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April is Cesarean Awareness Month, so we’ve been talking all about it the last couple of weeks!

A cesarean is major abdominal surgery, which means your recovery is going to look quite a bit different than with a vaginal birth, so here’s some tips from a few of our instructors and doulas on what they wish they had known prior to have a cesarean, and what they did to improve their recovery from a cesarean birth:

“I think many people believe that since the baby didn’t come out the vagina, the pelvic floor is fine. But, in fact, I had way more work to do after my c-section (baby #6) than I did after my previous babies because of how much my muscles were separated during the emergency surgery. My physical therapist is helping me repair the separation and work on the scar. I just started back about six weeks ago and have noticed such a difference already and I am 3 1/2 years postpartum.” -Amanda Standlee

“My youngest was a scheduled c-section (poor presentation that I couldn’t remedy) after I had had 2 home births. It was brutal! I so wish someone had talked me through what exactly would happen. I was strapped the table, my arms tied down, and no one spoke to me. The doctors seemed surprised when I asked questions. For them, it was a meeting around the water cooler, and I was the water cooler. It was so impersonal and if I hadn’t had my previous good births, it would have been so much worse. I know my experience may be on the rough extreme, especially these days, but there are still many who will share that experience. If I had a doula with me, it would have been so much better (my husband was there but focused on the baby). The messed up hormonal signals, the fact that it was harder on my pelvic floor than delivering a 14.5″ head in 2 pushes, the clinical responses – so much I wasn’t prepared for.” -Kendra Mitchell

“My one and only c/s was also my #6. And I was so used to getting right back into life after having a baby that I didn’t heed any advice about recovery. I let it go in one ear and out the other. And my support system let me do it all because they just followed my lead. Don’t do that. I overworked my way into developing a very painful hematoma. I didn’t know that was possible. As far as complications, I was briefed on signs of infection. That was about it. Knowing more about recovery and rest would’ve prevented this from happening to me. Also, making sure my support system was aware of my needs would’ve helped me to get that rest.

Another thing I wish I’d known…the fact that the natural birth hormone cocktail would not be mixed and released as normal. So, I would’ve appreciated knowing this so I could put extra focus on bonding, breastfeeding, etc. I was unaware back then and felt a disconnect and didn’t understand why. I cried thinking something was wrong with me because my brain couldn’t wrap around his birth (in my belly one minute and out the next). In my heart and brain, I knew I loved him. And it was an emergency c/s, so I was pretty much solely focused on the blessing of his life because he nearly died. It was like I couldn’t connect dots between pregnant, labor, emergency, birth. But had I been educated; I would’ve fought for skin-to skin as soon as possible. Breastfeeding right away. Dim lights (in recovery). And I would’ve asked family to wait to meet him until we were settled at home.” -Lara Copeland

“Rest. You literally had abdominal surgery. Take the pain meds, don’t try to super woman it. You literally just had abdominal surgery. Take the stool softeners. And eat a good high fiber diet the first few days you are allowed solid foods. Even though you didn’t have vaginal/perineal stretching, you had medication that the side effects are constipation and gas buildup. Look into a pelvic floor therapist as they will help with pelvic floor changes from pregnancy but also abdominal muscles that were literally cut and torn during surgery. You literally just had abdominal surgery. Look into scar therapy for future pregnancies. See a LC as some of the medication from surgery as well as the recovery time can impact nursing. The lack of feeling around your scar will last months. It’s normal. The “hang over” is real and normal. Nothing I have found will prevent it or fix it. Find a support group for any help processing any feelings. Most importantly, it’s still the birth of your baby, enjoy the baby and all the firsts you have with them. Cherish those days without letting the surgery overcast the joy of becoming a parent (again).” -Hillary Stillwell

“Something that really helped me with my homebirth transfer turned c-section turned NICU stay is “redoing” the birth I had planned. I had cupcakes ready for my older kids to bake while I labored but instead, we had a NICU discharge “party” before leaving the hospital. Then, I had my birth photographer and midwife over and did a floral bath in a lace gown where I held baby in the water in front of me and brought him to my chest for that “victory moment” and then I nursed him for the “golden hour” before getting out of the bath. Then my midwife did her full “newborn exam”, and I did a bengkung binding. I shared my special “post birth snack” I had planned with my daughter in our matching robes and my midwife tucked us in for a nap before she left. I really cherish the photos I have of the experience as much as I would birth photos and the whole thing really helped me heal.” -Brittany Fitzgerald

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