No one likes staying in the hospital. Those delivering vaginally can choose to give birth at home or at a birthing center. But even then, they may need to be rushed to the hospital for an emergency c-section if something unexpected happens, such as the umbilical cord getting around the baby’s neck.
I have always been a bit petrified of hospitals. I knew one way or the other; I was going to be stuck in one for a little while after having my eldest. The one thing about China that helped was that you go to the hospital for your checkups, while in the states, you go to a doctor’s office. I got used to having to go to the hospital.
I didn’t like it, but it became more familiar to me. On that note, I urge you to check out the hospitals in your area well before your procedure. Ask your doctor what they recommend and where they can be to deliver your baby. If you have a choice, look around the hospital and make sure you’re satisfied.
In China, the hospitals weren’t exactly clean 🙁 . They smelled, and not like that sterilized smell. They smelled. Like a dirty bathroom smell. Which is why I was so relieved that the OR was gleaming with spotlessness. That was my only consolation.
Anyway, back to you. You’re probably wondering what kind of thrills await you during your c-section hospital stay, right? How long will you be there? When can you go home? What happens while you’re there? Oh, doll. So many questions, I know. So here are my best answers for you.
When Can I Go Home?
I’ll take this one first. You get to go home when the hospital clears you. You’ll be in for about four days, depending. The factors that could make you stay longer are related to any complications. You may even be discharged earlier, depending on your insurance coverage.
For me, I was in there a bit longer, for the first one at least. That’s because I went into labor and remained stagnant for nearly 24 hours. With an emergency c-section, you could have a more extended hospital stay, but only by a day or two.
What Happens After My C-Section?
If you want to know what will go down during the procedure, be sure to read my post about that. It will help you become more comfortable knowing what you’ll be going through. You won’t feel a thing. Try not to panic and get stressed out. It’s not right for you or the baby!
As for the after c-section portion, here’s a rough guide of what will happen.
One hour after
With my first, I remember being wheeled out of the OR and hearing my husband tell me I did it and it was a girl, that she was beautiful and that he loved me. The next thing I knew, I was in our hospital room with a team of staff buzzing around me, checking my vitals and all sorts of things. Eventually, they cleared away, and one of them handed me my baby, so I could start breastfeeding her.
In the states, I’m told you generally get put in a post-op area to be observed, and once all is under control with the IV and catheter all secured and in place, they’ll wheel you into your hospital room.
Like me, you won’t feel a thing in the lower half of your body. If they put you to sleep, you may feel a bit woozy. I did after my first c-section but not after my second one.
In my story about giving birth, I mentioned how my breastfeeding coach Vivien was like an angel that came into our room. She helped me get my eldest latched on and settled. My in-laws were the other visitors, plus another friend, who was due just a week later and had the same doctor as me, who showed up to see how I was when she came for her checkup.
In the states, you need to check your hospital policies about visitors. You may want to restrict them too. Obviously, you’ll want your husband there. Perhaps your mom or another relative or friend you’re close to. Outside of that, you may want to tell other well-wishers to wait until you’re settled at home.
My advice on that: make them wait. Newborns are very susceptible to germs.
There have been many sad cases where a relative lovingly planted a kiss on a new baby, unknowingly transmitting germs that would kill that sweet baby. As a doctor’s daughter, I can tell you my dad always warned me about viruses. He would tell me that it takes about 72 hours from when your body becomes infected to show signs of it.
Some people carry these germs and are never affected by them because their immunity is strong. Other times, it catches you when you’re burning the candle at both ends, and you wind up sick.
Babies have no immunity yet. It starts growing from day one with your breastmilk to keep them healthy. But it takes time to build. So, protect your baby first and foremost and try to keep an influx of well-meaning visitors out, at least for the first month.
Anyway, back to your c-section hospital stay…
One day after
Assuming all has gone well, you’ll only be given ice chips and liquids like broth. In China, I got xifan, a soup made of water and millet, which isn’t my favorite thing by miles. You’re not allowed to start on solids at this point.
You will also have nurses massaging your midsection to help your uterus contract and shrink back to size. This, my dears, was horrible. It was so painful I screamed for more pain meds. I know they were trying to help, but at the time, I thought it was some crazy Chinese custom. Apparently, it’s not, so you’re in for it too. Hang in there. It’s awful, but it will help you recover faster. Breastfeeding will, too, so nurse as often as you can.
The pain generally comes to a head at 18 hours post-surgery. The anesthesia wears off, and you’ll get a narcotic in the form of a pill or, like me, a nice IV drip that you can control. I had this for my first c-section, but my husband had to shout at them to bring me more meds for my second one. I couldn’t sleep, and they kept turning off our air conditioning because, in China, they think air conditioning can kill you.
