Recovering from a C-section

Slash becoming a mum slash caring for my newborn – I found it all really full-on especially after major surgery!

I told my birth story in What To Expect When You’re Expecting a C-Section and I’ve been actively avoiding writing this next bit. Becoming a mum and getting to know Jessica has been amazing, but I didn’t feel like I got to hit the ground running. Everything except my love for her was running in deficit for the first 6 months or so. Only by then did I start to get the hang of everything and we hit a major sleep regression. Don’t worry, I’ll try not to make this read like a long list of my complaints, but it’s fair to say I’m a bit traumatised – or at least I was for the first wee while.


I left off where Jessica is born and after a fleeting first cuddle, she’s whisked away to SCBU to undergo observation and glucose testing. I’m relieved her Dad is going with her. My itchy face and I are wheeled to recovery and I’m chatting away to the student midwife and nurse as if it’s my job to entertain them, seeing as it’s because of me they’re up this late! Man my face is itchy! The student midwife offers to milk me and I’m all for it. Maybe I even said to her “get in there!” Morphine eh. I can’t stop rubbing and itching my nose and now I’m hot.

“I’m pretty hot” I tell the nurse. She was pretty serious and wasn’t really interested in my drug-induced stand-up improv.

“You’re not hot, your temperature is quite low so you’ll need to stay in recovery until it rises.”

Blankets are now being heaped upon me *still being milked*

“Oh yup so when can I see my baby?”

For some reason, this was received as an unobvious or unreasonable question.

“You can’t until you leave recovery. You then need to go back to your room first before you can go to the SCBU.”

Andrew arrives at my bedside, ashen-faced. “They want to give her formula.”

{oh shit, formula is the devil according to our antenatal classes, we may as well be giving her poison! – don’t worry, I saw through that bullshit and you can read about it in (Breast/Bottle) Feeding }

Me: “But I’ve got some colostrum coming.”

Heavy set Nurse behind Andrew: “You’ve got two options – an intravenous drip or a gastro-nasal tube. She’s got to get her blood-sugar up!”

Me: “But I’ve got some colostrum coming…look” (pointing helpfully towards the milking action, in case that wasn’t apparent).

It felt like the Nurse wanted to put a drip in my tiny baby (and I was still traumatised from my own painful drip). I started to get upset and thankfully the student midwife went into bat for us and handed over the colostrum and assured the nurse we could definitely provide more.

Off they went and I’m left in recovery wondering when I can get this skin-to-skin time that I’ve been so longing for (and has been heavily promoted by the hospital). Is Jessica missing out on crucial bonding time? Will this impact my ability to feed? I just want to hold her and stare at her.

I don’t really remember what time it was, but let’s say at 2.30am I get wheeled to my room before I get to go to SCBU. I’m sick on the way. I get travel sick and I’m beginning to remember that morphine doesn’t really agree with me. I continue to be unwell in my room and I’m pretty upset that this is further delaying me getting to Jessica. Cue the blood nose. I’m starting to see a pattern of press morphine button, be sick a minute later so I decide I don’t really want anymore pain relief at this point. I tell someone that.

I think it was 3-something by the time I got wheeled into SCBU. All the tiny babies in their incubators without their mummies and daddies by their side. And I got to hold my Jessica properly. I pulled down my gown for some wonderful skin-to-skin and to try and feed her for the first time. I was so relieved when she took to my nipple immediately. I wondered why people had said breastfeeding was so hard, because this felt just fine to me (oh, how I would learn!). Feed over and it was time for me to leave again. Saying goodbye sucked and the vague responses as to when I would get to keep her with me were very frustrating.

Hospital – Wound, Wees and Sleep Deprivation

The next day was a blur. I can’t really remember it.

Mum and Dad came to visit in the morning and I still didn’t have Jessica. I’d sent Andrew home for some sleep. I suggested that Mum and Dad go to the SCBU and maybe they could see her. But they came back and said they were turned away. That was my first big meltdown. I was coping so well without her, because what choice did I have, but now my parents couldn’t meet their granddaughter all because I was stuck in this bed and couldn’t come with them to vouch for them. I’d been awake for 30 hours at this point, so it was all a bit much.

They left and I finally got Jessica back after breakfast.

