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  • Jordan Quinn

Planning a Repeat C-Section: What I'm Changing The Second Time

Updated: Nov 6, 2023

If you're planning your first c-section or contemplating a repeat c-section, you may be wondering what sorts of things you can prepare for. As a fellow mom who's been through it, I'm here to share what I’m personally doing differently the second time. From prepping your mind to managing expectations, here are tips that I followed to improve my planned c-section in case they can help you too.

Table of Contents

1. Mental Preparation Is Key

My first c-section was unplanned, and while I knew a c-section was a risk in any birth, I didn’t really think about it actually happening to me beforehand. Let’s just say I thought a lot about it afterward, lol. When (after much debate) I decided that my second birth was going to be a planned c-section rather than a VBAC (vaginal birth after c-section), I knew I had to get mentally prepared.

While browsing helpful relaxation tips, I gravitated towards those that were called “hypnobirthing breathing techniques” — I figured that if it worked for women attempting to deliver without pain relief, then hopefully those tactics could keep me calm and focused when on the table. It actually ended up helping a ton. I also chose a few mantras that felt authentic to me that I could repeat if needed. For me, this was ”I am getting closer to meeting my baby”, “we are in safe hands”, and "this is safest for him".

Acknowledge your feelings, both the excitement and nerves. Accept that while you've been through it before, every experience is unique. Positive affirmations and mindful breathing can help calm those jitters.

2. Embrace the Familiarity in a Repeat C-Section

While every pregnancy is different, the process of a planned c-section will be familiar to those who are doing a repeat one. You know what to expect during pre-op procedures, anesthesia, and the surgery itself. It also helped that my partner had also been through it before, so he had a sense of familiarity and confidence as well. As a result, I was comforted by their presence even more, compared to the first time when we were both wide-eyed and trying to be brave.

Embrace this familiarity; it can ease anxiety and make the experience smoother. You know more than you knew then. And most importantly, you know you can get through this because you already did.

3. Bring-Your-Own Comfort

During my first surgery, I remember listening to everything on high alert. I was trying to hear what the doctors were saying, the noises of the machines, and the anaesthesiologist giving the play-by-play. It was sensory overload — I don’t recommend it.

This time, I created my own little cocoon of comfort that included playing a relaxing playlist near my head and focusing on my husband if needed. I think I asked them to just let me know when the baby is about to emerge so I can tune back in for the big moment.

Bring anything that can help you chill out until there is a cute baby to distract you.

4. Pack Practically

There are actually two bags you’ll pack — one for your surgery and one for your postpartum room. Only bring in your surgery bag when checking into the hospital — this will include any essential documents for checking in, entertainment in case there is a long wait beforehand, any comfort items for during the surgery, and of course your phone and charger cord for photos. You’ll often spend around 1-2 hours in an interim recovery room after surgery and then be transported to your postpartum room.

Once you are settled in your postpartum recovery room, your partner can go to the car to bring your second bag that has everything you need for your stay. The rooms are tight and the hospital will provide pretty much everything you need, so check out our packing checklist to keep things minimal. The last thing you want when you’re heading home with the newborn is to be lugging tons of heavy bags filled with items you didn’t even need. This time, I’m keeping it streamlined but adding a soft robe for walking the halls, flip-flops for the shower, and a black-out eye mask.

Having items that provide comfort and familiarity can make your hospital stay more pleasant. Avoid overpacking to avoid unnecessary clutter in the small room and the stress of lugging it all home.

5. Share Your Preferences via a Birth Plan

I wrote my birth plan and brought it to my last two appointments to discuss with the doctor. This was incredibly helpful because 1) it identified anything that was confusing so I could clarify it, and 2) the doctor could tell me which items were totally fine and which (if any) could not be honored due to a medical reason or hospital policy. This really helped get us both on the same page because it gave me a chance to ask questions about the requests that were declined (as opposed to learning in the moment), and it also helped set my expectations as to how everything would unfold.

Due to going into labor early, I ended up having an entirely different doctor for my surgery (and it was very rushed), so having a written document helped get us aligned quickly.

I had one page for the delivery and a separate page for the recovery, which included pain management, baby care, feeding preferences, etc. Having a plan also helps ensure that you and your partner have already made key decisions regarding the baby’s care upfront, as opposed to making lots of decisions in the moment, which can feel stressful. I discussed the plan with my partner so that they were 100% clear with everything on it, with the expectation that they would advocate for the plan while I tried to focus on my headspace. I then printed up 5 copies to bring to the hospital so that any nurse, assistant, surgeon, or anaesthesiologist could have a copy if needed.

