Tuesday, June 9, 2015

C-Section Recovery: My Story

I sat up in the hospital bed and rubbed my shoulder. I was just one day post-partum and of all the things that hurt, I found it most inconvenient that my right side was causing me grief. I was sure that I had slept on it wrong or held Silas in an awkward position but when I discussed it with the day-shift nurse, I learned otherwise.

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.

 photo 20150412_124538_zpsjrzfrq7f.jpg

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.

 photo 20150530_090623_zpsn4kqlrnr.jpg

I didn't come across a lot of stories about C-section recoveries, especially pertaining to someone who was and wanted to be active. I thought it might be interesting to share my experience, if only to remember what the early days were like before my brain closes the door on those memories. And moms, we all know the details of newborn life are erased so we can have more.

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.

 photo IMG_20150427_163002_zpsbh4wbeno.jpg

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.


  1. I read your blog every day but I am not a regular commenter. I just wanted to let you know how much I appreciate your honesty in this post. I am getting married next year and we plan to start trying for a baby right away. I have a medical condition that 99% guarantees I'll need to deliver via C-section. Having read so many blogs over the past 3-4 years, I feel guilty about this, even though it's out of my control, as many blogs preach about "all-natural" and drug-free deliveries. There's very little information on C-sections and recovery written by real moms in the blog world and it is so refreshing to read your honest take on it. As much as I'm scared of major abdominal surgery, I feel a little less scared having read about your recovery. Thanks for your honest and candid post!

    1. Thank you for reading and commenting! I often felt frustrated and pressured by the blog standard of this OMG awesome birth experience. I was devastated that I couldn't have one, and it's why I've tried to document more this time.

      Best wishes to you this year with the wedding and family!

  2. Great post! Very helpful. I have some follow-up questions (since you know I may also face a second C-section). Do you think this time was better than the first? Or maybe the same? Do you think anything made a difference in recovery as far as keeping your fitness/running as long as you could during pregnancy?

    1. I am guessing that my experience is close to the same or slightly better. I was not allowed to eat the first time around until I passed gas and so I was moving more in the hospital to work that out. But, running has been much easier this time and I feel like I've gotten back to it better. The one comment that I heard a lot in the hospital was, "Thank goodness you are so small." I'm not sure of their definition of small but I think healing was better because I did stay in shape.