October 10, 2012

Babywearing after Abdominal Surgery

Babywearing after Abdominal Surgery
by: Amanda Morin
Birth and Postpartum Doula

In my work as a postpartum doula I have been asked about the safety of wearing babies the first few weeks after a cesarean birth. I read, researched and later wound Moby wraps and Sleepy wraps firmly but gently around mothers’ abdomens, being very careful not to bunch fabric over the incision site and rechecking for comfort. I have fitted ladies with pouches and I have watched newborns nestle into their mothers' chests and seen the satisfied smiles of women who are happy that once they get the hang of it, they feel that they have been given a gift. The oft faithful Google was helpful as I scoured websites, blogs and forums seeking tips so that these mothers could safely wear their babies and yet take care of their own healing bodies. There was a wealth of information on baby wearing after cesarean, so when I searched a few years later for advice on baby wearing after other abdominal surgeries, with an older baby, I was disappointed. There was nothing.
I wore my older son from birth until almost three. We used slings, pouches, wraps, mei tei's and several brands of soft structured carriers. In a pinch he had occasionally been worn in shawls. Fabrics from all over the globe had kept my eldest close to me and it was important that I have the chance to bond with my new baby in a similar way. My journey to become his mother often felt like a struggle and I wanted the ability to hold him without extra hands to help in the event something happened or I was feeling weak.

The day of my son’s birth began with a small trickle of water.

I called my Doctor and Doula.

After a long and sometimes complicated journey to and through this pregnancy this was "it". I felt great.

Strong, confident, womanly - even graceful, though I didn't look it.


I laughed. I was joyful and proud,

Bursting with love.

Fully, no urge to push.

We waited, we laughed.

Finally, I roared.

My son arrived.

I cried, and laughed. "He's so pink, he's so pink!"

Familiar, yet unknown.

I kissed him over and over.

I wanted ice water, saag paneer, to pee and to shower. My loving doula held my son so I could get to the bathroom. I stood and a familiar and terrible heaviness pulled on my cervix. I remember dread and surrender as the blood poured.

Many medications, transfusions and procedures later I awoke in the ICU. Five days later I went home.

For weeks I bled, more trips to the ER, more meds, doctors, and tests.

Three months after giving birth I went into the hospital for a repeat D&C and Novasure ablation, knowing that other measures might be necessary. By this time I would have done anything to stop the bleeding so I could take care of my children and once again become active in my own life.

Due to "profuse uterine bleeding" during surgery and severe damage to my uterus they called in a second obstetrician and preformed a total abdominal hysterectomy.

My surgery was intertwined not just with how I saw myself as a woman but also my feelings of motherhood. For the first five months of my youngest son’s life I needed regular help in taking care of my family and household. I am forever grateful for the meals, the open hands and hearts that sustained us, but I needed to find my feet again as a mother and I thought that finding comfortable ways to wear him would be not only convenient but essential.

Making my transition easier was an incredible amount of carriers to try from my own collection and the KangaMamas lending library. Because there was so little information available online I asked Kristen, of KangaMamas, and my baby wearing friends for advice. I started by making sure I was cleared by my surgeon. I had to wait until 6 weeks after surgery to begin trying to wear him because of his size. Wearing my abdominal binder helped in the beginning. It ensured no fabric would irritate my incision that was still very tender and helped me to stand straighter, which made adjusting the carriers easier.

My pouches didn't fit right. I could get my son comfortably in a ring sling for a few minutes but I felt a lot of pressure around my incision. I also thought the sling was not a good fit for me at first because he was old enough to want to sit up and look around but it made me feel unsteady wearing him to the side. After birth he was not a fan of stretchy wraps but the first three weeks I could wear him after the hysterectomy he tolerated a Moby well enough that I was able to snuggle him through quite a few naps. Help from other people was very important when he started to wiggle and wanted out because I was still somewhat weak and at about 4 ½ months old he was already quite strong. Lifting him out was sometimes a strain on my abdomen and my husband became a pro at lifting him out without his feet hitting my still sore muscles.

I tried Ergos but the belt didn't fit comfortably. My incision site was very numb for an additional two months and the added pressure made it feel weird. A Boba worked better but I could only wear him for short periods of time until the numbness became pain. I wore him a little longer each day in the Boba and loved knowing he was secure and I could once again have two hands to help my older son. When I was able to wear him long enough to walk through our local zoo I felt like I had turned a corner and was healed enough to be like any other new mom.
All of the mei teis and woven wraps that I tried were very uncomfortable. I wrapped and wrapped and hoped it would work for us but I could not get the hang of it and his bum always slipped out. The wraps may not have been broken in enough, but having the material on my abdomen was very uncomfortable. I had wrapped my older child but never as an infant. I was out of practice and even the motions of tightening and bouncing was a bit painful in the beginning. 

Once he was old enough to go on my back and I was spry enough to get him there it all came back. He was comfortable and so was I.I could go to the grocery store, a walk or the park and didn't feel conspicuous. One day while wearing him on my back it just clicked. I felt the moment where it all fit into place and was right. That's what I had always felt before and I had needed to get to that place as a parent again.

The surgery was a year ago now. I have worn him in pouches, ring slings, mei teis, wraps, and many brands of soft structured carriers. Baby wearing has allowed me to not only have free hands but more freedom as a parent. It has given be renewed confidence in my role as a mother. "