My No BS Guide to Having and Recovering from a C-Section

Since having a C-Section 17 months ago, I have had several friends ask me to guide them through what to expect with theirs. I realize that I wish I had know some of these things before going into my C-Section and so I have decided to share.

This is my absolutely no-bullshit guide to having and recovering from a C-Section. Now, mine was planned so the recovery from an emergent C-Section could be different. In fact the truth is each woman’s recovery will be slightly different. I wish I had someone tell me the truth about what to expect- I think it would have prepared me and made my experience a lot less scary and unknown at the time. Here it goes mamas!

Part One: The C-Section, before and after

  1. Belly bandit- wear it as soon as you feel you can. It’s the one single thing I can now swear by about healing and recovering from a C-section. Wear it as much as you can. I didn’t sleep in mine but otherwise I wore it as much as humanly possible!!! It shrunk my uterus down in 1 month to almost it’s normal state and supported my incision area and also my back. It just really holds everything in that otherwise after a C-Section can hurt as you’re tummy is all wobbly and wonky for a while.  This is the one I used. I started with size small and then eventually had to buy the XS because I shrunk so fast but still needed and wanted the support. I saved both as I plan to use them again if/when we get pregnant a second time.
  2. THIS:  Use these strips on your incision as soon as you’re allowed to. They are the most amazing things EVER! I wore them 24/7 (you can wash them when you shower- that’s the only time I wasn’t wearing them)….my scar looks SO good because of these PLUS they protect your scar from underwear, clothes, etc. which can feel pretty icky against it for a while (up to 2 months maybe more).
  3. Compression big panties: I wore these every single day and night and I wore them under the belly bandit. They also help with the swelling and really do help hold things in…They aren’t sexy but none of this is sexy (plus you can’t have sex anyway so just do all you can to get your body put back together and try not to care about what you or your big ass panties look like)! 
  4. Pooping: DO AN ENEMA BEFORE YOU LEAVE THE HOSPITAL! If they’ll allow you trust me this is the way to go. Have a nurse give you an enema in the hospital you will be so relieved. Take stool softeners so that you don’t get constipated with the pain meds post C-section. I had to do an enema the first poop after surgery, 3 days later…And on that- that first poop….hang on to your heart: it feels like you are ripping yourself open but you ARE NOT…just remember me telling you this- you are OK…you are not ripping yourself open and are totally okay. You have to poop and once you do it’ll only get easier to do it again. I ended up doing a few enemas post surgery until I was able to go on my own. It won’t hurt you and is the easiest way to get it done. Any pushing hurts deep inside as you’ve been sliced open and are healing.
  5. SLEEP! In order to heal fast, you have to sleep. Sleep as much as you can and let the people around you help you. The worst you can do is over-due it. You will set yourself back  not heal yourself. Tell your husband/partner this: he/she needs to be in charge of stepping up and not letting you over-due. After about 1 week the pain reduces a lot and after the 2nd week so much more  but you have to be careful not to over-due it even though you feel better because for about 6 weeks total you’re still healing and things are still fusing back together. It’s easy to push it but you have to really be on yourself not to. This is extremely tough for those of us who take care of everything and everyone but ourselves so try to use this as practice for asking for help from your support team. Remember- they WANT to help you but you may need to be specific about the kind of help you need and when you need it.
  6. Big pads- you will bleed for weeks. I wore a long heavy over-night pad 24/7. Finally switched to a regular pad at week 5 post partum. Don’t think you can just hang out after taking a shower for 15 mins- you can’t- you’ll bleed. Pad it up!
  7. Make sure to eat high protein as it helps you heal fast.
  8. You may come home swollen from the fluids they pump into you but not to fear- it will go away (you’ll pee it out) with in about 1.5-2.5 weeks or so. I think drinking lots of water/coconut water helps flush and drain it out. You need lots of water anyway to support nursing. It can be scary to see yourself looking so puffy after you get home from the hospital but I promise the swelling goes away and you’ll be able to see what you really look like post baby in about 1.5-3 weeks.
  9. NIGHT TIME HELP: This is KEY! If you can get a night time nurse or Doula (we had a Doula and it saved us) do it! If you can do it for 2 weeks at minimum but ideally would be 1 month. I can’t stress enough how much this helps. It allows you to sleep a little with out worry. Someone skilled and trained is up with your baby or up watching your sleeping baby. They will come get you out of bed to nurse when you are needed (usually every 2-3 hours in the beginning). If you do not sleep, you will not heal and also your milk supply will suffer. You have to sleep. So someone you can rest easy with should be with you at night. This isn’t your mom and it’s not your husband. This really is someone much more skilled to actually do just this. If that person is with your baby trust me you WILL sleep and you will be a better new mommy for it. The reason it’s not your mom or partner is because you still need those people’s support during the day while you heal. You can’t lift anything for a while and barely that sweet new baby so try to set this up BEFORE you have your baby (if you know you’re having a C-Section). If this isn’t an option for you financially or perhaps because you don’t live near family then you need to set a very real schedule with your partner for them to support you in being able to sleep (and then stick to it).
  10. Pain: people do NOT talk about how painful it is to recover from a C-section. I will be honest it’s SO painful. So just know this and it’ll help you not worry that something is wrong. Also, the healing itself can feel very weird. The area of the incision ends up this weird combo of numb and painful to touch. It changes and you may feel some weird tinges of pain (healing pains) on and off. Don’t let them scare you- just expect them. The body is amazing…almost 5 months postpartum my scar wasn’t even close to as wide or scary as it was at even month 2 or 3 and my tummy was back to normal. When you’re freaking about stuff- just don’t. Know that you’ll get back to feeling like yourself and instead focus all your energy on loving your baby because that will take your mind off anything uncomfortable that’s going on (and make it all worth it).

