As I mentioned in my last blog post, I ended up having an emergency cesarean with Isabelle. And unfortunately, I’m not exaggerating when I say that I didn’t read anything about cesarean recovery ahead of time. I spent so much time preparing for everything else– but a c-section? Complications? Those things only happened to other people, right?
Wrong. The truth is, when it comes to labor and delivery, you never know what is going to happen, no matter how much you plan. And as I found out quickly, recovery after surgery was no walk in the park. Everything hurt, everything was swollen, and it seemed like nothing worked quite right.
The first time the nurse tried to get me up to walk a few steps in my room? Let’s just say my body wasn’t having it. But now, at 6 weeks post op, I’m feeling great, I’m active, and things are mostly back to (fairly) normal. So how did I get from point A to point B?
This was the tough part. This was the part where I was counting steps until I had too much pain, I needed help with the most basic movements/tasks, and just changing position in bed was a significant challenge. Add in caring for and getting to know my new daughter, and things were a little bit difficult. It was during these days where fitness was the last thing on my mind, and all I needed to know was when the nurse was coming with my next dose of Motrin.
By about 3-4 days out though, while I still couldn’t walk much farther than the bathroom, I did want to use my muscles as much as I could. Lying in bed all day drives me nuts, even if it’s necessary! At this time I started doing basic movements like standing calf raises, standing leg raises (I’m talking inches off the ground here), and isometric contractions of my lower body muscle groups while in bed.
We were in the hospital for 5 days, so lying in bed for that length of time was out of the question. Never mind the fact that it’s better for you to move around as tolerated after a c-section– it helps with healing and comfort, which is important when you now have a little one to worry about! These small recovery exercises helped my sanity and my restless legs, and they helped me to feel like I was making progress, even if it was just baby steps.
A couple of days after we got home from the hospital, we went for our first family walk. And when I say walk, I mean a snails pace for about 200 yards before I had to turn back. I knew not to push too much too soon, but it felt so nice just to be outside and moving, I didn’t care how brief it was. Throughout that week, walks got gradually longer each day, depending on how I was feeling. The first time I attempted a hill near us, I made it about 1/4 of the way before realizing it was too much for that day and turning back.
Each day I made it a little bit farther though, and was able to pick up my pace as well, slowing again if pain increased. I began adding in our neighborhood hills, and when Isabelle was two weeks old, we took her on our first family hike. Again — this was a short, slow, easy hike on a local trail– certainly not a real mountain, but it made me feel like I had accomplished something, and that was priceless at that point. Also, getting out into nature was good not only for me, but for Isabelle too!
Around week 3, I started adding in some very basic core rehab exercises, as well as body weight glute work. The point of this was not to work out, or break a sweat, or burn calories. The point of these exercises was simply to keep my muscles engaged and to start to re-train my core how to function after major surgery. These exercises at first included pelvic tilts, cat/cow stretches, glute bridges, and clam shells. All of these were done to pain tolerance, once or twice per day.
Weeks Four – Five
Around this time I started adding in some more dedicated core and glute specific rehab exercises to my daily routine, as well as walking farther and faster. The rehab exercises would take just a few minutes daily, but I firmly believe that this has been helpful to my fairly quick recovery with only mild pain. Along with continuing the above exercises, I added in a resistance band for my glute bridges, single leg bridges, dead bugs, and mini single leg squats. This was in combination of daily walks and a short hike once or twice per week (wearing baby for all walks/hikes). My daily walks were anywhere from 2-4 miles at this point, including plenty of hills on days when I felt good.
Around 4 weeks I noticed that I really didn’t have pain anymore at my incision site, save for a few specific movements or forceful movements like an unexpected sneeze (seriously– sneezing/coughing/laughing after a cesarean is no joke!). So I pushed my walks as much as I could, walking hill repeats some days, and upping the mileage. By 5 weeks, I was walking 3-5 miles daily.
At this point, I’m far from the types of workouts I would love to be doing. I am just getting back into a structured workout routine– as structured as it can be with a new baby at home. Everything for now will be done at home with resistance bands, kettle bells,and other equipment that we have, and I’m unsure as of now when I’ll make it back to an actual gym. I am looking forward to the time when I can do some barbell work again, but I’m also fully aware that that might be a while!
The movements and exercises that I will be focusing on in the near future will continue to be core and glute heavy. I have begun adding in weighted squats, RDLs, Turkish Get Ups, lunges, stair work, and some upper body work. Since I had been doing elevated push ups and upper body band work up until I delivered, my upper body hasn’t taken as much of a hit as I was worried about, so I’m not focusing on that quite as much at this time. My goals right now are not to get into killer shape, or to “get my body back”. My main goal is just to feel healthy and strong, and to build my way back into a program gradually. I am well aware that this will be a process and won’t be easy, but I’m ready for the challenge!
One of the most important exercises for my core stability — the Turkish Get Up. I’m doing them with just body weight here, and will soon add in a light kettlebell.
Not only do I want to start to build my strength base again, but I also want to be a good role model for my littlest lady. Even if she has no idea what I’m doing right now, or will never remember these days, the earlier I can provide her with a positive influence of strength and empowerment, the better. This is not all about me anymore, and I can only do my best to ensure that she grows up seeing her body in a positive light, not as something she has to fix.
Disclaimer: I was not cleared to work out until 6 weeks post op. I created the plan that I followed based on my medical and rehabilitation knowledge due to my line of work. I do not recommend that anyone else follow this or any other plan post op, until given direct and clear clearance by their physician.