The problem? A build-up of gas. The only way to get all systems going was to get out of the bed and get moving – no matter how much it hurt.
So I rolled out of bed and put my bare feet on the cold tile floor. With Silas in a portable bassinet and Mark at the helm, I ventured out of the wide threshold of my room and down the hall. Each step was labored and I found myself hunching as we went. We got to the end, where the nursery was, and I held myself at the wall.
"Can you believe I used to run marathons?" I asked Mark.
"You will again, babe," he said. "You will."
I knew in my heart that there was truth in his words but at that moment, recovering from the C-Section seemed long and arduous. All of the sugar-coated memories of my comeback from my first section were replaced with pain, Percocet and hormone-driven outbursts.
I thought back on that moment this week, running around the house and flying up and down stairs. I bent over to do laundry and carried two baskets from the basement to our second-floor bedrooms. All of it after teaching boot camp in the morning and running after lunch. Just one of those would have been impossible in the early weeks after the C-section much less all of them. But there I was, eight weeks post-partum, feeling (mostly) like the old me.
Note: These are just my experiences and in no way a guide for another person's recovery. Please consult your doctor before resuming any physical activity after birth and honor your body.
Week 1: Walking and activities of daily life are challenging. You haven't felt pain until you try to sit on a toilet post abdominal surgery. After the painful walk on Day 2, I began to slowly add wings of the Labor and Delivery section of the hospital on each walk (about three a day). I was taking Percocet every four to six hours and Motrin every 12. After I was released at four days post-partum, I was moving better and was down to one Percocet every eight hours. The biggest challenge was taking the stairs so I had Mark set up the portable crib, allowing Silas and I to camp out downstairs.
Week 2: I stopped taking painkillers at six days PP so that I could drive Miles to daycare on Day 8. Caring for both boys on my own was a challenge, physically and mentally, and Miles was getting bored. I didn't experience too much pain driving but Miles had to climb in and out of his car seat. I went to the grocery store on Day 9, and it was a bit ambitious on my part. My favorite store is small but pushing the cart and lifting gallons of milk left my incision aching. I made sure to ask the bagger to keep each bag light.
Week 3: I went for my first walks this week, starting with a mile around the neighborhood. I had an awareness of my incision but not a lot of pain. I gradually increased my distance by a quarter-mile every other day. I found that it was most comfortable if I pushed Silas in the stroller instead of wearing him as the Ergo put pressure on my incision.
Week 4: I felt excited and ready to get in more of an exercise habit so I added in some strength training. I avoided all lower body and abdominal exercises to be prudent. I did have to be mindful not to overdo it, as I learned the hard way. At 22 days PP, we walked 2 miles in the morning and then went to the zoo with family. By the end of the afternoon, I felt achy and some pulling at the site.
Week 5: For a small piece of sanity, my Mother's Day gift from Mark and myself was the chance to run a mile around the neighborhood. This run was not pretty. I felt heavy and clunky, even awkward. I didn't have any true pain but I deemed it wise to stick to walking for the week. I also tried a barbell workout to prepare for my return to the Y but discovered lunges put too much pressure on my low abs and hips.
Week 6: I was feeling better so I decided to try another run, traveling by foot to my in-laws' house for dinner while Mark drove with the boys. I covered two miles but had it not been for my ego and love of round numbers, my body would have been fine with 1.5 miles. I continue to work on upper body strength and am picking up Miles with more regularity. He got heavy over the course of six weeks!
Week 7: I am officially cleared by the doctor to resume all physical activity and exercise as tolerated. There's nothing that I can do to the incision/scar that would do harm. He warns me to set my expectations low as I had major abdominal surgery. I celebrated by meeting my girlfriends for a 3-mile run. The first half felt good but I was happy to stop for water at the turnaround. I really had to work to finish strong. I also resume regular (for me) running, logging four outings. There is no pain save for a very localized spot where it feels as if one of the plastic clips is pulling/trying to poke through. (Note: My incision was secured with plastic clips that dissolve on the inside and steri strips on the outside. The plastic clips can poke through and work themselves out. I asked the doctor about this in the beginning of the week, and it's normal.)
Week 8: I participate in my first post-partum race, the Girls on the Run 5K. My endurance is improving, slightly, but I have one speed. The localized pain is all but a memory and lunges now feel as comfortable as they are going to get. I make my return to teaching at the Y and am pleased to discover that basic exercises such as jumping jacks are tolerable. Core exercises are challenging, in part because of the incision but also lack of strength.