Part Two: Your tummy, your healing

  1.  Tummy Time: One of the hardest things post C-Section is getting the tummy muscles to fuse back into place and start working the way they used to. This is just a game of patience but there are things you can do to help. The Belly Bandit as mentioned above is a must. On top of this I suggest trying to do all things you do being mindful of your core. After you have a baby and while you’re in recovery there’s not much time for working out (plus you aren’t allowed to do much but take walks for a while). So use the walks and even lifting the baby or doing the dishes or laundry as your work outs. Tighten and use your core muscles (which may feel very weird for a while) as your power zone. Do all movements from this power zone (not your butt or your legs). Soon you will just use your core as a habit and you won’t have to think about it all the time. Most important take walks and as you feel better and better take longer, faster walks using your core as the movement force and power zone. The weight will start to fall off. Oh and wear your belly wrap on your walk and as much as you can! Eventually you can start to get back into your normal work outs. I recommend pilates with a trained instructor for good post C-Section healing. Make sure to always tell the instructor you just had a C-Section!
  2. What you eat: In my experience the MOST important component to healing and getting your body to slim down after a baby is what you eat. In the beginning you have to make food choices to support your nursing (if you choose to do this). That means you must eat. This is one of the hardest things to do with a newborn and a C-Section recovery. It might sound nuts but it’s true. First of all, stuff happens like you could have a baby who can’t latch (like we did) and then you end up pumping 8-12x a day. Between the pain of getting in and out of bed or walking around post C-Section and then need to pump then feed the baby I swear I barely had a moment to do one more thing. This is where HELP comes in. My mom was in town to help support us after the baby came and ended up staying longer once we had some postpartum feeding issues and difficulty. She would actually feed me while I was pumping AND also trying to breast feed. If she wasn’t there spoon feeding ME I swear I wouldn’t have been able to eat much in those first couple weeks. If you’re partner is around then they can be this person (my husband wasn’t able to take time off right after the baby was born and had a crazy schedule in fellowship and being on call at the time).
  3. More on what to eat:
    1. High protein (note: eggs are the best fast food while nursing and healing), probiotic yogurt is also really good for you but use full fat if nursing.
    2. Lots of easy greens (kale, spinach, asparagus)
    3. Good fats: Avocado, coconut Milk, coconut oil, olive oil
    4. Fiber: You may be having post C-Section “issues” as I call them and will need extra fiber to help support you. Try lentils, hummus, dates, figs, prunes, apples, pears mixed into your diet to assist your needs.
    5. Good healthy carbs: Try quinoa, brown rice, chickpea flour based pasta, sweet potato or yams but try not to overdo it on the carbs.
    6. Nursing support: Try to eat your carbs in the morning in the form of oatmeal or gluten-free oatmeal. This will help your milk supply but also give you fiber and carbs for the day (add dates, figs, pears, apples here for more fiber support).
    7. Water water water! Drink water all day. If you’re not a water person then add cucumber, lemon, berries, orange slices, etc. to water in a container in the fridge and let it marinate. It’ll be tastier and also add some good things to your diet at the same time.
