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I always said that my birth plan was to go with the flow, and to have “a healthy mom and a healthy baby."

I didn't want to get my heart set on certain things happening, because knowing my personality, it would be harder for me to accept when things didn't go as planned that way. I didn't know what to expect because I had never been in labor before. So I planned to just play things by ear and see how they went.

As labor progressed and then didn't anymore, it became clear that we needed to have a c-section in order to deliver Raleigh safely. There was no hesitation from us—we were okay with the decision.

I knew C-sections happen often, and I know lots of people who have had them. I have a nursing degree and I did my internship on the same labor and delivery floor of the same hospital that I delivered at. I was in the operating room for several c-sections during my internship.

But what I didn't know, was what it was like to actually have a c-section.

I didn't know what to expect afterwards.

No one had ever told me what it was really like to have one, and what to expect after mine.

I wasn't prepared for the recovery process.

Here are things I wish I had known before having my c-section. Had I known these things, I think my recovery would have been less anxiety-filled, because I would have known what to expect.

1. It is major surgery.

Yes, c-sections are pretty common these days. I heard a statistic that said as many as 1/3 of babies are born this way. But still, it is major surgery.

2. Getting up to walk is ROUGH at first.

It's going to hurt like heck when you get out of bed and walk for the first time, which they make you do relatively soon after surgery. You will feel like you are 100 years old and you can't stand up straight. You will likely shuffle around as you remain hunched over. This is NORMAL.

3. Each day gets a little bit better.

You will feel a little bit better with every day that passes. I was told this by one of my nurses who had 4 c-sections herself and was pregnant again. I consider her an expert.

4. Take medication for the pain.

You will be offered narcotics in the early days after surgery. I didn't take the narcotics because I'm prone to nausea as a side effect. But I got some IV medication that was like strong ibuprofen, and when I went home, I rotated ibuprofen and Tylenol for the first week or two. If you can stay on top of the pain, you will be able to move better and care for yourself and your baby better.

5. It hurts like crazy to cough, laugh or sneeze.

Holding a pillow against your incision, or pressing on it with your hands might help a little bit. But in those early days, it's going to hurt, period. I tried my hardest not to do any of these three at first. Some places might make you practice coughing to clear your lungs. [I read that in my baby book.] No one made me do that at our hospital.

6. The water retention in your body will likely get worse before it gets better.

You receive a lot of IV fluids in the hospital during labor and during the c-section. These made my already swollen face, legs and feet even bigger before my body started to get rid of the excess fluid. Really, my whole body was swollen. It will go away over the next week or two.

7. Accept help when you go home.

Cooking help, cleaning help, child care help. Accept it all because you will need it. Remember, you just had major surgery.

8. You need to take care of yourself.

Expect to be taking care of yourself in the early days as you recover enough to take care of your baby. I didn't anticipate how hard it would be to try to care for a baby while I was recovering too. I mainly focused on feeding Raleigh in the early days and Matt did the rest of everything. Once I started to feel and move better, I took on more of the responsibilities.

9. Be careful with how you move.

Don't do anything resembling a sit up or anything that strains the ab muscles. Don't try to use your abs to sit up from laying down on your back. [Especially if you're holding your baby. I accidentally did that.] Roll to your side and use your arms to push yourself up instead.

Sleep in a recliner if laying flat hurts too much at first. If you overdo it, you might injure yourself and possibly cause problems with your incision. I tweaked things at least once, although thankfully not to the point of needing to go in for treatment. But I sure did get sore from it.

10. Use an abdominal binder.

This might help you feel more stabilized as your incision and muscles heal. I didn't use mine until after a week or so, but I wish I would have used it right away. It would have offered me some support when I needed it badly.

11. Expect soreness.

Especially in the scar tissue beneath the incision—this is where I have had the most tenderness since my surgery. Expect the soreness to move, too. One day, the right side might be sore and the next, the left.

