So, where were we… arriving back in our room and being set up with press-button morphine. Basically every time you start feeling sore, you press the button. I think there is a 10 minute (or so) window between when it will produce the goods. On top of that, every 4 hours a nurse brings you more pills and adds things to the IV. The pain management from the medication side is excellent when you are in the hospital. The rest of my c-section recovery was difficult on every level.
Most of that day is a distant blur of love and time spent with Brett and Charly in awe of this amazing little person we created.
I know I was awake until about 14:30 when I started spontaneously falling asleep mid-sentence. I know my parents, my sister, my other “sister” (best friend of 22 years) & Brett’s brother & fiancé were there briefly to see us & meet Charly. It was quite frustrating being in this semi-conscious state, I wanted to be part of the conversations & introducing our little girl, but although I could hear most of what was going on around me, I just couldn’t open my eyes or make my mouth work. There was no pain though, just drifting.
Although I had been adamant that nobody would take my baby from me, when the midwife told me they recommend taking the babies after the 10pm feed til baby next cries for a feed, I did relent. I was struggling to stay awake with all the meds and believed (as I still do now) that she was better off with an attentive midwife than an unconscious mommy. They were so good with her, far better than I was, so every night I was there I relinquished her to their care for about 2-3 hours & I slept – instantly and completely.
Brett arrived around 7:30 the following morning and it was only then that the worst part of the c-section set in for me. I was an au pair for 6 years, I have friends and family with new babies and I was renowned as the baby whisperer. I could soothe any baby, I loved settling them, changing nappies, dressing and undressing them and rocking them to sleep when nobody else could. Do you see where I am going with this?
When my baby cried, my uterus contracted painfully, my breasts ached and I could do absolutely nothing. I couldn’t walk with her or rock her, I couldn’t lean over and change her nappy, I couldn’t change her outfit. I couldn’t even pick her up – someone had to hand her to me. And because of my joints or maybe just because I am a giant baby myself, I couldn’t do any of these things without experiencing extreme pain til she was over a week old; and then the pain didn’t go, but my instincts overrode it completely. I felt useless and like a complete failure. The things I had done for so many babies before I couldn’t do for my own.
My doctor specialises in bladder complications and believes in leaving the catheter in for at least 24 hours. This meant that there was no need for me to get up on the first day. First thing on Tuesday Dr C came to check on me and informed me they would take out the catheter (which you aren’t aware of at all) and the drip (which includes your morphine) around lunchtime and then I would only need to get up for the first time after the 3-4pm visiting hour.
I didn’t think that through, I should have got up the second they unplugged me while the last of the hurriedly clicked-through morphine was in my system – do that! Try getting to your feet the first few times while you are still on the strongest drugs. They do not exaggerate that pain, in fact I think they keep it from you, I thought I would die; it was the very worst pain I have experienced in my life.
My awesome Dr promised I would want to get up again after that first time and the pain would be better; it was the one thing he was dead wrong on. I never wanted to get up again and it hurt like a bitch. I spent every minute of the next hours obsessing over not drinking anything that might make me need to pee, necessitating getting up again. Eventually at midnight I couldn’t hold it anymore, I stupidly tried to do it alone first but ended up crying hysterically and calling the nurse to help – as far as I’m concerned the second time was as bad as the first.
The pain after that first movement did not go away and I felt it was far worse than anyone had said it would be. Another pain point while still in the hospital is the shots they give you to prevent clotting – it hurt like crazy and brought tears to my eyes every time. Having the drip removed from your hand is also extremely painful, even with the last of the morphine. Essentially the second day is a rude awakening on all levels. Lesson learned – when doctors use the word uncomfortable, they mean pain, pure and simple.
Day 3 was hard but better than day 2. That genuinely is the way it works – every day is better than the one before. Though that is not to say you feel much better at the time. Day 3 was the day I had my first shower (heavily assisted). It was the day I realised how badly bruised my back was from the needles… It was the first day I put on any clothing I had brought with me (a new gown).
