Post-CS / Postpartum: What to Expect
It’s been a month since I delivered our baby via CS. Now is perhaps the perfect time to look back on all that my mind and body have gone through - it most definitely has been one heck of a ride! Being the actual mode of transport in that hilly, bumpy, winding road of pregnancy and childbirth reminds me that my body truly does need ample time to rest and recover. Thinking about it now, it’s been put through so much! So what if I’ve been confined to our second-floor bedroom with our Lilibubs for a month already? And will continue to do so for the next couple of weeks? Trust me when I say that there is much to keep you occupied when you’re with a newborn, and though it is unable to talk to you, your body is thanking you for letting it get some time off.
Some have been asking me to relay how post-CS life is like. I tell you, delivering via CS seemed like such a no-biggie aspect of the journey to motherhood for me that I somehow duped myself into thinking that it wouldn’t hurt THAT bad. I mean, ask around in your circle of mommy friends and chances are, almost half of them were cut open too but the conversation almost always never revolves around how painful the first hours of recovery initially is.
Because darling, and I’m just being real here - those first 24 hours after the anesthesia wears off will have you questioning how many more children you’d like to have, and will make you want to give every CS momma a standing ovation, a life-sized trophy and maybe one hundred thousand pesos, if you can afford it.
Because. It. Hurts. Very. Very. Very. Much. Especially if this is your first major incision. This brings me to my first what-to-expect-post-CS point:
Expect to hurt like you’ve never hurt before.
Which kinda makes you grateful that you’re strapped to the bed for those first 24 hours after surgery, a catheter attached to your fanny. In my experience, every movement screamed pain, and my back felt sore and ngalay after some time. I don’t remember what time I was asked to sit up when I can and roll from one side to the other, but I obeyed when the nurses asked me to. That’s what everyone said to do if I wanted to recover quickly: to move through the pain.
I tried my best to. The following day, I felt a lot better and stronger. A GOOD QUALITY BINDER REALLY HELPS. I sat, stood up, went to the bathroom three times (catheter was removed around lunchtime), all with assistance. On my third trip to the bathroom, I turned pale from the effort, so I decided to rest it out again for the remainder of the day.
Second day post-CS, I got to make more trips to the bathroom and joined my husband in the hallway when he caught some sun for Lilibubs, all still with assistance. Third day, bathroom and hallway trips kaya na with no assistance.
Day after day after day, your strength will return. So do not despair on the first day when the pain can get really intolerable. But also, LISTEN TO YOUR BODY and do not be pressured by anyone when you feel that you are not yet ready. Your resolve will harden. After all, the sooner you get discharged from the hospital, the lower your medical bill will be - let that be your motivation hahaha!
You won’t be allowed to eat anything until after you pass gas. Your first meals would be clear soups and gelatine, but you wouldn’t mind as long as you get to eat again, hehe! The nurses will ask time and again if you have peed and pooped already too. The sooner you get to do both, the better. Ask your family and/or friends to bring papaya and prune juice for you to help you with the latter. Really effective!
Tip: try not to accept visitors aside from your immediate family on the first day. It’s hard to smile at people when you’re hurting so much haha. Besides, you’ll also be advised not to talk as you’ll be colicky and I heard that it could be painful and there’s no remedy for that. Do not feel guilty if you’re unable to entertain your guests. You were just cut open, they would understand.
Expect to feel numb/weird specifically in the incision area.
I wish someone had told me about this sooner. I probably wouldn’t have felt as strange as I did when I first examined the area around my incision. The skin both above and below the cut felt so numb at first - it was like every sensation in that area just died. It was strange to feel and then to not feel, like overnight an alien switched body parts with you and that area is no longer your body.
I asked other CS mommas and they all reported the same. My OB’s secretary said it was gonna feel strange like that for the rest of my life. Nowadays, the numbness is gone but it still feels weird when I touch that area. In particular, my lower belly which now sports my glorious stretch marks, feels like “walking on pins and needles” when I run my fingers across it.
Expect to bleed. And bleed. And bleed.
You went nine months without a period so it’s bloody payback time. Kidding!
