How I Survived My C-Section

I'd like to start things off by announcing that I slept 7 solid hours last night. Like in a row, without being woken up by anyone, and Jules also slept well (I actually had the baby monitor on last night because I've been feeling guilty and didn't hear a peep from her). 

So I woke up this morning feeling like a new person. It's amazing what some good sleep will do for a person!

I actually woke up this morning and was excited to run. WTF, right? I was all, YEAH, I'm so excited. See?!?

That's my BEFORE picture and I'm SMILING! WHAT?!? Anyone who has read my blog at all knows my before workout pictures usually rival Grumpy Cat. 

I actually had a real workout planned this morning too instead of my usual run around the neighborhood at a steady state for 3 miles (so boring) - this week I'm starting to incorporate some actual speed training into my workouts and it's obviously just what I needed. In case you're interested, my workout was:

  • 1/2 mile warm-up
  • Race pace for 1 minute, jog for 1 minute, SPRINT for 30 seconds, jog for 1 minute and repeat 6 times (you'll need a watch or timer for this)
  • 1/4 mile cool-down (ish - I just finished my lap around my neighborhood)

It ended up being just a bit over 3 miles and an AWESOME workout. Just in case you're wondering what my paces are, my jog pace is 9:30-10, race pace was around 8:10 and my sprint was around 7:15. If you want to know what your training paces should be, I highly recommend looking it up on Google "run training pace calculator" :-)

This is my post-run and pre-core workout selfie. I wanted to show you guys I'm not even kidding about being the sweatiest beast of all time. They say the more you sweat the better your body is at keeping it's temperature regulated and it's a good thing, so I'm going to roll with what "they" say this time. I sweat because I'm an awesome body temp regulator. 

Speaking of my core workout, I'm trying to focus more on my transverse abs right now, so I looked up "transverse abdominal workout" on youtube and did the highest rated 10 minute workout I could find. 

Little Cat wanted to say hey post workout as well, so "hey" from Little Cat. His real name is Marley (because we give our cats dog names...), but for whatever reason I've pretty much always called him Little Cat and it has stuck. Moving on...

How I Survived my C-Section (but just barely)

Let me tell you a little story about a girl named Jamie whose son had shoulder dystocia when he was born and had some struggles right after his birth. Needless to say, when I found out I was pregnant again I was worried about everything, including my preeclampsia that I had with Justin in my final trimester and the shoulder dystocia at birth. That ish is scary, my friends - Justin didn't breathe right away and the last thing you want to hear after giving birth is nothing. You want those throaty, desperate infant cries, AMIRIGHT? 

About 2/3 of the way through my pregnancy with Jules I voiced my concerns to my doctor and he said that since Justin wasn't a large baby, the dystocia probably happened due to the way I'm built. He recommended I have a c-section and then told Jason "if it was my wife, I'd tell her to have a c-section".

*insert angry face here*

Even though all I really wanted was a "regular" birth, I reluctantly agreed to a c-section and we scheduled it for January 20. Deep down in my gut I felt like it was the wrong choice and I do wish I had listened to my intuition. Did I get my beautiful baby girl out of it and escape alive? Yes. But I think we all kind of know what's best for us when/if we listen to our gut and I didn't listen to mine and I do regret it. 

Before you start thinking I'm slamming c-sections and/or people who schedule all of their deliveries, I promise I'm not. I'm a firm believer in moms doing what's right for them - c-section, all natural, epidural, champagne in the delivery room, breastfeeding, formula feeding, cry-it-out, cosleeping...you do you, mama! But for me I feel having a c-section was the wrong choice. 

So we get up way before the buttcrack of dawn on January 20 and head to the hospital for our scheduled c-section. 

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Look at how cute and excited we are! 

The c-section itself was not bad at all. It was like 15 minutes and BOOM, baby.

And she cried immediately. 

I was even able to do skin-to-skin for a couple of minutes before they took her back and cleaned her up and stitched me up.

