Alternate Title: It Takes a Village
I anticipated being physically limited for a time after giving birth. I’d heard stories, and read countless blogs, recounting recovery from both natural deliveries and cesareans. But when it happens to you, and you go from an able-bodied individual to a total invalid – I don’t know that there’s any way to have been prepared.
I pictured myself walking the halls of the hospital with ease, and strolling around the neighborhood within days of arriving home. Before giving birth, I even speculated various scenarios that might enable me to participate in my all-time favorite road race, the Steamboat Classic (for the 17th consecutive year). I soon discovered, however, that those scenarios were laughable. Because my actual recovery experience has gone something like this:
Day 1 [Hospitalized]: After waiting for 12 hours to pass gas in order to be disconnected from the IV, I was allowed to dangle my legs off the edge of the bed that evening.
Day 2 [Hospitalized]: I ate my first meal at breakfast, and hobbled to the bathroom with assistance shortly thereafter. After three trips to the bathroom, I earned myself a shower. Big time success over here.
Day 3 [Hospitalized]: I changed my first diaper (EVER). Held Libby while sitting in a chair. Made one long, agonizing loop around the maternity ward before being discharged.
Day 4 [At Home]: One thing about the hospital stay: the nurses kept my pain very well-managed. So well, in fact, that I wasn’t really aware of the extent that the medications I was given were managing the pain. So when we were discharged on a Sunday afternoon, I didn’t think to go directly to the pharmacy on the way home. By the time I realized my error on Sunday evening, it was too late. We hightailed it to the pharmacy first thing the next morning.
Days 5-7: Even medicated, getting out of bed was miserable. Mike still had to help me with every feeding by allowing me to get situated and then handing Libby to me – then taking her back after she was finished. This was an emotionally difficult time for me, as this left me feeling terribly inadequate as a mother.
Week 2: Getting out of bed started getting easier, and I began to skip doses of medication during the day so I could drive or otherwise function in society. We attended my 10-year high school reunion, where I stood in heels for two hours straight. I’m so glad we went; but – ouch.
Week 3: I dropped the daytime dosage of pain meds, while still taking them at night. With Libby sleeping in her crib across the hall, I was able to get to the nursery to do overnight feedings. But since I was still slow to get out of bed, Mike still helped – scooping up the baby so she didn’t get too irritated that her invalid mother was taking so long. While my feelings of inadequacy had lessened to a point, I still struggled with hearing my daughter’s cries and being unable to get to her in order to soothe her.
Week 4: I finally turned the corner. I woke up one morning and felt more “normal” than I’ve felt since before being pregnant. My activity was still very limited, but I could finally get up, sit down, and move around the house while holding Libby without struggle.
Week 5: A few slightly cooler mornings allowed us to go for short strolls around the neighborhood. I was able to run a series of errands without losing too much enthusiasm. I began to see the light.
Week 6: While there is still tenderness above my incision, I feel good. I can handle an overnight feeding independently (although it’s still nice to have company sometimes). I committed to returning to my soccer teams by the end of August, looked at the KC Race Schedule to map out my fall, read the latest issue of Runner’s World cover-to-cover, and returned to writing about running. PLEASE LET ME BE CLEARED FOR PHYSICAL ACTIVITY BEFORE I GO INSANE!
There’s a reason that maternity leave lasts a minimum of six weeks. In my case, it has taken every moment of those six weeks to feel physically (and mentally) functional.
I’ve been so lucky to have Mike at home to help me through the recovery process. Even without the physical limitations of surgery recovery, caring for a newborn without assistance is a daunting task. But for many women, it is an unavoidable reality.
Are you one of those women? If so, you are awesome. I have no idea how you do it.