How to cope after a Caesarean Section
“I had been in labour for 2 days when the doctor told me that due to my baby being back to back and in distress they were going to take me in for an emergency caesarean section. I felt my world start crumbling. It had never occurred to me that I wouldn’t deliver my daughter “naturally”. That’s what these two days had been leading up to!
They wheeled me into a room and strapped me onto the table. I was having an adverse reaction to the epidural and my husband was having to hold me to keep me from shaking. I don’t even know when they pulled her out of my body. We simply heard a teeny, very indignant little “Wa!” Short and sweet. Not “Where am I?” More like “Hey mister, what ARE you doing?!?” They took her, cleaned, examined and weighed her, and then showed her to me. Cleaned and wrapped. But where was all the blood and gunk? The cord? All the evidence that she came from MY body… I felt like I was given a pre-packaged baby. That rush of love that all new mums talk about was just not there. I asked my husband to hold her for the next few hours while I took in what had just happened, and basically just tried to function as a human being. I didn’t even think to breastfeed.”
Going though a caesarean section, if unexpected, could be one of the hardest things that you will have to deal with. It could lead to a number of outcomes – not being able to bond with your baby, postnatal depression, or even Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
There are a number of things that you could do to help yourself both physically and emotionally.
Don’t put your body through too much for the first few weeks.
Your body has just been through major surgery, possibly after a good few hours of labour to boot. Its about as done in as it has ever been.
Therefore DO NOT lift anything that is heavier than your baby, but do make sure you walk around a little in the first few days, as that is the best way to allow your incision to knit together and heal. Take a short walk around the house, then when you can, put your baby in the AmaWrap and take a short walk around the block. The sling will not hurt as it is tied well above your stitches. It will do you and baby good to get some air. When I used to be forced to do these walks I hated every second of it, but I couldn’t deny the benefits. I found that when moving around, my clothes would aggravate the incision, so I used to bind my stomach. It also stopped me feeling like my insides were going to fall out every time I stood up! I used a plain cotton piece of sheet, but if you know of any actual bands that you can recommend, let me know!
But make sure you rest.
Carve out your own spot in the living room and make sure you have your water, snacks, phone, book, remote control, and all your breastfeeding stuff within reach. So all you need to be concerned about is keeping yourself fed and watered, and tending to your babys needs, be it snuggles or breastfeeding. If you are able to cosleep then it will be easier to breastfeed at night – rather than having to lift yourself out of bed then lift baby out of the crib, you can simply roll over and latch baby on. The additional skin to skin contact will also help the bonding that may have been hurt with the caesarian section.
Tips for the pain – When you want to move, remember to use only your arms and soften your abdomen so not to engage your stomach muscles. And especially relevant, when you want to sneeze or cough, hold a pillow against your stomach. It will help the pain significantly.
This is also a great time to discover online food shopping!
Make sure everybody knows that if they want to come and see the new baby, they had best be bringing a dish of something with them! And maybe a carton of milk if your out of tea-making goods due to the number of guests. If you live away from your friends and family, try and join some groups such as NCT to find some support.
Don’t feel guilty if you have to ask people to visit in a couple of weeks rather than tomorrow. Remember that you are dealing with major surgery as well as a new baby. If you need to, change your answering machine message every couple of days to let everybody know how your doing and when you will be up for visitors or just keep them updated via Facebook.
Give yourself time and space to come to terms with what happened.
Well, as much as you can when you have a baby to look after. Your path to motherhood may not have gone exactly how you expected. Furthermore you may feel cheated out of one of the most primal, natural experiences that you should have had. That it was your right to have a vaginal birth and it didn’t happen. If you need to grieve over what you feel you have lost, then do so. If you have somebody to speak to about it then even better. But you will for sure have people telling you that “at least baby is healthy and well”. Just nod your head, ignore them and move on. If they’re close to you then you can let them know why its not as easy as it sounds, so that you don’t need to hear it again. Explain that baby might be sound but you didn’t come out of it quite as well.
You may find that you don’t even have the time to grieve until a few months after your baby is born, then wonder you suddenly feel awful all the time. If this is the case, make sure that you are not going through post natal depression.
If you find that you need therapy, speak to your GP or find a therapist that you can speak to. There is no shame in getting some help, and it will help you to be able to care for yourself , which means that in turn you will be able to care for your baby.
Give yourself time to bond with baby
Some women find that they do not experience that “rush of love” when they first meet their baby through a caesarian section (especially emergency) than they would through a vaginal birth. Some may feel that it may affect their breastfeeding journey. Problem is, you may not even know at the time that the bond isnt quite there – especially if you are a first time mum.
When I was pregnant, a well meaning aunt told me “don’t pick the baby up too much – you don’t want her getting used to it then you wont be able to get anything done.” Whilst it was well meaning, it was wrong, wrong, wrong.
You want to keep that baby close to you, ESPECIALLY if you have had a caesarian. You need to ensure that you reclaim that bonding process that may have been lost at birth. Skin to skin contact is so very important. You and baby will be having hormonal and pheromonal exchanges, as well as important antibody exchanges. It will also help your milk to come in.
Hold that baby close!
Find out what happened.
You may not want to know. But I know that I damn well needed to know. Everything was going well until the last moment. What happened? Even if you are not happy about what you hear, at least that’s more closure than just sitting around wondering, speculating, and in my case obsessing. You then have the opportunity to ask more questions. Or just knowing that the hospital are aware of your case and can use it to build their own case for more training or staff for example, could be relief enough. In my case, knowing that what I told them might help another poor first time mum escape some of the horror that I endured was a balm for my wounds.
Speak to others who have been through it.
There are so many ways to find other mums. Look on Facebook and Twitter for local groups. They don’t even have to be local – that’s the beauty of online forums, they are there for you to vent at even from the other side of the world! But I would also recommend looking for people you can physically sit down with too. Is there a group in your area? There’s nothing more encouraging than realising that your not going through it alone, and being able to compare war stories and words of hope over a cup of tea.
Remember that labour is unpredictable
There is so much emphasis these days on birth plans, which place great expectations on how your birth will turn out. Things don’t go to plan every time. There are outside (and inside) influences. You successfully conceived then carried your child for months, that’s a huge achievement on its own. You are far from a failure – You’re a fighter and a survivor, momma!
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