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Childbirth / Children

C to the Section–A mom’s general observations about c-sections

Editor’s note: Since writing this post, Gretchen gave birth to her eighth child yesterday. He weighed 7lbs 15 oz. He is currently in the NICU for rapid respiration so be sure to send Gretchen your well-wishes.

My first five kids were born via what some people deem the old-fashioned way. Then the exit sign flickered out.

The next two babes were born via c-section, both undeniably necessary. I have no regrets regarding either delivery. Mr. Baby is scheduled to arrive in an OR, too. I’m fine with that.

Here are some general observations about c-sections. They are in no logical order. If you are a dude or otherwise squeamish, this may be too much information:

1. There is a big difference in recovery time between emergency and scheduled c-sections. If you have an emergency c-section, like I did with Beatrix, you have to recover from labor and major abdominal surgery. Plus, the doctors were in a frantic hurry to get her out, so I felt quite battered after she was born.

With Archie, it was more leisurely. Even though I wasn’t expecting to have a c-section that day, there was a happy, chatty, mellow pace that made the surgery and recovery much easier to manage. There were lots of laughs in the OR, good music, and a blessed vibe. Don’t automatically assume the OR is a cold, heartless, life-defeating, grim place. The moment I heard my two c-section kiddos cry, those ORs were the happiest rooms on the planet.

2. Beatrix was born at a hospital where I wasn’t allowed to eat real food until I passed gas. The spiders had to bark. I had to step on the duck. My hospital gown had to cough. Naturally, I was beyond hungry, so after a couple of days I lied and said I had finally accomplished what most people do with great ease in elevators and other enclosed spaces. I figured I needed real nutrition to make yummy milk, so I’d risk the grilled cheese sandwich. I never noticed any ill effects from eating the foods I obtained via false pretense.

3. Archie was born at a hospital where you could order anything off the menu, any time of day. There were no menu restrictions. It was pretty awesome. They called it room service, and I took advantage. It didn’t matter that I just had big time surgery. Bring on the macaroni and cheese and chocolate cake! They didn’t care. Unfortunately, this other extreme did have ill effects. So my advice for anyone having a c-section is to be moderate when eating during those first few days of recovery. Don’t starve, but don’t go nuts in the name of making milk. Common sense.

4. After Archie’s birth, they put special compression boots on my lower legs to prevent blood clots. I wore them for about 24 hours and I admit I liked them. Every 10 minutes or so, they’d tighten and massage my calves. I was stuck in bed with an IV and catheter, so why not let my legs in on the party?

5. I was terrified of getting the spinal when I was being prepped for Archie’s delivery. For some reason, it scared me more than an epidural—probably because epidurals are usually done when you are already in pain, so you welcome the needle and the relief it brings. But the spinal was fast and practically painless. I had nothing to worry about, and it took effect pretty much immediately. Which brings me to…

6. You must have a catheter with a c-section. Ask them to put it in after you’ve had your spinal. They will leave it in far longer than they do after you deliver vaginally (if you needed one at all). That was annoying, but I understand it was necessary because when you are sliced open, a lot of organs are displaced to get the baby out, including the bladder. It may take a few days for it to be back to normal, fully-functioning condition.

7. The swelling after my c-sections was insane. My legs looked like Greek columns. My hips to the tips of my toes were two solid cylinders. The only thing missing was a statue of a stern, seated Abraham Lincoln between my legs. Swelling after childbirth is very common, but it was definitely worse after my c-sections. I attribute it to extra IV fluids and meds? This time, I’ll be thankful it’s summer and can wear flip flops home from the hospital.

8. Even if you have a c-section, you will still be rocking the giant pads and mesh undies. The good news is that the postpartum deluge is shorter and lighter, at least in my experience.

9. Take the painkillers. Do not take them late. Do not skip them. After a few days, I slowly backed off the painkillers because I was worried about them contaminating my milk. By one week, I was completely painkiller free. The first two days or so were pretty ouchy, even with the painkillers. I wrote about what happened when the nurse decided not to bother me on the second night after Archie was born. Worst pain of my life, and I am not kidding.

10. Both my c-section incisions were closed with glue. I appreciated not having staples or external stitches. My scar is pretty seamless, which I attribute to the glue. They like to take a look at your scar every chance they get, which is a good thing I suppose. In other words, don’t bother with pajama pants.

