baby, childbirth

My C-Section Recovery Essentials

So even though I had an unplanned c-section after almost 36 hours after the beginning of my induction, including 14 hours of pitocin, I probably had an easier time of recovery than a lot of unplanned c-sections because I never tried to push, so I had pretty much no perineal damage. That said, recovering from a c-section is never easy, and I thought I’d share a little bit about my recovery, and the things I found absolutely essential while recovering.

Of course everyone is different and every recovery is different. It’s my hope to help other women facing c-section see that it’s not the end of the world, and while recovery may be rough, it’s not impossible. If a c-section is what your body and baby need, you shouldn’t feel guilty about it. And remember that you just went through surgery; it’s okay to need help. This was particularly difficult for me because I was so active before and throughout my pregnancy. To just be able to lay on the couch all day and not do anything more strenuous than nurse my baby was a big shift, both physically and mentally.

One thing that helped immensely was some perspective from my husband. About a week after we went home from the hospital, I woke up in the middle of the night with terrible abdominal cramping. Worried that something was wrong, I went in to the doctor to get checked out. She said that I’d strained a muscle. Strained a muscle? I thought. How, exactly did I do that when I’d been doing nothing but lying in bed? Well, from the location of the strain, I realized I’d probably strained it twisting over to the side to pick up Elliot from his bassinet to feed him. Which was disheartening to say the least. Until Dan reminded me that most people who have abdominal surgery are told not to lift anything, rather than “nothing heavier than the baby,” so it made sense that even lifting the baby could cause problems.

Which brings me to my list of essentials:

1. A Supportive Partner

My number one c-section recovery essential is a supportive partner. In my case, I was lucky that my husband was not only able to take off work for a month, but willing to stay away from his job for that long. I would say, at the very least, you should plan on someone being around to help you all the time for the first two weeks, until you know how your body is going to heal. I spent all my time laying in bed or on the couch, so I needed Dan to do pretty much everything else. I fed Elliot, but Dan fed the two adults. He did all the laundry. He kept me hydrated. He rocked, burped, and changed Elliot. Heck, when Elliot was still on formula supplements, Dan fed him most of his formula supplements. He made sure that all I had to think about was breastfeeding and recovering.

2. A Good Robe

One of my biggest regrets is that I didn’t buy this robe (which I’m wearing in the picture above) sooner. It’s not cheap, but it’s fantastic. It’s soft, thick, comfortable, and the belt is attached so you can’t lose it in the wash. I came home from the hospital with a belly the size it was at five months pregnant, and an incredibly sensitive lower abdomen. Wearing real clothes was out of the question for a while, and breastfeeding meant I needed frequent easy access in the front. This robe over a nursing bra, and some thick socks was my uniform for at least a week.

3. Maxi Dresses

The first few weeks of my recovery, I couldn’t stand wearing anything with a waistband. Wearing underwear was bad enough, but even leggings or a jersey skirt was out for everyday wear. While my robe was perfect for at home, I had to leave the house occasionally for doctors appointments. When that happened, I turned to my maternity maxi dresses. I have this dress in three colors and it’s basically all I wore out of the house, or when people visited, for weeks. It’s soft and comfortable, looks like real clothes even though it feels like a nightgown, and it’s cut ideally for easy breastfeeding access.

4. Cold Packs

My doctor clued me in that the perineal cold packs that were in my postpartum recovery bag at the hospital are also great for soothing an angry incision. When I got home and ran through the extras that the nurse gave me to take home, I found these, for a reusable option. They stay in the freezer and I wrap one in a dishtowel to prevent frostbite. Cold on the incision is key.

5. Postpartum undies

One thing for which I was completely unprepared was how much I would hate my normal underwear when I got home. I used hospital disposable undies for a while, but eventually, I wanted to feel like a normal, underwear-washing person again. I got these from Kindred Bravely, which are fantastic, if a bit delicate (some stitching is already coming undone on a few pairs), and when I went to order more, I tried these, which probably wouldn’t have worked for the early recovery days, but are great now that most of my immediate soreness is done. Seriously, wearing the wrong underwear caused a lot of my worst pain days after the initial healing period.

Now that I’m past the initial healing period, I’m still not wearing most of my normal clothes. I stick to soft-waisted bottoms, like yoga pants, wide-waistband leggings, and jersey skirts. I can’t imagine when I’ll ever want to wear jeans again, and I’m pretty sure I’ll keep my maternity skirt in rotation when I go back to work. But just shy of six weeks from the surgery, I woke up one morning and realized that I didn’t hurt at all. And since somehow pregnancy has made me sickeningly optimistic, I will say that the bright side of the c-section was that Dan was able to bond immediately with Elliot and I think it makes it easier for him to soothe El when he’s fussy.

