If you aren’t familiar with the birth story of my first daughter’s birth, let me fill you in really quickly.
I nearly died.
No, really. I labored for 72 hours before having a c-section that left me semi-unconscious. Before losing consciousness, I recall very clearly thinking that I was going to die. It took them 36 hours to get me a blood transfusion I should have received on the operating table! I was barely able to respond to the nurses or my husband and holding or nursing my new baby was out of the question.
38 hours and two units of blood later and I finally began to come around.
This time, I am determined to be prepared for the repeat c-section and recovery I’ll be experiencing in just a few short weeks.
PTSD From My First Birth
Because of things that occurred during that birth, I suffered from postpartum PTSD for 2 years.
3 days of labor and what happened during those 3 days, along with needing a blood transfusion (and waiting hours upon hours and having to literally beg to get it), have left their mark on me. I am not the same person as I was before delivering my first baby girl. It turns out that postpartum PTSD can cause feelings of isolation and anxiety that can last for years after giving birth.
The symptoms of postpartum PTSD can be hard to catch, especially since hormone shifts, breastfeeding, and extreme physical changes can bring their own form of anxiety for new mothers. Being at home with a brand new baby can certainly lead to a form of isolation that isn’t actually PTSD at all. But it’s hard to tell normal from dangerous when you feel so desperate and out of yourself.
Most women feel pretty confident they can go through childbirth again after doing it the first time, or look forward to it even. But for me, it wasn’t something I thought I could ever do again.
How Postpartum PTSD Has Affected Me
Aside from being unsure about having another baby, my PTSD has affected me in many other ways. The anxiety came to a point where I realized I needed to see a therapist. This has made a huge difference for me personally. Realizing that I am not “broken” and that my symptoms all match those of other PTSD sufferers has brought me some measure of relief.
I do still struggle though. Anxiety, panic attacks, fear of losing control, and flashbacks of the delivery table all come together to make pregnancy and impending birth a pretty frightening thought.
And yet, here I am…staring down the barrel of another c-section.
Baby Girl #2 is Coming
Whether I’m ready or not, I’ve got a baby coming in a few weeks. I knew enough to know that the only way to deal with my fears is to face them head-on. I did what I know to do; I researched. I did my homework. And I talked to other women who have been there.
If I said I had no fear about the impending birth of my second child, I would be lying to you. There is plenty of fear. Pregnancy fear isn’t exactly something you can forget about, you know? That stomach is there when you wake up; you feel the baby moving all throughout the day; when you go to bed, having to pee every half-hour is a constant reminder.
Pregnancy always comes with certain fears. We fear many things: our baby dying, going into labor too early, not being able to have a vaginal/natural birth, being unable to breastfeed, and myriad other things that we moms make up in our hormone-riddled minds.
Add PTSD to all the normal pregnancy fears and you’ve got a perfect storm brewing. I am not overly fond of perfect storms, so I decided to be proactive about this thing.
C-Section Recovery Advice From Experienced Moms
At the beginning of December, I posted in my Facebook group the following question…
C-section mommies… lay it on me, what are your best healing tips? Things you wish you knew or would do differently?
The comments and encouragement I received from that post were so overwhelmingly positive. I was blown away by these women, some of whom who have faced down several c-sections and were so free with their advice and encouragement. I want to share some of the things these women shared with me in hopes that it might help someone who is reading this.
Tips For a Repeat C-Section and Recovery
First, I have to share the tip that made me laugh the hardest but was also super practical…
Diana said, “ One other thing I did for my second C section…took lots of socks. Was able to throw at my husband asleep on the cot without waking the baby or getting out of bed when I needed something.”
Socks to throw? Check. (By the way, I recommend grip socks to help you get to and from the bathroom… who wants to slip after surgery?!)
Now, onto more advice…
#1 Wrap the Belly
Several of the women recommended a belly band. Here’s a couple of the ladies talking about those…
“I wish I would have found a comfortable belly band for after the baby was here. The one the hospital gave me was so uncomfortable and I couldn’t get it on by myself. But I really think it would have helped pull it all back together quicker.” — Jean
“Those belly bands were a lifesaver for me. I ended up getting small enough that I needed the next size down and I didn’t buy it but I totally should have. It made my pain so much better.” — Rachel
#2 Move It, Sister
Getting up and about as soon as possible was a theme that was mentioned repeatedly in the comments.
