With a high-risk pregnancy, I always knew a C-Section may be a necessity, but neither my doctor nor I wanted to go that route. I have Factor V Leiden Deficiency, a blood clotting disorder that makes major surgeries—like a C-Section—especially dangerous for me. Only after 55 hours of unsuccessful induction—causing contractions and labor pains but no dilation—did we finally give in and have the C-Section. The result was a beautiful, perfect, healthy baby girl…and a recovery I had not prepared myself for. If you find yourself in a similar position or are simply trying to be more prepared in case of C-section than I was, here’s a list of the top 10 items that have been helping me through this recovery process.
10.) Frozen Casseroles
The first few days home after a C-Section are the hardest, both physically and emotionally. As I bemoaned the fact that I couldn’t fully take care of our baby and our household without his help, my husband patiently reminded me that I’d had a major surgery. In typical Ginger-Snaps fashion, he actually said, “If you saw someone get stabbed across the stomach by a samurai on TV, and then someone handed them a baby to take care of while they were recovering, you’d think that person was crazy. So, stop expecting more out of yourself than you’d expect out of a superhero on TV.”
The result of that chat—and our first days home from the hospital—was the acknowledgment that I had to give up some control. Of course, Ginger Snaps was home with me that first week—and he more than pulls his weight in our household—but still, something had to give. Most of my attention went to trying to work on my breast milk supply via skin-to-skin with Babyface and pumping, while GS took care of trips to the store, diaper changes, trips up and down the stairs, and soooo much laundry.
Neither of us took care of cooking.
Our moms brought us a couple of meals, and otherwise, our first week home was spent on a steady diet of take-out and frozen casseroles. And believe it or not, after a solid week of hospital food, take-out wasn’t exactly appetizing: I wanted vegetables. So, if a C-section is even possibly on the docket for you, do yourself a favor and stock the freezer with some semi-healthy frozen casseroles ahead of time. Frozen Chicken Pot Pie has been my personal favorite, but anything that you can stick in the oven easily and feel like you’re getting real food after is a win. And don’t worry: It won’t last forever. By week 2 I was a little more mobile, and GS and I are already cooking again. But that first week, it’s not going to happen, so give yourself room to let it go.
I assume it’s the hormones that cause me to go from sweating to freezing in a matter of seconds, but it’s definitely a more extreme problem than before I got pregnant. Unfortunately, while it’s easy enough to kick socks off, trying to bend over—and putting pressure on my incision—to put them back on is much less easy. My first days home I needed Ginger Snaps to help me dress and undress, and while I manage it fine by now, bending over to floor-height still isn’t what I’d call comfortable. Invest in a pair of slippers that are easy to get on and off: You’ll be grateful to have a bit of independence without pain.
8.) A Bath Robe
Doctors encourage you to spend lots of skin-to-skin time with your baby after giving birth. In addition to triggering breast milk production, it’s supposed to help with her brain development and with bonding for both of you. But if your family is anything like mine, your first few days home include a revolving door of visitors—both with and without warning. After a C-section, every movement hurts—including the over-the-head arm movement involved with yanking your shirt back on. It’s much easier to shrug on a bathrobe at the last minute—and, if you are choosing to breastfeed, it offers easy access for baby and you after.
7.) Comfy Clothes
Here’s a hint: Don’t ditch your maternity clothes right when you get home from the hospital. Babyface is currently 17 days old, and I weigh 18 pounds less than I did the day I came home from the hospital, and I’m still in maternity clothes. Yes, I’m sure my other clothes would fit me, technically, but I’m not ready to give them a try.
Any pressure on my incision hurts, so right now, the looser the clothes, the better. Other than when I take Babyface to her appointments, we’re not going anywhere public, and I believe in my family’s ability to forgive overly-saggy clothing for a few weeks while I heal up. Right now, comfort is key, which means that I live in very soft materials—mainly nightgowns, t-shirts, hoodies, and leggings.
