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C-Section Recovery: The First Two Weeks

May 25, 2018

Just over three weeks ago, Ben entered the world via an emergency C-section at Vanderbilt University Hospital (here's his birth story, if you missed it). Now that we've escaped the NICU, family visits, and work events, I finally feel like I'm ready to focus on my recovery. I was surprised to find that there weren't a lot of "resources" online talking about C-section recovery, outside of the initial pain/discomfort that comes from major surgery. Frustrated and trying to figure out if I was "normal," I reached out on Instagram and got a LOT of great feedback from veteran C-section moms, some of which I'll share in my next post!


The First Week:


A few hours post C-section


Since Ben's C-section was a TOTAL surprise (I wasn't even in labor -- my cervix was "high and tight" a few days prior), I really didn't process what had just happened immediately. I found out Ben was going to be delivered at about 10:50 pm and 16 minutes later, I was under full anesthesia, cut open, and he was out. When I woke up, there was definitely discomfort but not a ton of pain -- I'm going to attribute that to the anesthesia and IV meds I was receiving. What DID hurt was the fundal massage! That's when the nurses come and press on your uterus to make sure all the blood clots are getting broken up. When they came to do that, I would grab the sides of the bed and cry out in pain! I'm not sure if it was generally just painful, or extra painful because of the surgery.


My incision was about 6-7 inches across, right below my bikini line. All the stitches were internal -- only steri strips on the outside. That kind of blew my mind! They stayed on until the end of the first week, when I was told to remove them in the shower.


About 8 hours after Ben was born, I stood up for the first time, and walked to the NICU. The NICU was about 75-100 meters down the hall, so it was a perfect distance for me. That day, I walked to the NICU about 3 times, and rode in a wheelchair the other times we visited. Each day, I tried to do a few more trips on my feet. They were slow, uncomfortable, and somewhat exhausting -- but that movement was so important to me physically and mentally.


Another funny story from the first week: I actually removed my own catheter climbing out of bed right after my first trip to the NICU! When I put my feet on the ground, I stepped on it and felt what I assumed was some blood passing...until I looked down and saw a big, clear wet spot near my feet. Whoops...(but also kind of great because even after just 8 hours, I was tired of maneuvering around that set-up).


I was discharged after about 60 hours (2.5 days). We were very fortunate because Vanderbilt has a "room in" NICU, and a room opened up the day I was supposed to discharge. Basically, Casey loaded me into a wheelchair and we moved across the hospital to Ben's room. There was a pull-out couch, TV, and bathroom for me, and as a breastfeeding mom I could order three meals a day from the cafeteria. Because of this set-up, I didn't do much the first week post-C section. I stayed in the room by Ben, doing his vitals and feeding him every 3 hours. It wasn't until Monday, 5 days post-C-section, that I actually left the hospital and walked a quarter mile to Dunkin Donuts for coffee. I made that walk every morning for the rest of my stay. Long story short: I'm grateful that I was trapped there. It forced me to do almost nothing for a few days, which would have been very, very difficult at home.


 One week post C-section


The Second Week:


For the last few days in the NICU, I ventured out more and more. The Vandy hospital campus is big, safe, and close to lots of restaurants/etc., so I made it a point to not only get coffee every morning, but also to escape between Ben's 11am and 2pm feedings and again for a short walk after dinner. Again, it was slow. My steps were short because my normal gait just felt too big and tugged at the incision. I doubt I went more than 1-2 miles total any of those days, but it felt GOOD to walk around and breathe fresh air. Casey was back and forth between the hospital and our house an hour away, so I spent lots of time alone. Just escaping the black hole of our NICU room was important.



 My "black hole" in the NICU


My pain remained manageable throughout this entire time.  About 24 hours after surgery, I downgraded from some big drugs to 600mg of ibuprofen every 8 hours. That was more than enough to keep me comfortable, as long as I wasn't doing too much. By the middle of the second week, I was only taking ibuprofen  twice a day, in the morning and at night. The incision was generally numb, but started "waking up" as the week progressed. It started tingling on the outside, and basically felt bruised a few inches in each direction of the incision site. The actually incision stayed numb, though.


We went home on May 11th, a few days into Week 2 of recovery. It felt SO GREAT to finally leave the hospital! The hardest part of being home was a) being around Grace and b) having family in town. Even with other people to entertain Grace, she just wanted to be around her mama. It's SO HARD to explain to a 1-year old that Mommy has a boo-boo and can't hold her. Casey was great about taking her up for baths/bedtime/diaper changes, which helped me avoid having to lift her. When we first came home, holding Grace (who is 30+ lbs) was too much. By the end of the week, I was much more comfortable with it.


I continued to walk every day once we got home. I had to! It's just too hard for me to sit in the house all day. One 1-2 mile walk per day was PERFECT for me. I'd go in the morning, before it got too hot outside. One thing I started noticing at this point was how much my back and legs ached. It was almost as though they felt fatigued. My back made sense -- nursing Ben required me to hunch over so that he was in the best position possible -- but I have NO IDEA why my legs ached. Honestly, I think it was the significant change in activity. My legs were used to going 100 mph (jk, more like 5.5-6.5 mph) and had been barely moving for 2 weeks. Stretching and foam rolling really helped with that.


I also started wearing the Bellefit postpartum girdle this week. I can't speak highly enough of it! I tried it on at the end of the first week, but it was too tight/uncomfortable. By the second week, it fit perfectly. It gave me so much support on my incision, and helped me feel much more comfortable. I also think (but don't know) that it helped my swelling go down quicker because of the stomach compression. Which is a totally vain thing to admit, but let's be real -- feeling "normal" again isn't really a bad thing.


 Toward the end of week 2


So -- I wanted to capture all 3 weeks so far here but at 1200+ words, it may be time for a break! Coming soon: a 3-week update + all the tips I got from Instagram!

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