The last day at the hospital was one of the toughest in the end. We were meant to check out at midday, but the pediatrician had forgotten us and then Charly had to be checked for jaundice and given her show bath. This meant we were packed up and waiting for an additional 2 hours. In the end I had to be in a wheelchair during the bath as I had overexerted myself and was in a lot of pain. The drive home in the back of the car, so I could be with Charly next to her car seat, was agony as your muscles (usually used to brace yourself in a moving vehicle) have been moved around and cut and stitched and don’t work.
The pain gets worse when you get home as the hospital bed does a lot of your moving for you, but then the “every day is better than the last” kicks in again. Around 5 weeks was the first time I moved without thinking and without wincing. Even now, just short of 11 weeks later, if I fall asleep in an awkward position (which happens relatively often when you’re breastfeeding) there is a dull ache deep inside where the very inner layers haven’t completely healed yet.
If you are lucky enough to have your partner home for a few weeks when baby comes, take advantage of the help but also find ways to do things yourself working around the pain. Brett did a lot until he went back to work after 2 weeks and I hadn’t got the hang of changing Charly without hurting myself. It made the fear and sadness of being alone with baby that much worse.
For me, the c-section wasn’t a choice. I had to have Charly that way, and while I was under the spinal block Dr C confirmed his suspicion that my pelvis was unusually small and I would never have been able to deliver her naturally (this also contributed to why she wouldn’t drop into position). There are loads of mommies who have to have c-sections – of the group of 9 mommies due within 2 weeks of me not one managed a natural birth, some by choice, others against their deepest wishes.
I was very undecided before having Charly and for a long time c-section was my first choice. Not anymore. I would unequivocally never have chosen it had I known what c-section recovery would be like. Recovering from the surgery stole time from me; feeling the hormonal changes, adjusting to bring a mom, adjusting to getting no sleep and the general aches and pains of your body recovering from pregnancy and learning to breastfeed – all of these are difficult enough without the pain of recovering from surgery as well.
If I were asked to advise a mommy considering elective c-section, I’d say don’t do it to yourself or your baby. Charly has had endless snuffles and suffered terribly from reflux and cramps; which they say is far more common in c-section babies. Get an epidural and go natural; even with tearing the recovery is a couple of weeks at most and doesn’t prevent you from being with your baby.
For those mommies who don’t have a choice, a few tips:
- TAKE your meds! Your baby will not be affected by the pain pills, you will be affected by not taking them. You need 100% of the energy you have left to look after your baby, you can’t be dealing with additional pain as well. You are recovering not only from having had a baby & months of pregnancy, but from major abdominal surgery as well.
- Let the midwives take your baby for a few hours while you’re still in hospital so you can sleep. Take advantage of the extra sets of hands that know exactly how to care for your baby – when you get home, you (and daddy if you’re blessed) are alone. Even when baby sleeps, you are conscious they are there and you’re not really resting. Your body needs the rest desperately to recover some of it’s strength.
- Don’t push yourself too far too fast – do only half as much as you feel you can. On the days I went too far I lost days of recovery; it’s not worth the setback.
- Keep sleeping in the pillow fort you built in pregnancy, the soft support makes a big difference.
- Be prepared to change your mind on baby’s sleeping arrangements. I bought a beautiful Moses basket for her, but after a week I realised it wasn’t working for me. I couldn’t lift myself to see her while she slept and it made me crazy. She’s slept in her camp cot ever since and loves it.
- Be gentle with yourself. There will be plenty of time for pushing yourself and guilt for all you’re not doing later. Now you need to put you first so you can look after baby.
- I know everyone tells you to sleep when baby sleeps. I also know that it’s not always possible. But whenever it is, do it. The first 2 weeks you don’t feel the tiredness; but a few days after that it knocks the wind out of you. In the beginning, baby sleeps often if not for very long – that passes faster than you might believe, so especially in the beginning sleep when she sleeps!
That’s all I can think of now. I know I left it too long but just wait til you have your first baby – time simply vanishes. If there are any questions you might have, please feel free to get in touch. I am more than happy to give you any answers, feedback or advice you might need.
Next up I’ll be writing about Charly’s first illness – spoiler alert, sick babies are terrifying! Have a great long weekend everybody xxx