Recovery is never easy. Especially if you’re as impatient as I am! All the experts advise you to “sleep when baby sleeps” for the first 6-8 weeks but I was so excited to be home, I just wanted to do stuff! My partner was cautious and did his best to keep me resting but I longed to jump back into normal life with renewed purpose, cooking and nesting as much as my post-surgery body would allow.
I didn’t go crazy but I didn’t take it completely easy either, I was somewhere in the middle. I had five wonderful days of settling in at home, relishing my partners help and watching my beautiful son enjoy his new nursery. (I spent months planing and putting together his room during pregnancy, I had lovingly pondered over colours and baby furniture and it turned out beautifully! 🙂 )
I got tired pretty quickly and if I moved around too much during the day I would get a slight throbbing pain in my healing scar by evening but all in all I felt delighted, still high on maternal love!
A large part of my recovery was getting used to breast feeding. I had decided to breast feed early on in my pregnancy. I knew it was more restricting, I would have to express enough milk in advance if I wanted to go somewhere and I couldn’t really drink, over do it on caffeine etc but I am a planner by nature and I am a naturalist. I see the importance of evolving as a species and creating new technologies and medicines but I believe there is no substitute for what our bodies were built to feed our newborn infants. Of course there are many mothers who are unable or choose not to breast feed for different reasons and it is wonderful that there are formulas available to them. I didn’t know what to expect or if it would even be possible but it was important for me to try the natural way first.
Latch-wise I was exceptionally lucky with Mars, he latched on straight away and certainly had no problems with suction, he was like a hoover! I had been encouraged by the midwives to try it for two weeks and given the impression that all would settle by then and I would love it. I remember sitting for a feed at the end of my second week wondering why it wasn’t easy and I didn’t love it yet 😦 . My nipples were so cracked and sore that I dreaded feeding times and I watched the clock in pain waiting for him to finish but I used gel cooling compresses and a moisturising oil and they eventually helped. (I would definitely recommend moisturising after every feed from the beginning before your nipples get dry and crack. Anything with lanolin oil in it gives amazing relief and the milk itself is designed to help so rub a little around the area after each feed.) My nipples started to ease two and a half weeks in and suddenly feeding no longer hurt. I went from hating it at two weeks to adoring it at three weeks, it was honestly that sudden of a turn around! With no more pain I could finally focus on baby’s beautiful grateful little face as he fed and the intensity of emotion you feel watching your child receive all the nutrients and antibodies he needs from something your body naturally produces for him is truly amazing. It felt primal, as if at feeding time, all the craziness of this modern world disappeared and I was just a mammal doing what I was born to do, another mother in the wild, nursing her infant. 🙂
The other big hurdle I faced with breast feeding was getting used to how my breasts filled up. They can get extremely sore when full (at the start) and I was blessed to produce an abundance of milk so I was sore A LOT. My first night home I expressed a few bottles for my partner to feed Mars so that I could finally sleep and I slept like a log but I woke up in agony because my breasts had been filling up for 8 hours :(. This was probably the most frustrating part of breast feeding for me, how could I rest if my breasts kept waking me up, even when Mars was sleeping, because they were so sore!? I found it difficult when trying to leave the house too. I went on a Christmas shopping trip with my sister and two friends in early December and every two hours I felt a painful rush of milk until my breasts were so full and sore we had to give up and go home. It did bring to the forefront of my mind all those days I had taken for granted, my entire life previous, when I could sleep or shop for as long as I wanted without any pain or responsibilities but I didn’t let the low moments get me down and slowly my breasts learnt little mans routine, adapting accordingly.
I am still learning about breast feeding every day and baby’s routine continues to change as he grows. It isn’t easy in the beginning but if you can push through and persevere it is one of the most incredible, soul-warming experiences you will ever have.
