The new recommendation for starting to exercise again is 12 weeks, but some new studies suggest up to 6 months might be needed before starting more intensive exercising, so do not let societal pressure push you to do things that will damage your body. 
Recover mentally
Talk, talk, talk! Keep an eye on your feelings, know the difference between baby blues and PND/PNA/PTSD and ask for the number for the listening service. You can also ask for a birth debrief. I had one in hospital right after my first section, and another a year later. Have some good friends on Whatsapp standby and talk to your partner openly. Cuddle your baby as often and as long as you want too, it is therapeutic for both of you.
Try and fit in some self-care during the day, even if it’s just putting mascara on. Have a shower too! Put baby in their cot and shower. I find if I feel clean, I feel better mentally. 
Lastly, look at your body in the mirror and learn to love the new you. You have a scar that may feel alien for a long time and that’s okay, you didn’t have it for 20, 30, 40 years! Your tummy is squishy, you have loose skin and some extra weight. Don’t listen to society, it’s beautiful and it’s what nature needed to grow your baby. Thank your body for what it has achieved: 9 months of drastic changes and the endurance of birth and pain, so that you could hold that tiny, warm bundle and love him or her forever.
Skin to skin.

Do you have any tips for surviving a c-section?
Thanks, lovelies.
A.x

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