Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Cuts you like a knife

I was chatting with a pregnant coworker a few days ago and she mentioned that she might have to schedule a C-section due to her baby's position. She wanted to know how the recovery went for me, and of course I was enthusiastic as ever about my experience with BabyT's birth, which was perfect for us.
In the ultra-granola, hippie Northwest, it seems like most pregnant women are really terrified and/or dismissive of the C, especially those with the perfectly-detailed natural unmedicated "birth plans".

From the parent-baby group we briefly attended, it seemed like the women who *really* didn't want to even think about the C-section as a possibility were really traumatized/disappointed in their birth experiences when it had to be a C for various medical reasons. It was pretty sad to hear that their baby's birthday included stress and regret, even 6 months later.

And on a side note, I feel like I should get a medal for staying through the whole meeting where people discussed their birth experiences, because I am super-squeamish.  But I sort of felt a responsibility to tell our positive C-story after hearing so many negative ones, if only to show that it doesn't have to be a horrible experience and one to avoid at all costs.

I wrote a sort of "Lessons Learned" a few months after T was born for a friend of mine.  Yes, it's the Project Manager in me, and I can't help myself. 

Many of the tips apply for any sort of giving-birth experience.  Hopefully this helps out some apprehensive first-time pregnant mamas out there. 

22 Tips to Prepare for a C-Section and the Resulting New Baby

When you're hugely pregnant
  • PRIMP: Schedule a haircut/waxing/pedicure/massage as close to your due date as possible but far enough in advance that you won't miss it. It was nearly a month or more before I had time for even a quick eyebrow wax and I didn't get out for a haircut until 8 weeks post-baby.

  • PHOTOS: If you want professional pictures of your cute pregnant self and pre-baby family, set that up for your 33-36th week.  You don't want it to be so late you'll miss it but you want to be nice and round for the pictures.  If you want brand-new-baby pictures, find a photographer and book a tentative appointment before you give birth as the first several weeks are usually a blur of sleeplessness and adjusting to your new reality.

  • SHOWER: The night before, or the morning of, your surgery - take a very long shower. It will probably be a few days before you can shower again, and for sure, weeks, before you have the time to take a nice leisurely shower. I swear BabyT knew when I was going to get in the shower, and exactly 5 minutes in, would decide she was hungry.

  • TRACK: The TotalBaby app for the iPhone ROCKS for tracking baby stuff like diapers, sleep, feeding etc. which you need to do for the first several weeks - doctors always ask about those details at early appointments.

  • COMFY: Set up the spot where you're going to feed the baby at home to be super-comfy. Chair, cushions, music, a table for your snacks, laptop, whatever. You will spend a LOT of time there.

  • CARSEAT: Practice getting the infant seat into/out of the car and clipped to the stroller before the baby comes. Some babies HATE the carseat so it's a lot easier to practice without a screaming baby first :)

  • PUMP: Figure out your breastpump. You might need to use it right from the beginning while your body adjusts its supply, and those first weeks are not the time to struggle with putting the little pieces together or realizing you're missing something.

  • VISITORS: Discuss your plan for early visitors with your husband/partner and make sure you're on the same page.  Do you want family to come and stay with you to help out from the beginning, or do you want time for yourselves first?  Visitors at the hospital or not?  The first few days and weeks are blurry and chaotic so plan for this up front and communicate it to all parties involved.  You don't want to be surprised by too little help or unexpected guests.

  • ANNOUNCE: In the same vein, discuss how you want to announce your baby's birth to the world.  Facebook, Twitter, and blogs enable you to share all the gory details as they unfold, but make sure that's what both partners want.  Also discuss what (if any) hospital photos to post/email.  It can be a little weird to send those disheveled "just-born" mama/baby shots to coworkers so make sure your partner knows your wishes.  

  • FOOD: Before the baby comes, stock up your house with things that are easy to eat with one hand, and little to no prep. You will be spending *so* much time feeding your baby, and napping, that you need to eat quickly. I ate pop-tarts, bananas or sandwiches while feeding her. Literally in the beginning, a nursing session can take a whole *hour*.

