Recovering from a Cesarean {Surviving the Difficult Days}

When I had my first Cesarean, I was 21.  I was in college, and went back to class after 10 days.  I don’t remember any difficulty recovering, and the baby weight nearly fell off of me.

My second Cesarean was 6 years ago when I was nearly 32.  Totally different story.  Every time I thought I was getting better, I’d have a setback.  It felt like recovery took forever and it was absolutely horrible.

My 3rd Cesarean was 3 1/2 months ago.  While it was much better than my last c-section, it still wasn’t a breeze.  I guess I’m not 21 anymore.

(You can read my entire birthing journey here.)

I did realize a few things about the recovery process following a c-section that helped me survive the difficult days this time.  Those are the things I want to share with you today.(affiliate links included)

Helpful ideas for healing from a c-section |

What to expect in the hospital
(and beyond)
following your c-section

One thing no one told me about was all the extra pain that had nothing to do with the c-section incision.  Shoulder pain caused by the gases trapped in your body – so bad your meds won’t touch it.  (Thankfully, it goes away after an hour or two)  There is also the pain of other gasses and constipation caused by the medications slowing down your system.

My advice:  Take stool softeners (without laxatives) and dried plums to the hospital with you!  Drink every chance you get (this will help your milk supply too!).  

Itching and swelling from the epidural, IVs and other meds was another thing no one warned me about (of course, it’s hard to warn someone when they are having an emergency c-section, huh?)  My face itched terribly.  I wanted to rub my nose right off my face.  And take a look at the difference between my feet from shortly after birth to about a week later when most of the swelling had gone down:

What to expect in the early days following a c-section | RaisingArrows.netYIKES!

My advice:  Be aware of it.  There really isn’t much you can do to reduce the swelling other than keep drinking your water.  The itching will subside as well.  Be sure to bring shoes to go home in that do not require your feet to be normal size.

There were a few things I was super thankful for…

The hospital I birthed at put a binder around my tummy immediately following the surgery.  When my OB told me she was doing this, I couldn’t imagine it being comfortable.  She told me it actually helps with pain, and she was right!  I wore that binder every day for weeks.  The binder sold by The Tummy Team is very similar to the one I was given in the hospital.  This is the binder I now wear because I needed a smaller size than what I had in the hospital.  (I own the 3-Panel Abdominal Splint because I am short-waisted.  It is super simple to use and it does a really great job.)

The Tummy Team 3 panel brace

My advice:  If your hospital doesn’t do belly binding following a c-section, buy a binder to take with you to the hospital – even if you are having a vaginal birth!

I learned from one of my VBACs to take a heating pad to the hospital with me.  That birth had been fast and furious and my back hurt something awful.  The nurses gave me a ThermaCare Heat Wrap, but the next birth I chose to buy an XL heating pad and take that with me.  Such a lifesaver!

I was also very thankful for the recliner in my room.  I felt MUCH better sleeping in the recliner rather than in the bed.  If your room doesn’t have a recliner, don’t hesitate to ask, even beg, for one!  It is so hard to sleep in a bed following a c-section, and getting in and out of a bed is torture.  Don’t be afraid to speak up for yourself!

Also, be sure to take comfortable clothes with you.  One thing I always take with me is my Playful Mama Nursing Poncho.  It looks like a shirt, but it is really a big poncho you can nurse under.  In those early days, no matter how experienced you are, breastfeeding is a comedy of errors.  This poncho helped me feel covered no matter how many gymnastics I had to perform to get baby to nurse.  Best of all, it didn’t constrict my belly in any way.  (Here is a similar poncho on Amazon for a cheaper price – though I can’t attest to the comfort of this one.)

And finally, take your meds!  This is coming from someone who really hates pills.  I hate how medications make me feel.  I want off of them as soon as possible.  I don’t take pain relievers for a headache.  I don’t take antibiotics unless it’s absolutely necessary.  But, I found I did better and healed faster when I took the medication I needed on the time schedule I was given, and then slowly weaned off of them.  The full weaning process took several weeks.  I took the lowest dosage necessary to keep me comfortable, but I didn’t try to be superwoman and take nothing before I was ready.