12. Ice might help.

Buy a couple ice packs or take a few home from the hospital and use them when you're resting. It will help decrease inflammation, swelling and pain.

13. Expect numbness.

You will likely feel numbness and tingling in your lower abdomen around the incision area. This is a normal result of the surgery because of the affected nerves. It will get better with time.

14. Don't overdo it.

You'll hear this advice offered a lot. I was also told that everyone does overdo it at some point. Once you start to feel a little better, resist the urge to do all the things. If you do too much, you'll take a few steps backwards and likely have a lot more pain and tenderness for a couple days.

15. No heavy lifting.

My mother-in-law had three c-sections and she said she remembers being told not to lift anything heavier than a gallon of milk. Really, your baby is the heaviest thing you should be lifting.

This is tricky with a car seat, though. If I went anywhere, I needed to lift the car seat in and out. Add a 9lb baby to that, and it was really hard not to lift too much. Initially, I got help as much as I could when I needed to go to appointments or on errands. Once I was feeling a little better, I used my stroller to go places instead of carrying the car seat very far.

16. No driving for awhile.

I was told not to drive until you can slam on the brakes without pain. And sit comfortably in the car too.

17. Watch for signs of infection.

Increased pain, swelling, redness, heat or drainage from the incision, fever or chills… Report any signs of infection to your doctor asap.

18. Some swelling around the incision is normal.

Don't worry yet—let time pass and see how it goes. Things are trying to heal beneath the surface, and through all the layers that were cut. It will get better.

19. Start walking as soon as you can.

But again, don't overdo it. Take it easy. The more mobile you are though, the better you will feel. Physically AND mentally.

20. Hormones will likely make everything seem and feel worse.

This is normal. However, if you feel like you're passing the baby blues phase and heading into postpartum depression, talk to your doctor.

21. It's okay to grieve.

You may feel some regret about having a c-section, or grieve the “loss" of a vaginal birth. These are normal feelings too. Give yourself grace. You sacrificed yourself to bring your baby into this world in a way that is truly selfless. You are a warrior.

22. C-sections are REAL births.

This might seem obvious, but a lot of people don't realize that they consider c-sections to be a lesser form of birth. That they are somehow inferior to those who have had vaginal deliveries. You are not a lesser mom because you had to have a c-section. Remember, you sacrificed yourself completely, you were CUT OPEN, so that your baby could have life. Be kind to yourself.

23. The c-section recovery is a long process.

You will need patience. The weight will start to come off right away as the fluid is flushed out of your system. That last bit will stick around for awhile, though.

Plus, because of being cut open and healing, it's going to be harder to work your core and get your abs back in shape. This is beyond your control. If you push it or do things you aren't supposed to, you will permanently injure yourself. Instead, go slow. Do approved core exercises.

Know that it took 9 months to gain the pregnancy weight, so it should take awhile to lose it. Again, you had major surgery. Your body went through A LOT. Be patient and be kind to yourself.

Extras

1. Prepare ahead of time.

Make freezer meals and buy easy to eat snacks and beverages to make staying fueled and hydrated quick and easy. If you are having a scheduled c-section or if at all possible before delivery, stock up on groceries too. Make things as easy as possible for your return home. My go-to's are granola bars for snacks, and crockpot meals for supper. I use crockpot liners to make cleanup even quicker.

2. Remember, health is most important.

A healthy mom and a healthy baby is the most important goal, ABOVE ALL ELSE. Keep that in mind to ensure the proper perspective through it all.

3. Journal throughout the process so you are able to remember the early moments.

The hospital stay was such a blur to me. I was really introspective and focused on the aftermath of surgery. I'm very thankful for my journal entries, as well as the photos Matt took, to help me relive that time.

4. Even if you are more swollen than you've ever been in your life, you need to be in some of the photos.

I didn't want to be in any photos in the early days because I looked terrible and felt even worse. But it's so important to have at least a few of you from that time. You and your baby especially. Those pictures will be cherished by them someday, because they show the sacrifice you made to give your baby life.

