Pregnancy : Preparing for & Recovering from a C-Section

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For anyone needing a C-Section, I hope this helps prepare you for your surgery and the recovery after. Please feel free to leave comments with your experience or tips with what helped you through the surgery!

I count myself extremely lucky to have had a healthy, relatively comfortable full 9 months of pregnancy with my little girl. I was feeling great, sleeping as well as can be expected and worked right up to my due date. My entire pregnancy I tried to prepare myself for having a natural birth or needing a C-section. I was surprised that I found myself leaning towards wanting a natural birth, especially with all the horror stories out there.

Well, my little sweet pea decided she needed to be as close to my heart as possible and as such, ended up in a footling breech position. So at 38 weeks my OB scheduled me for a C-section 1 day before my due date. I was overwhelmed and surprised by the amount of disappointment. The safety of the myself and the baby was priority #1 but I had such an awful feeling that I had somehow failed at being pregnant, like starting something and not being able to finish it ‘properly.’ For my own personal reasons I refused having an ECV (external cephalic version). I did my research and felt that if my daughter had felt that there was enough room she would have flipped and engaged. She had NEVER engaged in my pelvic region during my pregnancy. I suggest every woman do the research and ask the questions if your baby is breach and an ECV is brought up.

I had two weeks to mentally prepare for the surgery and for the arrival of our new family member. I spent those two weeks thinking about anything else. The night before the surgery was surreal. I felt like I was getting ready to go on vacation. I had a nice long bath, painted my toenails, put on a face mask, groomed my eyebrows and dried & straightened my hair. Definitely a drastically different story than many other woman who go into labour the night before having their children (not that I’m complaining).

The best piece of advice I have ever received in regards to having a baby is “Leave your pride at the hospital doors and pick up what is left on your way out.” Anyone who is pregnant, has been pregnant or has experience with pregnancy knows the horrors that can go on in a delivery room.

The morning of the surgery my husband and I drove to the hospital, Bruce Springsteen’s “Lucky Day” was playing on the radio and managed to calm my nerves a bit. That is now officially one of my favourite songs. The nurses prepped me with my IV, and after the third attempt and me nearly in tears she got the darn line in. I was just trying to think that this would be the most pain I would feel all day so I should probably suck up the tears. I walked into the OR where I was given a spinal (didn’t hurt a bit, nor did the anaesthetic I was given prior), laid back and attempted to go to my ‘happy place’ while I was getting cut open. The surgery started at around 8:10 AM and I was a mother at 8:31 AM on that August morning. It was amazing seeing her for the first time, she was perfect.

It took about a half hour to stitch me back up and send me to recovery. As soon as I was wheeled into the recovery room I had a notion to start drinking as much water as possible to try and get the meds out of my system. Well, I’m not entirely sure why the nurse agreed with me, but 4 dixie cups of water later and suddenly I felt very nauseous. The water came right back up minutes later and that was when I realized it would take a bit more than just H2O to get me feeling better.

There’s no sugar coating a recovery from a C-section. It sucks. It hurts. You are expected to be a mother and not a person recovering from major surgery. Thank God for my husband and my family during this time. I was unable to change any of the first diapers, I could not even walk to go to the bathroom until that night and every movement hurts. The hospital missed the doctor’s notes on giving me morphine so I was simply on an anti-inflammatory. This was my first time giving birth so I had no clue what to expect from the hospital or doctor as far as pain management went and I really wish I would have talked to my doctor prior to having the C-section.

I was sent home after two nights in the hospital which, quite frankly, were the worst two nights of my entire life. Trying to recover, trying to breastfeed, trying to sleep and failing at all three of those things was hard mentally and physically. I was so happy to be back in my own bed and start figuring out our new life from the comfort of home. I did not take any morphine when I left the hospital, I figured the worst part of the pain was over and I would manage without it. I only realized I was supposed to have pain killers in the hospital when my OB sent me home with a script for them.

I followed my OB’s recovery orders pretty strictly, no lifting, no stairs, no driving (for the first 4 weeks), no over exertion. The surgery pretty much took all the energy out of me so I couldn’t even imagine doing anything but getting out of bed to go to the couch and back again. Breast-feeding was extremely hard for me, it took us nearly 8 weeks before she was fully 100% breast-fed. I was pumping and we were supplementing with formula while we all tried to learn the best way to latch and feed and attempt to get some sleep in the middle of it all. I found that eating regularly was nearly impossible for the first two weeks of recovery. Liptons chicken noodle soup and ‘green drink (as many green veggies as my husband can fit in a blender)’ were all I could really  handle.

In retrospect, even though I was frustrated with not being able to be my regular, go-getter, do everything self, the best thing I did was take my time with recovery. Since she was my first child, I couldn’t imagine how other moms recover from a C-section while having to chase around another little one. Without a close group of family & friends I can only imagine it to be more difficult and lonely and definitely a higher risk of post-partem depression.

I went back to work 3 days a week only 6 weeks after my C-section. Being self-employed and a business owner the bills need to be paid whether I’m working or not. So for my husband and I we had to get back to work to keep up with the bills. 14 months later we have still made it work so I am 3-4 days a week. I love the extra time during the week I get with my daughter.

Here in Canada if you are employed you are eligible for a year maternity leave, I couldn’t imagine the heartache of being home for an entire year and then having to go back full time. Just as I’m sure those with a year off couldn’t imagine having to go back after just 6 weeks off. To my American friends who are only entitled to 6-8 weeks off maternity leave before being expected to return to work full time, my hats off to you.

In my humble opinion, here’s the greatest life lesson of being a mom:

You do what you gotta do. (and screw those who think they have a right to judge)

My next post will be all about how I managed to train for a half-marathon nearly a year after my C-Section.

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