Day 2 – time to get me up on my feet and give me a bit of a clean. It was hard going but the nurse was positive so I felt like it was possible. Other people kept inspecting my wound but I was glad I didn’t have to look at it. Oh yeah – I had a catheter. It was installed while I was numb before the C-section. So that part’s fine. And as far as I was concerned at this point, no big deal. I didn’t have to worry about getting up to go and someone was emptying it for me.

Hey we’ll give you this snazzy new portable catheter bag that you can Velcro on to your thigh. How great is that? But it only holds bugger all and you’ll have to empty it yourself and keep track of how much you’re emptying and let us know.

Oh OK. Because I don’t have anything better to do.

Day 3- Showering was an absolute mission! I forgot to tell you about my routine on 3-hourly feeds

Feed each side

Change nappy

Put baby to bed

Pump with this commercial pumping apparatus like the cow I was (it was actually quite funny, by Day 3 I was sitting on the side of the bed, all hooked up and looking out the window as people were walking past, but I wasn’t at all phased! Their problem if they looked)

Sterilise the pumping equipment

Oh look, I’ve got a spare 20 mins before it’s time to feed again. Here comes the nurse. Sleep window – gone!

I also found it very frustrating that the nurses were very loud at all hours. Hey – I’ve done shift work, it’s so hard to be awake and alert between midnight and 8 (and all the rest), but sleep was this elusive tease that I never could quite get any of and I would’ve hoped that the nurses would at least understand that.

I think by night three, I had started introducing myself as:

“I’m Steph, and I’ve been awake for 70 hours…” I really didn’t know how to ask for help. I was probably quite naïve in thinking that the nurses would just know, keep track and be proactive with my care. A night nurse who was new to me took pity and taught me how to co-sleep safely (life-saver!) and also offered to take her for 2 hours so that I could get a solid block of sleep.

On day 3, they took the catheter out and so I thought maybe we’d be going home soon. But oh dear. Once they take the catheter out, they expect you to be able to do wees by yourself. I was in a single room with a shared bathroom and I was a little self-conscious of going to the toilet for the first time in case stuff and noises let loose from somewhere else. If I could go back in time, I would slap myself and tell me to get on with it!!

At some stage, I was given a time limit and a set amount of urine I needed to pass. I had been drinking water and tea all day. I felt so full and ready to go, but there was that mental block – self consciousness but also, if I push for wee, what if I hurt my wound or something happens to the staples??

By this stage I knew there wasn’t anyone in the other room next to the bathroom but it was too late. Andrew was so supportive. He bought me more to drink, ran the tap for me, said reassuring things, got me into the shower with a measuring container nearby…but it was all to no avail. The catheter had to go back in, which meant I couldn’t go anywhere!! It didn’t hurt too much by the way. I’m not scared of catheters anymore. But now was the worry that if I wasn’t able to wee by myself now, what would happen when it really was hometime? Why couldn’t I have just gone? Now I needed to see a physio who took me through how to pee by myself (how to sit and relax, etc.), and talked about how I had stretched my bladder. Once the bag went back on, I expelled 3 litres in a few hours and the nurses were really shocked. Whoops!

The bag came off on Day 5, I did wees and got to go home! I had been getting daily injections in my stomach (to help my uterus contract back down?) and once I’d had my last dose we got to leave.

Pain Relief

Was always going to be interesting. I can’t swallow anything larger than a tictac. I usually choke. Which isn’t pleasant. Probably a lot of it is psychosomatic but here I am. So the morphine didn’t agree with me. Instead I got paracetomol liquid and something else in a suppository (I didn’t care). I was often hanging out for my doses (again, I often had to remind the nurses) and eventually got some Tramodol which helped. It made me a bit spacey so I used it sparingly. One bit of advice would be to stay on top of your pain relief. I needed the paracetamol and ibuprofen for around 6 weeks and tried to go off them several times (I’m just not a pain relief person) but I would feel it.

That’s a lot for now. One day I will write about what it was like being at home with our new baby – the emotions, hypervigilance, emotional isolation and further sleep deprivation. The healing of the physical wound was probably the easiest part of this journey, apart from forming a loving bond with my new wee babe.

As usual I’m happy to answer any questions, as there are probably quite a few practicalities I’ve left out xx


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