Monday, December 5, 2011

C-section recovery and my 6w postpartum body

Sorry, this turned out to be very long. I'm trying to cram these posts in before too much time passes and I forget everything!

I'm a little behind (shocker!), but six weeks has passed since I had my C-section to deliver Elsa. One reason I didn't want a C-section was because I was scared of the recovery, which has turned out to be both easier and harder than I expected. But let's go back to the beginning.

Immediately after surgery, I experienced the shakes like many people do after being given so many drugs. My body shook pretty violently and uncontrollably, making it difficult to even hold Elsa. When I was brought back to my room, the nurses covered me with warm blankets which felt heavenly. I was so unbelievably tired from essentially being awake for 48 hours and everything my body had endured, I could barely keep my eyes open when our families came to visit. My eyelids felt like weights were tugging them down and no matter how much I wanted to talk to everyone and enjoy this time as a new mom, I kept falling asleep. This is how Elsa and I felt after 30+ hours of labor and delivery.


But in a few short days, we felt like this!


One thing I did manage to do shortly after delivery was attempt to breastfeed. I had wanted to do skin-to-skin contact immediately after delivery, but that wasn't possible with the C-section. So, the nurses helped me back in my labor room. Since I has no modesty left at this point (I mean, these nurses clean all the fluids of labor from every nook and cranny of your body), I allowed them to teach me how to breastfeed. There aren't words to describe how remarkable it is that your baby basically just knows what to do. I mean, as mammals, I know that it's normal for that to happen, but it's still amazing nonetheless. She just knew to latch on and we have been fortunate that she has been latching on like a champ ever since. Having my Boppy body pillow at the hospital really helped me be comfortable while breastfeeding.


Some people say that C-section moms have trouble breastfeeding but that has not been my experience at all. I know that we are VERY lucky and the ease with which I've been able to breastfeed might be the exception rather than the rule. I am grateful every day that it has gone so well for us so far. We did have a problem in the hospital with Elsa losing weight. Weight loss is normal in newborns, but she was over the 10% acceptable level of loss and had her high bilirubin levels. Babies have to poop that bilirubin out and the only way to poop is to eat. Before my milk came in, she just wasn't getting enough. So, I did supplement with formula for one day, giving it to her while she was nursing with a skinny little tube tucked in the corner of her mouth and administered with a syringe. It was such a pain to prepare all that and clean it all myself since I was sleeping alone at that point, but it was worth it. The next day, I pumped after feedings to get even that extra .5mL of colostrum to give to her at the next feeding. After that, she was gaining again and her bilirubin levels were rising, so I could nurse on demand! Hooray!

I haven't even really had horribly sore nipples. I mean, it's uncomfortable in the beginning while your nipples are getting used to it all. I had a nurse at the hospital who probably saved my boobs by coming in with lanolin and nipple shells. I was diligent about using those and I really think that made the difference early on. I would highly recommend these to new mothers to help ease their breasts through the early nursing days. I had a few episodes of plugged ducts in the first few weeks, but with heat, massage, and pumping, I managed to avoid a full-blown case of mastitis.

So, back to the C-section recovery. Apparently the key to a quick recovery is getting up as soon as possible. That first night, with the help of my mom (Jason slept at home with the boys the whole time I was in the hospital to preserve some sense of normalcy for them) and one of the spectacular nurses, I got out of bed just to stand for a minute. I'm not going to lie, it was really painful. For someone who is used to being active, it was a strange feeling to be so incapacitated, to move so slowly and be in so much pain and to need help moving. They gave me a small, firm pillow to press into my incision for when I did things like stand or move or cough. I definitely made good use of that little pillow, which they let you take home. Simply standing was enough for the first night.

Besides pain, I was battling hunger. The night I went into labor, I ate a sweet potato for dinner and then had a granola bar on the way to the hospital. I wasn't allowed to eat until the day after I delivered. So, I didn't eat Tuesday or Wednesday. I was HONGRAY by the time Thursday rolled around. I was also really thirsty and everything felt dry-my nose and eyes in particular. That's why my nose looked so red after I delivered-I was constantly rubbing it and my cold sore was still healing. I could only have ice chips at first and I ate so many of those things. I am a water guzzler by nature and it was really awful to not be able to just down a big glass. Jason brought me a big bagel from Bread Company when I could finally eat again and it hit the spot more than every one I had ever eaten to ease a wicked hangover.