I spent a lot of time preparing for the possible things that could happen during delivery, but the one thing I never planned for was a c-section. If I had it to do over, I would know to make sure I had the above things on hand (if I didn’t already have them), as a relatively simple way to make sure I was prepared for everything. And, seriously, that robe is awesome and I still wear it to and from the shower every morning!

childbirth, Dan

An Ode to the Other Half, Part Two: Birth Partner

In this series, I’m giving my partner, Dan, his due as a fantastic partner at all stages of our journey to parenthood. Today, I’m going to talk a little about how he prepared for and participated in the birth of our child. I can honestly say that Elliot’s birth would not have been the largely positive experience that it was without Dan’s help.

I’ve already told the story of Elliot’s birth and how I used my Hypnobabies techniques to keep calm and mostly comfortable during labor, especially before getting an epidural. I’ve also talked about how my first epidural started failing on one side because it was improperly placed and I had to have it redone while experiencing the height of pitocin contractions. But that’s the middle. Let’s start at the beginning.

First of all, though he was dubious about its effectiveness, Dan was always willing to participate in the Hypnobabies training. He took to the scripts and the cues right away, and I felt confident that he would be able to help, which made the anticipation of labor less scary. We checked into the hospital at 4pm the day of my induction and he stayed with me for the entirety of my hospital stay, which was almost 36 hours of labor, a c-section, and four additional days, sleeping on couches and staying up all night to soothe the baby so I could rest and recuperate as much as possible.

When we first got into the perinatal room, he helped figure out the TV options while I chatted with the nurse, and later on, he made sure that I could comfortably eat while mostly stuck in bed because of the monitors. Other than the time he spent sleeping the first night (I was pretty oblivious to my increasing contractions while on Cytotec, so I let him sleep as much as he could), he was engaged in the process and made sure to touch base with the nurses to know what was going on. He also was in charge of bringing my cold snacks to the nurses’ station to get them refrigerated, and then fetching gelatin and broth for me later on. I ate a lot of gelatin after we moved to labor and delivery.

But Dan truly started to shine when my contractions became more intense on pitocin. I had a private conversation with him that I was thinking I should get an epidural before I mentioned it to anyone else, and he supported me, while also encouraging me to wait until I talked to the doctor and the doula again, so that I didn’t regret getting it too early. When I did finally decide it was time for the epidural, he was right there with me, helping me relax through the contractions while I had to sit up for the anesthesiologist.

And when that epidural failed and I didn’t think I could keep going on, he was right there with me. I’m so glad our doula was able to snap the picture above of him comforting me through what would turn out to be the worst part of my labor experience. When I had to sit up for the second epidural placement, he was right there with me, helping me with relaxation cues to help me through the contractions while staying still for the epidural. I honestly don’t know if I would have been able to do it without him.

Eventually, we decided that it was time to move to the c-section, and I was so glad they allowed him in with me. I had to go in first, to get prepped, and then they showed him in. I was having really bad shakes from the spinal and it was making me anxious, which made me shake even worse. As soon as Dan came in and sat next to me, he started using Hypnobabies cues and some tricks the doula showed him to help me relax. Even though he claims it didn’t look like it made a difference, I felt much more relaxed and felt like I was shaking less.

Once Elliot came out (greeting the world with a fountain of urine!), Dan was the one to cut the cord and held him the rest of the time the doctors were finishing up. And once I was back in recovery, doing skin-to-skin time, Dan and my nurse made sure to watch us so that I didn’t have to worry about feeling drowsy from the effects of the anesthetic (and over 36 hours of labor and surgery with very little sleep!).

Throughout our hospital stay and the weeks after, he was the one who made my recovery possible. When I had trouble picking up Elliot because of my incision, he reminded me that most people who have abdominal surgery are told not to lift anything, rather than “nothing heavier than the baby,” so that as long as I had him to help, he would do the lifting. Every night when Elliot woke up to nurse, Dan was right there to pick him up out of the bassinet and hand him to me. Sometimes, Dan is better at soothing him to sleep than I am!

His quiet resilience and willingness to help with everything that was possible for him to do made it possible for me to rest and recover from my surgery, while his emotional support has helped me through some of the mentally toughest moments I’ve had. I feel lucky to have such good support and know Elliot feels lucky to have such a good dad.

[photo by Jenny Corbett]

Fourth trimester

Welcome, Elliot

 

It’s been a while since I’ve updated this space. If you follow my Instagram, you’ll know that’s because baby Elliot decided to arrive just over a week ago. We’re all very busy at home getting used to our new little family, but as soon as I find some time, I’ll share the story of Elliot’s birth and start updating with how these first weeks are going.