Tuesday, 2 February 2016

The Road to Recovery

Many people told me that it would take close to a year to really get my body back and to recover fully from the C/section. I thought I'd give a report as I'm at the half way mark.

Physical Recovery:
I truly had very limited post operative pain. On the first day after my surgery I was only taking Motrin during the day and I used Norco at night, as the most uncomfortable aspect was getting in and out of the hospital bed to attend to Jate. By the time I went home, I didn't need any pain meds at all. However, I would learn that having a great pain tolerance didn't necessarily indicate that I was healing well. I have significant scar tissue around my incision. It has improved a bit overtime, but if I press around the incision, it feels very dense and thick. I imagine that all my insides have just congealed like cement. It still hurts from time to time. It can be uncomfortable to wear jeans, so for this reason, I'm guilty of wearing my active wear, when I've not been active. My incision is still rather red, but thankfully no keloid formation. Although I had my abdominal muscles re approximated during my surgery, it didn't exactly give me a washboard stomach. I still have a bit of a diastasis and looking back at my old bump pictures, I think I look as if I were at week 17 or 18. I got a postpartum abs workout video, but I haven't gotten around to doing it yet. I should get on that.

I went for a haircut right before going back to work. As Jate was finding joy in pulling on my hair, I wanted several inches lopped off, and as my hair is (was) rather thick, I asked her to layer it in an effort to make it a bit thinner and therefore, quicker to blowdry. I had read Amaris post about her hair falling out and I was beginning to think that maybe it just wouldn't happen to me, but then it started... I washed my hair one day and found a handful of hair. Soon, the shower stopped draining and I had to unclog it by removing the big ball of stray hairs. I decided not to panic as I remembered reading that most people lose the most hair during the month of November. Fortunately, the shedding seems to have stabilized, but now I wish that I hadn't told the hairdresser to go so nuts with the scissors. My mother threatened that my blond hair may go brunette after giving birth, as hers did after she had me. So far, my colour is not any darker than it usually gets during the winter. Finally, my face has many more fine lines and wrinkles, which are accented by the bags under my eyes due to interrupted sleep. I know that I am ageing and it would only be a matter of time before it would show, but suddenly I feel as if I'm ageing in dog years, where one calendar year has advanced my age by seven years.

My pregnancy weight gain was just shy of 25 pounds and at Jate's two week check up, I was within two pounds of my pre-pregnancy weight. I got on the scale a few weeks later and saw that I had gained a few pounds back. I haven't stepped on a scale since then and now I admit that I'm afraid to do so. When I was completing my medical training, I gave a baby basics and childbirth class to satisfy my requirement for community service. One of the points that I was supposed to emphasise in order to brainwash encourage women into breastfeeding, was to discuss that breastfeeding helps new mothers lose their pregnancy weight. One woman who baby several years ago and was taking the class as a refresher spoke up and pointed out that it doesn't exactly work that way, as you have to eat so many extra calories in order to breastfeed. I was annoyed with her at that time as I felt she was undermining me, but I now I'm annoyed as I appreciate that she spoke the truth. A pregnant woman only needs an additional 200-300 calories per day, but a breastfeeding mother may need 500-1500 calories included in her daily intake. I prided myself on my disclipine and self control during my pregnancy. I didn't have any cravings and I wasn't any hungrier than usual. Actually I followed my normal diet and I probably wasn't getting the extra 200-300 calories that I was supposed to ingest.

Breastfeeding is such a horse of a different colour. Especially as I started pumping during the night.  I felt depleted after each session and would devour anything I could find to eat. I asked the nurse at my new parents group if someone has an oversupply of milk, would she need to eat on the upper end of the extra calorie allotment? No, not necessarily, she replied, but I had already answered the question in my mind: in order to be a cow, I needed to be a pig.  By the time Jate entered Day Care at 4 months old, I had over 550 ounces of breastmilk bagged and frozen in our chest freezer. We've been defrosting older milk to rotate our supply and I just finished the last bag pumped in August. So far I've been able to freeze more new milk than we've needed to thaw. My ultimate aim is to have enough in storage so that I can give her breastmilk for one year, while stopping breastfeeding around 10 months.

