Caesarean Section. Oh how great thou art. Not. But let us not digress too soon. We know they save lives and are medically necessary at times. But talking about the healing afterward...OUCH does come to mind!
Anyone who has been through c section knows that this is no walk in the park. And anyone who has not been through a c section would have probably read one or two horror stories about it. While a c section may have saved countless of lives, one cannot deny the complications that come along with it, nor the long recovery period required after the surgery.
Irregardless whether one underwent elective caesarean or emergency cesarean, the journey to recovery will be similar. It will be a long and slow process filled with more than a few 'ouch! Darn! Oh s**t! What the!' moments.
And when the pain, numbness has finally subsided, one will need to live with the battle scar and sometimes that tingling feeling for the rest of their lives. What? No! Sob! But worry not, it is not all that bad.
The scar will serve as a reminder of the beginning one's journey through motherhood and can serve as a story to be passed down for generations to come (cue to snoring children who have grown bored of listening to our c section story for the up tenth time). So here's a general rundown of how the first 15 days will be like after being sliced open and stapled back by the surgeon.
15 Day One: The First Cut Is The Deepest
Baby's out! Yay! Finally that little wriggly and bumpy little rascal has been evicted from your uterus. While you may enjoy the sensation of being a mother (be it a first time mother or a been there done that mother), the feeling, or the lack of it will be generally the same.
What the heck are you talking about, you might ask? Well, when one undergoes caesarean, there will be an epidural given to numb you from waist down so you won't scream bloody murder when the surgeon cuts you open. The numbness can last from a few hours to nearly a day.
So even after the nurses wheel you out of the operating theatre, you might feel as if there is a part of you that is missing. Some might be able to feel pressure on their legs and feet when pressed on but generally you won't feel pain and neither will you be able to move your legs. It's a pretty surreal feeling.
Perhaps this can give us an insight and the ability to empathize with those who are permanently paralyzed from waist down. Oh wait, did I mention you might bleed like crazy too for the next day or two? Fret not though, this is normal and the bleeding should stop after day three. It's called lochia, and any women who's birthed a baby whether naturally or through caesarean will experience it.
14 Day Two: Move That Money Maker
Assuming you had a good night's rest (you should, since the nurses will be looking after your baby most of the time) and disregarding the midnight checks on your body temperature and blood pressure, the numbness should have worn off by now. Try wiggling your toes.
Are they moving? Yep...good. If they're not, then please proceed to go into panic mode and yell for the nurses.
Day two will be slightly more challenging. The doctor might not advise you to start walking yet since the catheter is still probably stuck in you to help aid your urination, but you will have to start exercising your legs lest they get numb from the cold and from lack of movement.
Oh yea, if you were throwing up the day before (some people have adverse reactions to epidurals and go into poltergeist mode and vomit their first meal after the surgery), you should be feeling much better today. So go ahead and dig into your favorite pasta or hot chocolate. Also, do check if you can pass gas. If you can this means that your bowel movements are recovering nicely.
Else keep monitoring and if by tomorrow you are still gas free, feel free to freak out.
13 Day Three: Talking That First Walk
You're going home today with your kiddo! Congratulations! You're about to take your first wobbly step down from the hospital bed. The first attempt to sit up and stand straight might have you cursing and swearing non stop but do not let the pain deter you. Those jabs of pain will fade over the next few days.
Plus your doctor will be giving you painkillers to cope with the onslaught of pain when you're at home so no biggie (right? Right?) Remember to hold onto railings and support as well as onto your wound bandage. The pressure you put on your abdomen might actually lessen the pain when you attempt to take your first leak in the bathroom (oh yea, the nurses would have taken out the catheter in the early morning of the third day to encourage you to start peeing normally again).
Once you successfully make a trip to the bathroom yourself without any issues, the hospital staff will send you packing and tell you that you are good to go. Pat pat, now shoo!
12 Day Four: Home Time
You're home! Oh home sweet home! The smell of your favourite pillow, the feel of your favorite rug, the sound of your annoying neighbor. Ahhh....nothing beats being at home. But wait...you just had a c sec s few days ago. Is it wise to be at home? The answer is yes.
First and foremost, you will need to ensure that your newborn I'd properly settled in. It would be best if you had help from your spouse or parents or a midwife to look after your baby while you rest (yes you'll need it) for the next few days.
You will have trouble carrying your child for the next few days as the pressure from your child's weight (even though they are feathery light) can still affect the recovery of your wound. So while you might want to carry your child and snuggle him or her in your arms, try not to do it too often.
