I’d like to reiterate how freaking spectacular it was to have my best friend Amy helping me recover.
I was surprised at how quickly I recovered from my c-section and I believe I owe much of that to Amy’s help. If you need a c-section the biggest advice I can give you is get a caretaker to help you for at least the first two weeks, even if they can only be there during the day. Having a helping hand allowed me to easily abide by my weight restriction, driving restriction, and have a sounding board for all of the bizarre things I was feeling and experiencing. It also gave me time to rest when I was feeling exhausted and all of this made our transition into family life smooth and without much added stress to myself or my husband, Joel.
When we arrived home from the hospital I did something really dumb. I took the doctor/nurses advice and decided to wake the baby every two hours if she didn’t wake naturally and try to talk her into feeding. I did this all night. Everyone was miserable. She screamed and fussed and nobody got decent rest. Having Amy around allowed me to sleep a few hours that morning and I swore I’d never force an unnecessary schedule on my newborn again instead of listening to her needs.
On night two I allowed Sisu to wake on her own and fed her on demand. Perfect. She slept a six hour stretch and the night went much better. She didn’t sleep that long consistently, but once I let her lead the schedule she usually slept at least one four hour stretch each night. The relieved pressure of sticking to a rigid schedule allowed me to focus on taking it easy and recovering.
In many ways I recovered faster than I thought. Once I was on my feet, all I wanted to do was move. The more I moved, the better I felt. And once I started wearing a binder, stand back and watch me go.
But there were other things during recovery that caught me by surprise. Hurdles I didn’t expect to need to jump. Here’s my recovery summary:
Pain was easily managed. I was given prescriptions for a high dose of ibuprofen and a narcotic. I never filled either. I used the Advil I already had in the recommended dose and skipped the narcotic. I wasn’t comfortable taking the narcotic at home and so long as I took the ibuprofen on a schedule I was okay. If I missed a dose I felt it right away, and it was easy for me to tell if I was needing to take a dose again soon. The pain would slowly creep back. Part of pain management was not wearing anything with a bikini waistline. In fact, I didn’t wear anything bikini waist for the first three weeks. Even now at almost 4 mo I find that hard bikini waistlines are uncomfortable. Pro tip: wear lacy-edged underwear if you’re fond of the bikini cut. It’s softer than a rolled jersey-knit style edge and works great when transitioning back to your usual underwear.
My incision site wasn’t the only tender area. It mostly just felt pins & needles tingly. I’ve been told this is because it wasn’t just my skin and muscle that was cut through to get bebe out, but also nerves. The tingle is the feeling of those nerves growing back. I was very surprised, however, that brushing against my abdomen put me on the ceiling. I could tell I was still internally bruised and although bumps and pokes didn’t always bother me, lightly brushing the skin (such as a loose t-shirt or my hand helping my pants on) caused my skin to burn as though I had a terrible sunburn. I don’t really have an explanation for this besides internal bruising, so I’ll stick to that.
I felt poorly armed with practical information leaving the hospital. I knew what my prescriptions were and the gist of taking care of a newborn, but there were practical things that weren’t on my discharge orders. Like how long before I can take a bath? Should I spend time airing out my incision site daily? The incision lies in a fold of my skin. Should I be concerned if the incision is sticking to the skin, or only if the incision comes open? What is open? Can I wash off the glue? I was told to let it peel naturally, but it’s getting all balled up and gross in my incision fold and I feel like that’s a bad idea. Should I wash my incision site directly? When should I start doing that? It would have saved me a lot of trouble if those answers were addressed in my discharge papers as I was told they would be. Pro tip: nurses are busy people and easily forget things. Ask for a pen and write things down when your discharge info is being discussed, even if they swear on their mother’s grave it’ll be in your discharge packet.
Breastfeeding left me drained. It sucked all the nutrition out of me and left me with little to nourish myself. It still does some days. I found that although I wanted to run around a be productive I often couldn’t. Not due to my healing body, but because that healing body was also producing food for an additional person. I was wiped out and made good friends with the couch. Three months later I make an effort to have one outing and accomplish one chore daily, but I find that some days that’s the height of my accomplishment. In short: if you have just given birth, your body has accomplished something that took a great deal of effort. And if you are breastfeeding, your body is continuing to take great effort to accomplish something daily. So don’t beat yourself up if you find yourself landing on the couch sometimes. Or even most of the time.
