One of the absolute best things I’ve learned from the Nerd Fitness Academy is the importance (and effectiveness!) of baby steps. Incremental changes over long periods of time will stick 100% better than quick, monumental changes. I used to be the kind of person who wanted to change everything at once. It’s a funny kind of perfectionism, where you say “Today is the day that I do EVERYTHING right!” And maybe on the first day, you do. Maybe even the second. But somewhere down the road you miss something, and all of a sudden your change, your effort, is no longer “perfect.” You’ve already failed, so why keep trying? So you give it up, and slide into your old ways, and then weeks or months down the road you map out another quick, monumental change that won’t stick. All the while getting down on yourself because you can’t seem to get better at life even though you want to.
Nerd Fitness has taught me to take it slow, and to love myself. You can’t hate yourself into a better person. You just can’t. But you sure can love yourself into a better one. That starts with letting yourself make mistakes. Letting yourself miss stuff, and not giving up just because you broke a streak or things won’t look “perfect” when you track them in your planner. Putting self-care and self-love before everything else has actually improved my productivity and my health. If I’m deep in the feels and really need some Netflix binging, I allow myself to do that. Depression isn’t something you deny your way out of, after all. But with a little TLC, I can come out of it faster and better prepared to get on with my life.
With all that in mind, I knew that I would need to be forgiving in my recovery process after the pregnancy. C-sections are no joke, caring for a newborn is tough in ways that you don’t quite expect, and since I spent the entire pregnancy laid up with HG I was starting from a literal ground zero, with no muscle strength, no stamina. Here’s my recovery process, broken down by weeks.
Week One: Hubby took this week off work to stay home with us and help out, and that was super important and wonderful. Baby girl was eating every couple hours, and on some days even every hour or half hour (they call it a growth spurt…I was just exhausted). I just did not have the energy to constantly feed her AND change diapers, soothe her back to sleep, etc. I couldn’t even get up from a sitting position while holding her, because of the extra weight, my weak muscles, and the pressure it put on my incision. Likewise, if I’d had to cook for myself that whole week, I wouldn’t have eaten anything. Having hubby there to cook and refill my water (breastfeeding makes you SO thirsty) was a lifesaver. I didn’t give myself any goals this week, because I was expecting to still be in need of some major rest.
Week Two: My sister came to help out for the week, ferrying us to doctor appointments and cooking for us and spending lots of time hanging out with her niece. I was feeling way better after the surgery—what’s a little incision compared to the nine months of HG? I was also still taking ibuprofen and tylenol pretty much around the clock, which I can see now tricked me into thinking I was doing better than I was. I set a goal of 1,000 steps every day, and met that goal because in a single week I had a lactation consultation, a follow-up with my OB, an eye exam (because I desperately needed new glasses, and had run out of contacts), and a weigh-in at the pediatrician for the little one. Definitely too much to take on in week two of recovery! I also set a goal of writing 200 words/day, and brushing my teeth every morning. The teeth brushing went well (with someone else here to hold on to the baby while I did so, it was pretty easy), but the writing I only managed on one day. (Belly Progress: Still a super big uterus in there. I’ll need my maternity clothes for a while.)
Week Three: My mother-in-law came up for this week. No doctor appointments, so we took it easy at home every day. I upped my daily step count goal to 2,000 a day, and met it 6 out of the 7 days. It was tough to meet on some days, though, because my incision was still hurting when I did too much (and sometimes just taking a shower was enough to lay me out for the next hour). I tried to brush my teeth every morning and evening, and only really managed to hit the mornings consistently. My word count goal of 200/day was completely neglected. I began to think that I was taking on a bit too much, expecting more than just tiny little goals. Even through the frustration, I kept telling myself it was okay if I didn’t get to write on a given day. Newborns need a lot of attention, and I still wasn’t fully mobile/functional. But it might get better/easier as time goes on. Certainly once she doesn’t need to be held constantly to be happy, once toys are interesting and she’s got full neck control and can go a little longer between feedings, there will be more snippets of time for me to snatch for writing. (Belly Progress: When looking from the side, my belly finally drew even with my breasts)
Week Four: My first week alone with the little one. Hubby works down in LA, so it really is just me and her at home all week. The fridge was pretty abysmally empty. The first day was super tough, and we didn’t reach our step goal of 3,000 steps/day. The surgery recovery seemed to be going great, as my incision didn’t give me so many of those warning pangs that I was pushing myself too hard. I did have to schedule another emergency doctor appointment, though, to deal with some shoulder/breast pain that kept growing in intensity. I shouldn’t have to take ibuprofen around the clock four weeks post c-section, so I figured it had to be thrush or mastitis developing. Not fun. Thankfully, the meds worked pretty quickly. Baby girl did a good job of staying pretty easy the latter half of the week, and then we had another fairly easy weekend with her. (Belly Progress: Finally sticks out less than my boobs!)