Bring to the hospital
  • PILLOWS: theirs suck. 

  • NURSING PILLOW: much easier to learn how to feed your baby using the same pillow you'll have at home. I wish I had done that. BTW, the "My Brest Friend" is way better than the Boppy, more supportive, less back pain. Horrible name, but awesome product.

  • LIP BALM: They have nearly everything else, but I needed lip balm a lot.

  • SUPPLIES: Change of clothes/pajamas/snacks for your husband/partner. We forgot to bring something for TJ to sleep in, so he had to leave to get a pair of shorts at home, and I was so sad (hormonal) to be left "alone" with the baby. Also bring toiletries for him since you'll be there for a couple of days.
At the hospital

  • H20: Drink water like crazy before/after your surgery. It helps with everything.

  • ADVOCATE: A friend had a not-great experience with the postpartum nurses. Enlist your husband/partner to be your advocate, and ask all the questions you need re: breastfeeding, etc. Also, if they have you supplement with formula at the beginning, instead of going straight to the bottle, they have these little syringe/tube thingies that you can use so that you don't risk the chance of messing up breastfeeding later. But you'll need to ask for this - they might not even tell you this is available.

  • MOVE: In the hospital, the nurses had me cough, sleep on both sides, and eventually get up and walk, to help me heal faster. I swear it worked because after about a week I only needed Advil every 6 hours for the pain/soreness. And within 4 weeks I didn't feel *anything*.

  • HELP: Even if you think you're getting the hang of breastfeeding, ask different nurses for help at each session. Different ones had different tips and tricks, and we learned something from each of them. (Well, except the one who came in and told me I was doing it all wrong.)

  • PAIN MEDS: Don't be a martyr about the pain meds, esp after a C-section. Confirm that what they're offering you is safe for breastfeeding and then take what you need. A side benefit is that they help with the pain of learning to breastfeed. 
After you're home
  • DIVIDE/CONQUER: Feeding a baby is HARD work, and takes a LONG time in the beginning so make a deal with your husband/partner/family members for them to do diaper duty and keep the house running so you can focus on feeding and getting lots of naps.  Even at 10 months, I'm pretty sure my lovely hubby has changed more diapers than I have.

  • CAPTURE: Take quick pictures daily or at least a few times a week, even if it's only with your crappy cell phone camera.  Babies change SO MUCH in those first few weeks.  It's fascinating to look back at those early pictures.  Don't worry about processing/uploading them, just take them and deal with them when you're ready.

  • NO GUILT: It's ok not to love every minute of it (or even most of the beginning) even if your baby was long-awaited. Don't let anyone make you feel guilty about that.

Other mamas out there in Internet-land, what would you add to the list?


  1. What a great list! I think chocolate chip cookies are great to have on hand. They are a great nursing snack and I'd always eat one when I'd get up and need to nurse the baby before I could get breakfast. :) I made a bunch before my due date and froze them.

    My sister told me that three days later you'll feel much better, then three weeks later you'll be much better again (basically recovered). That timeline tracked pretty well for my non-surgical deliveries. (and it's always nice to know what you're in for)

    And it helped me to know that breastfeeding *does* hurt for a while. I think that settled down around 4-6 weeks for me, but before that I'd always make these faces when the baby latched on because it HURTS (and then once they're latched and nursing it feels better). Their mouths are so tiny, it just hurts. I don't think it helps anyone to pretend it doesn't.

  2. @Stephanie - the cookie idea is great too! I wish I had done that, though we probably would have eaten them all before T arrived!

    And YES to knowing breastfeeding would be rough. I'm so glad I had honest friends.

  3. +1 on taking the pain meds (I learned that the hard way!). The best tip I got for that 1st week was to press a pillow against my incision when sitting down/standing up - it really helped. Also this will sound weird but make sure you have maternity pants/undies that sit high up - I remember having a big meltdown the day after I got home because mine sat right on the incision, and I had to wear hubby's boxers :).


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