Seven Things I Wish I’d Known About Having a C-section

Unplanned Cesarian section births are like the Spanish Inquisition: no one expects them. That should be a given, since they’re called “unplanned,” so maybe I should qualify that to say that no one expects that it will happen to you. I certainly didn’t, because I was prepared. (Hah! Myth number one of childbirth). I went to the childbirth classes, I read lots of books, and I thought I was pretty educated on how to avoid a c-section. But I also didn’t plan to have gestational diabetes or a prolonged induction. So after five days and five even longer nights of induction, including 21 hours of labor, Miri was finally born via an unplanned c-section. In all of my preparation, research, and reading, I had skipped over the chapters on c-sections and tuned out in the classes. I was slightly more prepared than the average person simply because I’m a nurse, I vaguely remembered some from my OB rotation in nursing school, and I’d even witnessed a c-section as a nursing student. But of course there was a lot I wasn’t prepared for and wasn’t even expecting, so hopefully this will help you be a bit more prepared than I was. And if you’re pregnant and skimming over this because a c-section won’t happen to you, bear in mind that one out of three babies are born via c-section in the US. So even if you’re not going to have one, the chances that your friend/sister/cousin will are pretty high, so at least read this so you can help them out.

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Aw jeez…no one told me that was coming.

1. Even if your epidural is amazing, you will feel stuff. A lot of weird stuff.  The epidural blocks pain receptors, but doesn’t block pressure or pulling sensations. You will feel them pulling on your insides, jiggling stuff around, and a lot of pressure and pulling as they get the baby out. It’s not exactly painful or uncomfortable, but it sure is weird. If your partner is sitting near your head, he or she will see your body jiggling a little as they push and pull your innards apart, and that might skeeve them out a little. Then, as they actually pull the baby out of you, there will be a LOT of pushing and pulling, and many women feel nauseous as this happens. Tell your anesthesiologist (the masked guy near your head who is not your husband) whatever you feel, whether it’s pain, nausea, shortness of breath, because he can give you lots of good drugs for whatever it is.

2. Prepare your partner. Your partner may claim to not be squeamish, but unless he is an OB himself, I can guarantee he’s going to feel at least a little uncomfortable at times. Warn him NOT to look over the blue curtain. They will hold the baby up for him to see, when it’s time. If starts feeling, um, unwell, he should say, “I don’t feel well,” and if he REALLY feels unwell he should just sit on the floor. Trust me, the anesthesiologist and the team has seen it all before and the very last thing they want is a dad passed out on the floor. A glance over the blue curtain at the wrong moment could be traumatizing for Dad….which brings me to #3…

3. They will be taking more than a baby out of you. Once the baby and the placenta are born, the surgeon will likely lift your entire uterus out of your abdomen, set it gently on your belly and stitch it up. (They put it back of course!) This allows them to see the entire incision and inspect the organ, but it may also traumatize an unsuspecting Dad who glances over the curtain at the wrong time, not expecting to see his wife’s organs outside of her body. This is something you can ask the OB ahead of time if you have a chance, I’m not sure that surgeons always take the uterus out to stitch it up but where I delivered it was standard practice.

4. There will be swelling. Oh, the swelling.  You thought you had puffy feet and ankles before giving birth? Hah, that was nothing. This is one pregnancy symptom that does not go away right after delivery, and in fact it will get much worse. This was the number one thing I was LEAST expecting, and it was actually more bothersome and uncomfortable than my incisional or abdominal pain during the first week of recovery. As my husband so succinctly put it, “You looked like you had a fat suit on, from the waist down.” He was at least smart enough to tell me that after the swelling had gone down, and I was not as much of an emotionally labile wreck. My feet and legs swelled all the way up to my thighs, I could barely bend my cankles, and could not lift my own legs onto the bed or the ottoman without using my hands or help from someone else. I couldn’t be on my feet for more than a few minutes without feeling even more uncomfortable, and walking was rather difficult. Forget trying to wear anything except very loose yoga pants and flip flops many sizes too big. There isn’t much you can to do prevent this, it happens for many reasons. There is a normal fluid shift that happens after having a baby…all that extra fluid has to go somewhere, and gravity wins so it goes south. Plus if you deliver in a hospital you likely received many liters of IV fluid during the course of your labor, more if you had an epidural. I was in the hospital for many days prior to delivering, so I probably got a lot more fluid than the average laboring mom, so hopefully your swelling won’t be as bad as mine. But trust, it will suck. Though it seems counter-intuitive, the best thing you can do for this is drink lots of water to help flush it out and stay hydrated. Keep your feet elevated as much as possible, even on pillows when you’re in bed. I could see my knees again about 10 days post-partum, and by two weeks finally some definition in the shape of my feet again. 

5. There’s a reason hospital beds are adjustable. You’ve been happily adjusting the head and the leg height on your hospital bed for a couple of nights, and probably complaining about how uncomfortable it is. BUT the one saving grace is that it keeps your head elevated. The first time you get to lay in your own bed when you get home, you will realize how important this was, because you will realize you can’t comfortably lay down flat. At least I couldn’t, which resulted in a flood of tears within hours of getting home from the hospital. Wedge pillows can be a lifesaver, or just try to prop yourself up on a lot of pillows. Which brings me to #6…

6. There will be tears. So many tears. This isn’t unique to a c-section delivery, I just thought I’d throw it in there. Between the hormonal changes, exhaustion, pain, and the realization that you just became someone’s MOM, you will cry a lot. You won’t necessarily be sad, or even upset (I cried every time someone told me Miri was cute), and the tears may not be proportional to how upset you are, but they will flow. And once they start, you won’t be able to stop it. It’s all completely normal. Just be sure to warn your partner so they don’t freak out.