That date also coincides with my 40th birthday. It's sort of a deadline that I set for myself as being a good time to get off this breastfeeding binge eating and finally get on a good nutrition plan. I haven't approached him about it, but if Husband needs ideas for a birthday gift, I'd like some sessions with the Nutrition expert who provides services at our gym. As I imagine she'll set me up on some Whole 30 or sugar detox program, I keep telling myself to enjoy it while I can.  I have a beer and some ice cream in the evenings in the name of maintaining my milk supply. I keep a secret stash of oatmeal cookies so that Husband doesn't discover how quickly I'm consuming them, and more importantly, so that he doesn't eat any. From time to time, I'll feel guilty and shameful about my gluttonous caloric intake, and I'll cut back on my carbs, but then I'll have a slow pumping day and I'll decide I don't care about my weight. I'll hit my stash of cookies and will feel validated when my pumping production increases. It's become a vicious cycle and I want out.              
I went back to the gym when I was 5 weeks postpartum, which admittedly, may have been a little too soon. I had promised my doctor that I would take it easy, and in doing so, I started out just using the bar without weights, so I could focus on re-establishing technique. While I was pregnant, a friend from the gym who had a baby four months before Jate, sent me a link to an article discussing how working out is actually harder postpartum than pregnant. Just as I was thinking 'this won't really happen," my friend sent another message confirming "yes, it will." The article explained that your core is not the same and the fatigue from sleep interrupted nights takes a toll. Some days I could muddle through, other days I would find that I lacked the stamina. There were a few times I finished the workout last. My friend reminded me that a last place finish is better than a Did Not Finish (DNF) which is still better than a Did Not Start (DNS). I truly appreciate that now. While my parents were visiting, we took advantage of their babysitting services and managed to work out quite often. My day off and revised schedule lets me go in the evening. Then I hurt my back while putting her infant seat into the car (my first mom injury). The night it happened, I loaded up on the unused Motrin and Norco from my C/section, but it barely touched the pain and at one point, I needed Husband's help to get out of bed. It's much better now, but I've had to take a week off, which has been frustrating.

It took about two months before I could run without pain. I started just doing slow jogs during Cross Fit warm-ups and it felt as if someone were sticking a corkscrew right into the scar tissue surrounding my incision. I just pushed through the pain and built up to running the 200 meter, then the 400 meter and eventually the 800 meter course. A local running group organises two running events over Thanksgiving weekend. For the past three years, I've run a 10 K on Thanksgiving and a Half Marathon on Saturday, thus allowing me to earn the Thanksgiving Mega Medal (you get an extra medal that connects the finishers medals from both races, running is really all about the bling). I wanted to make sure this year would not be an exception. I didn't want to abandon my traditions just because I had a baby. I conceded that I would have to alter my distances, especially as Husband was away at a hockey tournament and I was on my own to care for Jate. My plan was to walk the 5K on Thanksgiving, carrying Jate in the Baby Bj.orn, and I made arrangements for my aunt to watch her while I ran the 10K on Saturday. The detail I wasn't expecting was a cold front to come through the Bay Area, which would deliver some bitterly cold temperatures. It was 38 degrees F on Thanksgiving morning. There was no way I could expose a 4 month old baby to that cold, and I wasn't too thrilled about freezing my butt off either.

It was not quite as cold, but still rather chilly, when I ran the 10 K on Saturday. All I can say is that I finished. Actually, I'll add that I lost time when I had to re-tie my car key into my shoe laces and I had to text my aunt with the instructions on how to use the bottle warmer, as taping them to the warmer itself was too obvious. It wasn't bad considering that I had only done one 4.5 mile training run the week before, which is actually the last training run I've done. I've let the cold, the rainy weather, and various errands and chores become my excuse. My parents gave us a jogging stroller for Christmas, and I finally took it for a test drive last weekend. There's a race over President's Day weekend, and I haven't decided if I'll run the 10K. At one point I was hoping to run the half marathon distance for that event, but I recognise that was way too optimistic and unrealistic thinking.  Oh, I did sign up to run a marathon as part of a relay team (I can either do a hilly 6 miles, or 7 miles flat). The race is towards the end of March, so I should be able to squeeze in some training runs before then. I should also make sure Husband can take care of Jate that morning.

Aside from not having to get up and go to work and the whole bonding with my amazing baby thing, my favourtie memories from my maternity leave were the noon swims under the warm California sun. Unlike running and Cross-fit, my return to swimming was (relatively) painless. As soon as I dove into the water, all my muscle memory returned. My breaststroke kick is just as shitty as it was before Jate's birth. After a few weeks I could feel that I was building back speed, but I would discover it was short-lived. Breastfeeding consumes about 25% of your energy, and I would find that my energy stores could be delpted quite quickly. I would start the set as the lane leader, and depending on the work-out, I could almost keep up with the faster swimmers in the lane next to me. Then, half way through the work out, I would crash and burn. I'd quickly drop to the last position and one some days, I was in danger of being lapped. That's also when I started stashing the cookies in my car. It was my only time to eat as Jate would often be awake and ready to feed when I returned home. I debated back and forth about whether or not I would sign up for the Short Course Meters (SCM) Championship meet in October, I didn't really feel ready, but I figured I'd have more regrets if I didn't enter. I was quite glad I did. I had to bring Jate to the meet, which brought a whole new challenge to meet management. I had to figure her feeding and nap times around my races, and take advantage of anyone who was willing to watch her. I finished nursing her, handed her off, grabbed my cap and googles, made it to my lane in time for the long whistle, and wiped spit-up off my arm as I climbed on the blocks.

