I thought I’d write a little about my c-section recovery, at least for the first week. I’ve had loads of people asking me questions about it, some who are booked in for caesarean sections themselves and want to be prepared!
I’m always a bit wary when people ask me about my “birth experience” or what have you; as soon as you write things down, they sound so much more dramatic and I hate the idea that someone might read my words and be made anxious about what their own experience might be like.
I think it’s important to remember that each person will recover from surgery differently, so please don’t let anything I say scare the wits out of you, if you are booked in for a section. Recovering from a c-section is definitely no walk in the park, but it’s not the same as recovering from other surgeries because – and this is what you have to focus on here, it helps to keep your mind off the potentially gross stuff – you have a brand new baby!
You also have to remember that one person’s experience is never going to be the same as yours – and, in fact, even if their birth was identical they will still have perceived it in a different way, and have had different emotions that will colour their memories.
So, I’m going to try to report on my post-elective-caesarean-recovery with as little emotion as possible – just the plain facts. If you don’t fancy reading on, then in summary I’d say that the first twenty-four hours were…trying…and the rest of it has been pretty much as expected. Lots of painkillers, no heavy lifting and a general squeamishness towards my scar area!
Elective Caesarean Section at 9.27am – no complications, very little blood loss, minimal time in the recovery area before transfer to the labour ward. Obviously completely off my tits on whatever I was on, but hey. They wheeled me on my big wheeled bed through the corridors and I gurned at everyone we passed, holding my little newborn creature to my chest and wondering why I could see elephants on the ceiling.
11am: was offered orange squash and biscuits. Consumed heartily.
11.05am: threw up squash and biscuits – a lot – and the pain in my wound was immense. Even through whatever cocktail of drugs I was still on. Even through the SPINAL BLOCK! I couldn’t move my feet or legs, yet I could feel that I may have split my newly sewn-up insides.
11.10am: was assured by the professionals that nothing would have split. Wound checked and no bleeding.
12pm: horrific, horrific pain from my wound site and further inside my body, begged for more pain relief. At the same time, breastfeeding (yay!) and trying not to throw up or think of throwing up or smell the throw up that was in my hair and all over my chest in case that made me throw up.
The rest of the day was a blur. I needed morphine for the pain that (I’m certain) my initial throwing-up caused, but the morphine made me throw up again. Oh, the joys. As I was on the “enhanced recovery programme” where they get you home after 24 hours (HAHA! How did I fall for that one?) I had my catheter removed at around 8pm and then was encouraged to get up and sit in the chair next to my bed. I got up and sat in the chair next to my bed, helped by two lovely midwives who then disappeared. I sat there semi-naked, staring at the floor and willing myself not to puke, but then I puked, loads, and my body felt as though it was being torn in half.
(I’d like to point out that – had I not puked in the first place – I would have actually been A-OK. So don’t freak out if you’re having a section and reading this: my advice would be not to eat or drink so soon after the op. I didn’t eat or drink for hours and hours afterwards with Angelica, so not sure why I was encouraged to this time around. Last time they kept listening to my stomach for bowel sounds so that it was safe to eat, this time they said “we don’t do that anymore”. Maybe they should..)
3.56am: husband text to say he had done a wee dance (I have no idea either) with the dog and the cat (I can’t even imagine), to send good urinary vibes my way. A minute later I did the most enormous wee and proudly carried it along the corridor to the midwives’ office with two minutes to spare before I would have been having a tube re-inserted into my bladder, this time NOT under any anaesthetic. Thank the lord for small (humungous) mercies. I slept like a bloody log after that.
But as soon as I got home, a different sort of pain hit me. I had this with my first c-section but didn’t ever work out what it was: trapped wind! Sounds like a joke, is anything but. I actually think that the pain from the air that gets trapped in your body during the op (combined with the fact that your bowel has been messed with, and all of the drugs) is worse than any pain from the surgery incision itself. It makes it almost impossible, if you have it badly (which I did), to get up, lie down, straighten out, roll over, anything. Imagine being inflated like a balloon and then having your entire torso squeezed in a pincer grip – that’s what it was like. Immense, all-over torso pain.
