Or, should I say, how to survive a c-section ‘Mer Style’.
I wanted to put together a post on c-sections and c-section info and it kind of morphed into Maddie’s birth story. Since I’m a little short on time, I’m just going to hit publish and you can read the first part on the c-section, or just skip down to the section on Maddie’s birthday!
Obviously everyone is different and you should always follow your doctors advice over anything I say here (unless your gut feeling is that they are completely wrong and then you should advocate for yourself and advocate strongly!).
I had the distinct advantage of booking my c-section weeks in advance, thanks to Maddie being frank breech for the entire last trimester. That gave me plenty of time to plan for the procedure, ask lots of questions and make arrangements for help during recovery. It doesn’t always work that way, and I think women that labor naturally and then have a c-section have a significantly tougher time recovering!
While each birth is unique and individual, hopefully these tips and my story will help you prepare for your own experience (or help you support a friend or family member when their time comes!).
Before They Slice
I’m one of those people that really does best know exactly what’s going to happen, so in the weeks leading up to my scheduled c-section date, I peppered my doctor with questions to mentally prepare:
How long will Brian and I be separated? 20-30 minutes while they set the spinal block and prep the OR, then you’ll be together through the surgery and recovery before being moved to your room (unless your baby goes to the NICU…).
How long does the procedure take? Generally less than an hour, about 15 minutes to deliver the baby and another 30 minutes to stitch me back up and prep me for moving to the recovery room.
What will it feel like when you are operating on me? A LOT OF TUGGING. Let me repeat that: A LOT OF TUGGING. I was completely numb, from the boobs down, but I could feel my innards being rearranged and that was the worst part of the whole procedure. It made me feel a little nauseous and it was at that point I requested some anti-barf medicine. It only lasted for a few moments and I didn’t feel anything else for the rest of the procedure.
How big will the incision be? Will you use stitches or staples and when will they be removed? 4-6″ along the bikini line (mine is already barely visible!!), and staples. Staples were removed before I left the hospital.
Will my arms be tied down? Answer for me was NO, but my doc said that it’s really up to the doctor and the hospital’s policies.
Where will I go for recovery? Right where I started at check-in, right down the hall from the OR. And, my nurse that got me prepped for surgery, stayed with me through the procedure and was my recovery room nurse. Very nice and streamlined.
How long will I be in recovery? Standard is 2-3 hours, depending on your reaction to the meds and your ability to move your legs/butt. You have to be able to lift your butt off the bed for them to dress your incision and put on some of the hospital’s nifty mesh panties for you to be moved to your hospital room.
How long will I be in the hospital? 96 hours or 4 nights is the MA standard. Depending on your recovery, you can sometimes get away with 3 nights.
What do you advise for recovery at home? This was an important question, because it helped me prep for what I would need in the weeks after surgery. Avoiding stairs, lifting nothing heavier then baby (baby in carseat, if absolutely necessary), no driving until post-partum check, bleeding will continue, sleep whenever you can, if it hurts don’t do it! She also advised that friends and family visits should be put off for a few weeks, whenever possible to give the most time for recovery (this is much easier said than done, which she acknowledged!).
In the weeks leading up to surgery, Brian and I kept up our usual routines. I continued to work out when I had the energy, attempted to eat as healthy as possible, and read what I could to prepare. We also did those wild and crazy Type A+++ planner things like got our wills updated (and power of attorney docs), developed a plan of action if Madison needed additional medical care and we ended up separated in the recovery room (we did!), and how we wanted to handle family and friend’s requests for visits at the hospital and at home (less is more!), etc.
The day before surgery, I planned to eat lighter foods and GI friendly foods- I was very thankful I did in the first few days of recovery! We dined on a lovely ‘last
supper brunch’ and then I stuck to chicken noodle soup and jello for dinner. Nothing after midnight and after several hours of not-at-all-restful sleep, it was 4am and time to shower with the hibiclens soap, blowdry my hair, break the rules with a little foundation and waterproof mascara, and head to the hospital.