Two days after
Now is the day that your catheter will come out! Yay! Honestly, I was a little sad to see it go both times simply because I had to pee so many times while pregnant that it was nice not to have to get up to pee! It will feel a little uncomfortable at first, and then you’ll be led to the bathroom to use the toilet.
I mentioned in another post that you should always have someone coming with you as you walk around. Even to the bathroom. It can be hard to raise and lower yourself onto the toilet. My husband made me laugh when he took me, which hurt me more.
From there, your doctor will tell you to walk around a few times a day. The more you can stretch yourself out and move around, the better your recovery will be. It hurts. It really does. But someone will be with you, helping you walk more like a shuffle. Take a walk down the hall to look at other babies. That made me smile when I did.
Whatever you do, just ensure you keep up the physical activity gently and slowly. This will help your circulation and bowel function and ultimately get you back to feeling like your regular self.
Another fun thing you might get to do on the second day in the hospital after your c-section is when taking a shower. As I mentioned in another post, in China, they won’t let you shower after a c-section unless you use a special waterproof bandage. In the US, they encourage showering afterward.
If you feel uneasy in the shower (remember, no baths!), have your husband hold you up or hang on to the railing in the hospital shower and let him soap you up. Not the sexiest shower time for either of you, but it’s necessary.
Three days after
Most in the US are relieved of their IV by the third day. It’s a bit hazy for me, but I think I was too. Here is the part where they keep coming after you for a fart check. Yes, really. Once you pass gas, you get to eat. 😮
Incidentally, gas is horrible when you’re recovering from a c-section. Once your bowels get back to normal, you’ll feel much better. Those regular short shuffles around the hospital floors will help things get moving and alleviate the discomfort, at least from gas.
It was on this day that I finally got food. I was so happy! I couldn’t wait to eat, though being in a hospital in China, it was not what I wanted to eat. The food was simple Chinese food, but not like the stuff you get at your local takeout. I just wanted mashed potatoes and gravy, the comfort food that I always turn to, even now, when I feel sick, sad, or stressed.
Hopefully, the food you’re served will be better!
Four days after
If all is well, you should be going home on this day. Depending on how your doctor sealed you up, you may need to have staples removed. I had sutures that dissolved on their own. You’ll get another bandage change and some meds to take along with you.
Since I can’t read Chinese very well, my husband had to take care of all the paperwork for my release on the day I was discharged (I believe it was five days after surgery for me). Meanwhile, one of the kind nurses that spoke English came in to talk to me about caring for my incision and other things to help me recover faster. She told me to take it easy, not lift anything except the baby, and to have my husband call and confirm my postpartum checkup six weeks later.
I just posted about do’s and don’ts after your c-section, which is a good one to read up on. I know I told you about taking it easy with physical activity, but I’m not sure I told you about stairs. Going up and downstairs is a bad idea. Not only that, it hurts.
I know this first-hand because, in China, all buildings with less than ten floors are not required to have elevators (except hospitals, obviously). Our building had eight, and we were on the 6th one. I had to trudge up all of these stairs to get home. My in-laws carried the baby and our bags from the hospital, and my husband carried me. I was in no hurry to go anywhere after that. The walking I did for recovery was back and forth in our apartment.
Keep reading about hospital bags to find out what I recommend you put in yours.
What to Pack in Your C-Section Hospital Bag?
This list contains things I used, plus things my friends here in the states used when they went in for their c-sections. Hopefully, all of our ideas together help you to be fully prepared!
- Something that plays the music you like (iPod or whatever you’ve got)
- Camera (or the one on your smartphone)
- Your birth plan, as discussed with your doctor (sign off on it!)
- Best clothes for after your c-section (read my clothing post)
- Clothes for the baby (season appropriate with baby hats too)
- Nipple cream
- Breast pump (in case your breasts become engorged)
- Charging cables
- Toiletries (toothbrushes, toothpaste, etc.)
- Baby blankets
- Breast pads
Your husband will likely want to bring some things, but hey, dads? Please pack your stuff. She’s going crazy enough getting ready to have a baby, ok? Thanks!
Back Home Again After C-Section
Remember to take it easy once you get back home. The most important thing is the health of you and your baby too. Your husband will likely have to handle a lot during this time, but other family members and friends can also help if you need them to.
For more tips on recovery after your c-section, read my post so you can get back to moving around the way you used to. Try not to worry about the procedure. Before you know it, it will be over, and this will all be a faint memory with the most precious memento you’ll ever know.
Leslie Berry lives with her husband and two young daughters in Los Altos, California, where she loves helping other moms get comfortable with motherhood and embracing the insanity with facts peppered with laughs.
She loves eating too much sushi, exercising, and jamming out on her Fender. Read more about Leslie here.