You can read about my first c-section here.
As I prepared myself for a third, I searched blogs and looked for other’s experiences and details of their recovery. My first two c-sections and pregnancies were worlds apart. With Baby #3, all my pregnancy experiences fell somewhere in between the wide divide I had known. I wanted to prepare myself for what to expect with a third recovery.
As our surgery date approached, I had some very real fears about a third major abdominal surgery. It was not because I lacked surgical experience, but because I knew the details of the process and recovery too well. Having been through nursing school, I once stood on the other side of that sterile field and watched women’s bodies be pulled open. I saw how the instruments manipulated organs, tissues and vessels. Having had two prior c-sections, I knew, all too well, the slow return to normal life. Neither side of the curtain was a comfortable place for me.
Many women have far more than three c-sections- I read one blog about a lady who had had nine! However, after comments our doctor had made about my inward healing and scar tissue, I knew this surgery would be my last. Natural fears haunted me and being at the mercy of a doctor and a knife was a thought I had to give to God. I wanted to wake up from surgery and still serve my family, I wanted my body systems to endure surgery well and I wanted more than anything to be given the opportunity to be mom again. I had to place my trust and confidence in God- knowing He loved me and this precious life inside me. My only option was to walk in the peace He provided.
For me, this was my second time to roller my suitcase into L&D. To check in with a nurse before the sun rose, be given a gown and sign my life away on paper. They started an IV, gave me a bag of fluids, and attached the fetal monitors. I had two real contractions on the monitor, nothing indicating impending labor.
They let me walk back to the OR (this was a first for me.) The nurse who came to get me was masked and had her hair netted, she said her name, but all I remember is that she was young and confident. She opened the doors to the OR, the cool air took me by surprise and the two techs inside stopped their clanging of utensils for a brief moment to introduce themselves. The anesthesiologist was a young female too. I couldn’t help but feel embarrassed as the team helped me onto the narrow OR table and exposed my backside to prep for the spinal. A more experienced anesthesiologist soon flung open the surgical suite doors, he entered with a full view of my behind and began his recited piece about the procedure almost immediately. I forgot how vulnerable it feels.
Goodness gracious is hurts… Or maybe it is just incredibly uncomfortable. Taping into spinal pressure is a terrible feeling. It makes me squeeze my fists hard and want a board to bite into. I buried my head into the pretty nurse’s chest and thanked God when the medication was quickly inserted. The anesthesiologist told me I would feel heat in my bottom and they would lay me down quickly because feeling would quickly disappear to my lower half. Within 10 seconds I felt the heat and then the nausea. I had warned the anesthesiologist that I had vomitted the whole way through c-section #2 and then hours into the day. He speculated it was a drop in BP and promised to keep tabs on me during this procedure. Nonetheless, almost immediately, I started vommitting. Not being able to sit up or twist is a humiliating feeling. Thankfully, the younger anesthesiologist kindly kept me suctioned and wiped my face. My husband was so patient, he kept whispering in my ear how proud he was of me. At one point, my OB told the anesthesiologist they needed to do something to make me stop vommitting (I can’t imagine that trying to do abdominal surgery on a sick patient is an easy task.) The anesthesiologist responded, “I have literally given her everything.”
The last thing they have me was an IM shot. I can’t remember what they called it. It made me incredibly drowsy and made me slip in and out of consciousness, but it calmed the vomiting down significantly. I continued to throw up periodically after surgery until the evening when they gave me Narcan, an anesthesia reversal drug. It worked! But…woah, bring on the post-surgical pain.
It all went about the same as I remember- lots of tugging, stretching and pressure sensations. No pain though. They lifted our sweet boy above the curtain, announced his gender, and soon after he was on my chest. I had intended to have the curtain dropped to watch him “be born”, but with all the nausea, that didn’t end up being an option.
After baby was out, I was on the table for a long while being sewn back up. Our Doctor mentioned later that the scar tissue was really bad and he was thankful they had two surgeons in the room. Once in recovery, he basically told us that as our friend and doctor, that unless God told us to have another baby, this should be our last. My abdomen had seen better days :).
