Monday, July 21, 2014

all you never wanted to know about c-sections & c-section/postpartum recovery

In my research about labor & delivery I would keep ignoring the chapters about C-sections and C-section recovery because well OBVIOUSLY I wouldn't be having one because I was going to be an A+ student and birth my baby the way I wanted and within a short amount of time. Duh.

Oh the arrogance!

In Alice's birth story I described what it was like when I was wheeled into the OR and the general what happens when you get one and meet your baby for the first time so here's a few more details on the experience.

You are only allowed one person in the room with you and for me that person was Matt. He was allowed in right before Alice was delivered and he stayed with her the whole time after she was born and brought her to me when she was cleaned up.

Obviously you don't see much with a curtain about 1 foot from your face blocking the view so when your child is born you don't get to see them for a few minutes but you do get to hear them, which is a joyous sound you will never forget. Your arms are numb and heavy and they are stretched out like you're waiting for a hug and resting on a table on each side. Your legs are wrapped up in this massage machine that keeps circulation moving during and for a few hours after you deliver and it feels pretty good like someone rubbing your legs up and down. I was offered oxygen which I didn't really want and as I mentioned before I felt like I was gonna pass out but once they didn't seem to be alarmed by that I got over myself and woke up. After I met her I asked if I could just fall asleep and they said sure and I maybe closed my eyes for a second but you feel very exhausted.

Once the baby is removed from your body you get these crazy shaky chills that are normal and they put a warmed up blanket on you that is heavenly. Before you know it and after you've met your baby they're done putting you back together and the curtain is gone and you are feeling numb but okay. They wheel you over the a recovery room that I shared with a poor girl that was having a rough reaction to the meds and had puked a few times. Nausea is to be expected with the anesthesia medication but luckily I didn't experience any of that, I was just beat.

For the first four hours after the surgery you are monitored very carefully to show signs of any infections or adverse reactions to the medication and the procedure. They check your blood pressure, temperature, etc. I was so so thirsty after the thing and all they would let me have were ice chips and I feel like I had two big buckets of it. It was during this waiting period that I was able to hold Alice for the first time and give her the first meal I'd been slow cooking all these months. After the family left we were wheeled upstairs to the postpartum recovery floor to begin the recovery period. It is customary to stay in the hospital for 3-4 days after a C-section since you're way more delicate than a vaginal birth.

I had an IV with some oxytocin and pain meds going into me, still had a catheter, and the massage thing was working on my legs. I was still pretty numb so I'm not feeling much pain, only tiredness. I'm not sure why they gave me oxytocin, I know what it is, it's the synthetic for a chemical your body makes to help your uterus contract down back to normal size which your body pretty much does anyway but maybe since I hadn't delivered vaginally they thought I needed the help.

It seems like there's two stages of surgery: the being tied up with tubes and assistance of all kinds and the weaning off of these tubes and assistance. I was given pain meds through the IV for awhile and then transitioned to oral medication. Either that day or hours later, the catheter was removed and I was able to walk to the bathroom on my own. The first time I got up and walked to the bathroom was one of the more painful moments in recent history. Sore all over and my legs just barely working I moved to the bathroom at a very slow pace with Matt guiding me there. If you'd have seen me, it was both comical and pretty pathetic looking. Over the course of the stay I was able to move faster and faster but we did have a sad incident where I couldn't get to the bathroom in time and peed on the way there. At this point gang I have peed myself so many times that I have no shame. Just the way it is.

The pooping on the other hand was the big hurdle we had to overcome before we felt ready to go home. Since during pregnancy your organs are all squished up to make room for the baby now there's no baby so they're stretching themselves back down to where they originally are and that makes for a very slow pooping situation. I had eaten three square meals a day for about 3 days before I was able to poop and that was after days of stool softeners, milk of magnesia, coffee, and warm prune juice. I feel like I sat on the toilet for a half hour the Monday morning I finally pooped but the relief of knowing things were normalizing was enough for us to decide okay, we are ready to go home now.

Once we were home however, pooping became difficult. Michelle thinks its due to all the oral pain meds I'm taking but I am clogged up like the 10 freeway on the way to Santa Monica during rush hour. The poops have been the most difficult and painful poops in my life. I may have missed being able to push the baby out but I was close to the experience with these poops, yeesh. For such moments I was prepared however thanks to my expert: stool softeners, medicated wipes, and preparation H and now the house is stocked with prune juice & milk of magnesia and I am drinking water like crazy.
On top of the incision to deal with there's also the looseness of your tummy due to no more baby being in there. It's quite freakish to see your skin just out of place but you know it was for a good cause. They put a giant maxi pad on top of the incision to act as a barrier from the support wrap I'm wearing. It's taken me a week to finally look at the incision, I was just freaked out by the concept but it's right around my bikini line and I'm told my doctor is one of the best so the marking should be minimal. That was a bummer there: 9 months of no stretch marks and now I have a surgery incision scar. Oh well. I have a support wrap around me as well that's not the most comfortable thing in the world so we're looking for alternatives one of which is to just use those high waisted shape wear support undies aka granny panties. I think this whole belly loose thing is more part of the postpartum and not particular to C-sections but you know, thought I'd mention it. I've heard good things about this wrap and honestly, it doesn't feel like a vanity thing, it feels like a support thing. To me anyway.

One of the more annoying things about the incision is the fact that it hurts to laugh. I have to hold myself in and Matt makes me laugh so much that I have to have him tone it down a notch. Also, don't watch "Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee" while recovering, you may literally bust a gut laughing.

You are able to shower with the incision, in fact it's encouraged, just let water run down your body and don't scrub it with any product, just water. Let it air dry completely or pat it down before you put any wraps or pads or clothing on it. You're encouraged to take walks to gain your strength back but just don't over do it and no carrying anything heavier than your baby. Heck, don't carry anything but your baby, you're recovering from surgery darn it.
Accept help as much as possible and don't be shy about asking your partner to get things for you. Don't try to do much yourself, take it really really easy. It's going to take a while to recover from this and you will have to see your ob/gyn for a follow up within a few weeks to remove staples and see how you're doing in general after all you've been through.

The recovery is definitely the hardest part but at least you have an adorable baby as a reward. When you're feeling tired and in pain and weak, just spend a few minutes staring at your baby and holding its little hand and somehow, you'll find the strength to keep going.

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