I still had several weeks left of my pregnancy when the C-word was first mentioned. My baby was breech, and the policy at our local hospital is to not attempt a natural delivery when the baby is a known breech presentation.
Initially I was very upset. I didn’t want to give up running for potentially twelve weeks, giving up driving for six weeks following the operation would be very tough, and I was concerned that as I would not actually be ‘giving birth’ to the baby it would mean that I would struggle to bond with the baby when it first arrived.
However, as it began to look more and more likely that I would require a Caesarean, I came round to the fact that the operation would be inevitable.
Although terrified of the operation itself, it was more the no-driving and no-running post birth that I was dreading. I had no idea though just how much pain and discomfort I would be in following the operation. I naively assumed that as I was going in to the birth very fit, my recovery would be much quicker and easier than for most and hoped that the articles I’d found online stating that a new Mother should be able to walk slowly for up to 15 minutes three weeks after the birth were just an exaggeration and wouldn’t apply to someone like me who had been regularly walking and running throughout the last nine months…
So here I am, three weeks following the birth of Oscar, trying to do my best to document the days following my operation. On Sunday night I managed a twenty minute walk to visit somebody who lives the other side of town, and then made it back again. – The furthest I’ve been to date. In some ways I wish I’d jotted these notes down sooner when they were fresher, and more clear in my head. Another part of me is glad that I didn’t though, otherwise I would never want to go through everything again to have any more children in the future!
Pre-warning: there are more squeamish parts in this blog post than there were the birth story itself! If you want to read my birth story, I have documented that here.
Day 1: Wednesday 28th September
After returning to my bed in the hospital bay late the night before, the midwives had woken me every 90 minutes through the night in order that I could hand express milk, which they then syringed from me to feed to Oscar. I wasn’t yet able to pick him up or even hoist myself up in bed and, with a catheter, drip and drain all attached I couldn’t even turn in the bed to soothe him when he cried. The extent of my interaction with Oscar at this point was when the midwife left his plastic see-through crib close enough that I could extend my fingertips to rock it gently whilst I waited for somebody to help me see to his cries. It felt awful just lying there, listening to him cry and knowing I could do nothing to stop it or soothe him.
I was brought two slices of toast for breakfast and given a slip by which to choose what I would like for my lunch and dinner that day. There was a choice of several different options, but to be honest it would have been impossible to get five fruit and veg portions in for the day without topping up with food from outside the hospital.
My throat was sore in the morning. I vaguely remembered reading somewhere before the operation that pressure would have to be applied to my throat so that I didn’t throw up if I ended up having to be put right out. I appreciated having the scratchy toast to open up my airway a little! My sore throat, along with the severe lack of sleep and general pain meant that I didn’t feel up to calling anyone from my hospital bed on Wednesday, although throughout the day I texted and privately messaged on social media a few friends to let them know that Oscar had arrived safely.
I had been given IV paracetamol during the night through the cannula in the back of my left hand. There was also a cannula in my right hand for anything else the doctor deemed appropriate to give me. All the advice going into the operation was to not refuse any of the pain meds and try not to be a ‘hero’ following the birth. There was no chance of me refusing any of my medication. I could not believe the immense amount of pain I was in the following day.
At regular intervals, liquid morphine was brought to me in small pots. It tasted kind of like a dodgy shot on a night out. I also had a pot filled with tablets three times a day – two paracetamol, a stronger pain killer, iron tablet and ascorbic acid – as I had lost so much blood in theatre my iron levels were very low and needed picking back up again. I’m usually rubbish at taking tablets with just a gulp of water, but following my hospital stay I’ve got the technique perfected!
Each evening for the ten days following surgery I also had to be injected with clexane to prevent blood clots as I had been bed bound. This is standard procedure for all C-section patients, and Dan had to continue giving me injections once I returned from hospital until my ten days were up.
When my pain meds hadn’t arrived on time, my body definitely knew about it.
The pain would start in my lower stomach – almost like a bad period pain but spread right up high across my chest and be completely unbearable. My stomach felt completely battered from the surgery, although luckily I wasn’t able to sit up enough to see my scar or bruising yet at this point.
At one point in the afternoon I was in so much pain, all I could do was concentrate on breathing in and out to take my mind off the pain. In my head I half-smiled, as I imagine it must have sounded like I was going in to labour – something I never got to experience! My breathing became very heavy and the lady in the bed next to me ended up pressing her buzzer for assistance for me. It wasn’t long before I was being served another portion of morphine and it didn’t take much longer for the pain to fade from my body.
It had made sense for Dan to take his week of paternity leave once I came out of hospital (especially following the complications of my caesarean). So, although the majority of other ladies had partners accompanying them in their bays during the daytime, I relied entirely on the hospital staff for support and was alone until the evenings, when Dan would be able to stop by for a few hours after he had returned home from work. On the first day a couple of friends from my running club dropped in to see me and I was very grateful to see a pair of familiar faces at my bedside, despite knowing that I was looking incredibly rough and unwashed by this point!
