9 Things I Did For Myself While Recovering From A C-Section
Recovering from a c-section was really hard work for me, especially after my first born. I'd just had major surgery, which took all the usual tolls on my body. However, I also had this brand new baby to take care of, who required a lot of lifting, bending, and whose care basically seemed to defy most of my doctor's orders. Me time and self-care was really low on my list. But with my second pregnancy, there were a lot of things I did while recovering from a c-section that were just for me. No way was I going to make the same mistakes twice. And it really was a mistake, to ignore my own needs, because recovery took so much longer the first time around. My baby needed me to be in top shape, and honestly, I wasn't with my first son postpartum because I hadn't taken care of myself.
So when I knew that my second pregnancy was going to require a planned c-section, I set up a few safety nets so that I knew that I would be taken care of post-surgery. I made sure I would have help this time around, I refused a lot of "meet the baby" requests, and I took a lot of pressure off of myself to appear glamorously put together (because let's be real, who needs that crap when you're stomach is simply trying to stay sewn together?). This is about survival, people.
Self care looks different to everyone, but for me, the main theme was about letting go of control, doing less, and caring less when it came to things that didn't matter right then. "Right then" was all about my family, and the baby, so everything else would just have to wait until oh, say, my kid's first birthday, to have my full attention again.
I Hired A Night Nurse
This was the best thing I could possibly have done for myself ever, and I know that this is not something that is available to everyone. I know that this is a privilege and that I am lucky to have been able to afford it.
That being said, what a lifesaver having a baby nurse was. I did not have any help at all with my first born (barely any family help, no sitters, nothing) so I really called in the troops with my second. I knew that leaning over a crib in the middle of the night would be painful (and this was before I was comfortable with the idea of breastsleeping) with my c-section. With my husband's work schedule, he was not willing or able to do night wakings. The night nurse rescued me in many ways, and not just in the ways she helped with the baby, but in how she took care of me (and even my husband) postpartum, too.
I Enlisted A Long Roster Of Friends To Keep Me Company...
Lucky for me, I have an awesome support group of lady friends. Nearly every day I could rely on someone coming over to bring me pastries or keep me company for some length of time, and to overall lift my spirits (or hang with the baby). But I had to ask, or I had to let them know that they were welcome. People don't assume that postpartum women recovering from surgery want your company, so I made sure to let it be known that my door was open to (certain) friends.
...But I Said No To Some Visitors
Post surgery, I damn well did not feel like playing the host. Yes, so many people wanted to see the baby, but you know what that also mean? They also expected to be fed. And paid attention to. And for the baby to be cute, and not sleeping, and ready for them to fawn over and hold. And also for me to be showered but not to have my leaky, enormous boobs out, and nursing. Yeah. No thanks.
I saw that show already (that was my first pregnancy and c-section). Not this time, folks. I kept hosting visitors to a bare minimum the second go-round. Unless you were coming to feed me, were comfortable seeing me in a milk-stained shirt, and perhaps with no shirt on at all, I'm sorry, you weren't invited.
I Gave Myself Permission To Not Clean The House To My Usual Standards...
This one was probably the hardest thing I had to do for myself, but if I hadn't done it I'd probably still be here (nearly three years postpartum) with a gaping wound in my abdomen. I had to just say no to cleaning my apartment to my usual Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) standards during my recovery process.
That meant that, no, I would not be on my hands and knees on the floor, taking a toothbrush to the bottom of our kitchen stools or climbing on top of chairs to dust the tops of hard-to-reach picture frames or the tops of lamp shades. So. Freaking. Hard.
...And Allowed My Partner To Do Things For Me His Way
I'm one of those annoying people that has a tendency to not let anyone do things because they won't do it the way I would do it. Well, I had to let that go after my c-section, otherwise I wouldn't heal. So if the laundry needed to be folded, and my husband was going to do it, I had to be OK with the fact that no, he was not going to do it the "Konmari way" like in little origami rectangles. But it would be good enough.
I Actually, Truthfully, Rested
We must have watched Frozen a thousand times when my second son was born. It was a wonderful way for me to be able to plant my tush on the oft-mentioned couch for more than 60 minutes without having to respond to my toddler's demands to go get him things, and my newborn would usually stay passed out on my boob while we sat there.
Sometimes I would doze. Other times I would sing along to the music. It didn't matter. The rest was super important to my healing and I credit the song, "Let It Go" with my quicker recovery than the first c-section.
I Didn't Leave The House If I Didn't Want To
If there wasn't a very good reason to leave home, I wasn't doing it. I wasn't buying into any of that, "It will feel good to get out of the house" you-know-what. You know why? Because what felt good to me was to stay in my house holding my newborn who didn't like it very much when I attempted to stop holding him.
Yes, there were times when my husband and toddler worried about me, as in, "Why didn't mommy go outside today?" But mommy was quite happy to remain in her cozy little bubble where she didn't have to worry about bleeding through her extra-thick hospital-grade sanitary pads when out in public, thank you very much.
I Only Dressed For My Comfort
First c-section? I dressed to receive visitors. I felt like it was my job to appear as if I had not had a baby, and had been nowhere near surgical equipment within days of leaving the hospital. Since my delivery happened within days of the Jewish holidays, that meant being super presentable and dressing up in holiday attire with full makeup on a week after having my c-section, while downing painkillers to numb the searing pain in my abdomen. Second c-section?
No effing way. The second time, I lived in my husband's sweatpants and oversized t-shirts, and do not recall having changed out of that uniform for a very long time, perhaps until my son was five months old.
I Had Nice Dinners With My Partner
Since I wasn't in the mood to go out, that didn't mean that dinner couldn't be a special affair. A couple of nights a week, my husband would make us a really nice dinner and we would open a bottle of wine (yes, I enjoyed some wine after baby) and we would have a somewhat quiet dinner together after the toddler went to bed and the baby was asleep for his first stretch of the evening.
It was really nice to feel like we were connecting, since our days were so separate; me at home doing solely newborn things, and him scrambling at work and both of us not really sleeping all that well with the constant waking up (because yes, even with a night nurse, you still have to get up to feed the baby). Plus, we were still trying to figure out what it meant to be parents of two boys.