Yes, you, lying in the hospital and dreading the next time you have to get up to pee.
Yes you, who feels like the “saw the lady in half” magic trick.
Yes you, who has no idea how you’re supposed to take care of a baby when you aren’t even sure if you can take care of yourself.
Yes you, who will not only have to endure a painful recovery, a more difficult road in reclaiming your body, and a bunch of bullshit (sorry not sorry) about how c-section doesn’t really count as giving birth.
This post is for you.
My C-Section Recovery Kit
This post centers around a list of products and techniques that really saved me during the crucial first few months (yes, months, sorry) of recovering. But before we get to that, I want to lay a foundation that can help you heal.
Yes, this is about healing the body, but as always, it is also about the mind.
My C-Section Recovery Kit: The Foundation
Okay, before we get to the list, I want to say a few things.
I didn’t plan on getting a c-section. I’d hoped for an unmedicated water birth in our local hospital, and I did that… for 18 hours. The other 8 or 9 hours (who can remember?) were spent laboring with an epidural, and then prepping for and having a c-section.
Because of this, I didn’t do much to prepare emotionally or physically for the c-section. In all of my preparation for birth (birthing class, visualizations, etc), I had actually internalized that things would not necessarily go 100% according to plan. I told myself that I wouldn’t be upset if I ended up wanting an epidural. I knew that anything could happen, but I honestly didn’t think “anything” would include a c-section.
Call me naive. Actually, don’t. Call me ignorant. Because I thought what I later found that a lot of people thought: that by being prepared, by incorporating my body and mind into the birth process, by being very informed about the medical industrial complex vs. the birthing goddess in all of us, and that by wanting it bad enough, I would avoid a c-section.
I’ve read so much of this since giving birth. Many blogs (nope, not linking to them) have said things that imply c-sections aren’t really birth. And, of course, some recent “c-sections are the easy way out” comments have made the news, and are beyond ridiculous.
So you, reading this, know that your body performed a miracle. Know that your miracle counts.
Someone, someday, may make you feel like you failed because you had a c-section. That you didn’t want your baby bad enough, that you didn’t work hard enough, that you didn’t trust the process. Just don’t let that somebody be you.
Anyway, there were things I wish I would have known, and things I wish I would have had on hand for my recovery after the c-section.
My C-Section Recovery Kit: The List
As I mentioned, I didn’t plan on having a c-section. Because of that, I didn’t do any research on how to physically recover, or what I might want to have on hand. These are things that, once I gathered them all together, made a real difference in the quality of my hours and days.
Whether you’re reading this before your surgery or after, I hope this list is helpful in gearing up for your road to recovery!
Underwear has probably been uncomfortable for awhile before your c-section. There’s just no good place for a waistband when you don’t have a waist. But after a c-section, when you’re going to have an intense, Frankenstein-esque stitching situation, there is REALLY no good place for a waist band. Enter WaCoal underwear.
I actually bought these before I got pregnant because they’re super soft and have that high-waisted vintage look (when you have a waist). In fact, they were so high on my list of favorite underwear that I really resisted wearing them during my recovery, but I’m so glad I did. The waistband goes nowhere near your incision, and the fabric is so light and soft on your body. These are very forgiving, too, of any weight fluctuations.
I ordered about 5 to get me through, and they’re still going strong!
This is the most crucial tool for feeding your baby, even if you aren’t breastfeeding. I’m just estimating here, but once this pillow is in position I think it must hold around 80% of your baby’s weight for you. When a baby is nursing for hours, this pillow will bring much-needed relief.
You can use this when you’re sitting up or lying down, and it would be hard to get it to make any contact with your incision, so don’t worry about that. If anything, this pillow will keep the stress off of your incision to help you heal!
And there are a ton of great pillow covers!
For quite awhile I didn’t dare look at my incision.
I caught a brief peek of it once at the hospital as I was stepping into the shower for the first time since the surgery, and that was enough. It was long, and red, with these jagged black threads holding me together. It looked like a cartoon of a doll in a horror movie, or like Frankenstein’s monster.
I don’t remember when I first thought I might get a tattoo there, but for a few days I thought about it. I even browsed Pinterest for ideas.
Then I realized I have a tattoo to commemorate that event: my scar.
I like my scar, actually. But I do massage it to help with healing (this works not just for the scar, but for the muscle tissue beneath the scar, aiding with later flexibility), and I noticed that when I did it with this cream it faded substantially. In fact, you can’t really see half of the scar anymore, and I know that happened because of this cream. The scar will always be there, and I like it like that, but this cream is great for really helping it fade.
If you’re fresh out of the operating room, the idea of massaging your scar will seem like a certain kind of torture. It will be several weeks before you can start doing this, and it might be a good idea to get a recommendation from your doctor for your timeline. Check out this video for scar tissue massage (the demo starts around 2:18).
As soon as you can, get up and take a walk down the hall. Work up every day to walking longer and longer. Take your baby if you can (in that little rolling bassinet thingie in the hospital, and then, eventually, around your neighborhood), and bring your partner. It’s agony, and I hated it, and I avoided it longer than I should have. But do it. And then when you come home, do it again. For awhile I could only make it part way down the street, and I worked up to a mile.
If the weather is good (and I was lucky enough that it was), the sunshine and fresh air and family togetherness time was the secondary part of helping me heal. I felt supported during these hours, and loved, and got to look at the little baby I birthed.
In addition to walking, I strongly recommend you start doing heel slides ASAP. I wish I would have known about heel slides so that I could have started while I was in the hospital!
Pain Management Techniques
Here is a true story: after my c-section, the midwife came in with a nurse and had a talk with me about the importance of “staying ahead” of the pain by using medication. They said that I needed to not allow “break-through” pain, which happens when you go too long without taking pain medication, or taking too little medication. Once the pain starts breaking through, they said, it is much harder to keep it at bay. I was getting this talk because I was resisting the pain medication, trying not to take too much.
As soon as they left (I mean, I don’t even think the door shut behind them), someone from the hospital came in and told me I was taking too much pain medication. This person made me feel like a junkie, like I was putting myself and my child at risk.
My husband, needless to say, was livid. The opioid crisis is real, and so awful, but I was mere hours out from a major surgery. It was just one more way for the world to make the c-section experience feel devalued, insignificant, and selfish. We talked to the midwife again soon after, who assured me I was not taking too much.
It’s important to keep up on your medication as directed. Keep in contact with your doctor if it feels like too much or too little. But don’t let the pain break through. This is an important act of kindness to yourself. You can try other techniques that help: ice packs work really well, and essential oils have been shown to speed up the healing process.
Take care of yourself!
For more on surviving the postpartum period, read My Top 5 Postnatal Supplements.
And check out my ebook, Coping with Postpartum Depression and Anxiety: A Holistic Guide.