Which brings me to an important side note…

Recovering from a C-section takes time

It’s probably not what you want to hear, but recovery from a c-section takes time.  Sometimes a lot of time.  I remembered with my 2nd c-section it was a good month before I felt better, so this time I gave myself permission to take a full month to recover – more if I needed it.

Think about this for a moment…
You just had surgery.  No one would expect someone who is not a mom to have major surgery and suddenly bounce back.  Why in the world do we expect this of moms?  Why in the world do we expect this of ourselves?

Even if no one brings you meals (didn’t happen for us this time because we had just moved), even if you have all small children, even if you have a husband who doesn’t help out, please, please, please give yourself time to heal.  Simplify your life as much as you can.  Let your children listen to audios, watch a few movies, use paper plates, eat cheese and crackers.  There will be a day on down the road when you will wake up feeling so much better and THEN, you can get back to normal.  For now, do what you need to do to get to that place.

Caring for you c-section incision

Time to talk unpleasantries.  We all know we are supposed to keep the incision dry.  (This also means no beloved bubble baths until the scar is fully closed.)  But, this is sometimes easier said than done.

My advice:  Cover the incision with a cloth or maxi-pad.  Blow dry the area after you shower.  Keep an eye on the incision and know the signs of infection.

What to expect once you are home following a Cesarean birth

You may be super relieved to get home following your c-section.  I was!  I had a 2.5 hour drive home that was less than fun.  I wish I could have plugged my heating pad into the vehicle!  Hopefully, you won’t have as far to go!

Let’s just start with the obvious…you will be tired.  Take a look at this video of me on Christmas Day – 6 days postpartum:

I was highly medicated, highly exhausted, and highly weird.

My advice:  Let someone else handle your life.  Ty and the kids gratefully stepped up to the plate and kept the ship from sinking.  Send your husband to the store for paper plates, plasticware, and easy meals.  Keep a pitcher of water and cups easily accessible.  Sleep whenever you get a chance.  And don’t forget to put together your Mama Basket.

Beware of hemorrhoids!  Remember what I said about taking stool softeners and dried plums to the hospital?  Well, all the meds you take and all the sitting you end up doing can cause serious problems in the nether-regions.

My advice:  Eat a couple of servings of dried plums or dates every day.  Drink Smooth Move tea.  (just don’t overdo it!)  If you need to, take stool softeners as long as you are taking the high powered pain meds.  Get up and get moving as much as you can (this is important for preventing blood clots as well).

The final thing I want to mention is the fact that some of the most difficult things you will face in your recovery have very little to do with the surgery itself.  (If you are struggling with how your c-section happened, please read THIS.)  You are going to have to deal with hormonal emotions on top of the physical pain.  Your days will be blurry, and you will feel overwhelmed for quite some time.  You will often feel like you are going 2 steps forward and 1 step backward, and some days it will seem you aren’t going forward at all.  You will cry.  You will hurt.  You will want to be normal.  My number one piece of advice is to keep your Bible close by.  If you can’t read it, have someone read it to you.  Cry out to Jesus.  Lay your cares on Him.  Some day you will look back on these difficult days and it will seem a blink of an eye.  He will carry you through.

Tips to help smooth your recovery from a C-section from a mom of 9  -  3 of those births being by Cesarean |

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Was My Cesarean Necessary?

For some women, the question of whether or not their cesarean was necessary never crosses their minds.  In fact, I’ve even heard some women say they wished they had signed up to have a c-section from the very beginning.

I was not one of those women.

Was My Cesarean Necessary?  A mother 9 with 3 cesarean births under her belt explores this question and the emotions that go along with it. |

If you’ve ever read my Birthing Journey, you know my first child was born via c-section.  You also know I firmly believe he should not have been.  You also know it took me 8 years and 3 VBACs to heal from a 6″ scar.