11. Before you are taken back to the OR, you must drink a horrible liquid that comes in a little plastic cup. It tastes like black licorice + fire + 300 year old sauerkraut + fish. It’s an antacid.

12. In my opinion, any woman having a c-section needs someone to spend the night with her, especially the first night or two. Nurses are wonderful, but they are busy and can’t always come running immediately. I was zonked out of my mind after Beatrix and with Archie I was rocking the Tube and Boot look and couldn’t go anywhere. You can’t care for the baby other than nursing, so you’ll need someone to diaper the baby, swaddle, rock, and transfer the little bundle between you and the rolling crib. This is especially true if your hospital has a rooming-in policy, where babies are only kept in the nursery if they are sick or need a lot of extra attention.

13. I found it helpful to nurse as much as possible as soon as possible. I always heard that c-sections interfere with milk production and nursing, but it wasn’t true for me. My milk came in at the same rate it did when the old internal exit sign was still glowing. You will need more pillows after a c-section to keep the baby’s weight off your tummy. Archie ended up in the NICU (not because of the c-section but because he was 4 weeks early) and I had to pump. My milk still showed up on time, despite me being deeply worried it wouldn’t.

I’m sure I am forgetting a lot. My memory will be jogged soon enough.

What am I leaving out, c-section sisters?

Author: gretchen

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  1. If there is anyone equipped to give advice about this topic, it is you. Fantastic insights as always.

    Hugs and prayers your little one makes a speedy recovery!

  2. Congrats to you & your family on blessing #8!

  3. Super-speedy thoughts of recovery to you and Mr. Baby!! (Oh, and just so you know, I’ve been calling him Bruce.) 😉

  4. Well written! I am mother of four including twins first two born natural and twins C-Section. C-Section was no fun. Did you know your uterus for one baby is the size of an orange. Your uterus for Twins is the size of a cantelope. Not only was a I swollen from C-Section but I looked six months pregnant after giving birth. My first son was 5 weeks early and was in the NICU for respitory under developed lungs. He was out in 10 days. If this is your first child take advantage of all the knowledge (bathing and care) experienced nurses can show you. I used to ask the nurse if she would put the phone to my babies ear so he could hear my voice at 3am in the NICU. I had some great nurses that were more than willing to do that. It’s a mommy thing. Congrats on your bundle of joy!

  5. Congrats on your precious baby!

  6. C-Sections scare the crud out of me but it’s not like vaginal tears are dreamy either I guess.

    I’m passing this along to my friends!

  7. I agree! Wow Gretchen eight kids! You are in VAN territory now. We are a family of six including twins and we bought an expedition so we could all fit. I have a friend with 9 kids and she bought a corporate van like daycares use. Busy..busy!

  8. When I delivered the twins they gave me morphine to do the C-section I was FREEZING. Shaking terribly. Looking back would certainly have asked other pain medication options.

  9. Thinking of you and Mr. Baby, Gretchen! Can’t wait to see more pics! I love reading your posts, even discussing C-sections, you still make me laugh!

  10. My first daughter came the “old fashioned way.” She was 9 lbs 2 oz and I hemorrhaged and she broke her collar bone on the way out. When my son came 2.5 years later, I opted for a c-section because the ultrasound said he’d be 11 lbs. He was …10 lbs 6 oz, and I have never regretted my decision. I’ve recovered from both separately, and I cannot imagine having to recover from both at the same time–ie an emergency section.

    I think the article hits it on the head, pretty much. I delivered in a hospital that was what I’d call “ok” with nurses that I would call “almost ok” so it was quite the experience. I do wish I would have had somebody spend that first night with me–my husband had to be home with my daughter, and I had no other options since we lived out of state from anybody! I could go on an don about the nurses in the nursery but I won’t. 🙂

    I am finished having children, but if I did have another, I’d opt for a repeat c-section. My next one may be 15 lbs! 😉

  11. Rock on Gretchen & family! Congratulations!

  12. My first 2 c-sections were emergencies and the last one was planned. I knew this would be my last child and knew from reading the books and my own (wishful thinking) birth plans that i was missing out on a few things.

    So, with my 3rd child, I requested a mirror so that I could watch her be born and I requested that they bring her to me immediately after delivery, before they cleaned her all up, just like they do in a traditional delivery. I honestly don’t know why its different with c-sections. They clean the baby, do a couple medical things and then bring it to you all swaddled in a blanket.

    I am glad I had the opportunity to make my c-section more special.

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