When I had my second via caesarean, there were some things that came racing back to me and some things that I had completely forgotten- similar to forgetting labour pains so you want to go back for more babies perhaps? I was in hospital for ten days with my first baby, which meant I had round the clock nurses giving me care and checking on my incision. I remember getting an information sheet about c-sections with my first, but didn’t get anything like that the second time round. I was attempting a VBAC (vaginal birth after caesarean) and wanted to keep in a positive mind set, so I didn’t do any research during my pregnancy. I decided to put together a few things that I remembered after having my second c-section. Some things are probably common sense and general knowledge, while others you may not have thought about.
Being in the hospital with my first baby meant that I had a bed that came with a hand pull system to pull myself out of bed and the bed itself could be lowered and raised. The second time around though, when I was home after two days and in a new bed that was really low, it was a struggle to get out of bed. I didn’t realise the height of my bed would be an issue until my newborn started crying and it took all of my effort and a considerable amount of pain to get of out bed. I did it twice before I decided that it wasn’t something I could keep doing all night. I ended up in the baby’s room, sleeping on the nursing chair. I slept in the chair for about two weeks before I was able to move back into the bed. I think if my bed had been a little higher or if I’d had something to grab and pull myself into a stand, I could of managed it. Obviously, if you are having a scheduled c-section, you can plan your sleeping arrangements accordingly. If you have an emergency c-section though, just do the best you can. You need sleep to heal properly and cope with your newborn, so it’s important to be as comfortable as possible.
When I got home with my second bub, I had a lovely shower and just threw my compression socks out without thinking; needless to say, my legs and feet were still horribly swollen. Luckily I spoke to the midwife when she came for a home visit, and she was able to organise some more socks for me. Once I put them back on, my legs were much more comfortable and I ended up wearing them for a few weeks before my legs returned to normal. Compression socks help prevent blood clots from developing in your legs after your surgery, so it’s important to keep wearing them, even while you sleep. If you can organise two pairs, you can rotate between them and wash them every few days.
During my first stay in hospital, I was given the advice of attaching a pad to the inside of my underwear so that it rested along my incision. It helped to draw moisture away, but also provided some extra comfort because my underwear (which weren’t full brief) sat right across my incision. My mummy belly was bigger and saggier the second time around, so my incision took a lot longer to heal. It was harder for my incision to dry properly and I actually ended up with an infection. I knew by the third week that something wasn’t right with my incision- it was starting to hurt again and was weeping. A trip to the doctor revealed that it was infected and I was promptly put on antibiotics (breastfeeding friendly) and I had to go back every few days to ensure it was healing. After speaking to a former nurse, she suggested dabbing it with diluted Betadine (an antiseptic liquid) and also getting it out into the sun. I had to half sit/ half lay on a couple of chairs in the sun and hold my belly out of the way. It wasn’t easy to get some time away from my newborn, but it was refreshing to lay in the warm sun for even just five minutes. If you can’t get someone to watch bub for a little bit, why not have tummy time together on a blanket outside! I very nearly didn’t go to the doctors, but luckily common sense won out when I just knew something just wasn’t right. The infection could have gotten a lot worse and it could have spread to my baby. Even it it turns out to be nothing at all; if you have any worries or concerns regarding your incision, you should see your doctor.
It is terrifying when you have to sneeze after having a c-section, and I’m sorry to say that it’s painful. Sneezing, coughing and even going to the toilet are things you don’t realise use tummy muscles. So when those muscles have been cut and stitched back together, these activities become ten times harder. I tried to stifle my coughs for as long as I could, but having my second in winter meant it was cold and soon I had to cough. If there was a pillow or a cushion nearby, I would grab it and hold it close to my stomach. Supporting the muscles this way helped, and I just tried to cough as gently as I could.
I am very lucky that I live in a single story place, because the second time around I completely forgot that you shouldn’t climb stairs after a c-section. You should plan to live downstairs with bub and hopefully your house is accommodating. If you live in a unit, or your whole house it upstairs, I would suggest checking with your doctor about your options. This may include borrowing a family members single story house for a little while, or potentially climbing up the stairs slowly and just staying in the house until you are healed. I lived in a single story for both on my c-sections, so I really can’t say; but it’s probably best to consult a doctor.
It will take time before you are back to your normal. Not only have your stomach muscles been stretching over the last nine months, but they have been cut into as well. Even after six weeks, remember to take it slow. The first time I tried to do a bit of exercise after my second bub, I was extremely shocked at how weak my tummy muscles were. Don’t get me wrong, I was never an athlete or an “ab” type person, but it was still shocking to not be able to just sit up. Driving is another one too, where you don’t realise you are using your stomach; but there is a reason you are given a six weeks no driving rule.
Remember it’s major surgery
After my second caesarean, I knew what to expect it terms of time frames and pain etc. But every now and then I was still getting frustrated about not being able to do simple things; like bending over and picking up things heavier than my newborn. It is easy to forget that you have just had major surgery. If you are in pain, take medication; if you need help having a shower or getting out of bed, ask for it! No one is expecting you to ignore yourself, simply because you have a newborn. Just because c-sections are common place now, does not mean that they are easy. You haven’t taken the easy option in giving birth; you are birthing a human being…there is no easy way.
I had a hard time, emotionally, getting over my second caesarean. It took me a long time to come to terms with how my second baby came into this world; and it’s something I still get a bit emotional about now. I was attempting a VBAC, but she was coming with her umbilical cord first, which meant we were rushed into theatre where I was put completely under anaesthesia and she was born within a few minutes. Needless to say, that wasn’t what I had planned or wanted. I know there are people out there who say you can’t make concrete plans for birth, because there are so many contributing factors. But honestly, even if I had needed a c-section, that is not the way I wanted it to happen. It is hard to describe the betrayal you feel for your body, when it can’t birth your baby. Yes, my baby was perfectly healthy, thanks to the quick thinking midwives and doctors who got her out quickly. That is something I am holding on to and what I keep reminding myself on the days I feel a little bitter. I really hope you can look at your c-section as the beautiful way your child came into this world. If you can’t, please forgive yourself…forgive your body; you haven’t failed as a mum. You are strong and brave for putting your body through even more stuff, so your baby can have the best start to life.