    8. What you eat after nursing and in order to get your body back to a good space:
      1. Greens! Greens and veggies oh my! Okay so the skinny is this: eat as many greens and veggies as you want! That’s right- you get a free pass on this one. You can fill up on greens and veggies at each meal!
      2. Small amounts of protein you don’t need as much as you think! If you make a fist the amount a protein you actually need per meal is in fact probably 1/2 of that size. So, if you’re doing a lean meat or fish try to portion it out with that in mind. If you’re having a vegetarian meal then the protein may be in the form of lentils or beans of some sort (I do this more than anything else protein wise). I say 1/2 a cup of beans is the portion size per meal depending on the size of the bean…then it may end up being 1 cup.
      3. Eat whole unprocessed foods. Instead of the low or non-fat item (which is filled with carbs and sugar and “filler” opt for something real and whole (and then eat slightly less of it). For example…choose whole organic yogurt, choose a drizzle of olive oil and a dash of sea salt on your salad instead of “fat-free dressing.” Your body will process these things so much better and you will actually be thinner for making these choices.
      4. Cook your own food. If you make your own food then you can control what’s in it. Going out or ordering in here and there is fine but if you can, try to control what REALLY goes into your mouth. I find it helps to make dishes once or twice a week that you can keep in your fridge and grab as needed such as: hummus and organic veggies to dip into it or grab and snack on, Israeli salad (or salads in general), salmon or lean meats to have and grab.
      5. Do not starve yourself. The worst thing you can do when trying to shed baby weight (or any weight) is to starve yourself. You MUST eat. Just eat less and make healthy choices.
      6. Splurging is okay. It’s important to be kind and moderate when on the long road to loosing your baby weight. The reality is you’re going to have days where you want to splurge or you’re out and you want to eat something you have been craving for ages. Eat it. Enjoy it then let it go. Start the next day back on track and don’t sweat it. The reality is that even one splurge meal or even one day a week will not derail your weight loss if you are making healthy choices (most of the time).

All You Need Is Love

10676358_10152707350929086_4485169029334586016_nOur daughter is four months old now. The depth of emotion felt in these past four months has far surpassed anything I’ve ever experienced in life. We’ve been through so much and I feel like each experience deserves it’s own blog, but since it’s taken me this long to have time to write I think I should try to sum things up in a way that will be helpful to other women who may experience the same thing. Okay so mamas…future mamas…listen up! Some of this I hope you get to experience because it’s AMAZING and some of this I hope you never have to go through. It’ll be obvious which is which. 😉 Here goes!

Pump It:

Our daughter couldn’t latch. We tried everything under the sun including seeing many lactation specialists. Eventually and very soon after her birth I started to pump. I had to. I pumped exclusively and although I continued to try to get her to latch, I had to bottle feed her my breast milk. Thankfully (and remarkably- you’ll find out why later) I was able to get her 2 full months of exclusively breast milk. It wasn’t easy but I was totally committed to it.

