Nothing would’ve prepared me for the recovery of the c section.
With my body still shaking from all the meds post-surgery, I stayed in the recovery area for about 2 hours. From what I can remember, everything seemed like a blur. I can’t really remember any conversations from that day. Jennah weighed just under 2 kilos. She was TINY and slept 90% of the time. I had a catheter in and my legs were still numb from the epidural they gave me before the surgery. The only thing I needed at that moment wasn’t even to sleep. It was a cup of tea.
The Second Day
The first 24 hours post-surgery was fine, simply because I was confined to a bed with a catheter, still high as hell, and didn’t have to move. But the second day was the beginning of a nightmare. That was when the meds wore off, the epidural wore off and the catheter came out. That was when the nurses advised me to start slowly moving around more. Even if it’s a small number of steps each day.
I didn’t realise the extent of the pain until I had to get out of bed to use the toilet on my own. I was in agony with every movement around the abdominal area. Imagine trying to get out of bed without bending forward at all? Or sitting up from a lying position without using any core muscles? The stitches are right under the stomach, so it’s already in an awkward place. It would take me almost 10 minutes to get out of bed. And then another 10 minutes to walk to the nearest restroom. With all that pain, I had to hold urine which already required strength in the bladder, and then slowly make my way to the toilet without peeing myself. Each step felt like a kick in the stitches.
By the time I would get back to the baby 20+ minutes later, I would tell myself to be a bit quicker next time otherwise someone might eventually kidnap her. The paranoia was real. How can I possibly go to the toilet 50 times a day and leave the baby alone? But it seemed impossible. I was going to the toilet A LOT. It would be that dreadful task I didn’t want to do because of the pain. A part of me wanted to ask for the catheter again, but I knew that moving around was vital for recovery.
Walking was one challenge, bending down was another, along with laughing, sneezing, and pretty much moving any part of my body. I would pray for the baby to stay sleeping a little longer because the thought of trying to pick her up would stress me out.
One thing that really got me was how much time I was alone. Back when restrictions were still in place, the visiting times in the hospital were 12 pm – 8 pm. Only 8 hours out of the 24. So I would have to wait until the afternoon for my husband to visit me. And just one person was allowed to be there. During vital hours (overnight and early mornings), I would have to slowly reach the baby to change or feed her alone. There were moments when I would give up trying to move out of the bed and just lay there on the verge of tears. I would just listen to the baby crying, before trying again. My last resort was to buzz a midwife to pick up the baby for me but that doesn’t always happen.
The midwives were lovely *when they eventually came*. It was just a case of buzzing for them and waiting up to 10 minutes for help. I was in a room with 5 other women, some were having breakdowns because their babies were crying for 10 hours straight. Another woman gave birth to twins. Double the stress. As much as I wanted to moan about needing more help, I had to remind myself that they were trying to help others too.
A lot of crying and it wasn’t even the baby
I had some crying sessions at the hospital.
“How long will I be in pain? When will I sleep comfortably again?”
I didn’t think it would be that bad but once your mobility is snatched away from you and you can’t even pick up your phone when it drops under your bed, it really sinks in. I remember one night, I was in the middle of an emotional breakdown. I wanted to get up to use the toilet but the pain was just too much, despite all the painkillers. At this point, visiting hours were done so my husband was not there. I didn’t know what else to do but to sit on the edge of the bed and cry. Even crying was painful. I couldn’t really do anything in peace.
Before I knew it, a nurse swooped in to take my blood pressure again. I’m sure my blood pressure was checked over 50 times when I was in the hospital due to my high blood pressure in labour. However, in that moment, I just wanted her to ask me if I was okay. I would’ve been alright with a hug or even some support to the restroom. Instead, she just awkwardly waited for me to stick out my arm, as if asking “are you okay?” wasn’t on her to-do list that day. I almost felt embarrassed to be crying in front of her, like I was doing something wrong. I wiped my tears and stuck out my arm for her to monitor my BP.
That’s when I decided that I’m better off at home with my family because my mental health deteriorated fast.