Remember, this is your delivery. Clear communication will help ensure that it feels that way. Discuss your preferences with your medical team, otherwise, they will just do whatever the default approach is. From pain management to having the baby placed on your chest immediately after birth, your preferences matter. Transparency with your medical team ensures you're on the same page.

6. Lean on Your Support System

During my first c-section, I was hesitant to ask for help when I got home. I wanted to feel strong and capable, which meant I tried to tough it out. This time, I'm enlisting my support system from the start and I’m not bashful about it at all.

Two things helped change my individualistic mindset. With my first baby, I thought "I decided to have this baby, he is my responsibility" and didn't realize that people wanted to help with him. It wasn't work to them, it was a joy. Let them in on that joy.

The second shift happened when my father-in-law later told my husband "Remember, how you feel about him (our treasured toddler), is how I feel about you." So, think about your kids going through a similar recovery or struggle in the future -- wouldn't you want them to accept help and suffer less? Then do the same for yourself.

Whether it's your partner, family, or friends, let them be there for you. They want to help, so don't hesitate to delegate tasks and rely on them.

You CAN do it alone, but why suffer any more than you need to? By asking for help you will be able to enjoy the early days with the baby more.

6. Be Clear About What Help You Want (or Don't Want)

There will be many offers to hold the baby, and that does help you take a much-needed nap occasionally. However, we quickly learned (and vocally expressed) that the most helpful thing family could do was to help with our toddler. I was perfectly fine sitting with the baby (it was one of the few things I actually could do!), but our toddler needed activity, love, and attention which was hard for us to dedicate to him at that time.

So, make your default response “Yes please!” and follow it up with "actually if..." after if you want to adjust the help.

Do you want me to drop off food? (Yes please!)

Do you want me to help you with laundry? (Yes please!)

Do you want me to hold the baby so you can nap? (Yes please!...actually if you could help wash the dishes instead, it is hard for me to lean over the sink.)

Do you want me to take the other kids for a few hours? (Yes please!)

8. Set Realistic Expectations Upfront — For Yourself and Others

After my first c-section, I thought I could bounce back quickly. Reality hit me hard. This time, I'm setting more realistic expectations — for myself and others. C-section recovery takes time and if you push it, you might end up back in the hospital. Allow yourself to rest, heal, and adjust to your new routine at your own pace.

For me, this meant no visitors at the hospital. That was a place of pure recovery where I could just focus on feeling better and figuring out breastfeeding, and not worry about looking presentable or having my in-laws walk in while I'm feeding topless. We set the expectation upfront so there were no surprises or hurt feelings.

My partner and I also jointly set the expectation that people might not meet the baby for the first week or so — it would depend on how we are feeling. For my first son, I missed seeing his grandparents meeting him because I was upstairs in bed and was feeling too physically and emotionally fragile to face the stairs (or seeing anyone) when they stopped by. For my second delivery, I ended up feeling better faster this time around, so we did invite grandparents earlier, but they were prepared to be patient and wait for our cue.

Communicating your preferences and boundaries upfront helps to avoid hurt feelings or confrontations later on. This is your delivery, your recovery, and your baby. You call the shots here. Particularly for those early days. Hopefully your family is understanding and supportive, and if not then it sounds like those boundaries are probably a good idea to have in place ahead of time.

9. Cherish Bonding Time

Cuddling with your newborn is a magical moment. Or at least I really hope it is for you. With my first, I was so stressed out by the newness of everything that it was hard to pause and enjoy. But the second time around you have the wisdom that every hard stage has an end. The pain of your surgery has an end. The pain of breastfeeding goes away. The feeding every 2 hours has an end. The sleepless nights have an end.

That gave me the confidence heading into my second time around to not try to “fix” everything that felt hard and to just settle into it, knowing that these phases move very quickly in the first few weeks. There’s no rush to a finish line — these little babies just need a little time for their bodies and brains to grow and then things get much easier.

This time, I decided to prioritize cuddles and skin-to-skin time. I was going to feed on demand and try to avoid pumping the first few weeks because that stressed me out last time. Turns out, a less stressed mama helps everything fall into place a little more.

So try to settle into the chaos and lean into your “couch days”, contact naps, and stare at their tiny faces and toes for hours. Because those little faces and toes also get bigger quickly.