Recovery- the initial phase:
Day 1: Maybe it is because pain is only present in the moment, but getting out of bed the first time was very painful. I cried as the nurses helped me to the bathroom. When we got back to bed, I looked at my water cup with angry eyes- every sip meant an impending trip to the restroom.
Discharge: We left the hospital at 48hrs post-op. We wanted to get home to our big kids and I felt I had a pretty good grasp of what I could/couldn’t do. My husband had to help me in and out of bed, take me to the bathroom, help me in and out of chair. However, these were all physical limitations we had anticipated.
Night 1 at Home: a ROUGH, rough night. Isn’t the first night always, though? Lots of displaced gas pain and my body ached so much. The little activity I had done for the day, completely wore my body out. I wished we would have taken the extra night in the hospital.
Recovery- The passive phase:
Week 1: I can do most things alone now. Take myself to the bathroom, bend over, put on shoes, etc. All activity still comes with a price and I find myself achy and exhausted at the end of the day. I’m regular on my ibuprofen prescription and taking as little of the narcotic as possible (I don’t do well with the hazy head feeling.)
Week 2: I can do most things now and have to remind myself that my body is still trying to heal, pushing the limits too much isn’t good for me in the long run. I walked a 1/2 mile 3 times this week. Each time, I have been COMPLETELY exhausted. We also ventured out to the mall- I walked one length and had to send my husband back to get the car. It is so hard on me mentally, but my husband reminds me that everyday and every week is a step towards full recovery. I’m still taking the Ibuprofen 2-3 times a day, but have stopped the pain meds. I am cleared now to go upstairs and to drive- I’m sure next week will have new accomplishments!
Week 3: This was a rough week- physically and emotionally. My incision got infected (hard, red, swollen, tender area of about 1inch) and then a couple days later, I thought I was hemorrhaging. Thankfully, we caught the infection very quickly and started antibiotics. I felt so sad to start antibiotics (though they are much better than an open wound). I feel awful when I take them and I knew Miles would see their effects too. It was just depressing to feel like we were digressing, when my hopes were set on feeling better this week. 😦 Within 24hrs, the small amount of pus and redness cleared up, but Miles was just miserable (gassy, high-pitched screaming). Emotional days. Later in the week, I started passing excessive clots and had to do a 24hr bed rest to make sure I wasn’t hemorrhaging. After about 36hrs, things cleared up- thank God. In that process, I completely stopped the Ibuprofen. No more round the clock medications.
Week 4: Singing praises for a week of “real” recovery. My incision is looking great, though a small part appears to be trying to keloid. I am feeling stronger and gaining energy (despite the lack of sleep) everyday. I can handle the stairs with ease and have left the house with all three kiddos several times. Target has welcomed us back with open arms. 🙂 My abdomen is still pretty tender to the touch- bruised feeling. However, unless I over-do it, I don’t feel pain with normal activities of daily living. I had my first post-surgery chiropractor appointment too! It felt so great to start working on some abdominal breathing exercises and get adjusted.
Week 5 & 6: These weeks blended together. With the return of strength and endurance, I was able to do many more outings and I feel like I can keep up with my family. Unfortunately, my incision opened again and shows signs of more skin infection. It is pretty tender to the touch, but hasn’t shown signs of a deeper issue. My doctor gave me a regimen (hydrogen peroxide, antibiotic ointment, gauze, etc.) to keep the incision area clean and we plan to watch the oozing for another week. I can’t say how tired I am of pants rubbing on my incision- I wish it was appropriate weather for summer dresses!
Week 7: Too many re-visits to the doctor for this wound. The guess is that my body is rejecting (acting allergic) to the internal stitches and forming pockets of infection around the stitches. Several spots on my incision have opened and drained, and they are now finally healing. I’ve been doing lots of Epson Salt compresses, Colloidal Silver and my whole cleaning regimen. The optimistic mental game was the hardest battle to fight this week.
Week 8: My incision is dry, closed and less swollen then ever. We have finally made progress! I started running the day after I noticed all the open areas were closed and though my mid-section feels heavy and sore (almost like a deep bruise), the fresh air was more than enough to be grateful for. I feel like we are really, finally, on our way to an active recovery!