Was My Cesarean Necessary?  A mom of 9 with 3 c-sections under her belt explores this question and emotions that come from having a c-section. |

When I would tell people that having a c-section was bothering me, most would say, “At least he’s healthy.”  I wanted to scream.  He may have been healthy, but I was not.  I couldn’t get past the fact that I felt broken.  I felt like a failure.  I felt cheated.

The question of cesarean necessity is a complicated one, and it runs MUCH deeper than medical diagnoses.

Very few women go into birth wanting a cesarean, especially in my circle of granola mom friends.  The more natural the birth, the better.  Some are even viciously militant about the way they give birth, which only adds to the struggles a mom who ends up with a c-section feels.  So, my first plea would be to avoid judging anyone based on how they gave birth.  Not every c-section mom is “too posh to push.”  And if you are the c-section mom, understand that you didn’t “cop out” just because you had a cesarean.

If you are a mom struggling with the question of how necessary your c-section was, let me encourage you to redirect that question away from where you were to where you are now.

The question of whether or not my c-section was necessary had consumed me.  I was angry not only about the surgery itself, but also about what this meant for future births.  I was worried what people might think when they found out my very first birth was a c-section.  I worried my home-birthing friends would scoff at me.  I was worried I had lost credibility as a mom.  And the longer I dwelt on the past, the less hope I had for the future, and the more fear I felt concerning that future.

But, I didn’t need to “just get over it.”  What I truly needed was to put the past in it’s proper place…as part of my story.

Was My Cesarean Necessary?  A mom of 9 with 3 c-sections under her belt discusses this topic and the emotions surrounding it. |

When you begin to see your c-section as part of your story, you begin to see how you can use that story to help others and shape a future that accepts its past.  In fact, true healing came in the form of a La Leche League leader telling me to choose to have the best birth *I* could have when I was pregnant with my 3rd child.  She knew what it was like to be disappointed in a birthing experience, but she also knew what it was like to move forward, making choices only she could make.  She chose to use her story, to help me.  And I choose to use my story, including the part she played, to help others.  I learned that my expectations and my reality did not have to be at war with each other.

Several years ago, I wrote a post about birthing expectations on a friend’s blog.  In it I wrote these words:

“I was not a product of my birthing experiences, nor a martyr to my birthing expectations.  I could make a birth plan, I could desire an unmedicated vaginal birth, but that did not mean a different sort of birth was a failure and made me ‘less than.'” 

Following my first c-section, I chose to change OBs and find one who was VBAC-friendly.  I went on to have 4 successful VBACs.  (You can read about those births HERE.)  In 2009, I had a 2nd c-section. I made the choice to try for a VBA2C and worked hard to find a doctor who would support me in that.  (You can read about my first VBA2C HERE and my second one HERE.)  Now that I have had a third c-section, I know I will no longer VBAC.  That too is part of my story.

I made the choice to be fully accepting of the cesareans in each case and fully accepting of the future beyond those cesareans.  I purposely did things to enjoy my pregnancies and ease the expectations I used to feel were so much a part of the experience.  I told myself each moment was another part of my story, and I would make the best choices I could.

If you have had a c-section that you feel may not have been necessary – or even one you know was necessary – and you are struggling with difficult feelings, you may have to face disapproval or guilt or drastic changes to your birthing future, but remember these things are a part of YOUR story, not someone else’s story.  How you birth doesn’t prove what kind of woman you are, it doesn’t give you super mom status, and it won’t get you to Heaven.

How you birth is YOUR moment, but, I can almost guarantee you, God will place someone in your life who needs to hear what you have to share.  It’s part of that Titus 2 mandate for older women (or women further along in this journey)…teach them to LOVE THEIR CHILDREN.  Part of loving your children is loving the moment they were born…that moment when

YOUR story became THEIRS.