My hope is that knowing these things will help make any future c-sections I have a lot easier to plan for, deal with and recover from.

I hope the same for you too.

This article was originally published on LauraRadniecki.com.

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We spend a lot of time prepping for the arrival of a baby. But when it comes to the arrival of our breast milk (and all the massive adjustments that come with it), it's easy to be caught off guard. Stocking up on a few breastfeeding essentials can make the transition to breastfeeding a lot less stressful, which means more time and energy focusing on what's most important: Your recovery and your brand new baby.

Here are the essential breastfeeding tools you'll need, mama:

1. For covering up: A cute nursing cover

First and foremost, please know that all 50 states in the United States have laws that allow women to breastfeed in public. You do not have to cover yourself if you don't want to—and many mamas choose not to—and we are all for it.

That said, if you do anticipate wanting to take a more modest approach to breastfeeding, a nursing cover is a must. You will find an array of styles to choose from, but we love an infinity scarf, like the LK Baby Infinity Nursing Scarf Nursing Cover. You'll be able to wear the nursing cover instead of stuffing it in your already brimming diaper bag—and it's nice to have it right there when the baby is ready to eat.

Also, in the inevitable event that your baby spits-up on you or you leak some milk through your shirt, having a quick and stylish way to cover up is a total #momwin.

2. For getting comfortable: A cozy glider

Having a comfy spot to nurse can make a huge difference. Bonus points if that comfy place totally brings a room together, like the Delta Children Paris Upholstered Glider!

Get your cozy space ready to go, and when your baby is here, you can retreat from the world and just nurse, bond, and love.

3. For unmatched support: A wire-free nursing bra

It may take trying on several brands to find the perfect match, but finding a nursing bra that you love is 100% worth the effort. Your breasts will be changing and working in ways that are hard to imagine. An excellent supportive bra will make this so much more comfortable.

It is crucial to choose a wireless bra for the first weeks of nursing since underwire can increase the risk of clogged ducts (ouch).The Playtex Maternity Shaping Foam Wirefree Nursing Bra is an awesome pick for this reason, and because it is designed to flex and fit your breasts as they go through all those changes.

4. For maximum hydration: A large reusable water bottle

Nothing can prepare you for the intense thirst that hits when breastfeeding. Quench that thirst (and help keep your milk supply up in the process) by always having a water bottle with a straw nearby, like this Exquis Large Outdoor Water Bottle.

5. For feeding convenience: A supportive nursing tank

Experts recommend that during the first weeks of your baby's life, you breastfeed on-demand, meaning that any time your tiny boss demands milk, you feed them. This will help establish your milk supply and get everything off to a good start.

What does this mean for your life? You will be breastfeeding A LOT. Nursing tanks, like the Loving Moments by Leading Lady, make this so much easier. They have built-in support to keep you comfy, and you can totally wear them around the house, or even out and about. When your baby wants to eat, you'll be able to quickly "pop out" a breast and feed them.

6. For pain prevention: A quality nipple ointment

Breastfeeding shouldn't hurt, but the truth is those first days can be uncomfortable. Your nipples will likely feel raw as they adjust to their new job. This will get better! But until it does, nipple ointment is amazing.

My favorite is the Earth Mama Organic Nipple Butter. We love that it's organic, and it is oh-so-soothing on your hard-at-work nipples.

Psst: If it actually hurts when your baby latches on, something may be up, so call your provider or a lactation consultant for help.

7. For uncomfortable moments: A dual breast therapy pack

As your breasts adjust to their new role, you may experience a few discomforts—applying warmth or cold can help make them feel so much better. The Lansinoh TheraPearl 3-in-1 Breast Therapy Pack is awesome because you can microwave the pads or put them in the freezer, giving you a lot of options when your breasts need some TLC.

Again, if you have any concerns about something being wrong (pain, a bump that may be red or hot, fever, or anything else), call a professional right away.