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Then we were wheeled into the post-op room and this is where I ran into an issue. I had a 2 nurses - one who was the boss and one who was training. The nurse who was training asked me if I'd like some ice chips to see how my stomach tolerated it. Unfortunately she gave me a huge spoonful of ice and I ended up aspirating a piece and gagging/coughing for a couple of minutes. I was still completely numb from my c-section and didn't feel any pain at the time, but ended up popping a stitch and bleeding internally. This eventually ended up leaking through my exterior stitches and was a horrifying and terrifying sight - I'm talking murder scene stuff. I was so-so tired (more than I should have been) and could hardly get up and walk - I even blacked out at one point and almost fainted. Turns out I actually lost a lot of blood and ended up needing two blood transfusions and had a hematoma, which caused me to be extremely tired and terrified I was going to die. As far as I'm concerned I'm done having children - two extremely awesome kids is enough for me, and having scary complications with both of them is enough to turn me off of ever wanting any additional kids. 

They tell you when you have a c-section the best thing you can possibly do for yourself is to get up and walk around ASAP and while I was planning the birth and hospital stay I had every intention of doing this immediately. I was going to get up within hours and walk and pee by myself and have an awesome sushi meal and some champagne. Unfortunately due to my complications, I ended up not really being able to walk around until after my transfusion and then it was so painful due to the hematoma and ripped stitches that I could hardly make a loop around the nurses station without crying. 

By the time we were released and made it home, I was in rough shape. I kept running fevers on and off and could hardly walk. I remember Justin helping me walk back and forth along the hallway outside our condo several times a day while Jason stayed inside with Jules and I could hardly do it, which is obviously quite a departure from my usual running/push-ups/working-out-like-a-fool self.

I guess that wasn't such a short story, but I wanted to get the point across that my c-section sucked and it was probably out of the ordinary, since it seems to me that most of the people who have them are fine within days. That being said, when you leave the hospital after your c-section, your doctor will tell you not to lift anything and not to drive for 6 weeks and they send you on your way. That's it. 

A Cesarean is a major surgery. 

However it really isn't treated as such and a lot of women end up in lots of pain or have adhesions and other complications and have no clue what to do.

Well here's what helped me. 

This post will include some Amazon affiliate links. If you purchase an item I recommend I will get a very small commission. This doesn't change the price of the product; it's just a small (very small) thank you from Amazon for my recommendation. 

First and foremost, ask your doctor for a medical grade stomach wrap. 

It sucks and you won't wear it very long because it's horribly uncomfortable, but I honestly don't think I would have made it the first 2 weeks postpartum without it. These wraps are stupid expensive if you have to buy it yourself, so insist that you get one from your doctor while you're in the hospital and it will be covered by your insurance. Have your husband help you get it on, since you probably won't be able to get it tight enough by yourself. It will be uncomfortable, but I promise it's a lot better than the searing pain you will have whenever you cough or do pretty much anything the first few weeks. 

You might thing I'm over-exaggerating, but I am not kidding when I tell you I could hardly even walk for 2 weeks afterwards. 

Another plus of the wrap is that "they" say it helps shrink your uterus back down and get your pre-baby body back. 

Always have a pillow handy. 

You'll need to have the pillow to press on your scar any time you cough, laugh, or anything involving your core when you don't have a wrap on for the first couple of weeks.

Trust me here. 

Ask for help. 

My husband had to help me with literally everything for the first week. I couldn't even shower or use the bathroom or get the baby to breastfeed her without his help. He had to help me wipe and saw and did things I never thought I'd allow. He was absolutely amazing and more help than I ever could have imagined and I love him for it. 

C-section underwear

I'm not even kidding when I say these saved me. I was still feeling pain for months postpartum and having these to compress my incision was the extra thing I needed to get through the every day stuff. Yes, they're hideous and yes, they're pretty expensive; however they are 100% worth it and I would recommend them to anyone getting a c-section. I ended up getting two pairs and swapping them out every day, wearing one and washing the other. 

You can find the sizing in the images for the product and it's based on your current waist size (your preggo waist). So I went with the L-XL and they fit perfectly - you want them to be super tight but obviously don't want them to be so tight you can't pull them up.

Push yourself, but not too hard. 

I quit the hard painkillers a few days after getting home from the hospital, so everything hurt really really badly for weeks. I'm talking searing, horrible pain - I have a pretty high pain tolerance, so that's really saying something. Still, I persevered and made myself walk as much and as often as possible from the moment I could. By 3 weeks postpartum I was forcing myself to take a longer walk almost every day, and walked 2-3 miles as often as possible. Yes, it hurt. But I knew I would feel so much better more quickly if I kept it up. 