My coach commented that she could see my competetion form seemed to be returning, and as there were fewer swimmer's available for this meet, I was assigned to the faster relay teams. I love relays as they push me to swim harder than if I were swimming for myself, and I always seem to get my best times in a relay (albeit unofficial). My times were approaching those of my peak swims. Most importantly, I was finishing faster than what my coach had expected for me. I won my heat when I swam the 50 Free, and the volunteer timer noted that I came in way under my seeded time. I looked at the clock: 36.92. I hadn't bothered converting any of my meter times into yards, so it really didn't mean anything to me. Until a few hours later, when I happened to glance at our team's list of records. I hold the record for the 50 Free, as I'm the only one in my age group who swims the 50 Free. The prior team record was 37.46. Holy shit! I had just achieved a new personal best! I know sprints are such a  game of chance. Your dive has to be perfect, the timing for your flip turn must be precise, one fewer breathe can save you tenths of seconds. If I had to swim the same distance again, I probably wouldn't produce the same time. Yet I did when it mattered. Just three months after I was discharged after my C/section, I produced a personal best. It felt so fucking good.

I felt confident that I could get back to my prior form, but just as I was gaining this momentum; my swimming hit a hiatus. I went to Connecticut for two weeks and I had planned to swim every day in my final week before returning to work, but I had too many last minute projects to complete. Husband and I talked about going back to swimming in the morning once or twice a week, but it worked more in theory than in actual practice. Jate started to wake once or twice during the night, so I needed the extra hour of sleep, if I could get it. Even if I left practice a bit early, I'd still get back home at 7:10 and would need to nurse or pump, shower, dry off, dress and be ready to leave by 8:05 at the latest. Not really feasible. I'm hoping I can go to a noon class on my day off, but in order to get back into competetion form, I really need to practice more than one day a week. Alas, I'm coming to terms with the fact that I may not be able to return to swimming until she can sleep a little longer in the morning, and we're finished with breastfeeding. It pains me to acknowledge this, as I also must admit that I haven't picked up my tennis racquets in over two years. At least I (temporarily) left swimming on a high note.


  1. "In order to be a cow, I needed to be a pig." So true! This will stick with me, haha. I would love to do another Whole30 but I know if I do, my milk supply will suffer. So I'm choosing my son's health over skinny jeans. And yeah, I'm a little resentful.

    I'm returning to the gym this Thursday and I'm very glad I read this post first. I'm the type of person who would get disheartened that my stamina isn't up to par, but you're right - my body has been through a lot, waking up several times per night takes its toll, and even doing something is better than doing nothing. So thank you for making me feel less alone/weak and powerless.

  2. You sound like you're doing awesome and recovering really well. I probably started working out too hard too soon (played volleyball the night of my 6-week check up). But I definitely slowed down (read: stopped) when we went through our sleep hell. I do have to remember how much my body went through, pregnancy plus major surgery. And breastfeeding hunger is no joke. I only gained about 25 pounds when pregnant too and had no real cravings. These days, I am a pig. I could eat a pig. It is unreal.

  3. Damn lady! I'm quite impressed with your PR! I remember how I couldn't wait to get back into running after my c-section and it took a little bit but slowly I felt better and could run farther distances. Thankfully Izzy was a good sleeper from 2.5 months on so that helped quite a bit. However, I remember being not only ravished all the time from nursing, but also exhausted.

  4. Sounds like you are doing great! I am impressed that you only gained 25 pounds. I gained 35 last pregnancy but so far this time around I am avoiding the scale. I think it's great that you prioritize health and fitness in your life, it's an inspiration!

  5. You sound like you are taking great care of your health. I think that is more important than numbers on a scale. (I am back in my size 4s, but it has more to do with stress lowering my appetite than anything else. Not all weight loss is good. )

  6. There is no way I could run while I was still pumping. It was way too uncomfortable to have that much boob movement!
    I still haven't been able to get back into an exercise routine. There is just not enough time in the day (and not enough hours of sleep at night). And after such a long hiatus from any sort of intense exercise, I am just having the hardest time getting started again. Right now you have to listen to your body and apparently your body wants to eat. Enjoy the only time where you have a valid excuse to eat all of the food. Haha.

  7. Remind me to email you a picture of how my hair looks now that it's growing back in. It's insane. I have two layers of bangs. The normal length ones on top, and the baby ones underneath. Even my hairdresser says she's never seen anything like it.

    And yeah, the breastfeeding diet rocks. I've been meaning to blog about it, as it's the only time in my life I've ever been able to eat like someone with a fast metabolism. I'm also eating like a pig and because BFing is keeping it off I've been a slacker about exercising. There's going to be hell to pay when I wean this kid. Which isn't that far away. Bye bye, daily Starbucks cookie. Frowny face.

  8. "In order to be a cow, I needed to be a pig." Hahaha. I love you. I'm glad you're doing well and rocking this whole mama thing. I tell myself that feeding a child must just require some extra pounds even when that food is not manufactured inside of me as I've put on a few pounds since Garrison too. But whatever. Enjoy these last months of cookies. : )

  9. I love your cow/pig logic! Now at 15 months I feel like I'm getting my body back - I suppose if you add up 9 months of pregnancy with SB and 5 months with the twins that's not even so far off. Also, I'm glad not to be the only one with a secret stash of cookies ;)

  10. I read this post last week, but can't comment on my phone so I am playing catch up!! This is so helpful in my own CS recovery. Sigh. CS are no joke, huh? I've noticed how weak my core is now and realize how far I have to go in getting even back to how I was pre-pregnancy.