We checked into the hospital at 5:15am (8am scheduled procedure). We waited about 15 minutes in the waiting area, before being escorted back to the pre-op prep/recovery area. I changed into a lovely hospital gown and climbed into my hospital bed, where they got my hooked up with an IV in each arm, checked my blood pressure (140/90- highest reading of my entire pregnancy!!!),and my bloodsugar (165). My OB showed up at about 6am and helped me adjust my insulin to get to her target of 110 for surgery. She chatted with us for about 15-20 minutes, answered some last minute questions, and then went to check on a few patients before coming back to check on us.
I didn’t expect to see her before surgery, but seeing her really put me at ease. She was relaxed, excited to meet the baby, and happy to answer some of our last minute questions. I have to say, of the entire process, that 2 hours in pre-op, is the blurriest in my mind. I know there were lots of doctors/nurses that were in to do their pre-op procedures and I really don’t remember any of it. I do remember thinking that Brian looked more emotional and more nervous than I had ever seen him. I actually remember being more worried about him then me or Maddie! I was hoping that he didn’t pass out in the OR, but then I was also mentally working on blog post titles if he did! Dad Down! was the winning one…
Then it was 8:05 and go time! My OB was annoyed that we were a few minutes late, since they had an emergency c-section that was taking precedence in the second OR. I walked from the recovery room to the OR and climbed on the operating table myself. I remember the spinal block- oh, how uncomfortable. They numbed the area, but I could still feel a painful sensation in my back (hindsight is 20/20, that sensation would be when they punctured the outer layer of my spine and caused the spinal leak…). I communicated what I was feeling to the anesthesiologists so they knew how I was feeling…
Once I was numb, they laid me down, put the privacy drape up and got to work. The only real memory I have of the procedure is the tugging. It really felt like my entire lower half was being rearranged and it was the only time that I felt momentarily sick. Not sure if that went away because I screamed for anti-vom drugs or if it just passed!
Brian joined me shortly after that and it feels like we blinked and our OB was telling us to get ready to meet our daughter! I remember hearing her yell and my OB chuckling at her being upset for being pulled out butt first.
I listened intently for her APGAR score to make sure she was OK and healthy! An 8 and then a 9, had this mom breathing easier! She was only away from us for a few moments while they measured and weighed her, tested her and then she was back in our arms. I was too busy being focused on baby to pay any attention to what was going on with my own procedure. I remember the kindness of the anesthesiologist (this would be the same one that got the ‘wrath of Mer’ when he had to place an emergency spinal patch) and how he talked us through the procedure and made sure that Brian was comfortable and in a good spot (read: not able to see the blood and guts). He also helped position Brian so that I could see Maddie and touch her when we were able to hold and cuddle her.
Before long, I was all stitched up and transferred to a hospital bed. Maddie was placed on my chest and we were wheeled down the hall- right back to the same pre-op recovery area where we started the morning.
There are a few ‘take aways’ that I have from this experience:
1) Advocate for yourself and ask lots of questions. And, if you are unable, empower an advocate to do it on your behalf (Brian!).
2) Move as soon as you can! I was up and out of bed (into a wheelchair) about 6 hours after surgery. It wasn’t comfortable, I didn’t feel so hot, but mentally it was a huge hurdle in recovery that made it easier every time I got out of bed after that…
3) Treat your pain. I’m into minimal drugs, less is definitely more, but when I was uncomfortable I took the meds I needed to, which helped me recovery quicker and get moving again.
4) Limit your visitors at the hospital. I underestimated what was required for my recovery. Sure, we were there for 4 days, but those 4 days were solidly spent on recovery and learning about how to care for an infant. There was NO (literally, there was NO) time for socializing or visiting. It might seem cruel and you might get some serious pushback, but I would highly recommend visitors wait until you are home!
Ok, that’s all I’ve got for now.
Our journey will continue later this week (or early next week!) with the Maddie’s Birth/Breastfeeding Chronicles, Part 1.