I didn’t really think too much about my impending C-section when I was pregnant with my daughter until a couple nights before it actually happened. I had read a few articles floating around the internet about things to expect, so I really thought I had a good grasp on what was really going to happen right after that surgery.
After all, I had experienced so much already. I had been through infertility, miscarriage and making it almost full-term in my pregnancy, and if I could survive all that, I thought nothing would really faze me immediately after my baby was born.
So to save you the same shocking experience, here are just some things that scared the crap out of me after my C-section:
1. I still bled.
A lot, actually. I’m not sure why I had it in my head that because I had a baby taken right out of me through my abdomen, I wouldn’t deal with postpartum bleeding. But I was so wrong. It was all a blur, but somehow I ended up with a mattress between my legs that I didn’t realize was seeping blood until my first “cleanup” by the nurses before I was even allowed to sit up fully. I almost fell over when I saw the amount of red in the toilet the first time I made it to the bathroom. To be fair, falling over was probably not that unlikely anyway, given what had just happened to me.
2. I underestimated the headaches and shoulder pain that came with anesthesia and major abdominal surgery.
I’m getting a headache just thinking about it almost a year and a half later. While less severe than the headaches, the shoulder pain prevented me from getting comfortable my first few days postpartum. Normal, yes. It doesn’t mean they didn’t make me really crabby.
3. My guts felt like they were going to spill right out of my belly the first time I stood up.
To be fair, I was warned about this from my own editor as I prepared for a maternity leave. I think my mouth got a little dry when I heard that, but like many horrifying things in life, I didn’t think it was going to be that bad. But it was. In fact, I remember hugging my arms around my abdomen as two nurses each helped me stand and I had to convince myself that straightening up was not going to cause my innards to plop onto the floor, and to rely on the abdominal binder. It was pretty much the worst sensation I’ve ever experienced. By day five of my hospital stay, I no longer needed the reassurance from the nurses that my stitches weren’t going to open up.
4. Sneezing was pretty much the worst thing ever.
Someone told me to hold a pillow over my abdomen before sneezing—or laughing. Who knows if it helps, but by that point, anything is worth a shot.
After my stretchy mesh undies from the hospital ran out, first I grieved the loss, and then I went to Target and bought horrifyingly high-waisted underwear and lived in those with my very forgiving maternity pants. I wouldn’t even call them pants, because they were more like billowy pillows of silk and I wore them for weeks with my underwear that came to my belly button. And for the next four months, any article of clothing that dug into my incision sent me into a frenzy to Get. It. Off.
7. After going through all of that, in the midst of sleep deprivation and trying to keep a newborn alive, I wonder now how I’m ever going to go through that again.
How will I mentally prepare for another incision along scar tissue and go through the recovery process all over again? The opportunity to look into the eyes of another beautiful son or daughter? Sure, we’ll go with that.