Week Five: In which I learn that having visitors is great for my mental health but bad for my sleep. Seriously. If I can’t sleep when the little one is sleeping, I end up staying up way too many hours in a row because then she’s awake when I want to be sleeping later. No bueno. I decided to throw out my step counts this week, mostly because it still hurts enough to shower or to bathe her that I can’t do both of those in the same day. I’m obviously still recovering and still needing not to push it too hard, so I just need to trust that it will get better with time, and that higher step count goals will be attainable in the future. Honestly, it’s hard enough just brushing my teeth morning and night, since there’s no real semblance of routine with this little one yet. I read a good book, though, and managed to do all the dishes before hubby got home for the weekend. I’ll consider that a win for this week. (Belly Progress: Seems to have stalled a bit, but more of the dermabond is coming off my incision and it’s a nice healing pink underneath, so that’s good.)
Week Six: My mother can be pretty abysmal at “taking it slow” after surgery, so when she decided she had to travel with my dad for his work a mere 1.5 weeks after knee surgery, my sister and I decided she’d be better off spending the time at my apartment than alone in a hotel room. It was a rough week for me—loading and unloading stuff from the car with no one to help, cooking for two when sometimes all I wanted to do was snack on something unhealthy instead. It was nice to have someone here to watch the baby while I got out of the house briefly—I even bought some new shorts, in my pre-pregnancy size, that fit perfectly (a little loose, even). (Belly Progress: Still stalled.)
Week Seven: My mother-in-law is visiting again this week, and she’s great about staying up late with the baby and giving me ample time for naps. I’ve had to check my blood sugars this week for a follow-up appointment to make sure the gestational diabetes went away. I was kind of freaking out, getting a lot of high numbers, until I realized that the test strips I was using were reading a whole 45 points higher than they should have been due to leaving them out of their special container! A fasting number of 130 is not great. A fasting number of 85 is spot-on. The gestational diabetes is well and truly gone. Unfortunately, at the end of this week I had to head to the ER three times in one weekend. You’d think I would have had enough of hospitals after that hell of a pregnancy. What is it this time? Gallstones. Stones that I know weren’t present before, because the last abdominal ultrasound showed a “sludgy” gallbladder, thanks to the weeks spent on TPN, but no stones. But pregnancy hormones have a way of completely screwing with your body’s normal processes—so now I’ve got symptomatic stones and am scared to eat any fat or chocolate. I have to do little experiments of eating something to see if it triggers a gallbladder attack. And I now have to convince a surgeon that we shouldn’t be hasty about getting my gallbladder out, because if I can get these stones to resolve no new ones will form (not being pregnant or having HG or diabetes anymore).
Week Eight: The little one still has night and day mixed up, but a kind friend is going to sleep over on Thursday night so that I can get some uninterrupted rest before I have to go in for my first full day back at work. I’ve cleaned the house and done the laundry in preparation for the nanny’s first day, since I figure everything should be in its place at least once, so she knows what things are supposed to look like and where they all go. I’m apprehensive about going back to work, mostly because I haven’t gone in for a full day since week 7 of the pregnancy. And here I am with a two-month old daughter. What if I’m rusty? What if there’s too much to catch up on, and everyone is annoyed with me for being so far behind? I love my coworkers, and none of us could have foreseen all these health issues, and they aren’t resentful because it’d be pretty silly to resent me for getting sick, since I obviously would have done anything to avoid it if I could have. Still, it feels strange. I’m nervous. And hoping that I can prove myself a valuable asset again. And that it doesn’t take too long to pump. And that my milk supply doesn’t start dwindling from the pumping. *Sigh*
Week Nine: Back at work! I can’t say I’m 100% recovered yet, of course. It takes a body a very long time to recover from being sliced open. But, I am strong enough to go back to my mostly-desk-work job, and slightly eager to get out of the house and have some time free of my responsibilities to the little one. As much as I miss her when I’m not with her, I do feel slightly more like normal when I’m at work and just dealing with work stuff. More posts will follow later, probably about the new challenges of being a working, nursing mother.
Overall, I don’t think I’ll know what full recovery feels like until I’m done breastfeeding. My body still isn’t completely my own, and my incision still hurts sometimes a full three months after the surgery. Mentally, though, I’ve made a full comeback from the horrible illness of the pregnancy. And a year from now, I’m sure I’ll be stronger and healthier than ever.