I never planned to have a c-section. I was fully on the home birth train for my first TWO births. But what I’ve learned through having five kids is that birth does its own thing. Even if you can’t fully create a birth plan that will work, knowing information can help you make informed decisions OR at least know what the heck you’re getting into. So here is a helpful list of what to expect when you have a c-section.
Note: Every hospital may run a little differently. These are based on my experiences! I am not a medical professional, so please consult your doctor and hospital.
THE EPIC LIST OF WHAT TO EXPECT WHEN YOU HAVE A C-SECTION
The Night Before
- You’ll have to stop eating at midnight (this depends on time of your surgery)
- You may be given some chemical wipes to use after your shower
- They may tell you not to apply lotions, powders, or other deodorant products
The Day Of – PREP
- You’ll arrive two hours early
- They will suit you up in a very sexy gown with no back
- You’ll begin to have visits from all the staff who will be a part of the surgery: nurses, anesthesiologist, your doctor
- They may draw blood to check your stats
- They will hook you up to an IV and begin to give you fluids. For me, this always ends up in my hand, not my arm, because my veins stink.
- They will hook you up to a monitor so they can hear your baby’s heartbeat and also monitor any contractions.
- You will have some kind of other wires put on your back and chest, threaded through your gown. (I don’t remember what these monitor.)
- You will fill out a lot of paperwork and answer a lot of the same questions again and again from different people.
- They may wrap your legs in these wraps which will pulsate throughout the day after to keep you from clotting.
- Just before, they will have you drink a tiny, SUPER sour drink that will help with nausea. (Tip: drink it like a shot! Fast. It’s gross.)
- Just before surgery, they will wheel you back alone in your bed to the OR.
The Day Of – SURGERY
- Once in the OR, they will move you from the bed they wheeled you in on to the table
- To get the spinal block, they will have you sit up and curl forward, leaning on a nurse in front of you
- They will clean your back with a cold (orange) betadyne solution
- The anesthesiologist will numb your back, which will feel like a prick
- S/he will then put the spinal block into your back. It may hurt a little, but will mostly feel like odd pressure.
- Once in, they will cover your back with tape to keep everything in place and then help you lie down on the table
- At first you’ll feel sort of numb, but soon you’ll know you HAVE toes, but you won’t be able to move them even if you try
- You may get cold or nauseated– ask for warming blankets or for a bag they will help you throw up into. I often throw up.
- They will give you oxygen either in a mask or into your nostrils.
- They will test to see if you are numb by pricking you on your shoulder, where you can feel it, then down your body.
- They will give you a catheter, which you should not feel.
- Basicaly from this point onward, you will be nude from the waist down and everyone walking in the room will see everything. GET USED TO THIS KIND OF HUMILITY.
- At some point, all the staff in the room will do this thing where they all say their name and what their role is in the surgery.
- They will scrub your belly with betadyne and raise up a surgical curtain.
- At this point, your spouse or loved one will be brought into the room to sit by your head.
- During the surgery, you will hear and feel things. You might even smell things.
- It won’t be pain, but for me, it felt like four people had their hands jammed up into my body cavity, slamming things around. The best thing you can do is think about your baby and talk to your loved one.
- After about 10-20 minutes, the doctor will warn you that it’s about time. You may hear your baby crying over the curtain and they may show you the baby before they take him/her over for cleaning.
- Usually there will be monitors in front of you with a video feed focused on the baby area, where they will check your baby’s vitals, clean or rub in the vernix (the white, cream stuff your baby will be covered in).
- My hospital encourages skin to skin and will bring your baby over and lay him or her on your chest and even encourage breastfeeding after a few minutes while they are still working below the curtain. **If your hospital doesn’t mention this, ASK. It’s a great help to the baby just starting out!
- They will finish closing you up, take down the curtain, and wheel your baby down the hall to the prep room where you started your day.
The Day Of – Post Op
- You will feel groggy at this point. This part is always a blur.
- If you have not decided on a name, do NOT decide on one right now. Wait a few hours. 🙂
- You will have an IV drip still. They may have topped you off with a morphine dose through your epidural in your back.
- If you are breastfeeding your baby, you will be encouraged to breastfeed. You may have a nurse or lactation consultant try to help you. Do not be surprised if they grab your breast and try to shove it in your baby’s mouth.
- Nurses will come and “massage” your uterus. This is a nice way of saying that they will punch you in the stomach. You will groan in pain and they will say, “sorry,” while punching you in the stomach.
- After about two hours in this room, they will move you to a new room. In my hospital, I got to carry my baby. People congratulated me in the hallway. It was great.
- In your room, they will put the baby in a little bassinet and then move you to your new bed. THIS HURTS. They will help you, but need you to sort of wiggle and scoot. THIS HURTS.
