Even though you are not having a C-section, if someone you know ends up having one, it might be useful to know what to expect in the aftermath. Full disclosure—I had a relatively easy recovery, so you may want to consult some medically trained expert-type people, or at least someone who has had more than one baby, for further details.
Your Blood Pressure: In the minutes immediately following surgery, your blood pressure may plummet. There are medical reasons for this that are perfectly normal and that I am too lazy to Google. You won’t necessarily know that this is happening—what you will feel is an intense, overwhelming desire to close your eyes and sleep. I thought this desire to pass out cold meant I didn’t love my baby and I was going to be a terrible mother. I have the capacity to generate a great deal of self-loathing in a short period of time. Turns out my BP was 80/40, and it remained that way for about an hour. I wish I’d known about the blood pressure drop and saved myself another year of therapy.
The Not Moving: You just had the baby you’ve been dreaming about for 40 weeks, and you can’t get out of bed to pick him up. You’re supposed to be a mother, a bastion of softness and cuddles, but you’re attached to machines and wires and there may be a tube up your hoo-ha to help you pee. This part is demoralizing, but it doesn’t last forever. The machines will recede, you will be walking upright in a few days, and in the meantime, your spouse will get pretty good at changing tiny diapers and scraping meconium off his wedding ring.
The Gas: Of all the competing types of pain and discomfort in my newly postpartum body, the post-op gas pain was by far the worst. I felt like I had acid pooling in my shoulders and a fire-breathing dragon nestled in my spine. The gas relievers were about as effective as a sling shot in a nuclear war. Thankfully it only lasted about 48 hours. I have never been more excited to fart in public than I was on the second day after surgery.
Fifty Shades of Pain: In addition to gas pain, there is also the shrinking uterus pain, and the holy-shit-I’ve-been-cut-open pain, as well as a host of miscellaneous pains, like the “my insides have been temporarily removed and then replaced just slightly out of order” pain, or the “a human child tried to push its head through my lady bits but then got stuck in my pelvic bone for sixteen hours” pain. Your pain will be unique, but Hydrocodone is generic, so make sure you demand it at regular intervals and keep taking it at home. Your plan for a natural childbirth is already road-kill on the highway of reality; this is not the time to just say no.
There Will Be Blood: Because I am not especially good at science or basic logic, I briefly thought the one upside to having a C-section would be not dealing with the dreaded “lochia,” which is Latin for “pretty sure you’ll be wearing a maxi pad until your child is in second grade.” Of course I was wrong—the doctors are not considerate enough to scoop out all the blood and goop while you’re open on the table. Your baby may not have exited the old fashioned way, but everything else will.
Your First Post-Op BM: Much like it prepared for labor, your body may spend days or even weeks preparing for its first bowel movement after delivery. Eventually the need will become undeniable, so hand the baby to your spouse, grab a magazine and some Gatorade, and settle in for the long-haul. It could take hours, and you will feel like you are giving birth to a bag of rocks. There will be praying, cursing, and hysterical crying. You will do things that would shock your younger self, and you will never speak of those things to anyone again. When it’s all over, you will experience a wave of euphoria followed by intense exhaustion. Congratulations, it’s a poop.
The Scar: At first, the incision site may resemble something you’ve seen in those chain-emails your mom used to forward about co-eds going to Cancun for spring break and waking up in a bathtub full of ice with a kidney missing. Worry not—like your memory of childbirth, your scar will fade, eventually becoming a thin white line that your future teenager will barely be able to see when you demand she look at it after she calls you the b-word in front of her friends.
Written by: Kathleen