6.) Nursing Pads
Whether or not you plan to breastfeed your baby, breast milk will come in. Leaking through your clothes isn’t just embarrassing: It’s uncomfortable. It also leads to more laundry—and when there’s a newborn in the house, there’s already plenty of laundry to go around. Do yourself a favor and get in the habit of putting nursing pads in your bras on a regular basis.
For the first 6 weeks after a C-Section, you can lift your baby but nothing heavier, which means you can’t carry the baby in her infant car seat when you take her to doctor’s appointments or in and out of peoples’ houses for visits. If you have your partner with you, they may be able to do some of the heavy lifting, but in a 6-week period, the chances are high that you’ll need to take your baby somewhere solo at least sometimes. Juggling an infant, a pacifier, and a blanket as you get in and out of offices is enough without adding a cumbersome diaper bag to the mix. A backpack style diaper bag like the Schmancy Bag that I have makes it significantly easier to transport everything you need in and out of offices without feeling like a pack mule.
4.) Ice Packs
Here’s a fun fact: C-Section recovery hurts. It’s not unbearable, but if you push yourself at all during recovery or hit bumps during a car ride, you’re going to have some achy moments. Pressing an ice pack against the incision can help reduce the swelling and relieve the intense burning feeling that occurs if you stretch something that you didn’t mean to stretch. I especially like the kind of ice pack that you can Velcro into place.
Pro Tip: Just be sure to cover the ice pack with blankets before you hold the baby to protect her little toes from the cold.
3.) A Belly Binder
The first time the nurses had me stand up after surgery, they handed me a small, square pillow and told me to press it against my incision to help with the pain. It helped, and for the next day, every time I shuffled to and from the bathroom, I did it while holding that pillow hard against my front. Day 2, I was blessed with a band of fabric that wrapped around my stomach and held everything tightly in place in a Spanx-like fashion. It was called a belly binder, and it was heaven. We have two of them now, and even weeks into recovery, there are days I get achy and GS and I wrap me tightly up in one until the pain recedes.
Depends made it into my hospital go-bag, and it was a good thing they did. The amount of bleeding that takes place after delivery is insane, and the last thing you want after a C-section is to try to fight to get a pad in place. Even more than that, the waistline on typical underwear goes right across the incision site, which is basically the last place you want a piece of elastic. Depends are easy to get on and off, even in the early days, and they are high-waisted so nothing touches the incision site. And because they are so absorbent, you don’t have to worry about leaks, even if you’re tossing and turning during the night.
1.) A Step Stool
Coming home from the hospital was hard. Harder still was when Ginger Snaps went to work and I had to start fending not only for myself but for Babyface as well. We did our best to make sure that anything I needed was at waist-level—and certainly not down low—but after a C-Section, even getting up into bed is occasionally half a step too high. Having a step stool that can help you pull cereal down off the top shelf in the kitchen or put away all the dishes instead of just half of them can help you feel a little more human during your recovery days. I like the 2-step variety that I linked above because it feels particularly sturdy (it only takes falling off the stool and landing on your incision once before you stop using the cute shark-shaped stool you bought at a discount store).
A Final Note
Of course, even if you have all the right equipment, C-Section recovery is not a walk in the park. It’s also not as bad as I thought it would be. Like with so many things, taking care of my mental health has been pivotal to my physical recovery. Ginger Snaps has been the key to this by providing both physical and emotional support during this period of time. Another key has been getting on a schedule and getting out of the house regularly. Every morning, I get up at the same time Ginger Snaps does, take a shower, get dressed, eat breakfast, and drive him to work, which ensures that I get out of the house for a few minutes. If it’s not raining when he gets home from work, he and I make a point of taking a walk with Babyface so that we all get a little bit of fresh air. I’m even thinking of starting up some postpartum yoga—nothing strenuous, but enough to keep my head fresh on a daily basis.
Let me know in the comments below what you found pivotal during your postpartum recovery—and also let me know what postpartum exercises