My core muscles haven’t come back. Binders work great to support your posture when you write, walk, and groove, but they don’t get your muscles back in place or in shape. I thought the binders would magically help my core muscles get back in line and start working again, but they haven’t. I will have to put in hard work to get them up and running again, and I’m okay with that.
FYI most pregnant women have a separation of the abdominal muscles called distasis recti. One in three moms have this condition. It weakens your core and traditional core exercises (like crunches) actually make it worse, not better. This article from real simple goes over some simple exercises you can do daily to help get your abs back where they belong. And this blog is also very informative. As always, you should consult your physician about distasis recti, but it’s good to have added resources.
My hips didn’t get back to pre-pregnancy size. I wore binders daily for the first two months. Tightly. And though my hips have narrowed significantly since birth, I still don’t fit into my old jeans. And it’s not due to the weight, it’s due to my hips. My hips are just too wide to squeeze into those pants. Granted the weight doesn’t help, but I can’t squeeze into my hip-hugger jeans I wore before and I can tell it’s bone getting in the way.
The next two are sensitive, so if you’re uncomfortable and stuff, skip ’em.
My six week check-up was hell. Okay, “hell” might be strong. It was very painful. I had more pain due to my post-op vaginal exam than at any point post-epidural.This may be because the OB that examined me didn’t have a gentle hand, but they had to peel me off the ceiling. Really. My OB had to tell me to relax many times (thanks, doc, that’s really helping) and I had to use labor breathing techniques and focus to get through it. I was sore the next few days too. Naturally, everything was just fine, but I was shocked that my muscles were so tight. Additionally, it felt like things had shifted down south. I won’t describe that in detail. If you’re curious what I mean I’ll be glad to answer an email.
Sex was very painful. Again, I did not expect my muscles to tighten like they did. Sex after birth was more painful than losing my virginity. By at least tenfold. I did a lot of research because early attempts did not go well and ended in tears and horror. Survey suggests that sex during breastfeeding is especially difficult because your hormone cocktail is encouraging you not to have a baby again so soon. Breastfeeding dries you out, giving birth tightens your muscles, and they’re still sore from labor, even if you didn’t deliver vaginally. I don’t know how bad it is if you have a c-section without labor, or if you have a vaginal delivery. But I was personally hit hard with the difficulty. I gave myself a few weeks to heal after my six week check-up, and things went better after that. There’s a light at the end of the tunnel, but it requires patience, practice, and ky jelly to get there.
A lot of this is very negative, but there are positives about recovery too.
I have a baby.Even when she drives me nuts screaming and crying and fussing, she’s still our baby. She still has our expressions without even needing to learn them and makes every effort to please us. But it’s frustrating being a baby and she needs help. Plus when it’s your baby there’s an emotional connection that keeps you from throwing the baby out the window, even though you probably want to.
I didn’t have tenderness or healing skin near my cooch. One thing I loved about having a c-section is that I didn’t need to worry about healing skin becoming infected whenever I peed or needing to be especially ginger when using the bathroom. Although I had an incision site to worry about, having one less healing area was great.
I was on my feet very quickly. I couldn’t wait to get on my feet in the hospital and once I got home and managed to get my binder on properly with Amy’s help nothing was stopping me. I went out usually once daily, I walked a lot, I did chores (bending that “lift nothing heavier than the baby” rule), and it made me feel very human again. Just to pass the baby to a friend and start a load of laundry (even if I didn’t finish it) was so refreshing.
We fell into a routine quickly and have made daily adjustments. I tell everyone that I’m forming a routine with Sisu. I’ve been saying this for months. But the routine constantly changes, so it’s constantly being formed and changed to fit both of our needs. Two months ago that was keeping Sisu satisfied long enough for me to cook eggs in the morning, now it’s teaching her to play independently as she’s coming out of her third month. Soon it will be learning to communicate through basic sign language. I spend all day with my baby girl and I’ve learned a lot of cues to tell me what she needs and how soon she needs it. From here on out we’ll both be learning how to answer each other’s needs and still maintain some semblance of a routine.
And that about does it for my recovery. If you have any specific questions, ask in the comments below and I’d be happy to answer. ^.^