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Caitlin Melvin | Caitlinalisonmelvin@gmail.com | Toronto, Ontario

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MY C-SECTION RECOVERY | baby

April 19, 2019

 

 

When I was pregnant, Bryon and I attended a prenatal course. At the time I was expecting to deliver Huxley vaginally. The course was run by a doula who quickly ran everyone through the c-section section of the course. She probably spent about 10 minutes discussing c-section delivery. For the most part, it seemed as though people turned up their noses at c-sections. There was a lot of negativity around it. When I learned that I may be having one I had the most negative comments directed to me and I was seriously shocked.

 

Things were said like, "You should deliver naturally if you can." Or "It's nice to try delivering naturally

 

I was furious at these comments. I was so confused by the negativity surrounding c-section. I also thought it was funny that people referred to vaginal births as natural births. If a baby is born...that seems pretty natural to me, no matter how they exit.

 

My c-section was necessary. I mentioned in my birth story that at 35 weeks I was advised my baby was large. When I mentioned this on social media I had a flood of comments come in telling me he in fact was not large based on their own experience with pregnancy. I just ignored them - at 38 weeks Huxley was estimated at 8-9lbs (he was born weighing exactly 8lbs). There were two reasons a c-section was advised to us: 1. Shoulder Dystocia. I recommend looking this up and understanding it for yourself. 2. Huxley was still really high and hadn't dropped yet, so my OB felt that if I were to be induced (because they didn't want him to get any bigger inside me than he already was) by the time he reached the birth canal, I wouldn't be progressing well and would end up needing a c-section anyway. If we left him in there until term, he would have been WAY too big.

 

I had two options: being induced or booking a c-section. I did explain that Canadian patients cannot request a c-section delivery. A doctor has to decide this based on specific risks like mine. There are others that are more serious as well. Bryon and I discussed the options and decided that the safest delivery would be a planned c-section. That way there wouldn't be any surprises or emergencies. I felt a lot more comfortable with this. You can read my post on Huxley's birth to understand my position on c-sections and why I think the negativity surrounding c-sections is BS.

 

 

So what's the recovery like?

 

 

 

Recovering from a c-section is no joke. It's major surgery. I believe both birth types have difficult recoveries (from what I hear), but with a c-section, the recovery is often times much longer. That's not to say one is more difficult than the other.

 

After the surgery, I didn't have feeling in my legs still and I didn't love that. I stopped trying to move my toes because it was such an odd feeling. I wasn't in any pain at that point, because the spinal hadn't worn off. But when I was taken out of the recovery room I was given a cocktail of pain medication that is safe for breastfeeding. TAKE YOUR PAIN MEDICATION!!! I was warned by friends who had a c-section to keep up with pain meds or else it really catches up to you. It probably took about an hour and a half to 2 hours for me to feel my legs again and at that point, I started feeling soreness - but it was tolerable. I believe I took my pain meds for two weeks before slowing coming off them.

 

By the time the nursing staff determined I could use my legs again, they removed my catheter and had me to walk to the bathroom. It's essentially like learning to walk again. My legs felt like jello and I was in quite a bit of pain - even with the meds. It's not horrible, but it's also not great. The nurse basically helped me on the toilet and gave you a glamorous pair of mesh underwear and the most gigantic pad in the universe. She did everything for me - lifted my gown up, put on my granny panties and got the pad on for me. When I was in the OR, my gown was pulled up to my boobs and from the boobs down...everything was exposed - so just a heads up, the whole giving birth process is no time to be shy lol. After this point the meds started to wear off, especially when I tried to get up to go to the washroom. Lord, getting out of the bed was an ordeal. I'm thankful for my arm strength haha because your abs are 100% off limits.

 

The day you have your c-section is probably the best day to welcome visitors. At least it was in my case. It's not that I didn't want people there the following day, but I was not feeling my best the next day and the influx of visitors was probably not as enjoyable as I would have liked. For one, the first night I was on my own. Bryon had to work the next at the hospital (not the one I was at) and he was also on call, so he went home to sleep. My parents to didn't come until the following day, so it was just me and Huxley. When you have a c-section, getting up in the night to change a blow out diaper is absolutely awful - especially if you don't have helpful nursing staff that night - which I did not. I wish I had of had someone pre-arrange changing items for me close to the bed so I knew where everything was. I ended up needing to call a nurse to help me change him and I felt stupid. I also really wish I had someone to stay with me that night. I didn't get any sleep. The day of the delivery I felt good, wasn't too tired and was in total bliss with Huxley sleeping soundly at my side for the day - waking up just to feed. So it was totally fine to have visitors and in fact, I was excited to see people that day.