Pumping exclusively sucks. It’s SO hard. I had nothing but problems. I had clogged ducts. I had clogged nipple pores. I had HORRIBLE pain. It took me forever to let down and my pumping sessions would sometimes take 45 minutes- and hour plus,  8-12x a day. By the time I finished pumping and feeding her it was time to pump again. I couldn’t leave the house I was so tied to the breast pump.

There were times when I was pumping that my supply was good and then times it was average. Eventually it took a nose dive and I will be forever grateful for the good periods where I produced enough to have extra to freeze (as we used it later once I had to stop).

I felt like a complete failure because I wasn’t breast feeding Aviva. I would cry all the time when someone would ask me about how breastfeeding was going or sound shocked or sad for me when I told them what our situation was. I had a “plan” to breastfeed her for one year. There’s a lot of societal pressure to breastfeed. It’s currently “in” and there have been waves over the last century of it being “in” our “out.” The reality is that as long as your child is thriving…it doesn’t f-cking matter if they’re being breast fed or not. Seriously- it REALLY doesn’t. So ladies….if this is happening to you please just know that if you TRY- you’ve succeeded. It’s not always on you how it turns out. Sometimes things are just out of your control. My daughter is amazing. She’s a total love. She’s super connected to me and totally obsessed with me but she never latched. Point being- it made zero difference in how connected we are or the love felt between us. Also, she’s just as happy (if not happier) enjoying a bottle of formula as she was breast milk.

The Bottle: A Trial and Error Story

When you have to try bottle feeding super early like we did it’s not easy. We tried a bunch of different bottle systems until we found one that worked. The trying part is tough. It involves what looks like choking, spitting up, painful gas, sometimes just plain spitting it out. The one that worked, well it worked until it stopped working and then we tried another system that hadn’t worked for her before but now that she was older and more evolved, seemed to be magic. Now we’re trying another nipple with that bottle system because she’s getting older and we’ll have to see how THAT goes. Point here is- try try and try again. Trial and error is the name of the game! You can’t give up you will find something that works. Do not get too cozy with the thing that works though because it may not work tomorrow. You have to be like water. It flows and gets where it needs to go. Be water mamas. Be water….

The Perfect Formula:

It doesn’t exist. Our baby is now on formula. She’s on her third type of formula since we had to start it. She’s always been on organic formula but because of constipation issues we’ve been trial and error-ing this as well. Finally she seems to be okay on this one. If you have to have your baby on formula and are like me, you want the safest, closest to breast milk, most non-gmo, organic option possible you will end up with about seven options. Within these seven options there’s a ton of good vs. bad and none of which has yet to be scientifically proven either way. You could make yourself CRAZY trying to make the right choice. I did. That said I finally just had to choose and then when it didn’t work for her tummy I chose again and then again a third time. So long as your baby is happy and gaining weight, growing and thriving…you’re making the right choice. There’s probably no difference between all these formulas at the end of the day but just do what you feel is comfortable for you in your heart. That’s all you can do as a parent, as a mother, I am learning. Once you’ve made a choice- let it go and just see how it goes. Be water remember? Flows…gets to where it needs to go.

Trust Your Body:

Our bodies are truly amazing. I mean- we make humans! How amazing is that?!?! What’s also amazing is that when something isn’t okay- our bodies give us clues and signals to let us know.

While I was pumping I had such terrible breast and nipple pain that often times I would cry. Many times when I would say to my husband things while pumping like “I feel like I’m doing serious damage to my breasts, “I feel like my body is fighting itself” and “It just doesn’t seem like I should be in this much pain.” I also found myself several weeks postpartum still bleeding pretty significantly and still having random shooting pains and cramping. Granted I did have a C-Section but much of the above seemed not quite right to me.