8. For inevitable leaks: An absorbing breast pad

In today's episode of, "Oh come on, really?" you are going to leak breastmilk. Now, this is entirely natural and you are certainly not required to do anything about this. Still, many moms choose to wear breast pads in their bras to avoid leaking through to their shirts.

You can go the convenient and disposable route with Lansinoh Disposable Stay Dry Nursing Pads, or for a more environmentally friendly option, you can choose washable pads, like these Organic Bamboo Nursing Breast Pads.

9. For flexibility: A breast pump

Many women find that a breast pump becomes one of their most essential mom-tools. The ability to provide breast milk when you are away from your baby (and relieve uncomfortable engorged breasts) will add so much flexibility into your new-mom life.

For quick trips out and super-easy in-your-bag transport, opt for a manual pump like the Lansinoh Manual Breast Pump .

If you will be away from your baby for longer periods of time (traveling or working outside the home, for example) an electric pump is your most efficient bet. The Medela Pump In Style Advanced Double Electric Breast Pump is a classic go-to that will absolutely get the job done, and then some.

10. For quality storage: Breast milk bags

Once you pump your liquid gold, aka breast milk, you'll need a place to store it. The Kiinde Twist Pouches allow you to pump directly into the bags which means one less step (and way less to clean).

11. For keeping cool: A freezer bag

Transport your pumped milk back home to your baby safely in a cooler like the Mommy Knows Best Breast Milk Baby Bottle Cooler Bag. Remember to put the milk in a fridge or freezer as soon as you can to optimize how long it stays usable for.

12. For continued nourishment: Bottles

Nothing beats the peace of mind you get when you know that your baby is being well-taken of care—and well fed—until you can be together again. The Philips Avent Natural Baby Bottle Newborn Starter Gift Set is a fan favorite (mama and baby fans alike).

This article is sponsored by Walmart. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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Motherly is committed to covering all relevant presidential candidate plans as we approach the 2020 election. We are making efforts to get information from all candidates. Motherly does not endorse any political party or candidate. We stand with and for mothers and advocate for solutions that will reduce maternal stress and benefit women, families and the country.

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A viral video about car seat safety has parents everywhere cracking up and humming Sir-Mix-A-Lot.

"I like safe kids and I cannot lie," raps Norman Regional Health System pediatric hospitalist Dr. Kate Cook (after prefacing her music video with an apology to her children."I'm a doctor tryin' warn you that recs have changed," she continues.

Dr. Cook's rap video is all about the importance of keeping babies facing backward. It's aptly called "Babies Face Back," and uses humor and parody to drive home car seat recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

"Switching from rear-facing to forward-facing is a milestone many parents can't wait to reach," Dr. Cook said in a news release about her hilarious video. "But this is one area where you want to delay the transition as long as possible because each one actually reduces the protection to the child."

Last summer the AAP updated its official stance on car seat safety to be more in line with what so many parents were already doing and recommended that kids stay rear-facing for as long as possible. But with so many things to keep track of in life, it is understandable that some parents still don't know about the change. Dr. Cook wants to change that with some cringe-worthy rapping.

The AAP recommends:

  • Babies and toddlers should ride in a rear-facing car safety seat as long as possible, until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by their seat.
  • Once they are facing forward, children should use a forward-facing car safety seat with a harness for as long as possible. Many seats are good up to 65 pounds.
  • When children outgrow their car seat they should use a belt-positioning booster seat until the vehicle's lap and shoulder seat belt fits properly, between 8 and 12 years old.

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[Editor's note: Motherly is committed to covering all relevant presidential candidate plans as we approach the 2020 election. We are making efforts to get information from all candidates. Motherly does not endorse any political party or candidate. We stand with and for mothers and advocate for solutions that will reduce maternal stress and benefit women, families and the country.]

Suicide rates for girls and women in the United States have increased 50% since 2000, according to the CDC and new research indicates a growing number of pregnant and postpartum women are dying by suicide and overdose. Suicide rates for boys and men are up, too.