Discharged after two days
I wasn’t supposed to leave the hospital after two days, but I couldn’t stay a day longer. There’s something about hospitals that made me feel mentally drained. All I wanted was some peace. Instead, I was forced to stay awake because of the noise coming from babies crying opposite me, nurses chit-chatting away, constant BP checks, blood tests, etc. Of course, these checks were for my own good, but I just needed peace. I told several nurses that I was ready to go home and some hesitated at first. But after a few more checks, they knew that my tablets were working and it was safe for me to go. 12 hours later, I received my discharge notes and packed my things.
My mother was waiting for us outside the ward to greet me and the baby. She didn’t see us since the surgery, then my husband swapped with her. As I wobbled awkwardly to the car, I didn’t anticipate just how bad the car ride was going to be. I assumed I would just have to put my seatbelt on and that should hold my stomach in place. I couldn’t be more wrong.
Every movement, bump and turn felt like someone put a dagger in my stitches. The sharp pain was so intense, my whole body felt it. I urged my mum to drive at 5 mph all the way home. Bless her, even when she was trying her best, I was screaming all the way home. At times I just wanted to open the door and walk the rest of the way. What was supposed to be a 20-minute ride ended up taking double the time. It was torture. The day I went home, I vowed that I’d never get inside a car or go outside until I was 100% fine.
Recovering at Mum’s house
Coming home from the hospital was when reality hit me hard. At the hospital, I was constantly distracted. But being at home and you’re up every two hours whilst the rest of the house is asleep? Different ball game. Thankfully, I’m Somali and new mothers get excellent treatment and TLC for the first 40 days after birth. I would get meals on a beautiful tray made with love from my mum. My sister would take the baby whenever I needed some sleep. My husband would visit my mum’s house every day whilst he was on paternity leave. So I definitely had all the help and support I needed.
My mother was helping with night feedings and help me get out of bed several times a night. One particular night I was close to tears because I kept waking her up, way more than the baby did. I was getting frustrated for not being able to just get up and walk to the toilet normally. I know that my mum didn’t care about losing sleep, she just wanted to help me. But I still felt bad for not being able to do things for myself. It was an emotional rollercoaster. As much as I had all the help in the world, I still felt isolated and alone in this pain.
All this time, I didn’t feel a bond with the baby at all. I couldn’t pick her up or spend a lot of time with her because I was so caught up in the pain I was in 24/7. It took 2 months for me to feel any kind of love or bond with the baby.
After a few days, a midwife came by to take out the stitches. The day I was dreading was finally here. But it wasn’t as bad as I thought. She carefully took out two screws that were on each side of the incision (yes, screws) and then slowly pulled on a long thread that came out so softly.
“There. Now it shouldn’t feel as tight,” she said.
Hmmm, I don’t know about that.
As days went on, it felt like the pain was getting worse before it got better. I was too scared to stand up straight when walking because of the fear of ripping my stomach open. It felt like they stitched me up a bit too tight. For the first two weeks, I walked around like I had a hunchback. I could still hear my mother saying, “Sawiya, stand up straight!“
The next time my midwife came over, I asked her if it was normal to feel excruciating pain in my bladder when using the toilet. The pain was so bad that I’d hold on to something to stop myself from screaming. I was certain that the doctors must’ve damaged my bladder during surgery because this nightmare was not getting any easier.
She checked my urine to see if there were any infections, then gave me the all clear. Is it weird that I was hoping she would find something? At least she’d have a solution for me and nip it in the bud. But the fact that this pain was normal and I would have to ride it out was the worst feeling.
I felt better after 14 days.
I wouldn’t wish that pain on anyone. The inability to laugh or sneeze made me miserable. All I could do comfortably was stay seated on the sofa and that’s if I didn’t move an inch of my body. I couldn’t stand up without the help of someone holding my arms and slowly lifting me up.
In addition to the incision soreness, I was dealing with postpartum fatigue, after-pains (uterus contracting which got worse when breastfeeding FYI), postpartum bleeding, and raging hormones.
The recovery period for the c section made me wish I had a natural birth instead. It’s crazy to me how people see c sections as being the “easier option.” Does immobility for a few weeks sound nice to you? I know a lot of people say labour is something you forget. But those 2 weeks of pain isn’t something I will ever forget about. Like I mentioned in my previous labour post, I would take the contractions any day.
Whatever way a child is born is still childbirth. There’s no “easy way out” when it comes to all the trauma. Plain and simple.