On Thursday, great things happened! I got to eat, drink, and my catheter came out. I was scared it would hurt to remove it since I had the epidural when they put it in, but it didn't hurt at all. I was finally free of tubes and tape and monitors and it felt awesome. Which meant that I got to take a shower! Best. Shower. Ever. The pain in my incision felt better each time I moved, so that was the motivation I needed to just push through the pain and get out of bed. You can see that my goal for the day included eating an unrestricted diet and moving more.


Sadly, my goal for myself was to remember my baby's name since I turned to Jason countless times during those first few days and asked him what our baby's name was. My mom finally wrote it on the board for me, only in half-jest, I think. For some reason, I could not remember her name for the life of me. I don't know if it's because we didn't put Elsa on the name list until about a week before delivery or because of the drugs or because I was expecting a boy or what. I also kept calling her Eve, my niece's name. Oh well, close enough.

I also thought everything was hysterically funny, which doesn't really go well with a C-section incision. My sister brought me dinner one night (complete with real plates and napkins!) and I thought I was going to bust a stitch.


Jason told me I never laughed so much at what he said. I wonder if it was the drugs or the hormones or a combination of both, but I guess it beats being sad. Speaking of which, I didn't really get the blues those first few weeks. When we got home from the hospital, I took a nap and when I got into bed, I just cried thinking about how little and sweet she was in her going-home outfit and how she would get big. I just wanted her to be little forever. But that was my only major breakdown.


So, I was in the hospital until Sunday and was very ready to go home. I spent most of my day standing and walking around my room in those days at the hospital. I had this vision of going home on Sunday and walking the dogs and Elsa, but the discharge doctor squashed that hope. She told me no activity for TWO WEEKS! No walks around the block even. My OB had already told me I couldn't personally walk the dogs until my six-week appointment because they could rip my incision if they pulled, but I thought I'd be able to at least take walks with them. No such luck. I felt really good, but she reminded me that I just had major abdominal surgery and I needed to take it easy.

So, I did nothing those first two weeks. I mean, I did stairs a lot and some light housework like laundry and cooking, but I wasn't allowed to carry anything other than Elsa and I couldn't drive. I was totally housebound. It was kind of demoralizing to be cooped up inside during the prettiest time of the year, but Jason took me on a long car ride one Sunday to look at the fall foliage. I also had a nice stream of visitors to keep my occupied. Between my sister and my mom, we were very well-fed. A well-fed Jason = a happy Jason = a happy Mary. At my two week postpartum appt, I was cleared for driving and light activity, meaning I could take 15min walks. I admit I have gone over that time limit, but I have not done any other activity besides that.

So, let's talk about the postpartum body. When I got home from the hospital, I weighed myself right away. I was expecting a pretty dramatic weight loss, but I had only lost about 9lb. I'm not sure of my total weight gain since I weighed myself on Tuesdays and I went into labor early Tuesday morning, but I think my final gain was right at 30lb or a little less. I was still retaining a lot of water when I got home from the hospital. My thighs were huge and my ladyparts were also swollen from being in bed so long. I thought maybe my thighs had just gotten that fat during pregnancy and I didn't notice because my belly was so big, but thank goodness my thighs went back to normal those first few days home. The other big change was in my boobs. My milk came in Saturday night and holy cow, did my boobs ever grow! It was like I woke up in the middle of the night and had breast implants. The size has somewhat normalized in the last six weeks as my supply regulates, but I guess they won't go back to normal until I stop breastfeeding.

The weight just started to melt off of me, thanks to breastfeeding, I imagine. In spite of pretty much eating nonstop and whatever I wanted (Halloween candy, yes please), I was down to 5lb above my pre-pregnancy weight by 3w postpartum. Now, my shape is certainly not the same. I can button some of my pre-preg jeans, but they are snug and I have a major muffin top. I was also 5lb above my goal weight when I got pregnant and a lot of my jeans were already snug in the thighs and butt because I hadn't been running. Between moving late last November and then a knee injury, my fitness was just not what it usually is. So, a lot of my clothes are snug before I even try to button them. I have a lot of work to do. I am very soft and my ab muscles are nonexistent. However, I am pretty thrilled with my weight loss, especially since I haven't been able to exercise, and am not going to complain. I miraculously managed to escape this pregnancy without varicose veins or stretch marks. My labor and delivery might have been traumatic, but I must say I am pretty lucky overall. And the most important thing is that I have a healthy baby and I have recovered fairly quickly.