Or at least get a support pillow while you breastfeed or hold them. It will hurt but the feel of your baby in your arms might just be worth it. Also, do watch out if your feel pain in your bladder every time you want to pee. This could be a sign of urinary tract infection (UTI) from the catheter. Shit happens.
11 Day Five: Afraid To Use The Toilet
Again, note of you feel any pain when your bladder is full. If something feels off, do not hesitate to zoom right to your gynaecologist office and demand for a scan. Believe me, UTIs are no fun. You might be put on antibiotics to clear up the infection and this might affect your breastfeeding adventure.
But say you are one of the lucky few who have no such issues, then chances are you will probably be getting up from bed and carrying your little one a little bit more with ease today. Each sunrise will find you with more strength and less pain in the abdomen.
Also, if you have have not started bathing in the shower (many women just sponge or wipe themselves the first few days for fear of getting their incision wet without realizing that the hydrocolloid dressing enables them to bathe safely and free from unnecessary worries), then you should.
Imagine the smell of your hair and body ordor. Eeeeew. Only your baby would think you smell nice.
10 Day Six: Going To Those First Appointments
Perhaps today would see you and the baby back at the hospital for the one week check up. Also, the doctor might take this opportunity to take out your staples (or if some of the staples are the self dissolving type then you might need to wait for a few days more) or to check your wound to see how they are healing.
It will be a tiring day, having very little sleep from the night before and having to travel a distance to see the gynaecologist and pediatrician. So once you head back home, try to get some rest and not exert too much strength. Give yourself and your c section scar a rest. You both deserve it. After all, the doctor did pull out a baby approximately the size of a honeydew out of your once slim belly.
9 Day Seven: Doing Some Light Chores
If you didn't already visit the gynaecologist and pediatrician yesterday then today would be the day. Generally things will be quite similar to day 6 with the exception of you (maybe) experiencing less and less pain and discomfort when you get up from the bed or from the couch.
You can probably move around more and start with simple chores like washing and sterilizing your baby's bottles, gently bathing them and cuddling them but always keep in mind not to apply too much pressure on your wound.
Expect to still sport your pregnant look and avoid wearing tight fitting clothes. Just a slight brush of even the silkiest cloth against your wound could send you screaming for mercy. And of you have a double storey house, try not to walk up and down too much as well. You can attempt to start your exercise later. You're not in a hurry to join the next beauty pageant are you?
8 Day Eight: Feeling Slightly Better
The start of week 2. Yippee! If you have survived the first week then rest be assured the second week will be slightly better. There's light at the end of the tunnel after all! The pain will still be there. In fact, note that you're out of your painkillers, the pain might feel even more intense but that is normal.
Some women take months to completely heal, while a few others feel 'back to normal' within a span of 3 weeks. Every woman's body is different.
It would still be best to have help (be it hired help or voluntary help from a family member) to help look after your baby and the house while you recuperate. There is no need to put on a strong front, a full recovery (physical and emotional) is vital. You will need all the energy to deal with your child later in life.
So if your in laws have offered to help out, accept the offer! Chill out, sit back and relax! God knows you won't be able to do that once they leave. Imagine your wailing and pooping baby and you in last night's sweater smelling of vomit and hair and possibly breast milk. Not exactly a very exciting time to look forward to.
7 Day Nine: The Laughter And Tears
If on this day your are still feeling crappy and tired, do not be alarmed. This is completely normal. You are after all recovering from a surgery, having a lack of sleep and rest so fret not. You might however want to try and stand up straight to regain your pre surgery posture.
Many women avoid standing up straight after their surgery for fear of popping their sutures but do not let the fear and the pain deter you from standing straight again. You wouldn't want to end up with a hunchback would you?
Logically you should have stopped the initial bleeding by now but if you are still having a heavy flow please seek your doctor. We shouldn't really start to bleed for a good 3 to 4 months at the very least. Do try to avoid comedies and jokes and getting the flu or cough at this time.
It won't be funny when you cough or sneeze and feeling like someone had just stabbed you in the gut. That's how it normally feels when you try to laugh after a surgery.
6 Day Ten: Ready For Hugs And Play
You're almost at the two week mark! Hang in there! If you feel up to it, you can actually do simple household chores like light laundry and simple cooking and if there's already a toddler in your house, why not engage in a little playtime with your little one. He or she has probably been craving for mommy's attention the past few days. Poor munchkin.
