Warning: There are some candid details about c-sections and postpartum recovery in this post. If you don’t want to read that, then you should probably stop here.
This past week, my friend Megan shared an article about a mother who was being shamed for “opting” to have a c-section, with the criticizer saying it wasn’t a “real” birth.
She shared it out of hurt, because she is a c-section momma, and so am I. I told her the timing was uncanny, because our lovely surgery is exactly what I planned to write about this week.
Ya see, c-sections can happen for any number of reasons. Some are planned due to health concerns with the mother, poor positioning of the baby, previous c-sections, previous traumatic vaginal deliveries, and the like. Others are completely unplanned and are the result of either fetal or maternal distress (or both) during labor, and they’re referred to as crash c-sections. My personal experience was with the latter, and it was jarring, rushed, painful, and the most terrifying thing I’ve ever experienced.
Baby girl and I don’t handle inducement well, it turns out, and after about 26 hours in various stages of interventions, labor, stress, and throwing a well-crafted birth plan completely out the window, her heart rate suddenly plummeted and I was rushed into the OR (operating room) for emergency surgery. I felt them moving my organs around—yanking, pulling, rushing—and I was sobbing and yelling out (I had previously gotten an epidural but I guess it wasn’t loaded up enough). They had to stop to knock me out with a hefty little cocktail of ketamine and some other drug, and I don’t remember a thing after that until they were stitching me up. My sweet girl was healthy as could be, and to this day we don’t know what caused such a severe stress reaction. All I know is that it could’ve gone so so so much worse, and I thank whatever powers are out there every day that it didn’t.
Coming out of that experience, I had zero coping mechanisms. I hadn’t planned to be recovering from a major surgery. I hadn’t planned to have a catheter for 48 hours because my bladder wouldn’t work, or to be constipated for four days because apparently that’s a thing after childbirth. I hadn’t planned to have searing pain shooting down my groin and across my hip as my nerve endings attempted to heal, and to be stopped dead in my tracks while attempting to walk because the pain was so bad. I hadn’t planned to sleep in a recliner for the first two weeks–and to not be able to twist enough to pull the side lever for myself–because I couldn’t move from a horizontal to vertical position, or to need help showering, standing up, and sometimes even moving from one room to the next.
The first two weeks were by far the worst, but then I started to regain a little bit of mobility at a time as I weaned off the Percocet and Motrin and tried to figure out how to function with this body. I was so excited for my six-week checkup, where I would hear the words, “You’re cleared to resume all normal activities.” I was thinking about barre and running and kickboxing, and somewhere in the haze of fatigue there was a small thought of sex (I’ll address my experience with zero libido during and after pregnancy in another post). What I wasn’t excited for was my huge reality check when I went to that first barre class the next day, for yet another thing I hadn’t planned on was having to modify much more of my workouts than I ever did while pregnant. Yes, I could do more at nine months pregnant than I could six weeks postpartum.
When talking to Megan about this piece, she relayed some of her personal experience:
“Each one of my babies were born via c-section. Every time the recovery process was long and painful. I remember crying because I couldn’t pick up my toddler after her brother and sister were born.
To this day I still deal with issues around my incision area. There have been times since beginning my fitness journey that I just can’t do some things. A move can put just the right pressure on my incision area and it’s no bueno. I’ve learned to be cognizant of those this and opt out when that happens.
It’s amazing what our bodies can endure and I am always thankful that my children and I are alive. I also have to accept the fact that my body will never be the same. I’m just more aware of that now. “
(And btw, Megan is the amazing #girlboss over at Megan Hall Motivation, should you feel like checking her out.)
The road of recovery has not been an easy one. Baby girl is now almost 16 weeks old, and while I’ve been able to gradually resume a lot of my normal routine, I get friendly reminders at least a few times a week that I still have healing to do. Core work has been extremely challenging because your abdominal wall has literally been sliced completely through and stitched back together, so you’re essentially teaching all of those muscles how to work together again. I couldn’t get into a full push-up or plank position for about another month (and mind you, this is after the six-week checkup), and while I can get into those positions now, my body is still 25 lbs heavier than it was pre-pregnancy, so I don’t have the strength I need to hold anything for long. There are also times when I’ll simply be sitting on the couch and suddenly feel a throbbing ache or burn underneath the right side of my incision, which I’ve been told is probably the side they tied everything off on and will always be the more problematic end.
One issue that surprised me was the pain from anything that worked my inner thighs. I thought that since I didn’t end up pushing a watermelon out of my lady bits that everything in that general between-the-legs region should be good to go. What I neglected to realize is that I had still spent 41 weeks with an increasingly large bebe pushing down on all of those areas, and the muscles had to be in a constant state of work and stress to support it all. I still have times where I go to do something simple like jumping jacks that requires your legs to be pulled together quickly, and I feel a very sudden and painful reminder near my groin that I need to be more careful.
Childbirth is not for sissies, and neither is postpartum fitness, but fitness has been a huge part of my life for almost a decade now and it’s my main tool for sanity-maintenance, so I’m willing to do whatever it takes to stick with it. But if you’re a momma who’s been here before, or are maybe here now, be it from a c-section or good ol’ vag birth, I feel ya sister. You are not alone. We’re gonna have to fight for what we want, but we brought humans into the world, so I guarantee we’re strong enough (and just generally awesome enough) to do this. If you ever need a pep talk, or if you have questions, or if you just need a virtual hug, feel free to give me a shout (and that goes for non-mommas—including men!—as well)! I will happily be your cheerleader.