This post is about c-sections, has info that is NSFW and will possibly illicit a few strong opinions. I am writing based on my own experience, having had nothing of reference for my own birthing experiences and hoping that for those who have no other option, this information will be useful for them to go into the experience a little bit more prepared.
Going into hospital next week to have my THIRD baby and no surprises, it has to be a c-section, and like a lot of moms out there sometimes we are medically left with no choice, no matter how much we wish we could change it, so lets avoid the awkward vbac conversation for now and we’ll all stay friends.
So here’s my list, super practical, and unpretentious, because lets face it, a birth by surgery is very, very different and most of what you need is for AFTER you go home with your bundle.
- loose fitting pajamas – if you wear pants make sure they have a soft elastic, your wound won’t like to have anything quashing it so pack clothes that will miss your hip line – your wound is traditionally just above your pubic bone, which should be below your bikini line.
- Don’t worry to shave the area before hand, the nurses do that when they prep you for surgery, a tip I learned from a midwife on the second round was after they shave you and you have a little shower, use the disinfectant hand soap and wash the shaved area with it, this helps to avoid getting ingrown hairs when it all starts to grow back.
- Pack some of your favourite treats, I usually have dried mango, nougat and juice in boxes. After surgery, the next few days will be uncomfortable, you may need some treats to help lighten your mood when you are unable to shoot to the vending machine in between visitors.
- Maternity pads. Yup, you’ll still need those. The big, fat ones, they will be your friend for about two weeks. I also pack a set of mesh disposable undies for the first day as they go right up over your tummy and give your wound some peace and quite for the first 24 hours, also, you just chuck em after your first shower.
- Shampoo/Conditioner/body wash, toothbrush etc…these you will only get to use once you’ve been taken off your drip and catheter and have been assisted out of bed for the first time, usually only later the next day, then you will be allowed to shower. This, ladies, is the best part for me. That first shower after surgery is like heaven, enjoy it.
- Breast pads, lanolin, lip ice, hair ties. If you are able to, breastfeed, do it, dive in, take the plunge, ask for help, use the nurses and hospital lactation consultants while you are there and give it your best shot, you have two days in a hospital to get all the help and advice you’ll ever need so use it. When your milk comes in, usually day two after birth, your breasts will engorge and become enormous and FULL of milk, it can be quite painful, now, don’t laugh, but cabbage leaves placed inside the bra on the breasts will help with the pain…don’t even ask me what the biology is behind this but it works and I have hubby on standby to go get a cabbage from the market on day two.
- If you are unable to breastfeed (no judgement here) then make sure you have new born bottles/teats/formula/sterilising liquid or wipes. Remember feeding times are different for a formula fed baby, so keep that in mind and follow the instructions on the formula can to the T.
- Pack a super comfy outfit for the trip home. Yes, I know, we all want to look glamorous like Kate Middleton did upon leaving the hospital, but there is no paparazzi, and if like me, you have a 45 minute highway journey home, you want to be as comfy as possible, cause that wound is going to be sensitive and you don’t want denims cutting in and making it unpleasant.
- I pack my basic make-up like mascara and brow pencil, just to help me feel confident after that first shower, cause lets face it, surgery is hard on the body and we all need to feel like a diva when we’ve had a baby.
- Here’s my morning after surgery tip: Take it easy, the nursing staff will help you and they will let you sit up when the time is right, they will bring baby to you to feed and assist with everything. This is usually when I start wiggling my legs, just a little movement, rolling my feet and bending my knees to get the mobility going for when you have to get out if bed the first time (which can be quite painful).
- New born baby grows, I like the ones with the closed feet, then you don’t have to bother with socks. Just two or three.
- Vest onesies with long sleeves and pants with feet. One set.
- Beanies. Take a variety of sizes, baby’s head isn’t always as small as you think it is.
- New born nappies, I like the Huggies new born cause they have the cut away for the umbilical cord to have a space, but any new born brand is fine, you’ll just have to roll the front down to avoid squashing the umbilical clip.
- Cotton balls, surgical spirits, bum cream, baby wipes. You won’t need any baby wash or soap and the hospital staff will bath baby (if your partner is around they can go and learn as you will most likely still be in your bed after surgery).
- Take a couple of receiving blankets and a soft toy if you want.
- I pack a little tube of Bepanthen just in case – mama can also use it. I also pack a couple of new born dummies, but this is a personal preference, and you don’t have to pack these.
I like to keep my bag minimal as possible, because I’m a super practical person, but you can pack your hair dryer and straightener if you like (although standing for long periods and lifting your arms above your head may hurt your wound, so you may not get to it), a nice robe and slippers can help with your level of comfort, I just found that it all got in the way the first time round and the hospital ward is warm, so you won’t get cold if you don’t have one, also the hormones are raging so you’ll be warm and sweaty from that too, also breastfeeding keeps your warm, so definitely no lack of warmth for the first while.
Some last, very important things,
- AFTER going home and discovering that you can’t walk very well, rest, don’t try clean and do the dishes, give your body time to heal and adjust to the surgery. Have a friend or relative come and help you with baby, stay mobile, but with minimal lifting of heavy objects, take your pain meds, this will help you when you’ve been up all night feeding, keeping the pain managed means a smoother transition for mama and baby into life together.
- Connect with your local baby clinic/midwife, they are there to help, answer your questions about feeding/sleeping/burping/bleeding/how much to feed/ colic/winds/crying etc…if you are unsure about how to cope, talk to them, talk to a friend, don’t stay silent, mothering is hard, especially the first time.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help. I have been through Pregnacy depression, Post Natal Depression and grieving the loss of an infant, and one thing I have learned from all of it is don’t stay silent. Ask for help, talk to your doctor/midwife but don’t stay silent, there are so many options available to help new mamas cope with life and hormones and depression.
- Even through all the chaos and lack of sleep and crying you WILL find your rhythm with baby, baby WILL find a rhythm with you and the whole family dynamic will adjust and fit this new look. It’s a roller coaster ride, but one that will change your life forever, it’s a beautiful season, embrace it, love it, dive into it and you will find your unique “mama” style will surface over time.
*I go to a beautiful private hospital that has one of the best Neonatal Intensive Care Units in the Eastern Cape, and their Maternity Ward is excellent, I am familiar with what they offer and the kind of care they offer mom and baby during surgery and after, but you MUST check with the hospital that you are going to what they offer and how their process works so you don’t have any unpleasant surprises.
Image: Asherlove Photography by Kim van Vuuren