Maybe you’re having a planned C-section because your baby is breech, for medical reasons, or just because you want to. Perhaps you’re a natural worrier with a vaginal birth plan but want to feel prepared because you’re at higher risk of needing an emergency C-section. Or, your partner or friend has just had a C-section and you have no idea what to say or do to help. Whatever brought you to this article, welcome!
Help is here.
A year ago, I had a C-section to birth my beautiful son. Though I thought I knew a lot about the procedure (and, in many ways, I did) I found the experience to be totally different from what I was expecting. Instagram is responsible for a lot—chiefly, the glamorization of what is incredibly major abdominal surgery. Just because your favorite influencer was up and walking around within 12 hours, home after 48, and looked like she’d never been pregnant after two weeks, doesn’t mean you (or anyone else) will have the same experience. I’m a huge advocate of being open and honest about my experience, in hopes that someone else might benefit from it.
I’ve put together a list of 11 must-haves for the postpartum period. While some items might be universal, however a mom delivers, the list was created with C-section recovery in mind.
1. High-Waisted Everything
While the high waist trend seems here to stay, it’s unlikely that everything in your closet has a waist high enough to accommodate your incision. Low-rise thongs are out, big high-rise panties are in. And while you’re shopping for those, high-rise leggings that can be easily pulled up to your natural waist are also must-haves. Though you want comfort, high-waist leggings with a little compression can give you the support you need in the first weeks as you find your feet again.
2. Your Own Hospital Gown
This might seem like an unnecessary splurge, but this really isn’t about looking cute in the delivery room or O.R. I packed two Kindred Bravely delivery gowns, which I washed and dried several times until soft before packing in my hospital bag. Their C-section gowns have Velcro panels from top to bottom, front and back, for easy placement of an epidural/spinal, monitoring of vitals, and post-birth “massages.” Putting them on made me feel a little more comfortable, at home, and put together during my hospital stay (which is typically longer after a section than vaginal birth).
3. Ice Packs
Post-C-section mamas don’t seem to get all the hospital “swag” (what, no Dermoplast?) that their vaginal birthing counterparts get, but it’s worth asking your nurses for ice packs during your stay and before you head home. Once you’re off the heavy-hitting painkillers, it can be hard to get comfortable around an incision. I found the cooling pads typically used for the perineal region to be a godsend.
4. A Hot Water Bottle or Microwaveable Hot Pillow
While cool might be soothing on your incision, you’ll also want something warm and comforting while your body heals. Most (all?!) moms feel sore all over after having a baby, but all that tugging and pulling to get baby out leaves C-section moms feeling like they’ve been through the wringer too. Painful back spasms (even before you’re hunched over feeding your baby!) are incredibly common after epidurals and spinals, even if they are rarely talked about. I’ll admit to googling if they were normal from my hospital bed. A good hot water bottle in a cozy cover, or a wheat bag that can go in the microwave, will be an indispensable tool as you recover from your section.
5. A Neutral, Fast-Lathering Shower Gel
In those first six weeks, having a shower each day to keep your incision clean and hasten the removal of your Steri-Strips (as well as any remaining adhesive from your bandage) is really important. Having a neutral-smelling, easy lathering shower gel will be a huge help in this process. And it’ll make you feel clean, which is one thing every new mom wants and needs postpartum.
6. Luxurious Pajamas, Robe, and Slippers
While those social media moms might be back on their feet pushing their fancy strollers within 72 hours, your average human being needs to focus on recovery for much longer. Whether you’re a first-time mom or not, you really deserve some nice new pajamas, a soft robe, and some luxurious slippers to see you through your first weeks post-surgery. Think soft, flowing fabrics: Pima cotton, modal, etc., with soft, stretchy waistbands and button-up tops or a beautiful soft nightgown. You’ll probably be spending quite a bit of time in bed or on your couch, so you want to wear something that makes you feel nice.
7. A Grabber
Hear me out here, because you’ll probably think I’ve lost it on item number 7! But honestly, this might be the one thing you never thought you needed, but that saves you. I found bending over for things absolutely impossible for the first couple of weeks post-section, because I felt like I was going to split in half. But which new mom hasn’t dropped a diaper, pack of wipes, TV remote, or snack bag when no one was around to help? Not a single one, that’s who. You don’t have to admit this purchase to anyone, but you’ll be glad to have it when you’re on the couch while your significant other is out buying some kind of delicious meal/fast food for you to help keep you going.
8. A Stash of Easy Meals, Restaurant Gift Cards, or a Meal Train
While we’re on that train of thought… this is definitely something applicable to all new families, because it can be hard to eat well with a newborn at home. During my nesting phase I planned to make (and bought supplies for!) lots of soups, casseroles, and bakes to freeze, then thaw and bake when baby arrived. My son was born at 37 weeks, and I’d managed to make a solitary batch of soup. I’d recommend starting early or asking others to help you stock your freezer with nutritious meals. Similarly, don’t be shy to ask for practical help—you’ve just had surgery. Call on friends to drop by with a pasta dish, soup, sandwiches, or a bag of snacks. Instead of yet another car seat cover/swaddle/sleepsuit, be honest on your registry and ask for a restaurant gift card or batch of lactation cookies. One thing I’ve learned is that people really do want to help, but they aren’t quite sure how. Offering direct requests helps.
9. A Subscription to Audible
One of the things I really missed in the weeks after having my son was reading a book. I was spending a lot of time resting, but there was usually a small person resting on top of me, and he was very demanding of my attention. It took months before I picked up a book again, and even a year postpartum I don’t read as much as I did pre-pregnancy. If you’re like me, I highly recommend getting a subscription to Audible, the audiobook service which is part of Amazon. It’s affordable, and each month you get a credit to download a new audiobook (others are available for purchase but can be pricy depending on the title). I really enjoyed listening to books during night feeds, and I still enjoy listening to them in the car.
10. A Pedicure
Last, but by no means least, get yourself (or your friend or partner) a pedicure. I’d highly recommend doing this before you deliver because it’ll take quite some time after your C-section before you feel like bending over and tending to your toes. I saw my pedicurist about four days before I delivered, and I was weirdly happy whenever I looked down at my neatly polished toes both in the hospital and the couple of weeks that followed. It’s such a small act of self-care that has long-lasting ripples in the postpartum period.
11. Scar Mobilization Guidance
This is perhaps the most important thing on this list, and also the least indulgent and exciting. There are lots of free videos on YouTube and Instagram, as well as more detailed, inexpensive courses and online workshops to help you feel confident in massaging your scar (you’ll want to start as soon as it’s fully healed) and helping relieve and prevent pain and tightness in your lower abdomen. I used the Southern Pelvic Health C-Section Scar Masterclass and highly recommend it. You can also get silicone mats and cups on Amazon to help assist in the process.
I’m sure some of these suggestions seemed like common sense, but I hope you enjoyed reading about—and that you learned from—my experience post-C-section. Whether your belly birth was planned or not, the most important thing is that you give yourself plenty of grace and time to heal and repair your body. It’s not a race to get back to normal, and it’s important to remember that “normal” might feel a little different for a while. You’ve got this, Mama!