"Mom, put that down and watch with me!" Said my 4 year old son. We were sitting in the recliner watching a movie together. I had my arm wrapped around him and in the other I was tediously balancing my iPad while checking email and social media. I felt frustrated when he said that. "How could I BE more present than I am now, I'm here aren't I?" I thought. Then I realized my son was right. I wasn't being present with him. Even though we were sitting in the same seat, that wasn't the same as being "together." I wasn't sharing his experience, I was having my own. For a person whose brain tends to move spherically in many directions, this is hard for me. I am constantly trying to do many things at once, especially since the care and feeding of the young one takes up a very large part of my day! I usually reserve my brain space for thinking on my own projects or issues. When I have a moment to sit still I go to work plotting, planning, researching until I realize I am not there. Or rather, I am not here. Here in this moment, now.
This is part 2 of the series "What's it Like? C-Section Recovery"
In the first part of the series here, I describe the birth of my son and the physical and emotional recovery process. In this part, I opened up these questions to a community of local Doulas. They shared some wonderful insights with us.
"One client had a surprise early c-section and the unexpected recovery time definitely had her feeling a little lost when she came home. Plus the additional obstacles with breastfeeding that result post-C. She did great after they found their groove, but it really shows how quickly things can change on you."
"The bonding took me a while. I was sad :-( I had a PP hemorrhage and I felt so bad physically already then the breastfeeding pain on top of it was hard. I didn't feel the immediate "love at first sight" then it compounded with the extreme anemia and then breastfeeding issues, so it was a slow process. I think it was also partially due to the expectation of how I thought I SHOULD feel vs how I actually felt. I got amazing help from my LC and support from my husband (smoothing out all the knots from engorgement while I nursed- total lifesaver!) Not sure if I would have made it w/o all the help. I am happy to report that around 3 months or so we really started to bond. We continued a wonderful nursing relationship for 3 1/2 yrs."
"In my experience the actual c-section and recovery were not difficult. The hardest thing was coming to terms with how very different my reality was from what I had been dreaming of and planning for. I actually recovered more quickly after my c-section than after my VBAC."
Tracey Beasley shared that she was planning a homebirth initially, but realized before labor that she was going to require a c-section to give birth. She worked with her care providers to have a family centered c-section which was an empowering experience for her. Having that experience helped her deal with the loss she felt when her homebirth plans could not be achieved.
Her thoughts on her recovery:
"Recovery was...easy and hard. I worked my butt off to make it easy, if that makes sense. I.e. I was up and moving quickly, got out around town quickly (with help driving), did gentle exercises right away and regularly for weeks, got connected with local moms immediately."
Sometimes a C-section may not be viewed as "giving birth". She reminds mothers to claim their birth, process it and associate as much as possible with a supportive network. Her experience is evidence to this.
"Mom needs to make sure she is choosing places that support her decision to call it, process it, discuss it on her terms. But it also sneaks in insidiously and those can be tough moments. I recall sitting with a group of friends and birth stories came up and everyone told their stories back and forth. One friend turned to me and asked what it was like for me and then stopped herself and said, "Oh... Wait. You had a section." The other friends in the room stopped and kinda went "Aww... Yeah..." and then all started talking about their births again. Mine didn't even count in a close circle of friends. Those moments are tough, especially when they sneak up on you. So, being prepared for just weird feelings about birth is important."
"I definitely bonded with her, but it's hard to say exactly when because that bond has changed so much over time."
"I had come to a place of happy-enough acceptance as I walked to the OR (after months of preparing for it) but was still scared and unsure in some ways. So, when my husband brought her to me at five minutes old and I saw her...I don't know. It wasn't THE moment I thought it would be. I've heard the same from vaginal birth moms, so I think it all varies for everyone and the perfect love at first sight moment doesn't happen for everyone."
"I was thrilled she was out and safe. Feeling amazing over how my birth in the OR had gone so far. But I was still on that table and I knew my life was still at risk. That makes bonding a little tough."
"So, did I bond with her? Sure. Absolutely. There was no set timeline for it. Did I love her as I birthed her, the same way I loved her a month later, or now, nearly four years later? No, of course not. And I know cesarean[s] can have a bad reputation for tough times between mother and child. But over the years I've also heard so many horror stories from vaginal birth moms about their lack of bonding, love, love at first sight, etc. I think it's so much more about respect and empowerment in birth, an odd mix of cocktails we really, really, really don't understand (that aren't just about oxytocin surge with that last push), the state of the pregnancy, mother's history, her current relationship status, and for all I know the phase of the moon, too."
Lesa Williams, a birth doula and mother to 12 children shared her personal experiences:
"I was able to nurse all my babies afterwards, and never heard that there could be a problem with bonding after a c-section, all those years ago, so I really felt that bonding came through my nursing. I loved nursing so much."
"Every birth is Sacred! No matter how our babies get here, it's our experience that matters!There so much emphasis put on "how" our babies are born today, that we didn't [have] back when I started having children. I understand the why, however while in the midst of either/or, we are belittling women that birth their baby's via c-section... We need to honor each woman and her experience, so all can think positively about bringing life forth!"