 

The next day, I was extremely anemic and pale, exhausted and completely overwhelmed. Family were coming in and out to see the baby and I looked like hell and wasn't really in the mood to see people. I also had a difficult time letting people hold Huxley and pass him around. It made me feel so uneasy. My mom stayed a bit longer that day and was planning to sleep at my cousin's. Bryon couldn't stay the night again and when visiting hours were over and the two of them were getting ready to leave I broke down and started bawling my eyes out. I did not want to be alone. My mom decided to stay and she helped me. My hormones were crashing lol. I'm really not much of crier, but from the time Huxley was born until at least a week and a half after I was an emotional wreck. Anything could send me into full tears. Photos of Huxley being born, pain, the fact that I had to wear diapers, breastfeeding, thinking I wasn't doing a good job at being a mom, the fact that body looked a 'potato' (ask Bryon about that one). On top of that, crying was extremely painful. So was laughing - which was extra tough because the goal of my relationship with Bryon is to try and make one another laugh. 

 

Having a c-setion will make you laugh at your dignity. The one thing the nursing staff get c-sections patients to do is walk around. And it's pretty hard. Walking was awful. It was so incredibly painful - let alone just getting out of bed. Plus going to the washroom isn't easy after a c-section. The first night I still wasn't going to the washroom and they had to empty my bladder. Then at like 4am a nurse came into my room, woke me up, sat me on the toilet and told me to pee. I tried to pee. Nothing happened. I sat there for 5 minutes before I used all my energy to get myself off the toilet only for her to sit me back down and wash my vagina with a peri bottle and tell me that if I don't pee I won't go home. And then she made me walk down the hall. I don't know if I was too shocked or exhausted to care about what had happened. There's also a chance of getting trapped air in your body, which I was lucky enough to get. I can't tell you how painful it is. Laying down hurt so much with the pressure of the trapped air. My incision could have been extremely painful and I wouldn't have known because the chest and shoulder pain was so distracting. My chest and shoulders were in constant pain and laying down made it worse...which meant sleeping was nearly impossible. Bryon said it was because there was air trapped under my diaphragm and that it would take a while for that air to absorb into my body - it took an entire week for me to feel some relief. The good news for some: not everyone gets this. Speaking of air, the nurse staff ask constantly if you have started to pass gas. Real talk: that measly fart you pass is largely short of what you really want to happen. But as long as you pass gas, they don't care to what extreme. Just expect that you'll be constipated for a few days...and it's awful. The bloating pressure really makes the incision throb. I found it difficult to know what was painful - the bloating, or the incision. I'm sure it was both though. As the swelling went down over the following two weeks, the pain began to subside. But at three weeks, it's still a bit sore. But I have full mobility now - I can bend over and walk at my usual pace and I am less tired doing tasks at home like laundry and the dishes.

 

Just like a vaginal delivery, I bled. I opted for Depends (adult diapers) because regular underwear sat on my incision and it felt really sore and tender. Depends were easier to manage and were surprisingly more comfortable than wearing underwear and a pad. I bought light compression underwear that go above the belly button, which I wore a few times after two weeks to go out with Bryon so I could wear my own pants. I continued to wear maternity pants because they were more comfortable on my incision. I'm 3 weeks postpartum and still bleeding - so it's essentially the longest period of my life. I've found this the most annoying because if I'm wearing a diaper I can't wear my own pants, but regular underwear is still uncomfortable. It's been a bit of frustrating process, that is maybe really superficial, but when you live in trackpants and oversized sweaters - that one moment when all you want to do is fit into a pair of leggings but can't, it really got to me. I cried to Bryon about this a couple times. The word on the street (or from my female GP) is that the bleeding lasts for a while, but since c-sections generally require a full 'cavity clean up' as opposed to a vaginal birth where fluids come out on their own...a c-section patient will bleed for less time. I don't know how accurate this is because I'm a little over three weeks now, and here I am...bleeding away!

