C-Section Secrets: What I Wish I had Known Before My Surgery!

Let’s admit it, we’ve all fantasized about the ideal birth. The moment you find out you’re pregnant, you start looking into birthing classes.  Will you do it Au Naturale? Bradley? Lamaze? Hypnobirth? There are so many options and so many classes, but I didn’t find one that prepares you for a C-section.

With C-section rates over 30%, you’d think something would be offered to educate us on exactly what to expect and how to make the best out of a surgical birth experience. Sure, the general birthing class might skirt the issue of C-sections, but when I had my first, I had NO IDEA what to expect. Now that I’ve had three, I feel like kind of an expert. Well, maybe not an expert, but a C-section guru of sorts. So, I am going to impart my wisdom in a blog series called “C-Section Secrets.”  This week: things I wish I had known BEFORE I went to the hospital for surgery.

Kacey's C-Section
Introducing Lola Bean!

They shave your Hoo-Ha. Yep. I wasn’t expecting that because frankly, why would I? It makes sense that the area would have to be sterilized etc., but I just never went there. And I mean literally never went there, because that area had disappeared from sight months ago… and you know, out of sight out of mind. I will say, knowing this piece of information the second and third time around, I came to the party prepared and boy did the nurses appreciate it. So, if you can, do a little grooming yourself or make an appointment to get waxed. It will save you from an awkward moment with the nurse. Probably TMI here, but knowledge is power, right!?

The operating room is freaking BRIGHT! I had never had prior surgery, so this was the first time I had stepped into an OR. It’s no Grey’s Anatomy people. No dimmed incandescent light. Just BRIGHT cold fluorescent lighting. The room is cold, and it can be a bit scary if you don’t know what to expect.

Your anesthesiologist is your best friend during surgery! Most of you know they put a tent up over your chest so you can’t see the doctors working on you. In my experience, the doctors talked to each other and not to me. If it weren’t for my anesthesiologist, I wouldn’t have had a clue what was going on. They stick with you through the entire surgery asking if you need more pain meds and walking you through what’s going on. Befriend the guy with drugs!

Expect weird smells and lots of pressure! Just because you are numb from the waist down, does not mean you can’t feel anything. There is A LOT of pressure, tugging, and pulling. It doesn’t hurt, but you can feel those sensations. My first C-section I felt like someone was jumping on my chest and it freaked me out. Turns out that is normal. I will say, if you are ever uncomfortable, tell your anesthesiologist. He has all sorts of prescription painkilling goodies and will do his best to make you comfortable.

Smells you ask? Yes… I remember my first c-section I was wondering what that burning smell was. Almost like burnt popcorn. Turns out the smell was me and caused by the cauterizing tool they use to minimize bleeding during surgery. Again, kinda gross, but now you know.

Having a catheter is weird. Not weird feeling, because you don’t feel it, but just weird in general. They will insert the catheter after your spinal block and really you wouldn’t notice it at all in recovery if it weren’t for the tube taped to your leg connected to the bag full of pee on the side of the bed. I must admit–it is pretty nice not having the sensation of having to pee (especially after you’ve spent the last few months having to go every two seconds.)

They will take the catheter out 6-12 hours after surgery. That is when it really feels weird.  It’s like you have to pee, but your body has forgotten how. All I can say is relax and prepare to sit on the toilet for a long time. Turn on the water in your bathroom and just sit there. It will eventually happen, but it can be frustrating, and I found myself feeling almost panicky at the sensation of not being able to pee. It will happen… you just have to give it time.

Kacey's C-Section

A nurse will come and “massage” your uterus. I use quotations because it isn’t really massaging as much as pressing near your incision freaking hard. It hurts, and I wasn’t prepared for that, but it helps contract your uterus back to its normal size and lets them make sure it is shrinking as it should.

PREPARE YOUR HUSBAND! Since you have just had major abdominal surgery, you can’t do much. So what does that mean? Your husband (or someone else) has to do A LOT those first few days. He will be the one changing pretty much all those diapers until you are up and moving. Don’t forget newborns eat every 2-3 hours and you can’t get up to get the baby. Your husband will need to hand you the baby to feed and fetch you water when you need it and hand you your phone so you can take cute pictures and help you out of bed when you are struggling to get up and… the list will go on. He should be happy to do it, but giving him a heads up will prepare him for the job he has ahead.

So there you have it. Things I wish I had known before my first C-Section. Are there things that surprised you or you’d wish you’d known about your birth experience?

Read the second part of my series here: C-Section Secrets Part II: Have a Birth Plan!

