Taking care of a newborn is tough. Add recovering from major abdominal surgery, and it's the biggest double whammy of your life. But with a little inside information, you'll be able to take excellent care of your baby -- and yourself. Below, answers to some of your most common questions:
Will I really need to plan on having extra help at home?
Absolutely, especially if you have other children in the house. Though everyone heals at a different rate, it will certainly be a few weeks before you're feeling somewhat back to normal. A supportive husband, family member, baby nurse, or doula can help by taking care of many of the baby's needs and keeping the house in order. Most important, having an extra hand will let you get the rest you need.
How can I treat the pain?
While you're in the hospital, you'll most likely be given a narcotic such as Percocet or Codeine. But after 48 hours, you'll be switched to ibuprofen or acetaminophen, which you can continue to take under your M.D.'s advice once you're home. While all of these painkillers are secreted into the breast milk in trace amounts, the quantities are too small to harm your newborn, says William M. Gilbert, M.D., a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of California at Davis. So don't feel like you have suffer to protect your baby -- she'll be better off if Mom's comfortable.
Can I hold my baby?
Of course you can, but you might want to place a pillow over your incision to lessen the pressure. However, you do need to be very careful about lifting your little one, which can stress your wound. In the hospital, make use of the call button, and have a nurse transfer the infant from the bassinet to your bed. And when you're home, try to have someone pass you the baby until you're no longer feeling any discomfort from the incision. If you feel a pulling sensation when you pick up your child, you're probably not ready.
Will I be able to nurse right away?
If both you and your baby are doing well after the surgery, you shouldn't have to wait. Many women find that experimenting with positions -- particularly a side-lying one or the "football hold" (which tucks the infant under your arm with his head at your breast and legs behind you) -- helps reduce pressure on the incision.
How will I know if my incision becomes infected?
If you develop a fever that's accompanied by redness, increasing pain, or discharge from the wound, you may have an infection. In that case, call your doctor. And if you have trouble seeing the incision (or if you'd just rather not look), ask your partner to check it out.
What's the protocol on walking after surgery?
While the thought may drain the color from your face, try to get out of bed as early as eight hours after surgery. "The sooner, the better," says Dr. Gilbert. "Walking helps get your circulation flowing, which will help prevent blood clots, and it might even help your bowels move." Why's that important? Surgery can cause severe gas, and moving around will help you, well, expel it.