Deciding to face a second cesarian section was a difficult one, especially for an indecisive person like myself.
I have no regrets regarding my decision, not to VBAC and have a healthy and thriving newborn.
I knew what to expect going in, which made the experience overall even more positive, less nerve-wracking, and at times, even easier recovery wise.
But I also know now I completely lied to myself over having a recovery that “wasn’t so bad” the first time once experiencing that old familiar pain.
I don’t know what it’s like to have a vaginal birth. But I do know that is it isn’t easy, yet they say the pain disappears once you hold your baby. Maybe the same is true for c-section recovery. Over time we forget the pain and instead it is replaced with the purest form of love that makes it worthwhile.
Not The Easy Way
I will never forget that feeling the first time standing up post-c-section. It’s a pain etched in my brain. The best way to describe it is feeling like a gutted fish with all your insides about to fall out but they won’t because they are resting on barbed wire. Ouch.
It’s a double-edged sword those first three days. You don’t want to do too much because of the pain but also need to get up and moving to make the pain more manageable when you do.
Having a cesarean isn’t the “easier” way to deliver just like having a c-section doesn’t make you less of a mother or your birth experience less than those who managed to go drug-free, embracing every contraction (although power to you, mama).
It is either pain and then a baby or baby and then pain for a long time after baby. Both result in motherhood, and I feel proud that I was able to get through it this way not once, but twice.
I have it in my memory that once I was home I was on the road to a fast recovery. Sure there were some speed bumps but that’s what the pain meds are for. I remember not needing to finish the small prescription and just take Motrin.
Did I block out the severity of the surgery after-effects? Or is the second time just different?
I recall being able to use the bathroom while still in the hospital and it not being that bad. The second time around was traumatic—I’ll leave it at that.
The day I came home from the hospital I could do a few stairs no problem and was up and straightening up my room and unpacking. This time around I decided to sleep downstairs on the couch to avoid the pain of our much longer stairway now in this house and our high bed.
I’ve also been up and on my feet, cooking and organizing. But find that if I take on too much that I am left needed to spend the rest of the day laying down and managing the pain.
I will say that each day gets better, easier and with less discomfort.
What To Expect: In The Hospital
This is what it’s really like after a second c-section.
For starters, the worst part for me is the epidural. This time I had a spinal and voiced my nervousness and concerns from the first time. My anesthesiologist was amazing. He was funny and made me trust him and feel comfortable. It actually wasn’t so bad because I knew what to expect.
The surgery itself also went much more smoothly. Again, I knew what to expect. This meant slightly fewer nerves and knowing what the pressure and tugging felt like.
Overall, the second time around was much better.
I found that my pain in the hospital seemed to be worse with the repeat cesarean when my meds wore off. I felt like I was sewed up tighter and my incision site was extremely painful, especially on one side.
There were moments where I felt close to no pain (thanks meds) and thought this was easier than the first time—especially that first day.
But then the pain would go from zero to 100 instead of creating on gradually. This meant it was hard for me to manage the pain and by the time I asked for meds my pain level was at a 7 to 9 out of 10.
We also decided to go home as early as we could, so meant skipping out of an extra day of rest and medication. But c-section mamas know that we are sent home with prescriptions to help for a few days.
Expect to be in pain no matter if its the first time or a repeat c-section. Don’t be a warrior and take those meds when offered or ask for them when in pain. I feel like this time I didn’t speak up as often as I should have that I was in pain.
Also expect to camp out for a few days, something you will remember from the first time. This might mean bringing things you wish you had the first time around like a cute matching robe and outfit for the baby or that fluffy pillow.
Expect recovery to happen slowly once home and be patient. Take a few minutes for yourself to not lose your sanity. Lack of sleep can make any mad—let alone top on crying baby and raging hormones. You did this before, you got this. Just make sure to take care of yourself too.
What To Expect: At Home
I was worried about opening up while caring for a toddler—something that happened to my sister’s friend. Only it was her first cesarian and her only child.
But I have lots of help from my husband and family members who cared for my older one while I focus on healing and baby. My tip here is getting a support system in place. Arrange the older child to spend a few days at Grandma’s. Healing is a necessity at first.
I also found that sleeping on the couch was a better alternative to my high bed for a few days. My family set up a temporary diaper station on my main level so I don’t need to go upstairs ten times a day, and I was grateful to be near the kitchen and a bathroom.
I found that like my first c-section as the incision pain lessens, the back pain increases. Brace yourself for a sore back for some time.
What To Expect: The Bathroom
Using the bathroom is also a challenge this time around. I was blessed the first time, to say the least.