What you’ll be expelling is called lochia. Wikipedia says it is “the vaginal discharge after giving birth (puerperium) containing blood, mucus, and uterine tissue. Lochia discharge typically continues for 4 to 6 weeks after childbirth, which is known as the postpartum period.”.
The first two-three days after my operation were the heaviest bleeds. After that the discharge lessened and on some days are just spotting. There are other days that are heavier though, the flow like a regular red day, which makes me feel extra tired. (I think this means I need to rest some more, eep.) I can’t wait to reach the six-week mark when all bleeding / spotting would hopefully stop.
Expect to still look pregnant.
I remember my first thought after I looked down on my post-surgery body: “Uhm, why do I still look pregnant?”. I remember my first weigh in at home, five days after I delivered: “Uh.. well that makes sense na four pounds lang nabawas sa timbang ko kasi four pounds lang si baby. But still, baakkeeeettt?”
Hehehe. Arte lang.
So ya. Expect to still look four to six months pregnant after giving birth. I don’t know why we all have the notion that magically all that pregnancy weight and extra fluids would immediately disappear. So momma, give yourself a break from looking at the mirror. Wehehehe not a bad idea right? No but seriously, every time a self-deprecating thought would come, look at your baby and congratulate yourself for a job well done. You carried her all those months and now s/he’s here! We all have to thank our extra fluids and gained weight for helping us sustain life in our womb. Without them, there would have been no new life, no sweet-smelling newborn in our arms.
Also, it is good to take note that it takes two months or so for our uterus to return to its pre-pregnancy size, and about a year or longer to lose all the pregnancy weight. Emphasis on the longer for CS mommas as we have to take our incisions into consideration. Come to think of it, what would be good exercises for us?
Oh and by the way, aside from your souvenir scar, you’ll still also have your linea negra and stretch marks.
Expect to have edema or pagmamanas.
Sod it. You still look pregnant na nga, manas ka pa (insert laughing emoji here). Why do we have to bring home a whole lot of water pooled in our face, legs, hands, and feet? Why why why?
It’s all those IV fluids, that’s why (and pregnancy too). Most mommas recommend drinking a lot of water and coconut juice to quickly get rid of all that swelling. My OB prescribed anti-manas medicine for me which I took for three days, and she also asked me to have my blood pressure taken (just in case it’s post-eclampsia, methinks). I think I swelled for about two weeks post-CS, and felt hot and sweaty the first few days. It’s just your body naturally expelling the fluids, but I tell you, the icky feeling is no fun.
Moving around also helps expel edema. But be careful not to lift anything more than your baby’s weight and refrain from walking up and down stairs. Take it easy, momma. Do not rush your recovery. (I’m guilty of this myself, thinking that I’m strong enough to take on our stairs already, eep. So again, I’m staying put in our second-floor bedroom for the next two weeks, only going down or heading out when absolutely necessary.)
Expect the first days of breastfeeding to really, really, really hurt.
Your boobies, your nipples, were yours your whole life, until this tiny human came along and staked claim on it. If you’re committed to breastfeeding your baby, you’d just have to suck it up and endure the pain. Those first few days of getting to know and adjusting to your feeding relationship can be really painful.. I think Lilibubs was on my breast almost every hour, sucking, sucking, sucking. I can’t say that I’m close to throwing in my towel because I really believe in the benefits of breastmilk. So here I am 4 weeks and 5 days post-op, wincing at the pain caused by a bleb in my left boob, yet enjoying the feeling of having my right breast emptied of milk (this boob has no current issues).
It will eventually get better, your nipples will toughen up. I think it was by our third week that I’ve begun to enjoy direct latching. But as I’ve said, the minute a problem arises, like a milk blister or cracked nipples, it’ll be toe-curling pain at every single feed.
Have I mentioned how much bigger your breasts are gonna be once they fill up with milk? Sometimes I feel like a pornstar, especially since pre-pregnancy I was not really gifted. But boy oh boy how my body has changed.. there was even a time when my upper back would hurt from the added weight in front. But like my nipples, my back just got used to carrying two bigger twin popsies.
Oh, and one more thing, the leaking.
I should have noted when I started to let down milk. At first it was a magical, amazing thing - for the second that Lilibubs fidgets or starts to look for my boob, my milk automatically lets down. It’s really something else.. and I’m glad I’m part of this unexplainable thing.
