Coming to terms with a caesarean section & coping in the aftermath


baby-1178539_1280Giving birth to a child is supposed to be one of the most amazing experiences of a woman’s life. The ability of your body to cope with incredible pain, the endurance to cope with a labour that can go on for days and come out the other side knowing that you f***ing did it!

Well, for some women that doesn’t happen. And actually you come out the other side feeling an utter failure. Your body let you down when you needed it the most, you were powerless to do anything about it and to top it all off you’re not even able to care for your child properly afterwards.

So here’s to the mums who’ve had c-sections and felt absolutely rubbish after having their babies – and if you’re new to all this, here are some tips on how to cope.

Never, ever be made to feel like you’ve taken the easy way out

Whether your child was born by an emergency c-section or elective, never let anyone make you feel like you’ve taken the easy way out. To lie on that table in an emergency situation, with no idea if your baby is still alive, and be cut open with your insides twisted and pulled and pushed is an option no one would ever call easy. Until you’ve experienced the searing, burning pain of trying to make the simplest of movements or the utter fear of being wheeled into an operating theatre terrified for your life and your baby’s, you cannot begin to comprehend how hard it is. I’ve done both emergency and elective caesareans and whilst the emergency was very traumatic, the fear was still there second time around.

Breastfeeding will be incredibly hard – especially after a long labour and a lot of drugs

No one told us that breastfeeding would be that hard after an emergency c-section. Because of all the drugs during labour and the operating theatre, my baby was very drowsy. So drowsy that she barely woke up to feed during the 24-48 hours I was in hospital. “Why didn’t you wake her up?” I hear you asking. Well, I was a first time mum – I had no clue what I was doing. The doctors told me it would wear off, but it took a lot longer than I expected. Because of that, our feeding got off to a terrible start and because we hadn’t done it from the get-go, my milk supply was terrible and my daughter had real problems latching on. All-in-all, it was a disaster and by day three when we were home from hospital, she’d lost so much of her body weight that we had to give her formula (which I had none of – no bottles, no sterilising equipment). Be prepared for it to be a bit of a struggle.

You’ll feel like a zombie

By the time I was in the operating theatre, I’d had two epidurals, a spinal block, two lots of anti-sickness drugs and a drip to rehydrate me. Then after the operation I’d been given liquid morphine and countless other pills around the clock for 48 hours. Once I was home and these began to wear off, I was on a different planet. The simplest things will seem like far too much effort because while the drugs are wearing off and leaving you super slow and fuzzy, you’re now in an increased amount of pain because all you’re having is ibuprofen (which is the equivalent of offering a woman in labour a paracetamol…). I remember when I was pregnant, having a dream that I’d forgotten to feed my baby and it suddenly hit me that, given how I felt, this was now extremely likely. The best thing you can do is to have someone who you can tolerate to be with you for a while (not your in-laws…) to stay with you and look after you to get you through it.

Tell visitors to sling their hook until you’re ready

Now, because I was one of the first to have a baby amongst my friends and my family, there was an overwhelming urge for everyone to come and visit ASAP. And they didn’t just come and visit, they would stay. For too long. I was in my dressing gown, barely capable of moving but people just felt like it was ok to intrude on me while I was recovering from one of the most physically and mentally traumatic experiences of my life. I would cry at the drop of a hat, my guests were still there. I would need to (try and) breastfeed my baby, my guests were still there. I would need help getting on and off the toilet, my guests were still there. Looking back, I wish I’d been strong enough to tell everyone to leave me alone – but I wasn’t. That’s where you need your other half or your closest friend to do that for you. Having someone stick up for you is invaluable.

Your scar will look gross for a while

I can look back now after two c-sections, and say that my scar is pretty cool. High fives to the surgeons who did a pretty good job at not making a mess of things, but immediately after the operation that scar is a hideous sight. Depending on what kind of stitches you have, that can make it look even worse. I was fortunate enough to have dissolvable ones, so no need to even have a return trip to have them out, but some women I know have had, effectively, giant staples put across their stomachs. Your scar will be red, angry, oozy and, if you’re squeamish, enough to make a little bit of sick come up in your mouth. Eventually it will start to heal and fade pink. But get used to it, that’s a battle scar you’ve got for life.

Get used to your ‘shelf’

The what??? Everyone who has a c-section ends up with a ‘shelf’. It’s where your scar has been stitched up all nice and tight and then the bit of your tummy above pokes out over the scar a bit. I’ve done a lot of reading about this, and aside from having surgery to get rid of it, I don’t think there’s any magical cure. Exercise helps, sure, but I think you’re stuck with it for life. Sorry.

Your back will hurt

One of the magical paradoxes about having a baby by caesarean section is that with any other major abdominal surgery you’d be told to rest, completely. But you can’t. You have a screaming baby that wants to feed ALL THE TIME and poos ALL THE TIME. To me, this bit was almost as funny (not even funny ha ha) as when they tried to get me to sign the permission form to have an emergency c-section while I was off my face on gas and air and two epidurals. It just doesn’t seem quite right. Anyway, to compensate for the fact that you need to move a lot afterwards, but your tummy just won’t cooperate, you’ll end up using your back. And that poor back is going to suffer. As soon as you’re all mended and ok to exercise, I’d recommend doing some core strengthening stuff because you’ll need it.

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