Get the most out of your Caesarian -top tips from a mum who has had 7 C-sections.

This post has been prompted by a fellow blogger who was online this week asking for advice from mums who had experienced C-sections to ensure she felt prepared for what lay ahead.

Since I have had 7 caesarians (all with the blessing of my consultant) I thought I was probably quite well placed to pass on my top tips in the hope that anyone worrying about the prospect of a section might feel reassured.
family of 9 - seven children

So - a bit of history. My eldest child was born after my water breaking was followed by 24 hours of labour. I only dilated 1.5cms. My baby was becoming increasingly distressed (as was I!) and so the decision was made to open the sun roof - I was numbed from chest-down using an epidural.

 I remember being raced on a trolley down a corridor and was so relieved baby was born safely that at first I didn't care how he came out. Later I felt envious of the "natural" mums who sat cross-legged on their beds dressing their babies while I lay like a flabby beached whale unable to walk without crouching like an old woman. I have to admit I felt a bit of a failure. More on that later.

Now - here's my first major tip. Even if you are not expecting a C-section research it. Don't flick past that chapter in the book, watch programmes like One Born Every Minute. I had watched a programme called "Special Babies" and so when it came to the emergency section I felt at least like it was familiar and was less frightened by the number of people in the room, and the actual procedure.

siblings with newborn baby brother after c-section

Baby #2 was a planned section since by the time my eldest was 6 months old I was pregnant again! More prepared I packed my hospital bag slightly differently.

 I bought cheap big cotton knickers (up to the belly button sized) which were more comfortable than scratchy paper ones which caught my scar, made sure my bikini line was op-ready to avoid the dry razor treatment (most hospitals shave you for clear access!) and packed night clothes and going home clothes and shoes which were easy to get on without bending!

Along came Baby #3 and a planned section was booked. My op was second of the day and I was astounded when I saw the mum in the bed opposite who had her baby just an hour or two before mine  practically leap out of bed just hours afterwards.

I asked her secret which turned out to be arnica tablets. She generously shared her stash and I was up and about much sooner than usual for me as the arnica limits bruising - much of the pain from a section comes from the bruising in and out after the surgeon has rummaged around your insides.

She advised that results would be even better if I started the course of tablets (following instructions on packaging carefully) a day or two before the section - and when I had #4 I found she was right. I remain eternally grateful for this tip - thanks Mary!

I checked with my consultant who was happy for me to take arnica - it's worth putting in your birthing bag whatever type of delivery you expect as all deliveries cause bruising.

 You can buy it from chemists and health food shops in tablet or cream form. Buy tablets for post-op bruising. The cream comes in handy when your baby reaches the stage where they are forever bumping heads and legs.

So what about the feeling of guilt and failure I mentioned earlier? Well I came to realise that any successful birth is blessed. I hate the phrase "too posh to push." as surgeons generally will only perform sections if it is needed for physical or emotional reasons.  Only one person accused me of not trying hard enough for a "proper" birth and she had no children!

Let go of the guilt and focus on giving your baby the best start. Enjoy skin-to-skin cuddles as soon as possible after birth, and if this is not possible speak lots (and maybe even sing) to your newborn.

I felt lack of control the hardest thing - with my first pregnancy I made a birth plan and felt with a section I had lost ownership. It took me until my 7th and last baby to realise I could have input into the experience, after reading of American mums who made C-section birth plans.

After chatting to my consultant at around 30 weeks I was delighted to find this was possible with a planned section. I made a playlist of music for my operation and remember hearing Billy Joel crooning "She's Only a Woman" as Grumpy was delivered.

Most special however was his method of delivery. Normally baby is just eased out and with a spinal or epidural you can't really feel that moment of birth.  Usually baby is dangled over the screen which hides you from the mess of your lower half - occasionally your birth partner is invited to peek but that doesn't help mum much.
c-section baby

So after reading about brave American mums I asked if I could watch the delivery.

This was approved so the screen was up until my consultant was ready for the big moment and then it was lowered enough so that I could see. I will never ever forget the sight of my youngest leaving my body and swear I could feel it happen in a slithery non-painful way.

It sounds gory but I promise you it wasn't. Ive seen more blood on the teens Zombie console games. It made it so much easier to bond with Grumpy and I felt I had participated actively in what finally felt more like a birth than an operation.

Obviously this may not be possible in an emergency situation but to take ownership of your birth experience there are other things you can write into your C-section birth plan.

I asked the staff not to bathe my baby until I had held him/her, and not to dress them. The first time my husband went off and watched the bathing and dressing and I was presented with a clean, dressed infant which didn't feel like mine! The second time I asked if he could dress baby at my bedside which was marginally better but after that I asked for my "dirty" baby as soon as possible.

I breastfed 6 out of 7 of them, skin to skin, within hours of delivery which helped with bonding - my second daughter was too poorly for me to feed myself. I wasn't able to breastfeed all of them long term for varying reasons but that first feed is very special and good for them if you can manage it.

Now I'm going to talk about toilets. Post op you might be a bit windy and your insides might feel a bit bubbly. Going for a pee might feel a bit weird where the catheter has been but should not be painful in any way, unlike vaginal births where stitches can cause havoc with the whole lady parts area.

Having that first post-op poo is worth planning for. The effect of the drugs given for the op kinda slow down your gut and you can become very constipated. It's important to keep well hydrated and choose healthy fibre-rich foods from the hospital menu.

Oddly a cool wet wipe in that area (sorry if this is TMI) or even running water if there's a bidet might just help get things going. Your nurse will be slightly obsessed with your bowel movement so it's worth sorting it out. I was naughty and took in mild laxative tablets as my hospital refuses to discharge c-section patients until they have performed. I may not have mentioned this to my healthcare team!

newborn baby after c-section
Onto going home. Ask for help - don't be a hero. If someone wants to bring you dinner, clean your house, babysit while you snooze - accept it. You need to get over major surgery.

You might have heard that driving is banned for 6 weeks. This is not strictly true. You just need to check with your insurance company. However I would advise avoiding driving for at least a couple of weeks as you heal.

Apart from anything else it will force you to stay home and rest more! I was lucky and had friends picking me up for short outings and trips to the supermarket where they could help lifting the baby and car seat from car to trolley.

Take a tip from the old oriental custom of "babymoon" where new mothers are pampered in their home for a whole month. Take it slowly and try to avoid jumping straight back into normal life. I got cocky and actually split my scar doing this with one of my babies - not pleasant.

Overall don't worry about an impending C-section, don't look back at one with regret and don't feel like the whole birth is out of your hands. Be prepared and with a bit of luck you will almost enjoy the experience and as a bonus your vag will be as pristine as pre-birth and you will be able to pee without wincing! You'll probably find your sex-life can resume sooner than a vag birth mum if you want it to.

Good Luck!

madmumof7 with husband and children

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