What My OB Didn’t Tell Me About C-Section Recovery

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For some ridiculous reason, when I was pregnant with my first child, I thought cesareans were reserved for older moms and/or big babies. That shows you what a baby I was myself. I was (I thought) equipped for an unmedicated delivery, thanks to a Lamaze class and my mom being present during labor. Oh, baby Rachel, you were so naive (stupid).

After bellowing like a cow for some time, stalling at six centimeters for too long, and my baby’s heart rate going haywire, I was wheeled to the OR and met my baby in a state of delirium–I remained very loopy throughout my first day with him. I don’t even remember the first time I nursed my son. I hate that. I do remember, however, my OB telling me as she sewed me up, “I gave you a very low-cut incision, so you’ll still be able to wear a bikini!” I replied almost drunkenly, “I’m more of a tankini girl.”

Do you know what she didn’t tell me—what should be in a pamphlet to send home with cesarean mamas? 

That over a year post-op, my incision site would still hurt. After three c-sections, that pain has increased—and I’m 16 months postpartum. My lower abdomen gets especially sore if I wear pants with a metal button or if I am too active during the day. I didn’t know until after my second cesarean that you should regularly massage your scar to prevent adhesions and improve healing; I only knew this because I had switched to a midwife for my pre- and post-natal care, and she was much more thorough than my first OB.

I wish I’d known I would be more prone to diastasis recti—I wish I had even heard of that term before pushing like a she-Hulk into sit-ups and planks and hollow holds.

I wish someone had told me that I would cry at every “successful” birth story, that no matter how much I believed I had fought as hard as I could for a vaginal birth, part of me would likely always feel robbed. Helpful discharge instructions would have included not only “lift no more than ten pounds,” but also, “quit reading birth stories.” I wish I had known six years ago that loss doesn’t always mean death; we can grieve the loss of many things, even ideal birth circumstances. 

The OB who performed my second c-section (also after a “failed” labor, also after stalling at six centimeters) told me, “You shouldn’t have more than three cesareans.” That’s hogwash. I know this now. Back then, I was devastated. That sad man should have recognized the fear beneath my question (“How many c-sections can I have?”) and answered, “Try not to worry about that now. There is no precise number. Some women develop dangerously thin uterine walls after two; some have Viking wombs that can withstand eight. We will assess yours after each delivery. For now, your uterus is healthy—all things considered—and your baby is a glorious wonder. Go home, hold your baby, and try to stay in bed.”

If you’re a mother who has had a cesarean, or if you’re preparing to, consider this my take-home pamphlet (and virtual bear hug). What would you add? 

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