 

Coming home from the hospital felt so good. However, I don't know how I would have survived without Bryon and my mom. I was so emotional and overwhelmed. Hospitals push breastfeeding so hard and I was having a tough time with it (a post for another day) and when I got home, feeding was the last thing I wanted to do. Bryon and my mom put me in bed with Huxley and let me sleep. They woke me up when it was time to feed him. That first week at home is so hard. I was recovering from major surgery, breastfeeding, waking up at all hours and so so so SO exhausted. There's really no way for me to explain this part of the recovery - maybe because I was completely out of it, but all I can say is that it was hard. of course, I loved having Huxley. He and I did a lot of napping together - but we were also getting to know when another and trying to figure one another out. It's hard to do when you're tired and in pain. And that's why having Bryon and my mom there was so important. They just took over and told what I needed to do and when to sleep etc. Each day Bryon and I would go for a walk. It wouldn't be far, but it would be enough to get me moving. I walked at snail speed and it hurt but each day got easier. By one week I was less emotional and feeling more like myself. I started walking faster too and was only taking Tylenol for pain as opposed to my cocktail of pain meds. That little bit of progress made the world of difference for me - like there was finally a light at the end of the tunnel. After the second week I was feeling 98% and Bryon was going back to work - I had to learn a new routine with solo days spent at home with Huxley and the cats - which I'm still working on, but like the surgery recovery, each day gets easier! I had to learn to be kind to myself and celebrate the small victories - like getting some work done, writing a blog post, emptying the dishwasher, eating lunch on time, and bathing Huxley on my own. 

 

 (Unfiltered photo at 3 weeks postpartum. My incision still has steri-strips...they haven't fallen off yet, and it's hard to know if the stitches are have dissolved or not because they are invisible. Excuse the mess in my bathroom - had just finished bathing Huxley (not in that sink), hence the foam flower in the sink, and otherwise I just haven't had time to clean)

 

Now..the real REAL talk. My body. I've surprisingly had a lot of questions about my stomach. I've some people ask about stretch marks and whether or not I have them. I think this is kind of a funny question to ask - I mean, I don't really care, because I'm open about it. It's tough discussing my body post-partum because no one should compare themselves to others after having a baby. Everyone is so different in how they recover and their genetics play a huge role in this as well. 

 

During my pregnancy, my belly got pretty big the last 4-5 weeks. We wondered if I would need a tummy tuck and I assumed I would have stretch marks so I was expecting them. I did not have a linea nigra (the dark line that runs down the centre of the belly vertically), but after pregnancy as my stomach started to shrink, it showed up! lol. It's okay, it eventually fades. After birth - like right after, I probably looked 6 months pregnant. The second week, 5/4 months and now I would say I just look bloated and swollen. Because I had a c-section, I have swelling, which will go down over the next 6 weeks or so. I still have another 3 weeks of shrinking, as it takes 6 weeks for your uterus to shrink back to its normal size - but I don't expect to be back to a size 2-4 at the 6 week mark. Like everyone else, I'll need to start eating well, drinking lots of water and working out (gradually!). I don't have stretch marks. I don't know how I escaped them...before I was pregnant I weight 105lbs and I gained 40lbs of pregnancy weight - maybe a bit more by the end. I don't keep a scale in my home because I had a pretty severe eating disorder in my 20's, but I've probably lost 20-30lbs since giving birth. 

 

The funny thing is, I would totally rock a bikini with this bod. It's crazy what pregnancy can do for your mental health. Gaining weight while I was pregnant was exciting because I knew my baby was growing, and now I'm like WOW, look at how much I've shrunk! I can't believe my body looks like this already - I expected to hate my body and have a really tough time with what I looked like after, but I'm pretty proud. During my pregnancy I was diligent about applying stretch mark cream on my stomach every night (I used Palmer's Stretch Mark Butter), drinking lots of water and I worked out up until 8 months (after then I slowed down because I was pretty big and so tired). I don't know if it was something I did during pregnancy, before pregnancy or if it's chalked up to genetics - but this is how my body recovered after pregnancy.

 

There are days where I need to be more kind and patient with myself. I'll joke with Bryon and say I have a potato body, but he's always quick to remind me that I just had a baby and I look great. I have to learn to understand that each day gets easier with my recovery, and at 3 weeks, I still have quite a bit more time to go before I am fully recovered - and that's okay. I'm enjoying my time at home with Huxley and learning what he likes and getting used to his routines. All in all, I'm pretty proud of where I am with my recovery.

 

I'm looking forward to sharing more 'real talk' moments of motherhood on this blog - but I'll still keep up with my regular fashion, beauty and travel content. I don't plan on turning this blog into a full mommy blog ;)

 

 

<3 Caitlin

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Caitlin Melvin lives in Toronto with her boyfriend Bryon and two cats Finnigan and Lucca. A marketing manager by day, blogger on the side, freelance social media specialist and a lover of travel and new experiences