On Sunday morning I woke up on my back to find that the trapped air was in my chest and shoulder area (or felt as though it was) and I was virtually paralysed on the top half of my body. I had to scream for help, but I couldn’t even scream properly because my lungs felt as though they weren’t working! Once I had been hauled upright by my panic-stricken husband, I was fine, but it was a scary few minutes – I spent the rest of the day Googling trapped wind remedies and sending my husband out to more and more obscure chemists. I seriously upped the peppermint intake (tea, capsules – extra strong mints worked well) and took some Lactulose laxative (advice of midwife) and slept in a pile of pillows to ease my discomfort. It’s this sort of thing that makes me think that a 24-hour discharge after a c-section is a really bad idea. I could have done with the electronic up-down bed – trying to get out of a normal bed, from a lying position, was absolute agony!
Trapped wind situation was about seventy billion times better. But I didn’t sleep a wink due to the constant feeding of New Baby. My mobility was better, still weak but more out of being wary of causing pain than anything else, I think. I’m very squeamish and any sort of sensation from the scar area sent me into apoplectic fits of silent, inward hysteria. Unfortunately my husband is also squeamish, and a hypochondriac, so there’s no “problem shared is a problem halved” with us when it comes to medical issues…
I felt almost normal. Bad stomach, probably from the Ibuprofen, so I considered cutting them out of my painkiller “schedule” as I wasn’t feeling any pain anyway. Considering I hadn’t slept for two nights, I really felt as though I’d made a ridiculously fast recovery. I was virtually sprinting up and down the stairs (an exaggeration) and getting out of bed no longer made me feel as though I was being sawed in half. Hurrah for fast recoveries!
The executive decision to stop some of my painkillers turned out to be a terrible, terrible decision. The midwife turned up to remove my stitches (I didn’t have dissolvable because of the type of repair work they did and/or previous scar tissue, I don’t fully remember the reason) and as she tore off the dressing it pulled on the wound and OH MY GOD the pain afterwards! It was unreal! It’s really hard to get back on top of pain once it’s been unleashed and it really sets you back in terms of wanting to do anything, like get up or bend forwards or go to the loo. I made the mistake of thinking the pain had gone – HA! It was just the painkillers doing their painkilling work…funnily enough. What a rookie error – I really regretted trying to run before I could walk.
I realise I’ve counted the day of the baby’s birth as day 1, when I suppose the day after should have been day 1? Anyway, whatever this day was, the day before a week afterwards: the wound was still smarting somewhat. Because of the midwife ripping the wound dressing off? Or because I sneezed about eighty-eight thousand times in the night? Who knows. I went back on a strict painkiller routine and took them with food to minimise stomach discomfort, but was definitely feeling a lot better. It’s easy to forget that a c-section is major surgery – you try to just get back into the swing of things, because you have a new baby to look after, but it’s so important to rest and get well. For the next week, now that things are settled, I’m just going to get loads of sleep whenever I can and stop staying up late to write incredibly long blog posts!
I hope that this recovery report hasn’t been too – erm – informative or explicit. I wouldn’t say that I’ve had a particularly horrendous time, apart from that first day in the hospital with the vomming and the forced urine sample – as I said before, everyone has their own experience. With my first c-section, the worst memory was them messing up my cannula (the thing that the drips feed into in your hand through) but this time it was the vomming. Neither experience has particularly traumatised me, but both times I was very focused on the baby (I’m guessing that most people are) and so you just sort of get on with it. I certainly wouldn’t be saying to anyone “oh it was a nightmare” if they asked how it all went – I feel very lucky that the birth itself was uncomplicated. All the bits afterwards are just to be expected, really, aren’t they?