Kacey Roache
Kacey Roache is a Jacksonville native who lives in Ponte Vedra with her husband, TJ, and her three kids, Lucy, Lucas and Lola. Kacey graduated from Florida State University (Go Noles!) with a degree in interior design. She is passionate about the arts and arts education and has served on the board of Art with a Heart in Healthcare, Ponte Vedra Public Education Foundation for the Arts, Christ Church Creative Academy as well as the PTOs at her kids' school. In her spare time you might find her channeling her inner Serena Williams on the tennis court, performing in community theater, or enjoying the beach with her friends and family. Follow her family's chaos on Instagram: @kaceyroachepvb


  1. Kacey, I enjoyed your read. It is pretty insightful. Having 2 c sections myself I agree with everything. I had 3 no I babies so my “after” the surgery was a little different. A soon as the catheter came out and pressure boots came off, I had to be up walking. To be able to see my babies for the first time I would have done anything. They give you a quick glimpse of the baby before whisking them to a neonatologist. So sad actually. Something you didn’t mention that I am sure you will at some point is the constant counting of “tools” they are using to make sure mom is left inside of you. Ugh. Gross!

  2. Or you could end up shaking and barfing on the table, very scary, pretty normal and happened to me. I had to have them take away my little guy so I didn’t hit him. No adorable post surgery pic for me. I then had a reaction to the anti nausea medicine and didn’t wake up for 2 hours, but I was up and walking 3 hours post c-section. While it is nice to have help, I was like a “vaginal birth mom” according to the nurses because I made myself get up and going. It can be done! Splint your incision and try to take only as many meds as you need is my advice. It is creepy seeing the incision for the first time, but don’t worry, it will get much smaller 🙂

  3. Yes, the shaking! I remember shaking so badly afterwards I couldn’t really hold anything. Great post, Kacey! SO helpful for first time C-sectioners!

  4. You got it all right!! Just had my second C last week and all of the above happened. Wish I had read this before because it would have def helped:) I know this will help a lot of moms.

  5. Some of the details are likely going to be different at different hospitals, and at least one local hospital keeps the baby in the OR with mom, with no separation unless there is a health issue.

    If anyone is interested, we have a local chapter of the international Cesarean Awareness Network – we offer recovery support & help planning future births.

    Definitely an important series. Florida’s cesarean rate is about 38%, so almost 4/10 births end in surgery.

  6. As a fellow mother of three (and three C-Sections), I feel as though you illuminated several points. For me, I felt quite angry that the birth of my first child did not go according to plan (my birth plan was laminated, if that tells you anything); and the shaking afterwards was INSANE! However, excellent series…good job on raising the veil on a subject that is definitely one of those where it is best to have more information than less. For me, I would have loved to have read this before…I was looking for real-life experiences and while I could find lots of vaginal birth experiences, no one was writing about C-Sections. Thank you for writing this!!

    • I’ve had 2 c-sections, each a bit different, and felt this was right in target. For the first one, I actually had a very bad bloo pressure spike (preeclampsia) and had to be sedated after the surgery for a day. Had little guy on a Wednesday night but didnt see him again until Friday afternoon, not that I really knew it. What I wish I’d known (besides the COLD ER and the shaking) was that the incision can “weep” days later. I thought I’d busted something open and it was the weekend and I almost headed to the ER. Thank goodness for doc on call, who assured me it was normal. Also, try to get staples out two days or so after c-section. With my first, not only was I sedated, but it went into a holiday weekend so I was 5 days post c-section by time of staple removal. That hurt worse than surgery. So much that I actually requested pain meds and anxiety pill before they did it with my second c-section. Before I even swallowed the pill, the nurse said she was done. What a difference! Also, make friends with your nurses. If you are there a while, like I tend to be (8 days with kid 1, 6 days with kid 2), they are a lifeline, physically and socially!

  7. Great article! I have one more quirky post-C story and, since you went there with the woo-ha tip, I feel like sharing! After surgery, they want to be sure everything’s working right. The way the do that is by not letting you eat until you – *ahem* – fart. I couldn’t. The result was two days without food and an ever growing belly. You could tap on it and hear how hollow it was. Walking in the hallway late at night a mom in labor asked if I was having a boy or a girl! Of course I cussed her out and then cried like a baby. The tip I wish I knew earlier was not to eat meat the night before a C. It moves too slowly through the digestive track!

  8. I had 2 c-sections and was up and changing diapers in hospital! Not because my husband wasn’t helpful or didn’t do them too but I knew that the sooner I was up and about the faster my body would bounce back! And it did both times. Like a previous commenter said it can be done!

  9. It’s incredibly important to NEVER judge someone else’s recovery by yours. Pain, surgeries, doctors, uterine harm, bladder damage, etc may make their recovery VERY different. It hurt beyond hurting the first week and I walked, got up, did things and still hurt. I should have sat the heck down and rested and taken it easy. I’d just had a major abdominal surgery and a baby. Recovery is individual and should be treated as such.

  10. I am going in for my 3rd cs this afternoon. It really helps to read this to get me in the right frame of mind. It might be a little gross, but worth mentioning that they won’t let you go home till you have a bm. For me, this was worse than the cs. Both times It took days, and no amount of prune juice or stool softeners did the trick. By the end of the 5th day after my 2nd cs I was so uncomfortable they had to do an enima. Worst. Experience. Ever. Personally, I fear that more than anything.


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