It's clear there is a mental health crisis in America and it is robbing children of their mothers and mothers of their children.

Medical professionals urge people to get help early, but sometimes getting help is not so simple. For many Americans, the life preserver that is mental health care is out of reach when they are drowning.

Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg just released a plan he hopes could change that and says the neglect of mental health in the United States must end. "Our plan breaks down the barriers around mental health and builds up a sense of belonging that will help millions of suffering Americans heal," says Buttigieg.

He thinks he can "prevent 1 million deaths of despair by 2028" by giving Americans more access to mental health and addictions services.

In a country where giving birth can put a mother in debt, it's not surprising that while as many as 1 in 5 new moms suffers from perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, more than half of new moms who need mental health treatment don't get it. Stigma, childcare and of course costs are factors in why women aren't seeking help when they are struggling.

Buttigieg's plan is interesting because it could remove some of these barriers. He wants to make mental health care more affordable by ensuring everyone has comprehensive coverage for mental health care and by ensuring that everyone can access a free yearly mental health check-up.

That could make getting help more affordable for some moms, and by increasing reimbursement rates for mental health care delivered through telehealth, this plan could help moms get face time with a medical professional without having to deal with finding childcare first.

Estimates from new research suggest that in some parts of America as many as 14% or 30% of maternal deaths are caused by addiction or suicide. Buttigieg's plan aims to reduce those estimates by fighting the addiction and opioid crisis and increasing access to mental health services in underserved communities and for people of color. He also wants to reduce the stigma and increase support for the next generation by requiring "every school across the country to teach Mental Health First Aid courses."

These are lofty goals with a lofty price tag. It would cost about $300 billion to do what Buttigieg sets out in his plan and the specifics of how the plan would be funded aren't yet known. Neither is how voters will react to this 18-page plan and whether it will help Buttigieg stand out in a crowded field of Democratic candidates.

What we do know is that right now, America is talking about mental health and whether or not that benefits Buttigieg's campaign it will certainly benefit America.

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[Editor's Note: Welcome to It's Science, a Motherly column focusing on evidence-based explanations for the important moments, milestones, and phenomena of motherhood. Because it's not just you—#itsscience.]

If you breastfeed, you know just how magical (and trying) it is, but it has numerous benefits for mama and baby. It is known to reduce the likelihood of developing cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis, and cuts the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) by half.

If this wasn't powerful enough, scientists have discovered that babies who are fed breast milk have a stomach pH that promotes the formation of HAMLET (Human Alpha-lactalbumin Made Lethal to Tumor cells). HAMLET was discovered by chance when researchers were studying the antibacterial properties of breast milk. This is a combination of proteins and lipids found in breast milk that can work together to kill cancer cells, causing them to pull away from healthy cells, shrink and die, leaving the healthy cells unaffected.

According to researchers at Lund University in Sweden, this mechanism may contribute to the protective effect breast milk has against pediatric tumors and leukemia, which accounts for about 30% of all childhood cancer. Other researchers analyzed 18 different studies, finding that "14% to 19% of all childhood leukemia cases may be prevented by breastfeeding for six months or more."

And recently, doctors in Sweden collaborated with scientists in Prague to find yet another amazing benefit to breast milk. Their research demonstrated that a certain milk sugar called Alpha1H, found only in breast milk, helps in the production of lactose and can transform into a different form that helps break up tumors into microscopic fragments in the body.

Patients who were given a drug based on this milk sugar, rather than a placebo, passed whole tumor fragments in their urine. And there is more laboratory evidence to support that the drug can kill more than 40 different types of cancer cells in animal trials, including brain tumors and colon cancer. These results are inspiring scientists to continue to explore HAMLET as a novel approach to tumor therapy and make Alpha1H available to cancer patients.

Bottom line: If you choose to breastfeed, the breast milk your baby gets from your hard work can be worth every drop of effort.

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