I would either wrap my baby up with me or push her in the stroller and listen to a podcast (I highly recommend you listen to Straight Talk with Ross from the beginning if you're looking for a hysterical podcast to listen to) and then I'd walk as far as I could. And then the next time I would push myself a little further. I remember it took me over 40 minutes to walk 2 miles the first time I tried to go that far and tracked it. There were some days where I would wake up with a lot of pain in my incision so I knew I needed to scale it back a bit, but overall walking helped me to feel better and I know it helped me recover more quickly. One thing that helped me a TON with walking was to wear a waist belt - by this point I was over my hospital grade wrap-thing, but still needed some extra support. 

You can find it at Walmart or on Amazon, but this belt helped me a lot with giving extra support on my incision. Just wrap it around you as tightly as you possibly can. I felt like I was in Gone with the Wind when I'd put this shit on - you know the scene where she's holding onto the bed post and getting her corset tied up? And if you haven't seen Gone with the Wind we cannot be friends. So go watch it now, because we should totally be friends!

I also recommend making your walk a family affair. Whenever possible I would wrangle Jason or Justin into my walk, which made it a lot more fun and also got them out of the house. 

Just make sure you go by yourself a lot too - it's a nice break from everyone else and Jules slept through our walks 99% of the time so I could just listen to my podcast and laugh maniacally because it's that funny.

Scar massage

Talk to your doctor before doing this, but I highly recommend starting scar massage as soon as possible. I didn't find out about this until months postpartum and it wasn't mentioned to me by my doctor, even though it's a mandatory part of cesarean recovery in other parts of the world. Seriously, look it up. Other countries include scar mobilization massage as a part of their postpartum recovery, as it should be. A lot of women develop adhesions post-cesarean, which sucks because adhesions can cause a ton of issues, including but not limited to back pain, bladder issues, pain during intercourse, and other fun things. If you don't start scar mobilization massage early enough, there's really not a ton you can do - they can do surgery sometimes, but that usually just ends up resulting in more adhesions. Scar massage also helps to diminish that beautiful mommy apron I'm sure my fellow c-section moms love as much as I do. 

There are some places in the US where you can get this done professionally, but it's rarely if ever covered by insurance here...another reason why maternity and postpartum care sucks in the US. That being said, there is plenty of information that can be found online and there are even some videos on YouTube that give you directions - as mentioned, I discussed with my doctor and he said it's absolutely fine to do and said the techniques I had found online were great. So again, talk to your doctor first and clear with them before starting anything. 

Lastly, don't give up on yourself

I still have pain and issues with my incision and my daughter is 15 months old. Like I mentioned, I didn't start scar mobilization massage until I was a few months postpartum (maybe even 6 months) and I definitely have some strange muscle imbalances and issues that I'm convinced are related to my incision. Every once in awhile during a workout I'll feel a strange pop around my scar and I speculate it's an adhesion being ripped/popped. It's hard to explain, but if you've ever experienced it I'm sure you know what I mean. Sometimes it hurts and I have to stop what I'm doing, but most of the time it's almost like a strange release feeling. There have also been times where I'm doing plank work and I cannot lift my right leg if I'm in a side plank - it's the weirdest thing. I used to actually collapse to the ground when I first started trying to workout postpartum. But I carry on with my workout as long as there's no lingering pain, continue massaging my scar when I remember and carry on with my life because that's all you can do! 

And regardless of how much my c-section sucked, it was totally worth it for this little princess. 

Picture from Monday morning - she thought she was so cute (and she was).

I hope this list helps someone out who is either getting ready or has already had a c-section. And don't let my story scare you off - I was one of the very few people who ended up with a complication and from what I have read/heard, most people end up fine! But regardless, take care of yourself and make sure you have that damn pillow for when you cough/laugh - you'll need it!

Also, don't feel bad if you're voluntarily scheduling your c-section. Do what's right for you! Not everyone wants to push a watermelon out of their hoo-hah and that's fine!

For those of you reading who have already had a c-section, did you have any complications or were you pretty much fine afterwards? Have any of you experienced any of the weird muscle imbalances I have/am experiencing? It's so weird and I don't have 100% evidence it is from the c-section, but that's the only thing that changed since I started experiencing them. So Dr. Jamie has diagnosed it as such and so that's what it is. Medical degree thanks to Google, just in case you're looking for my credentials. 

I hope everyone has a fantastic Tuesday.