Thank you to Doulas and moms for contributing to this post: Tracy Williams Lenhardt, Tara White, Tracy Cipperly Beasley, and Lesa Williams.
What's it like? C-section Recovery
I wanted to start a blog series like this because when I was pre-motherhood, I found all the unknowns about pregnancy, birth and beyond most unsettling. As much as I researched I was not satisfied with the answers I got, my choices were either the Web MD answer or a terrifying discussion board (don't go there!). I wanted anecdotes from women who had experienced this and could talk about it in an honest way.
When I was 28 weeks pregnant, I was diagnosed with high blood pressure and was placed on bed rest. My doctors informed me that I was at a higher risk of having a c-section. Ironically enough, this news came just a couple days after I decided to change to a midwifery practice and pursue a natural childbirth. My intentions for a natural pregnancy became one of the most medically intervened times in my life. I was flooded with emotions. After about 6 weeks on bedrest, I went to one of my two weekly Dr.'s appointments for monitoring. The nurse took my blood pressure and then stepped out of the room to talk to the Dr. When she came back in she told us to get ready because we were having a baby today! After 6 hours of trial labor we made the decision to go ahead and have a c-section as my pressures were getting higher and things were becoming risky. There was no time to ponder what was about to happen to me, but I felt pretty calm. (It was probably the drugs they were giving me or the Hypnobabies scripts I was practicing!). They wheeled me into the OR where they coached me through the spinal which was an odd sensation but not painful. A few moments later the Dr started poking me to test if I could feel anything but pressure and before I knew it the surgery had begun. Within 30 minutes of making the decision for a C-Section, my son was born! Being born early, he had a team of Dr.'s waiting to intercept him and assist with his immediate needs. I saw him all of 2 minutes for a quick picture before they wheeled him away. I however, was put flat on my back in recovery and hooked up to the "mag" or magnesium to keep me from having seizures (a lovely affect of pre-e). I was this way for around 24 hours, a little less since I was doing well and I kept bothering the nurses about wanting to see my baby! I was able to finally meet him and learned that he was going to have to spend a few days in the hospital. He in total spent 10 days there but I was released 3 days after my surgery. Getting up and walking after a c-section is a bit anxiety producing in the beginning. I kept thinking about what happened to me and I'm squeamish so it wigged me out! I was afraid I would pop something loose. I was very careful as I recovered, but I soon realized that in order to see my baby in the special care nursery I was going to have to walk. Waiting for someone to find a wheelchair, get it, get me in it and take me to the nursery was agonizing. I grabbed my husbands hand and made him walk me down on my second visit which involved LONG hallways and an elevator two floors down. A mom's strength knows no limits! My advice, take whatever pain meds they prescribe, and keep up with them. I had a tiny notebook where I would record what I took and when so I could remember what I could take next. Don't wait to feel like you need something, just take it at the right time. In all honesty, with the surgery there was pain, but the pain was similar to the time I worked out to Cindy Crawford's "Shape Your Body" Workout. I couldn't sit up or sit down without falling over for days from that workout! My abs felt about the same way. The most painful moment for me was trying to pee for the first few times after the catheter came out. My birth breathing came in handy then! I soon discovered that the more I moved around the easier it got and I was less focused on how I "felt" and far more focused on my newborn. It took about 3 months for me to feel "normal" but it took me a full year to start feeling like I could function as I had pre-pregnancy. This estimation includes postpartum recovery plus months of figuring out a baby. I may be slower than others though, but it's good to keep in mind when you feel frustrated or miss those easier times in your life before baby. I have seen other women who seem to have it all figured out and they just keep Rolling.
Physically, To this day, 4 years later, I have numb places on my abdomen and when I do any abdominal exercises, I get a pinchy feeling there as I imagine its scar tissue tearing.
All in all, I'm grateful for my birth but I have to say it took me a while to get to that feeling. I spent the next year processing all that happened and I felt "cheated" by it all. I also had a strong feeling that my baby was not mine. I loved him immensely and cared for him furtively, but I would take him out in public and somehow expect people to not believe it when I would say he was my son. Or someone would knock at my door and say "thanks for looking after him, see ya." I attribute it to our long journey to get pregnant and my short pregnancy coupled with such a quick delivery.
Now, my boy is 4 and I feel ever so much his mother, he acts like me too sometimes in case I forget! We are fortunate when we become mothers and it doesn't matter how it happens, just that it happens.
In thinking about this article, I wanted others to weigh in. I am in a community of magnificent Doulas and I wanted them to share their experiences too so that these posts will give you a wealth of knowledge and support if this is your journey. The next post is about their experiences first and second hand. They share their experiences on how their C-section affected them physically and emotionally. I will post Part 2 of this on Thursday.
I'm a Postpartum Doula in Durham, North Carolina. I love working with tired new parents, tiny sweet babies, playing Lego with my 4 year old and tending to my own "nest" at home.
"Supporting families in the fourth trimester"
Based in Durham, NC, She also serves the following areas in the Triangle: Chapel Hill, Hillsborough, Raleigh, Cary and Apex.