I find that if I hold out for too long, I am left feeling bladder pain. So get up and go often.
Then there is the other kind of going.
I think this bathroom side of things is just as worse as that first-day pain.
My advice is to drink lots of water and take stool softeners. I also needed iron pills, but that combined with the pain meds meant constipation.
This is where a healthy diet filled with fiber comes in. Take advantage of family members who want to come to visit and bring food. Don’t feel ashamed to order out, and food shop online and have it delivered to get fresh, healthy food.
You still might want to be prepared for the worst so stock up on hemorrhoid cream just in case.
What To Expect: Nursing
My son had a rocky start to breastfeeding, but my daughter is doing much better. After getting down her latch that first day she is doing well nursing.
But I forgot how sore it can be. Load on up nipple cream. I use Bamboobies Organic Nipple Balm. I also recommend Lansinoh Smoothies Breast Gel Pads to wear in between feedings.
The second week can be hard and makes you feel like giving up because of how sore you are, but try to stick it through. I remember having a rough patch early on but was able to nurse my son until he was 2-year-old pain-free.
Breastfeeding should be enjoyable for both they say. This means nothing when your little one is sucking so hard at first and the pain is intense.
I am no lactation expert, just a mom who previously breastfed. I remember having a brief period of having soreness for the first few sucks then no discomfort. And this phase didn’t last long.
If there is pain, this means the baby isn’t latching right, so try to switch position. It could mean the baby is tongue-tied. Contact the La Leche League if pain continues.
What To Expect: Sibling Love And The Fight For Attention
A repeat c-section might mean you already have a little one at home. This means the fight for attention begins. But seeing the beginning of sibling love is the most beautiful thing a mother can witness.
My 3-year-old is straight up a mama’s boy. I know it’s cliche, but he is my best friend, my main man, my pal. We do everything together, from going for runs (him in the jogging stroller) to mommy and me yoga, music classes, you name it.
He is super independent, in school and plays well by himself.
And while he has a soft and sweet personality, it wasn’t the arrival of the new baby that had me worried with him. It was more of me not giving him all the attention he is used to.
I expected this, but this wasn’t the case—at first.
He adores his sister, using his sweet voice to say things like “aww baby sister” or “she’s so cute” while gently patting her. He invites her to come to the playroom when he wants me to play with him and once even asked if she would play “emergency vehicles” with him.
He learned that when she is nursing she is drinking and not biting me and to be quiet when she’s asleep.
The first week home went so well. But I had my family over every day. My sisters took turns coming over to play with him as did both my parents. He was preoccupied with attention elsewhere. And on top of it, it was his birthday so new toys captivated his attention.
Then the party was over.
Everyone went back to work, school, and their every day lives. He needed to go back to school and back in a bedtime routine. And he quickly learned that the baby is here to stay.
Week two included lots of tantrums, hitting (which he never does), and lots of placing himself into time out because of said hitting or throwing things.
But this was all to gain my attention.
He begged for me to sit and play with him, something that got easier as I continue to heal more each day. I made sure to spend 1-on-1 time with him like giving his bath even though it broke my back and taking a few minutes to play and cuddle. Or to play with toys with him and read books when the baby is sleeping.
I realized that a lot of the acting out was because he was bored. He is used to being out and about with me. This is where my husband stepped in to take him to his favorite play place or play “racing car” video games in his man cave.
His behavior hit me hard. I knew this was what was going to happen, but at first, it didn’t so I thought I was in the clear. I know that everyone is adjusting and this takes time.
My advice is to try to keep a routine and schedule. Take free time to spend with the toddler or pass off the baby to Daddy for some bonding time for the two. Invest in a Mamaroo, which my daughter loves, so she is content while focusing on the toddler.
I am almost 3 weeks into healing and know that is doesn’t happen overnight. Some days are better than others.
It is rough in the beginning when there is a major lack of sleep, combined with pain, and the demand of two little ones.
But then there are days where you feel like you got it, get shit done and have two happy and healthy babies. The pain fades and scars heal. At the end of the day, it’s so worth it.
Don’t be afraid of a repeat c-section. You did it before, and even if it was difficult or not what you had in mind for a birth plan, remember a healthy baby and mom is the most important thing.
It isn’t the easy way out and actually, might be harder. A repeat c-section means needed to heal after being cut open twice, and can be scary for those who have to tend to other children.
But week 2 is easier than week 1 and so on. By 8 weeks post-c-section, you will be well on your way to feeling more like yourself pre-pregnancy.