10. Embrace Crying as a Call for Connection (For You and Baby)

By this point, I did enough therapy to learn that it's better to cry your emotions out than keep them in. Despite it still feeling awkward for me, if I felt I needed to cry (particularly in those first two hormonal rollercoaster weeks), I tried to sit with the emotion and try to cry. Did it work? Who knows, but I feel good that I gave myself the space to try. At the very least, it often identified something I felt internally that I needed to voice outloud to someone (a partner or someone who had been through something similar) to feel seen and understood. So cry and then tell someone about it. Even if it's just your cat. But preferably a person.

Another thing that shifted my mindset on crying was related to the baby. I saw a video that indicated that if you've tended to the baby's physical needs (food, burp/gas, diaper), they may just be scared. Oof. Imagining this tiny little thing that used to be in a warm, familiar cocoon being out in the world and feeling alone and scared will definitely tug at your heartstrings.

The simple change of labeling their crying as being "upset" (and naturally...upset at you) to being "scared" helped shift me out of a defensive and frantic "I'm trying everything!!" mindset and instead allowed me to settle into a soothing "I'm not going anywhere" vibe. I'd rock or dance with him to help get any gas out and repeat "I'm here, I'm here for you" on repeat (or let him comfort feed without any guilt). And it got us both to calm down.

Big humans and little humans cry when we feel uncomfortable or overwhelmed. So let it out and then seek out the comfort or connection you need, so that you can be that comfort and connection for your little one.

11. Line Up Professional Support Ahead of Time

It was hard to find a therapist after my first delivery because I was so exhausted and didn’t know where to even start. But eventually, I found one and they helped me process my first delivery, which changed everything for the better.

So, leading up to the second delivery, I re-engaged that therapist to proactively work through my fears, to mentally prepare, and to have a “warm” relationship that I could pick back up right away if I had postpartum challenges. I originally thought I was going to need to call her from the hospital to do a quick reprocessing session if the experience was difficult, but I actually didn’t end up needing to set up an appointment for a few weeks — only once I noticed I had some recurring thoughts on the birth that I was still revisiting often.

Therapy often gets a reputation of being super expensive, and while it can be, it really does depend on your insurance plan. I think transparency helps, so for me, it was a $25 copay that was worth every penny. And with a big medical event like a c-section, we easily hit our deductible that year which meant that my postpartum therapy was $0 with our plan. So it is worth calling your insurance provider to find out what your situation is. You may be pleasantly surprised, or you may find out it is cost prohibitive and proactively seek out other resources or groups for support.

It’s never a bad idea to have a therapist in your life that you can then engage as needed. It’s also a lot easier to find those professionals before you really need it, so perhaps do the research now and find one or two that are taking new patients, just in case.

12. Document Your Journey

Capture your journey through photos, journal entries, or video diaries. It's a wonderful way to document your growth as a mother and your baby's early days. Plus, reflecting on your journey can be a source of empowerment and inspiration.

…And let’s be honest. Your pregnancy brain and baby brain are so sleep-deprived that you may not remember a lot of this time down the line. Or like any of it. (I think it’s our body's way of convincing us to do it again).

So take all the photos now, and no, don’t delete the ones you “don’t look good in”. You’ll appreciate your “struggle look” once you’re through it, and it reminds you that you can do incredibly hard things.

Take all of the photos, videos, and selfies. Don't delete them (nope, not even the ones where you have 10 chins in them from trying to get the right angle without waking the baby). These might be the ones you treasure the most later because it reminds you how strong you are in hindsight.

13. Trust Your Instincts

Above all, trust your instincts. You know yourself and your body better than anyone. If something doesn't feel right or you have questions, voice them. Your concerns are valid, and your medical team is there to address them.

There is no single right way to do any of this — the surgery, the recovery, the parenting. So gather information that helps you feel like you have a sense of the landscape, and then identify which decisions feel right for you and disregard the rest. A plan is really just a starting point. In all likelihood, things will go differently but it can help you feel informed and grounded if the situation changes.

Use any "plan" as a starting point to simply get informed. Stay flexible as things inevitably go differently than planned, and above all trust your instincts.


In conclusion, embarking on your first c-section or second repeat c-section comes with its own learning curve. By sharing what I learned and adjusted for my repeat c-section, I hope it helps you prepare for yours. Embrace mental preparation, lean on your support system, and set realistic expectations. Cherish the bonding moments, seek professional support when needed, and trust your instincts. Remember, your experience is uniquely yours, and by approaching it thoughtfully and with a lot of grace when it doesn't go to plan, it will hopefully be the experience you are hoping for.


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