Six weeks before my due date I was diagnosed with obstetric cholestasis—a rare condition of the liver that happens during pregnancy, ends at childbirth and causes intense itchiness all over the body. In rare cases, it can lead to stillbirths; so, to ensure a healthy delivery women diagnosed with this condition are often induced. At 38 weeks, we walked into Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre and after 27 hours of labour I was wheeled into the OR for an emergency C-section. Here are four lessons I took away from that experience.
Read more: C-section recovery>
1. Badge of honour
Some women get what’s called a “fold” over the site of the incision. After months of expanding, the skin might hang over the incision. In some cases, it disappears over time, but that wasn’t the case for me. At least not yet. I’m hoping to learn to embrace this change in my body. Every time I look at it and it bothers me, I quickly glance at my son. I had an emergency C-Section and that incision was his only chance at survival.
2. Swelly feet
Your feet will swell! They will swell and look like balloons. And, even when you think they can’t get any bigger, they will. The culprit? All the fluid and drugs pumped into your body when you were in labour, or in preparation for your C-section. The first thing I did every morning when I’d wake up was check on my feet. It took fourteen days for the swelling to start to dissipate. My advice: Forget you have feet for a while. Between learning to breastfeed and adjusting to the new joys of motherhood, your feet should really be priority number 30 because they will eventually get back to normal. Looking back… worrying about my feet was a big waste of time.
3. Breastfeeding basics
Get familiar with the football hold if you choose to breastfeed. Nourishing my little one was job No. 1. But, I quickly learned breastfeeding him while he lay across my stomach was uncomfortable and not generally recommended by my lactation consultants. In the first 48 hours my baby lost 10 percent of his body weight—not a good sign, and I felt responsible. In the next 10 days, however, he put that weight back on. The football hold helped me feel more comfortable and confident my baby was getting what he needed.
Read more: Breastfeeding basics: What you need to know>
4. Recovery reality
Recovery will take some time. Doctors tell you it takes about six weeks to recover from a C-section. But it took me about two months to recover from the psychological impact of it (which doctors don’t necessarily warn you about). For me, there was nothing more debilitating than not being able to do things for myself in the weeks following the surgery. Indeed, I felt so helpless, as if I were suffering from postpartum depression. But, with patience and acceptance, I began recognizing myself again. It takes time for the hormones to stabilize and for you to adjust to your new life. So, above all, be gentle with yourself.