Just don't play kung fu fighting with the little one. You will definitely be on the losing side. However, if you are recovering well then perhaps a stroll in your garden (an extremely slow stroll with baby steps) might lift up your spirits. Go out and smell the roses. Just don't get stung by a bee in the process.
Sitting up with a straight spine might still prove to be a challenge but you should feel that it is slightly less painful to do so by day 10. If it still hurts like hell, do not worry. Some women just heal slower than others. You will get there, it's just a matter of time.
5 Day Eleven: Get Some TLC If Possible
Your nerves should be starting to heal (those that haven't been cut apart anyways) and the tingling sensation when you run your fingers through your abdomen is normal. And in some other areas, you might not have any feeling at all (that's where the severed nerves have packed their bags and said sayonara to serving you).
This would be helpful best time to wear grandma's undies, you know, the unattractive high waisted beige color undies that you swore you would never wear when you were a little girl. Well, you'll need them. In fact, you'll be begging for them. Anything else would be mighty uncomfortable right now.
Some women hire a professional masseuse to give them daily massages for a week or two after birth (with the exception of the incision area) and this can do wonders to your physical, mental and emotional well being. It can help you relax and maybe get a much needed snooze.
4 Day Twelve: Ready To Move Around
While some women are up and about by day twelve, others would still be confined to their beds in misery wishing they hadn't undergone a c section at all. To those who recover at lightning speed, good for you (secretly we despise you). But remember to take things slow.
To those who are having a hard time, we feel you (secretly we are laughing our butts off at you). Take your time to baby yourself. Yes, you heard that right, baby yourself. You will need to recover properly before you can take good care of your little one. No one wants to have a mother who is physically and emotionally incapable of taking care of her baby.
That's just not a sexy sight. Take your time in the bathroom to answer nature's call, it'll hurt to poop and sneeze and cough, but hang in there.
3 Day Thirteen: Feeling A Bit Stiff
On the thirteenth day after c section my true love sent to me, a lot of swearing and pain. Yes, you will still hurt. And yes, the area around your incision will still be more sensitive than a woman on PMS.
Some women suffer from stiffness in their fingers during this time. While science has yet to find a proper explanation for this, fret not if you are one of those who have trouble bending your pinkies. The stiffness will eventually fade over the course of the next week or so. If however it refuses to budge and you still feel the stiffness of a 90 year old, please do not hesitate to seek an opinion from a general practitioner or a rheumatologist.
Sometime after you have stopped bleeding for a day or two, you might find yourself having another Nigeria falls (or a bloodbath) again. This is just your uterus trying to clean itself up. But if you are bleeding non stop and feel that this is not normal, consult your gynaecologist. Always trust your instincts.
2 Day Fourteen: Going Out For The First Time
Two weeks after your stint in the operation theatre, you should start feeling more humanoid. By right, you should feel at least 70 to 80 percent of your usual self. The scars should be healing nicely and you should be able to carry your child and go about with lightweight chores without any problems.
Sure you'll still get the 'pulled muscle' feeling, but that's to be expected. And by now it should be pretty safe for you to start young behind the wheels again (do consult your gynaecologist though. The general timeline for people who heal well is a minimum of two weeks before they are allowed to start driving again. Imagine how pressure of her seat belt on your wound. Not exactly a very comfortable feeling no?)
With the ability to drive again, you could actually go to the nearest store to do some simple grocery shopping while taking the opportunity to walk around and get some fresh air and some time away from home. Some women enjoy being able to get out of the house even if it's for only a little while. So if you have someone helping to look after the little one at home then feel free to give yourself a breather. You'll need it.
1 Day Fifteen: Tingling Sensations
And finally. The start of third week. You will still be feeling a lot of tingling pain around your incision and some numbness and yes, you will most likely still be wearing that ugly looking grannies' undies and probably sporting an extremely unattractive pouch. But you should also start feeling stronger and be able to resume most of your usual chores.
In fact, a few months from now you might even want to consider doing planking or some light exercises to tighten the muscles around your abdomen (whoa....not now ladies, I meant at least 2 months from now).
Stay away from tight clothing that could rub against your skin as well as heavy chores that could cause you to sweat a lot especially around your tummy. Take your sweet time and do not stress yourself out. Again, the 'one baby step at a time' mantra will work wonders for you. So start chanting girl!
Sources: Whattoexpect.com, Babycenter.com