Was My Cesarean Necessary?  A mom with 9 with 3 c-sections under her belt discusses this topic and the emotions surrounding it. |

Jealous Siblings and Other Such Nonsense

One question I get asked a lot is if any of my children are jealous of the new baby.  I can honestly say I have never had this happen.  I have never had a child ask me to send back a younger sibling or act like they hate the new baby.  Which makes me curious…why is this?

Well, because I’m pretty sure this whole jealously thing is a lot of nonsense.

Jealous Siblings & Other Such Nonsense - the answer to what's really behind it from a mom of 9 |

Before I end up with scads of email telling me I’m all sorts of wrong about this, hear me out.  If at the end of this post you still believe I’m wrong, feel free to let me know.

Sibling jealousy is often nurtured.

Sometimes it comes from mom and dad, sometimes a well-meaning grandparent, sometimes from Joe Schmoe down the street…someone says something that seems harmless and the little kid wheels start turning.  For instance, Grandma tells little Timmy that when his new baby sister is born he might feel like he’s not getting any attention, but his parents really do love him.

Hello?!  Let’s just set the little guy up for failure, shall we?

Or what about mom and dad who bend over backward to try to keep little Timmy from feeling jealous with presents and coddling.  Or maybe the opposite happens and mom and dad suddenly focus all their attention on this tiny creature, all the while making it very clear that Timmy is “in the way”.

Don’t encourage jealousy with your words and actions.  As adults, we are the ones these little people take their cues from.  If your cues are suggesting they *should* be jealous of a new baby, then they *will* be jealous.

Jealousy stems from confusion.

We have always made the new baby a part of the family from the time he or she is a tiny little bump in mama’s belly.  The baby is an addition, not a replacement, and our children are encouraged to dream about baby, shop for baby, talk about baby, and ask questions about baby long before the baby joins the family on the outside.

If you avoid talking about baby and letting your little ones interact with the baby before he or she is born, you end up surprising your child with a kicking, screaming doll that is terrifying.  Mom and Dad spend a lot of time dealing with this tiny human, and little Timmy is totally confused about who this person is and how he is supposed to interact if he’s never been told this baby is “his” too.

Yes, your child may be too young to understand (my little Creed couldn’t even remember me without a belly, and he certainly had no concept of what a baby really was), but don’t let that stop you from talking about baby and including your child in baby related activities like shopping for baby and baby showers.

Jealous siblings see the new baby as YOURS, not OURS.

Jealous Siblings & Other Such Nonsense - the truth behind sibling rivalry from a mom of 9 |

We talk about OUR baby.  We tell our toddlers the new baby is THEIR baby.  We make sure they know this new little one is a part of OUR family, and we talk about what it means to be a part of OUR family.

They come to the hospital.  We encourage them to hold baby.  We let them join in diaper changes, baths, and feeding.  We are in this together ,and baby is an addition to our family dynamic that we all get to enjoy.

But, if a parent excludes their other children from the day to day routine of having a new baby, or they never talk about baby being OUR baby, a toddler or older sibling may get the impression the baby isn’t someone they should pay attention to or bond with.

All this aid, my biggest gripe with this whole sibling jealousy thing is…

Sibling jealousy is talked about way too much.

Any little sign of a child feeling jealous and we jump on the “we might warp them if we don’t do something quick” bandwagon.  We are so busy trying to nurture our poor jealous child’s psyche, we end up making things worse!  We run to grandparents, friends on Facebook, and even strangers in the supermarket to get their opinion on jealous siblings.  All the while, our little children are wondering what you are so in a tizzy over, but the attention they are getting sure is fun!  It doesn’t matter if the perceived jealousy is real or not, if little Timmy can milk it, he will.

He may actually be feeling a little left out and confused by this new person in his home, but if you run around like a crazy person, stressing over everything he says and feels, he’s not going to feel MORE secure, he’s going to wonder what is going on and act out even more!  Stop talking about it so much.  Stop stressing over it!  Bring little Timmy alongside you and baby and show him that having a new baby in the house is just the way things are and everyone is better for it.