7. Be kind to your bowels. Things are going to slow down, wayyyy down. The hospital will give you stool softeners, TAKE THEM. Stay on schedule with them. Drink you morning coffee, eat a lot of melon, drink tons of water. Trust me on this. And if things just aren’t moving, tell your doctor, don’t wait too long!

The best advice on recovery was from my OB, who told me “Act like you have the flu for two weeks.” She tells patients who had a vaginal delivery to rest as if they have a cold for two weeks, and C-section patients to rest as if they have the flu. That means no going out if you don’t have to, let someone else do the laundry, dishes, etc. And be sure your partner hears that advice!

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A Day in the Life

A Day in the Life

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Backseat driver.

I was inspired by another Seattle blogger, Reebecki Supergirl, to do a Day in the Life photo project. According to the official rules, it was supposed to be on 9/11/13, but I eventually got around to it nine days later. I’m going to be using the “but I have a newborn” excuse for as long as I can. It was fun to do, I hope to do it again in a months in order to watch the evolution of our days as our little family finds its footing.

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*mwah* kisses, dahling.

One month

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Miriam is now officially one month old, and entering what the books are referring to as “Hell Week.” Daddy, Mr. Worst Case Scenario, fully expects her to start flying around the room with her head spinning and spewing hellfire. As her mama, I am pretty confident that MY baby is so perfect and precious that she will skip right by Hell Week. So far she’s trying to prove both of us right. She has her calm sweet days, and even flashes us some of those mysterious smiles (quickly followed by a worried look, because wtf are my neurons doing to my face?)  And she has her screaming tortures of the damned moments. Fortunately those are short-lived. Some evenings she’s just mostly fussing, she’ll nap briefly then stir and fuss and whimper, earning her her new nickname: General Fuster.

I never really understood why parents go all apeshit and post on Facebook when their kids hit completely routine and expected milestones, just like 107 billion other humans before them: like rolling over (I go weeks without doing this in my life, is it really even a necessary skill?), first words (as if baby has something important to say that we haven’t heard before?), first steps (just more work for mom now). But now I think I get it. It’s those little things that reassure you that your little human is indeed developing normally, that you don’t have to worry (for today at least), that maybe you’re doing something right. And with each little change you’re getting a little closer to really seeing that new personality and that new person emerge. I’m not saying those things are Facebook-worthy because no one but her parents are truly impressed, I’m still firmly against over-sharing and mommy-jacking on Facebook.

So far this week, Miri has lost all the hair on the top of her head (knit faster, Mama, need more hats!), now tracks things like faces as they move, and has perfected her Scream of Rage. I have realized that keeping your sense of humor is sometimes the only way to not burst into tears. But she’s also occasionally sleeping six to seven hours a night, and I’ve seen some squinty-eyed smiles that smoosh my heart into bits. I’ve started using cloth diapers, but that warrants its own post later.

Who, me? Fussy?

Who, me? Fussy?

Three Weeks Young

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Miriam is three weeks old now, and the occasion was marked yesterday by her umbilical cord finally falling off completely, leaving the most brand-new sweetest belly button I have ever laid eyes upon. Of course I took a photo. Who wouldn’t?!

*Full disclosure* If you have come here expecting my usual misanthropic snarky musings, you may be disappointed. Because whether it’s the post-partum hormones, motherhood, or some bizarre alignment of the planets, I have none of that in me. I’m pretty much just going to wax poetic about this new little person living in our house, and this crazy transition into motherhood that she caused.

I absolutely love being her mama. I wasn’t really sure what to expect, how easy or hard it would be, where my emotions would land in this sea of post-partum hormones and fatigue. But to her credit, Miri has made it pretty easy. She gets cuter every single day, and she seems to be a pretty chill baby. The first two weeks she did nothing but sleep and eat, and we actually had to wake her up to eat most of the time. Over the past week she’s starting have one or two periods a day where she’s pretty awake and alert after eating, then she’ll disintegrate a little if she gets overtired and needs to be soothed a bit to sleep. Usually a good swaddle, a jiggle, and her pacifier does the trick. (Thanks, Dr. Karp! If you have or are expecting a new baby, you MUST watch the Happiest Baby on the Block video). She sleeps in four to five hour stretches at night which I’m quite grateful for. Breastfeeding has been going great, and I started pumping once a day last week so Daddy could get her used to taking a bottle. She didn’t blink twice at the bottle, sucked it right down, then happily goes back to nursing at the next feeding. She also LOVES her pacifiers, to which she says, “Nipple confusion? What’s that?” I love dressing her in the tiny cute outfits we have, and I can’t believe she’s already outgrown some of the newborn clothes. She’s a long, skinny girl and those newborn footie pajamas are too short on her! We’re getting pretty good at the Moby wrap, we’ve done a couple of shopping trips with it and she slept happily cuddled on my chest the whole time. She loves her baths, although she screams as soon as we take her out of the water, but who can blame her on that. To risk sounding cliche, I CANNOT believe I’ve only known her for three weeks. We joked last night that if you met someone new three weeks ago and couldn’t stop talking about how amazing they were and how in love you were, your friends would think you were nuts and probably stage an intervention. I guess that’s the power of evolution at work…we’d better be pretty smitten with this helpless, hairless, resource-sucking little pet or we’d just toss her out of the cave.

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