My experience following a cesarean section...
Five weeks ago, my second baby boy came into this world via an emergency c-section. I don’t think anything can really prepare you for that, I always knew a c-section was a risk during birth, I even came extremely close to having one with my first baby, Reuben who was born seconds after I was wheeled into theatre. However, I still went into hospital pregnant with my second baby fully expecting to have another vaginal birth. My biggest fear was him getting stuck just like his brother did, but even then I could never have imagined it would end in an emergency cesarean.
All I’ve ever heard about c-section births is horror stories and I dreaded supposedly not being able to drive for 6 weeks, it would be a nightmare not being able to get Ru to school everyday with no family less than 40 minutes away. And at the end of the day, it’s major surgery which nobody really wants, right?
On top of that, all I also heard throughout my second pregnancy was how quick second babies come and to be prepared for not getting to hospital on time, or giving birth in the back of an ambulance. This filled me with dread as I knew I didn’t cope well with the contractions the first time round. But on the other hand, I told myself at least it would be over and done with quickly?!
How it happened
Fast forward to my birth - which started with an induction that went pretty smoothly. My body barely needed any pushing into labour and I was contracting within an hour, so I was expecting everything else to follow quickly after and was really keen to get that epidural! Things then took a turn as baby wasn’t happy and I ended up having an emergency c-section to get him out. I cried and cried. It felt like my worst nightmare, but at the same time I was desperate for them to just get on with it so that they could get him out safely.
The first 24 hours after were hell. I couldn’t get out of bed and I couldn’t lift up my baby. I was drugged up on morphine and anything else they’d give me for the pain, which made me incredibly drowsy (but also enabled me to get lots of much needed sleep) and really nauseous. I had him on the Wednesday around 9am, and on the Thursday afternoon I came off the morphine after throwing up as it was just making me too sick. I needed it in those first 24 hours, but I was on the mend after that. They kept me in an extra night due to me being quite poorly and by the Friday I was so, so much better. I was out of bed, using the toilet, I had a shower, and managed to pick up and change my baby. I even put on a bit of makeup whilst I was waiting to be discharged to go home. I was able to walk fine, I just had to take it steady.
The start of my recovery
I got home on the Friday afternoon, and spent a few days just being at home, enjoying all of our visitors. I was showering and getting ready as normal on the mornings, but I was carrying my baby around, then sitting down and resting as much as possible. I was keeping topped up on painkillers as I’d been told to do, so I had alarms going off every 3 hours or so, and I was sore, but I was coping fine. The midwives also encourage you to keep moving around as it helps aid your recovery so I’m glad they basically forced me out of bed during those first 24 hours after surgery, as I felt like that was the start of things getting better.
I think my first outing was going with Jake in the car and collecting Ru from school, and a week after my section I was going out for lunch and walking around York. I obviously took it super slow and steady, but managed fine. I was even pushing the pram all the way around.
5 weeks post-section
I know everyone recovers differently from birth, and we all have different experiences, but after I gave birth to Reuben via episiotomy, I struggled for months and months. This time, despite an emergency section, I was feeling back to myself within a week, and I was basically almost fully recovered and back to driving 2 weeks after. I’m now 5 weeks post-section and other than some occasional soreness, I feel well and truly back to normal. It really has been the complete opposite of what I thought it would be like, but I’m grateful as I’ve thoroughly enjoyed these first weeks with my newborn baby. I barely remember the weeks after I had Ru I was struggling that much and it still makes me sad to this day, so I’m very thankful it hasn't been like that again.
The worst bit
The worst bit for me by far, worse than any pain from my incision, has been the trapped wind pain. It’s eased off now I think, but trapped wind is a common side effect post cesarean section and it’s absolutely hell! The pain killers definitely helped though so I’m thankful for them in those early days. I stopped taking pain relief during week 3 I think, and just started taking it as and when I need it. The midwives told me that all of the pain relief I was prescribed in hospital didn't go through to my breastmilk, but once I felt that I could take it as and when needed, I was more than happy to reduce how much I was consuming.
In those early days, there were lots of things that I found really helpful. More than anything you need an extra pair of hands and I found having both Jake and Ru around useful as they were able to do the things I couldn't. I couldn't bend down so Ru would pick things up off the floor for me, and Jake did all the heavy lifting and driving me around, as well as general day to day things so that I could rest as much as possible.
I would recommend lots of pairs of large high waist knickers that won't sit on the incision area, I'm 5 weeks post-section and I'm still relying on these as mine is still sore, I think I'm even going to order some more as I'm wearing them daily and when I go back to normal underwear, they sit on it and make it really sore.
Slip on shoes were super useful to avoid having to bend down to put shoes on, as well as my baby change table upstairs so that I could change Luca high up with everything in the top drawer. I have showered daily since I came home, but only with water to avoid any risk of infection and it's worked so I'd avoid baths at all costs and if you don't have a shower, I'd use a jug and get your partner to help with things like hair washing if you need it!
I also took others advice and picked up some lactulose and peppermint tea for helping with toilet trips and the trapped gas. I'd really recommend both of these, going to the toilet is sometimes still a struggle even five weeks later as everything inside is shifted about and it's hard to push with the incision being where it is. The peppermint tea helped ease some of the trapped wind pain too in those very early days, when it was brutal.
I know this post will be completely unrelatable to some mums, but very relatable to others. Talking about this on Instagram, it seemed that a lot of ladies had a very similar experience to me and found their vaginal births much, much worse - but some found the c-section recovery worse, so it really is incredibly different for everyone. I just wanted to pop my personal experience out there to show that there’s a chance having a c-section may not be as awful as you think it will be, and to hopefully reduce some of that scaremongering. C-sections are so common and a whole lot of women end up having emergency ones or elective ones due to all sorts of different reasons, and I wish that I'd known that it could be like this before I had mine.