I truly believe many “modern” sibling issues are a lot of hype.  We American parents stress over everything it seems.  Somehow we’ve got to get a grip and just be parents…be a family…have a life!  No more majoring in the minors.  Let’s enjoy our families!  Let’s show them just how wonderful and special new babies are.  Let’s try to keep things low key and normal.  No more jealous sibling nonsense!

So, now that I’ve laid it on the line, I’d love to hear from you!  Be respectful, but feel free to share your thoughts on sibling rivalry, especially pertaining to bringing a new baby into the house.  And if you have questions, feel free to leave those here too!  Raising Arrows readers are always more than willing to help other moms out!

The Shape I’m In

I’m 4 weeks postpartum.  I gained more weight this pregnancy than I ever have.  I am down over 30 pounds, but when you’ve gained 60, that feels like a drop in the bucket.  I’m actually below my pre-pregnancy weight from my last baby, but I had high hopes this time I would get a lot of the weight off quickly.

But, if I was being honest with myself and all of you, I would have to say that I always feel this way about this time postpartum.

When Your Postpartum Shape is Discouraging |

I start thinking I need a whole new wardrobe because I have nothing to wear; or better yet, I need to drop 30 pounds overnight so I can wear all my old clothes.  Then I think maybe some new makeup or a brand new hairdo would make me feel better.  I start reading diet books, cut my hair way too short, buy a bunch of clothes I really don’t like (because I don’t want to spend money on clothes that won’t fit me after I’ve slimmed down), and cry myself a river every time I have to leave the house because I’m just not satisfied with anything.

But guess what…

No diet book, new wardrobe, or new hairdo will fix what I’m feeling.

It’s a little bit of head, a little bit of heart, and a whole lot of hormones telling me that the shape I’m in is something to cry over.

Now, I can tell myself a million times over that it took 9 months to get this way, so why in the world would I think a few weeks would be sufficient to get back to the way I looked before, but I’m one of those people who needs more than some overused adage to feel better.  I’m a practical, give-me-something-I-can-hang-onto kind of person.

Here is what I’ve finally learned that is worth hanging on to…

Learn to see weight loss (especially postpartum weight loss) as a journey |

For years, I saw a healthy weight as an end point.  I would journey until I got there and then forget the journey and do something else.  And during those years when I couldn’t seem to reach the end point, I begrudged every step on the path because I never seemed to be getting anywhere.  That was because I wanted the journey to end.  I didn’t want to be on this diet-focused path forever.

I also saw pregnancy as a time to completely turn tail and run head long into my obsession with food.  When you consider I’ve been pregnant 13 times and birthed 9 full-term babies, some of those with barely a year between, you can imagine how discouraged I became after every baby, wondering if I would ever reach my goal, my end point.

It’s taking me some time to wrap my brain around HEALTHY being a way of life, but now that my husband and my son have maintained their weight losses for over a year, I have a better grasp of what healthy looks like in the long term sense of the word.

Reaching a healthy weight is sort of like birthing a baby.  There is a long journey to get to the place where you hold that precious little one in your arms, but the journey doesn’t end there.  You keep taking steps on down the path of motherhood.

I won’t be at my pre-pregnancy weight by my 6 week checkup, but that’s because I started a lot lower than most of my other pregnancies.  I know I have a lot to learn, and I’m going to need a lot of determination and motivation to stay focused and make this journey part of my life and not just something I do for a little while.

The shape I’m in isn’t something to be discouraged by because it’s just part of my journey.  It’s the place I am now.  I am choosing to be a fit mama even when the shape I’m in feels far from it because I am choosing to live healthy!


Baby Aspen

Aspen Emelia
born 12/19
8# 10.5 oz

Note:  The following is Aspen’s birth story, which includes a photo that may make some people squeamish.  Don’t scroll down if you are one of those people.

