Having a cesarean? A doula’s perspective...

So many of our clients have had cesareans (including me!) and when they call us from the hospital to set up their postpartum care I have 2 main things I warn them about (based on hundreds of clients struggling with these particular issues). For all the people I can’t call, I offer you these: #1 Take the stool softeners. I know this is intimate and I haven’t even met you yet, but this is pain-saving advice that women have echoed, no SHOUTED with regret about afterward! Every time they offer you a pain med, request a stool softener. EVERY TIME. They won’t give it to you if you are taking too much, but I don’t know what the ‘too much’ level is when you are talking about not pooping for a week. Seriously.

Surgery stops digestion in its tracks, and then the narcotics given—that BTW make a huge difference in your pain, so find one that works for you ASAP—can constipate you in the worst way. I have some horror stories I won’t share about waiting outside the bathroom holding a baby while the mom cried on the toilet for hours. Really. It’s not pretty. Ask the nurses/docs for stool softeners!

c-section mama meets baby
c-section mama meets baby

#2 A word for partners and family. Day 3 is often a very hard day for moms after a c-section. Her milk will be coming in, her body will be starting to feel the pain that she experienced with the surgery, and she will be really exhausted and crashing from not sleeping much those early days (because most of us are on hyper-alert after birth unless we are heavily drugged).

If you can just know that she will be extra emotional (we call it the roller coaster) and that it is mostly hormones and totally normal, it can make that adjustment so much smoother. I tell partners this because sometimes they get a little scared at how irrational moms are acting, and it is so normal that we forget to tell partners to expect it. And since dads and partners have to hold everything together in those early days, it can be helpful info to know.

I’ll tell you a secret: as a postpartum doula I am especially excited when mom starts to get weepy, irrational, anxious, snippy, and overwhelmed because I know that plentiful milk is very close and breastfeeding is going to feel a lot more successful VERY SOON!

One last word: having a cesarean does not mean you have failed somehow. It does not mean you can’t breastfeed successfully. It does not mean you won’t be the best mom for this new baby (or these twins/triplets). It does mean you grew a whole baby (or several) inside your body and now you get to raise those babies! It also means that you will likely need more support early on as your body recovers and you get your mobility back. Ask for help. Allow others to take care of you for a few weeks. Call a doula. She can help in so many ways. You won’t regret it.