Whether you plan on having a vaginal birth or know you will be having a scheduled Cesarean delivery, it’s important to realize that your recovery will be different. I planned on having two vaginal births and wound up with two C-sections. I can tell you recovering isn’t easy. You have a baby to take care of besides yourself and, if you already have a child, you have him or her to deal with, too. Be realistic about your recovery and limitations.
You need to put the little energy you have into taking care of your newborn. But, you aren’t good for anyone if you do not put a priority on your recovery. You need to minimize activities now to speed recuperation.
Lower your expectations. It is going to take at least four weeks before you feel normal again, give or take the lack of sleep. You will feel soreness at the incision site, exhaustion from the surgery and lack of sleep (particularly if you were in labor for 30 hours before the C-section like I was), breast engorgement, and cramps as your uterus contracts. And that’s assuming you didn’t go far in a vaginal delivery and have to recover down in the perineal region too!
Allow others to help. Have your partner, parents, in-laws or whomever feed you, change the baby, entertain your toddler, and handle the cleaning. Make your life easier now – without any guilt – your job is hard enough and much more important. Do not try to lift anything heavier than the baby at first (and the first few days, it will help you if others do that lifting and merely bring the child to you).
Nourish yourself physically and mentally. Keep a water bottle and healthy snacks handy, particularly as you are breast-feeding – you need to keep hydrated). Allow others to bring you foods between feedings. The first few days, even reaching for a plate or something it the freezer can cause pain in the incision area, so avoid it. Mentally, you need some time to relax between feedings too, either reading, listing to a book on audio, binge-watching movies about mommies (beware – hormones make tears come easily). Once the partner and grandparents are gone, you need someone to talk with too. Keep the phone and friends handy.
Make sure your incision is healing. Protect it from irritation by wearing loose clothes that don’t hit is. There may be feelings of pulling and itching, which is normal. If anything seems strange, like increased pain and redness or a fever, get it checked out.
Get moving, slowly. You may have planned on getting back into shape quickly, but that isn’t your priority now. It will take a few weeks for your incision to heal, so anything that affects ab muscles is out for now. Start with Kegels, flexing your feet, and minor movements in bed. Once you can easily get out of bed, start walking around the house, a little more each day. Eventually, saddle up the stroller and take a walk outside … building up daily. Keep in mind that driving is typically not allowed for two weeks. You typically can’t formally exercise for 4 to 6 weeks.
Look at the big picture. I have friends who felt guilty or deprived of an experience because they had a Cesarean. Don’t allow yourself to go there. The reality is that C-sections are almost one-third of all births in the U.S. now. Know that the point is having a healthy baby, not how it got there, and being a great mommy going forward!