- This day is a blur of nurses coming in to check your vitals, check your baby’s vitals, ask about breastfeeding (or bottle-feeding), give you pain meds, & more.
- Later in the day (depending on when you have your surgery), they will remove your catheter (which I always dread, but isn’t so bad).
- After they take out the catheter, they will give you some very sexy (just kidding) mesh or elastic panties and a giant pad. Despite the fact that these are the ugliest underwear ever, you will come to love them.
- They will also likely remove your IV, or cap it off but keep it in the vein. (If you happen to be on a morphine drip like I was after having to go under general in one of my surgeries, they will leave the IV in.)
- At some point several nurses will wrap you in a binder, which is essentially like a giant elastic bandage for your tummy. It will feel uncomfortable as they put it on and after, but it will also feel very supportive.
- Someone will help you go to the bathroom for the first time. You will not be able to stand up straight. You will feel like you will not ever be able to walk again. YOU WILL. It will be okay. But this first time will suck.
- All day, people will ask you about passing gas. This will seem strange until you pass gas. It’s weird. And feels very uncomfortable.
- They will also ask you about pooping. You may or may not poop in the hospital. You DEFINITELY want to keep taking the stool softener they will give you and at home maybe add in Milk of Magnesia.
- You will be able to eat sometime after a few hours or after passing gas, just depending on hospital policy.
- Several times a day, nurses will come and feel your uterus. Which feels like super uncomfortable pushing on your abdomen.
The Day After
- THIS IS ALWAYS MY WORST DAY.
- I don’t know why, but about 20 people will come into your room before 10am: nurses, doctors, pediatricians, housekeeping, photographers, more nurses, someone wanting you to fill out info for social security, possibly someone about your bill, and more. If possible, ask the non-essentials to come back later.
- My pain is always the worst on this day. I feel like I’m not going to be able to ever walk or do normal stuff again. You WILL. Realize it’s normal to feel this way.
- If you are having a lot of pain, often they can give you an extra dose of pain meds in your epidural port before they remove it. Don’t feel like a pansy. Take medicine if you need it.
- You’ll still have a lot of people coming to check on your incision, massage your stomach, and encouraging you to get up and walk. I almost NEVER feel well enough to get up and walk the halls, but walking in your room is a great idea.
- If you are able to stand for 10 minutes, you can shower. This will feel good, but also weird and hard. Move slowly. You can’t just wash your body the way you normally would because moving and lifting your arms may stress your tummy.
- You may start to feel some of the baby blues at this point. My hormones are a little nuts, but usually for me this looks like just crying for long periods of time for no real reason. Because I typically feel worse this day, I often cry more.
Two Days After
- I always start to feel hope on this day. Compared to the day before where everything hurts and I can hardly walk, I’m feeling MUCH better.
- A lot of the same things will happen as the previous day– people coming to check on you at all hours.
- You may get discharged this day or the next. If you are staying, take advantage (in a good, not bad way) of all the support from nurses and staff. Don’t hesitate to push the button and ask for help.
MY BIGGEST TIPS & TAKEAWAYS
- You may want to pay attention to when your pain meds are. In all of my stays, there was at least 1-2 times where nurses did NOT deliver pain meds on time. The best thing for the pain is to stay on top of it. Don’t miss a dose. This goes for at home too.
- I’m all about baby bonding, but I would recommend sending your baby to the nursery at night with STRICT instructions to come back every 2-3 hours or before if showing signs of hunger. This allows you to really focus and sleep because you WILL need rest. You can know great nurses are watching over your baby. You also will struggle to get up, pick your baby up, and get back into bed without a lot of pain, so you need someone to hand you baby. When the nurses bring the baby back and forth from the nursery, they can do this for you if you don’t have someone staying with you.
- Each day will get a little better, but you will ALSO have days where you slide back. Sometimes this is because you feel so good one day that you overdo it. Sometimes you just have setbacks. Typically a few days after I get home from the hospital, I call the nurse line in tears, asking if it’s normal to be in pain still. It is. You’ll gradually get better. But you’ll also have days you feel worse.
- TAKE YOUR MEDS AT HOME. My first c-section, I tried to tough it out. MISTAKE. For at least ten days to two weeks, you need to take your meds. You may not need them as often as you’re supposed to, but take them as needed and stay a little ahead of the curve for pain. Don’t be a hero.
- REST. Get help as you need to. Hire someone to sit with other kids if you have them. Have someone who is able to hold your baby while you shower or poop (yep, poop). It’s okay if you want to just sit on the couch and hold your baby while binge-watching a new show on Netflix.
Need more tips? Check out my big list of post-patrum support!