At 5w postpartum, I did notice my incision was suddenly very swollen again and painful. I went in to see the NP at my OB's office to make sure nothing was infected. I was feeling kind of depressed about this turn of events because I was so close to my 7w appt in which I was hoping to be cleared for exercise and being normal again. I was afraid she would limit my activity to nothing like in those first two weeks. Luckily, she didn't think it was anything too serious and didn't limit my activities more than they already are. Two days later, my incision was looking great. It's so small, I still can't believe a baby came out of there. It's really low too, so if I do get my body back, I'll be able to wear a bikini again.

So, the big day is Wednesday! I hope to get cleared for all activities like running and bathing and yoga! I can't wait to be able to walk the dogs again and give poor Jason some relief. He needs it. My advice for anyone recovering from a C-section would be:
  1. Get up as soon as they let you and continue to move around as much as allowed
  2. Take your pain meds at the hospital as often as you can. Remind your nurses and tell each nurse as she comes on shift that you want them as often as possible.
  3. Use a firm pillow to cushion your incision when you cough, sneeze, move, or stand.
  4. Eat fiber after you deliver because you are going to want to get that first poop out ASAP. I'm sure it's not as painful as it would be if you delivered vaginally, but it's definitely not fun. And nothing is sadder than when pooping isn't fun anymore.
  5. Take your stool softener and your gas pills as often as you can. Besides simply recovering from being cut open and having a baby ripped out of you, gas can really make your incision painful. So, avoid foods that make you gassy and take the pills, people.
  6. Be patient with your recovery. It has killed me to take it easy for nearly seven weeks, but it's not worth overdoing it and ripping open your incision or getting a hernia. I can exercise when they clear me, I just need to be patient. I repeat this to myself daily.
  7. Any other tips from C-section moms? Leave them in the comments!
Okay, let's go through these body pictures, shall we? Once again, here I am at 5w pregnant.

Week 5

I don't have a 40w picture since I was in the hospital right at 40w, but here is my 39w picture.

Week 39

Week 39

And one from the Botanical Garden from the Sunday before I delivered. Now THAT is a belly!


Two weeks postpartum:

2w pp

Three weeks postpartum:

3w pp

Six weeks postpartum:

6w pp

6w pp

6w pp

THIS makes all the changes and sacrifices worthwhile!




Joline said...

Wow, so much I can relate to, where to start: The shakes, I totally got them and I was super itchy. I thought David was being mean by making me laugh so much while I was in the hospital, but maybe it is the hormones. Out all my fears of a c-section, the catheter was what I was most scared of and probably the easiest thing! I think restricting my activity after my c-section really helped my recovery to be easy. I only took our stairs 1-2 times a day. I LOL'ed about you having a hard time remembering her name. I always find the idea that breastfeeding makes weight loss easy kind of funny because I was back to my pp weight so fast and I didn't BF.

Suzie Thomas said...
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Amy said...

Damn girl! i so didn't look like that at 6 weeks :) You look great and Elsa is just adorable!

Sarah said...

this was so fascinating to read! i'm glad you got this all down and thanks so much for sharing everything (and i mean everything, including poo tips) with us :) you look absolutely amazing and i have no doubt you'll be cleared for exercise again very soon - but don't worry about it because truly, your body has bounced right back! and duh, elsa is just too damn cute. i'm SO happy that everything worked out so well after the surgery, all in all i'd say you've had an amazing post-birth experience!

Natalie said...

oh my GOSH you look amazing! you give me hope for when i have a kid :)

so glad to hear you're doing well!

Julia said...

Hello, boobs! Don't you love it? :) And you look phenomenal for just giving birth, like out of this world. Your body will feel more 'normal' with time, I promise. Glad recovery wasn't too awful for you!

Two Pitties in the City said...

I was curious about the C-section and recovery. It's also interesting to hear the dog care parts too (I was always curious about what to do with dogs during the labor, and not realizing you wouldn't be able to walk them for so long). And you look amazing!

Suzie Thomas said...
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