The morning of the 19th, I awoke to a contraction and what felt like a very painful kick.  As I laid there, I wondered if there was any chance it was my water breaking…something that NEVER happens to me.  I finally got the courage to get out of bed, and sure enough…GUSH!

Ty was 2.5 hours from the hospital at our new home, and I was 45 minutes from the hospital, staying at my mom’s house.  My mom took me in and Ty started his trek up to the hospital.

I could barely feel my contractions, and the one harder one I had, I watched as baby’s heart rate fell.  The next time I had a stronger contraction, I avoided looking at the monitor and just practiced my breathing.  After a while, it became apparent something was not right.  My OB came in to talk to me.  I told her I felt like something was wrong and that I needed a c-section.  She said she agreed, but she was afraid I was going to fight her on it because of how hard I had worked to VBAC and then VBA2C.  But, I knew in my heart, something wasn’t right.

The nurses and doctors worked quickly to get me prepped and back to the OR.  I was very nervous.  Ty kept tabs on baby’s heart rate while I prayed I wouldn’t have any more contractions.

It was very difficult to get baby out, but finally, our little one came into this world, and Ty announced baby was a

! ! !
! ! !

She was my smallest full-term baby.  She could actually fit in the newborn diapers and outfits!  She has a smattering of darkish hair, and long feet, fingers, and toes!

After surgery, Dr. let us know what the trouble had been.  (here’s the squeamish part…)

knot in cord

Aspen’s cord was a big twisted mess.  It was near her head and was being compressed even with the small contractions.  Potentially, the cord would have come first or pulled and tightened up, cutting off her oxygen.  The strangeness I was feeling was God-given mother’s intuition.

There are other aspects to this story that I will share along the way, but I wanted to end this post with the story of how Aspen got her name.

We knew if it was a girl, the middle name would be Emelia.  Emelia was Ty’s paternal great-grandmother’s name (an old world German name meaning hard-working – just like our Emily’s name).  The spelling included our little Emily’s name as well as our daughter Melia’s name.  The really neat part about this was that while the name did not include any part of our only other daughter’s name (Megan), little Aspen was born on Megan’s 14th birthday!

As for the first name…as a family, we have always been drawn to Aspen trees.  The beautiful wood, the way the leaves shimmer in the light as they change color in the fall, the fact that a forest of Aspen trees is all on one root system, intertwined; separate, yet part of a whole all reminded us of a beauty only God could create.  It seemed a fitting name for a much-longed-for little girl.

So, if you are looking for me, you’ll find me smiling and staring at this tiny little beauty.  We are all feeling so very blessed!

39 Week Pregnancy Update

baby development Can you believe we are here? The final (at least that’s the plan) week of gestating!  One of my friends just had her baby, another will be induced this coming Monday, and I am trying to wait patiently for this little one to make his or her appearance.

At my 39 week appointment on Monday, my OB surprised us by telling us I was dilated to a 3.5 and 70% effaced.  I didn’t think the contractions I had been having were doing that much!  She had me set an appointment for 40 weeks, but says she really doesn’t think I’ll be there.  Of course, I hate to get my hopes up, but that was some awesome news!  She also made sure baby was indeed head down – thankfully, yes!

My doctor has asked me to come straight to the hospital even if I just *think* I’m in labor and even if they have to send me home.  That’s not something I like to do (the going home part), but after the last couple of births going so much quicker, she just wants to make sure I make the drive without too much trouble.  And frankly, I’m kind of hoping for a more “leisurely” birth.  (don’t laugh!)

Many of you know I travel quite a way to give birth in a hospital and with a doctor that is VBA2C (Vaginal Birth After 2 C-sections) friendly.  The hospital is about 45 minutes from my mom’s house, so I am currently staying with her, which is why this week’s update is a photo of my belly and her dog…

Bailey Dog & 39 week belly |

Bailey has decided I am his new best friend and my belly makes the perfect perch!

So…here we go!  Anxious to see what this week brings!