At six weeks postpartum I got heavier cramping and started bleeding even more. My husband had me call the on-call doctor for my OB. She suspected I got my period but told me to go into Triage if I developed a temperature or felt light headed (light headed- something I felt a lot after giving birth). We went to see my OB after that and she also suspected it was my period. She even jokingly called me “Fertile Myrtle.”  I was surprised to have gotten my period given the fact that I was still nursing (pumping, etc). My husband (thank God) pushed for an ultrasound just to make sure things were okay. As it turns out…they were NOT.

Even though we had a scheduled C-Section and this really shouldn’t happen (nor should your baby get cut on her head during a scheduled C-Section which also happened to us and we were STILL in the process of emotionally recovering from and Aviva was healing from)….apparently, I had retained placenta.

It’s a f-cking miracle I even made any milk in the first place. No wonder I had SO many problems nursing and pumping! My body was SO confused! It still thought it was supposed to be pregnant!!! No wonder I was still bleeding and having so many painful issues. I was so lucky we caught this and that I didn’t get a terrible infection or worse. The treatment was to have a D&C. We were SO unhappy with our OB after this, the second complication. Plus we felt she managed us so poorly through both that we decided to get another doctor on board. This took a little time but was handled it before I got super sick. I was starting to feel truly awful.

Trust. Your. Body. Your body knows and will tell you when something is wrong.

So, I had to have a D&C and as it turns out, they had to put me under at a level much deeper than we’d thought which was very scary for both of us. Once the doctor was in, she saw that there was a good amount of placenta there and it was quite stuck so it was good I was out because she did several passes.

(Shout out to my mom who flew in to help watch Aviva and take care of things while I recovered. I’m not sure what on earth we would have done with out you and your loving help. I have the best mom in the world. Period. End of story.)

After the Placenta it’s the After Party:

I can’t confirm or deny that after this procedure I’ll have scar tissue that will cause us issues in the future when we try for another baby. It’s too soon for me to know this. I have to just trust in the universe, as I try to do….that we will be able to do in life what we wish and want, with all the love we can throw at it. I choose not to stress over this and instead focus on my beautiful and amazing love of a child, Aviva.

Also, about 6 days after my D&C, I got Mastitis and after that my milk couldn’t come out unless I manually expressed it into water, leaving it un useable. After that I had to stop nursing cold turkey as I couldn’t get any useable milk out in any way. I used liquid sage drops (natural estrogen) to help my milk stop. Also, ice packs on my breasts and sports bras. It took about 3-4 weeks for my milk to stop trying to come in (when she cried or was on my chest my breasts would still try to fill up and it would hurt).

I don’t know HOW I would have gotten through these rough waters with out my husband’s love and my mom. These two people got me through in so many ways. Other family and friends too, sure but the people in the trenches with me..they gave me the love I needed and more importantly- helped with Aviva while I had to deal with some not so easy stuff. LOVE IS ALL YOU NEED. Truly. And, always.

All You Need Is Love:

You gave birth. Your hormones are crazy. Your feelings are out of your control. Every new mother feels this. Add to that that things don’t go easy….your baby get’s cut/can’t latch/looses weight/has a medical issue/you have a medical issue….IT FEELS SO CRAZY….

WHAT YOU NEED IS LOVE. LOVE. LOVE IS ALL YOU NEED.

You need love from your partner, your family….you need LOVE girl. And oh…my…god…do you need love.

Love will get you through anything. It’ll get you through surgery, complications, more surgery, more of anything. It will get you through. The people who truly love you will show up for you and that is all you need.

I say, when things feel crazy as many moms experience after giving birth…just focus on the love coming in and let it be your fuel because often times you will need it when you start to run on empty…you will need that fuel to keep going.

Note: I have so many blog posts in my head that I have wanted to share but our “stuff” has gotten in my way. Now that things are chilling out and going well I will be able to get back to writing more and I look forward to doing so. With, LOVE, of course. Always.