A paediatrician visited in the afternoon to assess Oscar’s legs. As he was a breech baby he was born with very ‘froggy’ legs – his knees came right up to his chest and naturally hung in that position. The paediatrician flexed his legs in every direction and didn’t seem too concerned that there was any chance of lasting damage, although booked O in for a routine scan of his joints at three weeks just to be on the safe side.
Throughout the day several of the hospital staff commented to me about how they aim for Caesarean patients to be up and walking around within four hours of delivery. By this point nearly 24 hours later though I couldn’t even prop myself up onto my elbows without help and couldn’t ever imagine being able to walk again(!) In the afternoon, one of the midwives pushed for me to try and move off the bed and onto the armchair in the corner of my bay as she felt that Oscar would have a better shot at latching to feed if I was in an upright position. With a lot of help I managed to perch myself upright on the side of the bed for a few minutes. This was made all the more difficult by the fact that I had to hoist my blood drain and catheter bags across with me. After a few minutes of perching on the edge of the bed, I lurched into a bent-knee standing position. Then, at the encouragement of the midwife I took one shuffly step forwards, before promptly collapsing into a crumpled heap onto my table. The midwife pressed my emergency buzzer and within seconds my bay was filled with staff who rallied around to help me back into bed again.
Failed get-up attempt number one!
By the time Dan arrived in the evening, there had been a shift change, and the new midwife on duty in my bay also pushed for me to stand. I felt much weaker by this point, so with a lot of help from Dan to get my legs positioned underneath me, and with the support from both Dan and the midwife I managed to let them pull me into a standing position. I remained in this almost vertical position for perhaps a minute before my world began to spin and I had to lower myself back down onto the bed again.
I really underestimated just how much I needed my stomach muscles for every day tasks. Who would have thought how much you need your stomach muscles in order to help you stand?! I had to pretty much let Dan take all my weight and then pull me into an upright position. I wasn’t able to help at all by bracing my weight against him. When it came to returning to bed I soon realised that the simplest way was to lay on my side, for Dan to fully support my legs, where he could quickly lift them into place and I would be able to roll back up into position. This incredibly ‘simple’ task would leave me in pain for the best part of the next half hour.
Following my second failed attempt at getting into the armchair, Oscar had begun to cry for his feed so, (as was now becoming the norm) the midwife got him out of his see-through crib (I swear it was just a gerbilarium!), comforted my baby, helped position me onto my left side (the drain was on my right and my stomach was too sore and swollen to support Oscar still) and held Oscar up for him to try and feed. A few minutes later she declared that once more, we were having no luck. This time she left Dan with a syringe and instructions to collect 1-2mls of my milk as I expressed. Not sure that when Dan asked for my number almost ten years ago he ever imagined that he would be syringing milk from my breasts in a hospital bay!
Day 2: Thursday 29th September
On being woken in the middle of the night once more to express and feed, I was in too much pain to be able to do anything but squirm uncomfortably in the bed. The breastfeeding specialist called the midwife on duty, and it was discovered that my catheter had partially come out, causing my stomach a whole world of pain. Between the two of them, they made the decision to fully remove the catheter and then help me to stand and make my way over to the toilet opposite the bay I was on. Although this really was no distance away at all, it felt like a marathon and after propping myself up on Oscar’s crib I heavily lent on both ladies who then supported me as I shuffled for at least twenty minutes, almost sobbing in pain to cross the room to the toilet. One of them was carrying my blood bag and the other my washbag, under the impression that I would be able to stand to wash once reaching the large disabled toilet cubicle. Although I had been determined to get there, even I was incredibly surprised when we made it through the toilet door. The next ten minutes were incredibly undignified as the ladies placed a pot on top of the toilet and helped lower me down onto it. They left me whilst I did my business but then came back in again to put my knickers on and take away the pot to measure the contents so that they were able to monitor if any urine had remained inside me. Going to the toilet for the first time in two days was uncomfortable, but not a painful experience, although I hadn’t been able to pass much at all. Between them, they were able to help hoist me back up from the slightly higher toilet and bring me and my unused washbag back out of the cubicle. I was already beginning to feel incredibly weak and as my legs buckled under me passing through the door, they shouted to a passing porter for a wheelchair. I was then wheeled the 50 or so metres back to my bed where I was helped back in so that I could return to feeding Oscar.
Although happy that I had been able to stand and walk (shuffle) a short distance, now that the catheter had been removed I knew that I would have to work hard to improve as the trip across the corridor would have to repeated many times throughout the day.
I was in too much pain to be able to express anything for Oscar to drink by this point and the midwife in charge returned to inform me that they were going to have to place Oscar on a strict feeding plan as he wasn’t getting enough milk. I felt really helpless. I knew that I was unable to express anything, and couldn’t even look after myself, never mind the new baby I’d just brought into the world. I was to go from feeding 1-2mls every 90 minutes to 37mls every four hours! I had no idea how I was ever going to get so much milk off for Oscar, and was thankful when a pump was suggested, as Oscar was now over 24 hours old.
