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Preparing For a C-Section

By Amalah

Dear Amalah,

Here is a little of my back story to my question. Almost two years ago, I had a baby, 9lbs. 6 oz. , baby girl, now a very busy toddler. She was born with a vaginal delivery. Yes, it was hard and I pushed for two hours. However recovering from a vaginal birth was difficult but manageable. I wasn’t on narcotic pain medicine. I was awake and breastfeeding within 20 minutes after she was born. Adjusting to life with a new baby was trying at times but not physically impossible.

Fast Forward …Two weeks ago I had to have an emergency laparotomy for a ruptured cornual ectopic pregnancy. And as traumatic as that whole experience has been, I am already fretting about the future.

Since the operation involved cutting and stitching on my uterus I was told that any future pregnancies would need to be delivered via C-section. I know many women deliver happily and successfully with C-sections, some women even prefer them. However my experience with recovery from this surgery , which has an incision similar to a C-section, has been ” Good lord how would I ever recover from something like this AND take care of a newborn” It has been very painful and difficult to say the least. And without the round the clock help of my family and friends I would not ever have been able to care for my toddler in my recent state.

My question (and honestly I am not bringing this up intending to cause you unnecessary stress, because I know you worry a lot as well) since you have experience with C-section recovery while caring for a newborn, is how DO you care for a newborn after a C-section and how do you think you will handle caring for your new little bundle and your rambunctious big bundle with ” a boo-boo- tummy,” to put it mildly?

I know I am way ahead of myself and I should save concerns like this for when I am actually pregnant again. So maybe you can table this topic for now and answer it for me in the fall, after you have successfully lived through the experience. And by then hopefully I can tell you that I am successfully pregnant. 🙂

Congratulations again,

So. Obviously, I did end up putting this question on hold until after the baby (my second) was born. And although I’m *technically* on maternity leave right now, with the Smackdown Throne of Bossiness currently occupied by a slew of capable guest authors, I decided to dust this one off now (six days postpartum, ahem) while the experience is fresh and you’re most guaranteed total honesty. The way we mothers forget some of the more brutal parts of our birthing experiences must be an essential bit of evolution, because how else can I explain those first few shellshocked hours post-surgery, when all I could do was lie in bed wondering what in HOLY HELL just happened to me? Was that really the same thing as three years ago? Whoa.

First, though — and I’m sure you’re well aware of this — a c-section, while major abdominal surgery that results in a nice-sized incision, is a very different recovery experience than an emergency laparotomy. A c-section results in a baby, and your brain and your hormones kick into high gear and take over and are well aware that it’s in your (and your baby’s) best interests to heal as quickly as possible. You get the same post-birth blissful high as a vaginal birth, your breasts get to work nourishing your baby and feeding you endorphins and stimulating uterine contractions and really, it’s kind of amazing to physically feel your body spring into action and heal itself, while mentally shielding you from paying too much attention to your pain and shock.

And yet, dear God, there is pain. No doubt about it. I’d completely repressed my memories of the first two or three days and how painful they were and how weak and helpless I felt. When the nurse walked in and announced, “Good news! I’m taking out your catheter and then we get to WALK TO THE BATHROOM!”, I wanted to ask her to leave it IN, just so I wouldn’t have to deal with the pain and awkwardness of getting out of bed and being responsible for my own bodily functions again.

But! I was in the hospital for all of that. In the hospital, in bed, with only one child to worry about and an endless stream of nurses, friends and family to help with that child. By the time I was discharged, I felt worlds better. I could walk around on my own, take showers, fetch my own ice chips, retrieve my own baby from the bassinet and pace around the room to soothe him to sleep.

And now I’m home. Six days post-surgery, and really, I’m doing extremely well. Considering how awful I felt just last Thursday, you’d think a lot more time had passed. I take a prescription-strength dose of Ibuprofen three times a day for pain, but if I miss a dose by a few hours I’m no longer reminded with really terrible pain — I just feel pretty bruised down there. I was also sent home with Percocet, but just like last time I feel like the Ibuprofen works just fine on its own. Getting out of bed is pretty much the only thing that triggers real discomfort now — the key is to rely on your upper body and elbows as much as possible, and to merely swing your lower body around before pushing up with your arms instead of using your abs or pelvis.

As for Noah (my first-born)…well. That part sucks. I can’t pick him up, I instinctively tense up and cringe every time he comes near me in bed or on the couch in anticipation of him throwing himself across my incision. I’ve repeated that I have a big boo-boo on my tummy dozens of times, and that I can’t pick him up right now. (Although to be fair, it’s not like I did much picking up for the past few months either, being all enormously pregnant and such.) I try to engage in the “safe” activities (playing with trains on the floor, reading bedtime stories from the floor while he lies in bed, etc.), and stay away from anything too physical or that could result in an accidental body slam.

I’ve also relied more on my husband and family to care for Noah, but I think that’s something you do no matter HOW the second baby gets here. No one else can breastfeed the infant, but plenty of people are capable of making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. In fact, all of the stuff that I would say is hard — genuinely, overwhelmingly hard — has nothing to do with the c-section and everything to do with simply OMG we have two children.

Getting a toddler ready for school on time after being up all night with the baby. Helping a toddler go potty while the baby is attached to your boob. Trying desperately not to lose your temper for the hundredth time in a day because the baby just pooped again and your phone is ringing and the toddler is being a little defiant jerk just for the hell of it.

I did handle the preschool pickup solo today, WITH the baby in tow and everything. It was…tiring, and I was reminded when I got out of the car afterwards that it was time for my pain medication. But I did it. And it felt good to do it.

Don’t forget to visit Amalah’s must-read weekly Pregnancy Calendar.

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About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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