C – sectional Woes
Perhaps the most significant moment of my recovery came on the sixth day of my return home. I woke up abruptly at 5.30am. I had quite a strong pain in my right breast from fullness and I felt rather shaky. I put the shaky feeling down to tiredness and took Mars to the living room for his feed. I followed our new routine, burped and changed him and watched him drift back to sleep. I lay him down and sat on the couch flicking through TV channels. After about an hour I became conscious that I was freezing. It’s winter and not uncommon for the house to be cold so I figured it was just a cold morning. I flicked on the heater and wrapped up in a few jumpers but the cold didn’t lift. It got worse, it felt as if my bones were wrapped in ice, I was cold from the inside. I threw a few blankets over my legs and around my shoulders and clung to them as I waited for the warmth to set in. Another hour passed and I glanced at Mars peacefully sleeping beside me, I felt so cold I was frozen to the spot, I wondered how I would look after him when inevitably, over the years to come, I got sick with flu or whatever. Suddenly, finally, I felt warm. At first it felt wonderful in comparison to the shivers but it quickly became uncomfortable and I pulled the blankets off me, then the jumpers, I was burning up and felt dizzy with the heat. My mum came into the room and suggested I give the doctor-on-call a ring. I described my symptoms to a nurse and she explained that my body could be fighting an infection and they were sending an ambulance immediately.
The thought of going back into hospital! It was my worst nightmare but I felt so unwell. The ambulance men arrived and whisked me off to the local hospital (not the hospital I gave birth in) where I lay on a trolley in Accident & Emergency for 9 hours. The A&E was absolutely packed with all sorts of emergency cases but the nurses were lovely, they examined me and administered antibiotics and fluids through a drip while I was on the trolley. The doctor that completed my initial examination explained that the infection may be mastitis in my right breast (This is where a milk duct gets blocked because the breast has been full for too long and the area becomes infected.) This was the one moment of doubt I had about breast feeding, at the time, I lay there in pain and questioned if I had made the right decision. It turns out any woman can get mastitis after giving birth, whether she chooses to breast feed or not. It’s not something I caused by “doing it wrong” some women just get it and some don’t and once it’s treated the pain goes away very quickly. (It did make me nervous to get too full for a while afterwards but the pain never came back and I got over it. 🙂 )
I was referred to a specialist who examined me further and felt that it wasn’t mastitis that was causing my symptoms. I was to get further tests on my scar. I knew this meant I was staying in 😦 😦 😦 . My head was spinning wondering how Mars was, wanting to be with him while also knowing deep down I was too unwell to look after him. Being separated from your few-days-old baby unwillingly is an incredibly intense experience. It is maternal instinct in it’s strongest display, again like an animal in the wild after they give birth, my desire to be with my tiny baby was fierce, in the truest sense of the word. I pumped bottles in a side room of A&E with the help of equipment the maternity ward kindly brought down for me and my Dad drove an hours round trip every few hours to collect the bottles as I pumped and drive them back to my partner who was at home with Mars. The nurses arranged a bed for me on the post-labour ward so that I could bring Mars in the following day, to stay with me and feed. I felt so guilty dragging him into another hospital when he had settled so well at home. I worried about this second set of antibiotics, would he receive them through my breast milk? (It will become an obsession if you breast feed, believe me, wondering if and how everything you ingest affects your milk and in turn your baby.) Was it bad for him to have so much so young? How would I look after him when I felt so awful?
I was in for three days and had xrays and scans of my scar. The ultrasound revealed a haematoma (A solid swelling of clotted blood within the tissues.) below the right side of my scar that looked as if it may be the site of infection. My scar had been quite tender since the surgery but I hadn’t noticed anything that felt unusual. I thought the tenderness and the occasional light throbbing was normal after surgery! I had a similar few days to the last time I was in hospital except this hospital wasn’t as good as the first. The staff were all wonderful, they were just genuinely far too busy! On the third day I almost had a repeat of the “you have to stay another day” scenario but versed in it by now, I asked the nurse to contact the doctor in charge of me and ask if I could just take the antibiotics at home and LEAVE. It took hours to hear the doctors response as he was in surgery for most of the day and wanted to examine me first. That evening he was called into surgery again just as he was due and was unable to see me but thankfully he agreed over the phone with the nurse and gave me a prescription and a follow up appointment. My partner, who had again visited every day, helped Mars and I to the car and for the second time, we wearily but thankfully entered our front door. My mum had cleaned the house, stocked our fridge and made dinner. I felt so blessed to have such a wonderful support system!
Mummy’s First Fitspiration
I think the lesson of those first two weeks was not to push myself before I was ready and to take better care of myself. Certainly in the short term in regards to recovery but especially in the long term, I needed to be fitter, to be as healthy as I could (to hopefully avoid hospitals!) for myself and for Mars now.