I managed 9mls in 30 minutes.
I was devastated when they pushed me to feed Oscar a bottle of pre-mixed formula. I couldn’t even do that myself though, as I was unable to hold him in place. From my position on the bed I watched the midwife feed my son an entire bottle of formula…and then continued to watch as he threw it back up again.
I managed to doze back off for a little while before being woken to three midwives with a scanner entering my bed bay in the early hours. Because I was still in so much pain, and had passed such little urine, they used the scanner to determine if there was any urine left inside my bladder that I had been unable to pass. After a few readings they established that things were actually OK and perhaps I just hadn’t consumed much fluid since my catheter had come out earlier that morning.
Oscar’s feeding plan and my choice of feeding was also discussed with me in detail at this point. I was determined to produce enough milk, and luckily(!) it seemed my milk had come in by this point. I easily managed the required 37mls which I felt rather smug about and passed over to the midwife for feeding. My smugness was short-lived though. It appears that using an electric pump so soon after birth can mess with the amount of milk that your body produces. I was literally pouring with milk for the rest of my stay in hospital, getting through so many baby wipes as I tried to awkwardly freshen myself up in the unchanged bed and clothes that I remained in for the first three days.
There is nothing dignified about having a baby at all. There must have been twenty people over that first week who watched me breastfeed, midwives who helped me pull up my underwear and nurses who examined the neat Caesarean scar which I was able to see for the first time the following morning in the bathroom mirror.
Between new roommates, constant feeding, babies crying and the checks on both me and Oscar, there really was never time to get bored on the bay. Oscar had a hearing assessment on the Thursday, (all was OK), and a doctor came to assess whether or not my blood drain could be removed. (It was decided to remove it the following day instead as my blood loss had increased due to the moving around from the morning.)
At lunch a lady came to change my bedding but I was unable to get up on her demand. She was rather abrupt with me and told me I should have been up and about days ago. She did mellow slightly towards the end of our conversation and promised to return at the end of her round to help me get to the bathroom. Despite leaning heavily on her, the journey was much quicker than it had been that morning and I already felt like I was capable of more.
I had slept through breakfast and when my lunch arrived I realised that due to the pain I had no appetite and struggled to eat more than a couple of bites. This was also the case at tea time and I ended up eating barely anything on the Thursday at all. I was really feeling sorry for myself and just wanted to go home by this point.
My third attempt at getting to the bathroom was with the help of Dan that evening. We struggled past scores of people visiting the other ladies on my bay and made our way over to the bathroom. Despite Dan offering to stay with me in case I needed him in the cubicle, I assured him that no husband needed to go that far and that I would be fine if he remained within shouting distance. The struggle was real when it came to pulling up my own knickers, but with a sudden lunge, rather a lot of discomfort and willpower I made it and called Dan back in to collect me again.
Day 3: Friday 30th September
After the horrific day I’d had the day before I begged for someone to come and stay with me on Friday. My parents were over at our house, with the aim of my Dad getting the tiling in our bathroom complete so that I would be able to have a shower upon leaving the hospital the following week. They had intended on coming up during visiting hours that evening, but after a word with the midwife I managed to persuade them to let my Mum stay for the day as Dan would be unable to. Dan was an absolute star the entire time I was in hospital. Not only did he head into work each day, but he then came straight to see me in hospital each evening, bringing any items I needed along with him. Having not initially been intending to stay for quite so long I was out of items quicker than I first thought, and we needed a variety of new sleepsuits for Oscar as he was so tiny and 0-3month items drowned (and still drown) him!
Dan dropped my Mum off at the hospital a little after 8:30 on the Friday morning and I literally put her straight to work as Oscar needed his nappy changing when she first arrived. This was followed by general tidying and organising of my area. I felt rather guilty for asking so much of her, but it did feel good to have things looking a little clearer in my bay and it was nice not having to press the button on my bed for help every time that Oscar cried.
After lunch two nurses came to remove my drain. It was an incredibly uncomfortable feeling as they pulled the pipe out from one side of my body to the other. I immediately felt so much better for having had it removed though and I feel that my recovery really began properly from this point. Traveling to the bathroom with just the help of my Mum was so much faster throughout the day.
When visiting hours began that evening, Dan brought my Dad up to meet Oscar and then took some lovely photographs of both my parents with Baby O. Oscar is their first Grandchild, but he is number six for Dan’s parents. As my parents intended on driving home that evening, Dan took them back after a little while, before returning to hospital for the third time that day so that he could spend some time with Oscar and Me himself.
…I’m going to leave my recovery story there for now. I had initially intended on writing about the first ten days of recovery, but looking at the word count after just day three, I know I need to split it! You can read all of my previous pregnancy posts here.