The clincher is though, that I was always unprepared every single time I leaked. Sure, I had breast pads on hand for the purpose of catching them, but I always end up being late hehe. (I’m not a fan of wearing breast pads at home, hence, this problem.)
Predictable result of this unpredictable leaking: my clothes, Lilibubs’ clothes, our sheets, they all get soaked with my milk. I end up changing clothes more often than necessary. In the morning, I feel so icky with all my milk that I can’t wait to step in the shower and rinse it all away.
Taking a bath, having a shower - your new nakaw-na-sandali moment if you are nannyless like us. When I get to cleanse, tone, and moisturise my face, apply eye cream and lotion, treat or bandage my wound, and put on my binder (this is my usual last step), then wow! I’ve got time in my hands and it feels like an accomplishment, haha!
Keep your body warm at all times lest you run the risk of having postpartum chills like I did.
Because I felt so hot and sweaty and my nipples hurt and I didn’t want anything apart from Lilibubs’ mouth to come into contact with it, and because I was wearing a binder and anti-anti-embolism socks which added insulation for my body heat, I spent my first few days at home topless and barefoot. I paid for this a couple of nights later when I experienced chills that lasted for about a minute, but which scared me for longer than that. Now I take care to keep myself warm, wrapped with a blanket at night and either wearing slippers or socks. I think I had those chills for about three nights, not consecutive. Some say it could be because of engorged breasts. Either way, even my showers are warm (they do wonders for your overused boobies).
Someone asked me when I first took a bath and if I believed in “binat”. In the hospital, starting on the day after the surgery, a nursing staff would come in and give Lilibubs and me a sponge bath. I remember fondly how wonderful that first sponge bath after giving birth felt <3. The day after we came home was when I first had my warm seated shower, seated because I knew I wasn’t ready yet to take a shower standing up.
So I guess the extent to which I believe in binat is just to really take it easy, not carry anything heavier than Lilibubs, not to go up and down the stairs, and to keep myself warm. I’ve heard the Chinese don’t shower at all until after a month - I don’t think I can do that, hehe. In terms of the use of gadgets, I was given my phone as soon as I woke up in the recovery room and no one said anything about its usage. So I was on it then off it depending on when I wanted to rest. Parang okay naman ako, hehehe.
A note to the husbands: expect your wives to be in their most unglamorous state.
Bless my husband’s heart. I was a sweaty, leaking, bleeding mess and yet he never said anything unflattering. He was most helpful instead, assisting me when I needed to go to the bathroom in the hospital, helping me pee using the bedpan, handing me the haakaa when I needed it. We once talked about this, and I said how he probably never expected to see me breastfeeding on one boob while the haakaa’s on the other, smelling of milk with my hair in a messy top bun that is far from being salon magazine worthy. He admitted to imagining a sweet picture of mother and baby, but didn’t say anything else. I suppose as long as we take care of and love our babies, we’ll still be desirable in their eyes. Just not right now hehe.
Well, I hope, haha!
Your body, your life, will never be the same.
Your torso will look weird as the days pass and your uterus shrinks, leaving you with a flatter stomach but with a kangaroo pouch. Your breastfeeding nipples will sprout new ridges and dots (them Montgomery glands). You will be tired from feeding every two to three hours, sleepless every night. Suddenly you’ll have the insatiable appetite of Wimpy, but instead of or in addition to a burger, you’ll want to swallow every edible thing in sight.
And yet -
You will get ringside, orchestra seats to the most wonderful show on earth specifically unfolding just for you - the birth and growth of your little gift of a miracle from God, your own tiny glimpse of how amazing the wonder of creation is, your own teeny weeny taste of heaven. There will be no one else on this earth whose smell your baby will first look for, no one else who will get to watch every sleeping, pooping, peeing, smiling, cooing, gurgling moment.
Our babies are our own reward.
It’s all for you, momma, and your husband. Only for the two of you.
So sit back and buckle your seatbelt. I’m sure there will be many more aches and pains coming our way, but I’m also pretty sure that in the end, they will be all worth it.
God bless you! Thank you for reading :)