“Definitely get up and move ASAP. I’ve had 3 c-sections and honestly no issues afterward.” — Karen
“My biggest piece of advice is to move around and walk, walk, walk, as much as you can once you get the okay to get out of bed. I have done that with each one and I’ve healed so quickly.” — Erin
Jess knows what she’s talking about as she’s also preparing for c-section #3, like Karen above…
“Get up and walk within the first 8 hours of having the c-section. My first one, I didn’t get up until 24 hours later and it was a nightmare! I didn’t heal for over 2 weeks and tore open my stitches. The second time around I was up and walking laps as soon as I felt capable to and healed amazingly quick! I even had complications the second time around and was cleared to start running again at 4 weeks postpartum. Obviously, don’t overextend yourself and be smart. Here’s to my third in a couple of months, lol.”
But no stairs… “I also learned to avoid stairs as much as poss the first week or two. They seemed to aggravate my incision more.” — Liz
No sitting around watching Netflix and eating chocolate. I do not want to be busting any stitches.
#3 Channel Your Inner Granny
That’s right, it seems that granny panties are the thing for c-section recovery. Several ladies mentioned this one.
“I bought some high waisted panties from Amazon made for c-sections and they worked great.” — Cheree
“Loose clothing and giant underwear will be your best friend.” — Jennifer
“Giant underwear. Like, ones your grandma would be embarrassed to wear. My incision was so sensitive for a long time.” — Alexandra
Order giant granny panties. Check.
#4 Don’t Try To Be A Superhero
As moms, it’s so natural for us to just jump in and do all the things that need doing. But right after a c-section, and for the few weeks following, is not the time to be lugging laundry baskets, carrying groceries, doing housework, or making the majority of the family meals. You need to ask for help and be ready to receive it. Some of the women who commented on my post regret doing too much and had a harder time recovering because of it.
This also included taking your pain meds, with an emphasis on not waiting until you think you need them. Ahem.
“Having meals prepared and frozen helped a ton too, so my hubby could just pull them out and reheat and we didn’t have to order out a lot. Also as spendy as it was, I’m so, so thankful for disposable utensils and plates. Not to mention, I froze all the meals in disposable pans. Easy cleanup!” — Julie
Take care of your body…all the parts…
“If you take narcotic pain medication post-op, for the love of all things holy, make sure that you take OB-approved stool softeners, eat prunes, and stay hydrated. Being constipated is no fun, but experiencing constipation while trying to heal post c-section is downright miserable.” — Jessica
“Make sure to take your pain meds. Don’t try to be a hero and do without them.” — Jennifer
Tell your other kids what to expect, too…
“I slept on the couch or propped up in my bed to make it easier to sit up for probably the first week home. Take your meds exactly as prescribed. Don’t wait till you “need them” like I tried to do. Start preparing your older child now, so she won’t expect to be picked up or climb on you when you come home.” — Reasa
If the meds make you sick…
“Know that it can take a long time to heal. I wasn’t feeling “together” in my abdomen for about 3 months afterward. Use heat packs for pain and gas; they’re a miracle. Narcotics made me feel awful, so alternating Tylenol and Motrin helped me.” — Jennifer
“Take your pain meds as prescribed!! Even just a little bit before they begin to wear off! Don’t wait to feel pain, then it’s too late. (Best advice I got)” — Rhian
Michelle has some words of wisdom about caring for yourself…
“I wish I would’ve taken more deliberate time to rest, hired a housekeeper once my hubby went back to work for the last 3 weeks of my recovery, and gotten more help with my first during the initial 6-8 week recovery period. I pushed too hard and was in a lot of pain by week 3, was popping stitches and THEN had to take a step back. It all could’ve been avoided had I stopped trying to be a martyr.”
Hire housekeeper. Check. Order takeout. Check. No popping stitches. Didn’t we already talk about this?? Check check.
I am so grateful for each woman who took the time to give me advice, encouragement, and help for my upcoming c-section to meet my new daughter!
C-sections seem to cause a lot of controversies and I want to put an end to that. We as moms need to stick together, not judge each other based on which part of our body the baby came out of.
The fact is, if you were pregnant and the baby is now outside of your womb, then you gave birth. Whether that involved natural childbirth without a single Tylenol for pain or being put under general anesthesia for an emergency c-section, you gave birth.
Don’t let anybody tell you anything different. Let’s stop all the different variations of the mommy wars and lend a hand to our fellow moms in the trenches. Goodness knows we all need it.
More Helpful Tips for New Moms
Check out my working mom resources page for a ton more great tips and tricks. Plus visit these articles for more advice: