I told my husband early on, that for this birth (my final birth), I will be investing heavily in recovering as best that I can. I had an emergency cesarean first time around and I think, because it was not the birth that I ‘dreamed of’, I did not allow myself to recover properly or focus on taking care of the scar The scar healed in a very itchy, keloid nature and I had numbness and limited movement around the scar for a long time afterward (about 18 months).
But not just that, I did not show my body the respect she deserved and I carried around some low level trauma from that operation and the disappointment I felt. (Having done quite a bit of work on this, I now realise that I need not have felt that, but what I felt was totally valid too).
This time, I had a planned cesarean, and below are all of the areas that I have focused on, from day one to date (2 months pp
). I expect my recovery to evolve over the coming months and years (did you know that it can take 2 years for our bodies to regenerate/ lay down scar tissue – which is it’s amazing way of recovering from a trauma), and I will continue to share my experiences (you can find me on @a.mothers.baby.steps on Instagram). But I also recommend joining a support group such as that run by Hannah Johnson HERE. As Hannah Johnson informed me : our bodies have this incredible ability to heal, if we give it the opportunity to do so.
Oh, and check out this Video from Hannah - it's a fab place to start.
So, here I share what I have done to really help in optimising my body’s healing post-cesarean to date.
1. Rest rest rest. I created a total haven in my bedroom as I intended to spend a lot of time there with my newborn (and I did) in the immediate weeks after birth. I remember Sophie (The Mamma Coach) describing it to me as a "Love In" – and that was exactly what it was. The oxytocin levels were high, which aided bonding and breastfeeding and in my opinion, recovery. There was nowhere else I wanted to be or felt I belonged and it was wonderful and so so special to be there, fully emersed with my newborn.
2. Get help where you can/need. Having a baby during in lockdown is HARD. The support network that you might have put into place might now not exist how you had planned. However, please get all the help that you can from your partner/cohabitants. From cooking to cleaning. My husband took the majority of care responsibilities for our toddler. That was hard. But short term and neccessary on so many levels. She was amazing and coped so well.She came in for so many cuddles with me in bed, where I barely moved. Get deliveries sent to you. Accept help. Ask for it even. You do not need to be supermum during this time. If you do not feel like your incision is healing as it should, seek professional help. I had a minor infection at one end and was put on antibiotics swiftly. It cleared up quickly.
3. Early breath work. This is simple – but can be hard! This is simple - but can be so effective. I started this from about day 4/5 – but can probably be done immediately after the birth. Sending breath to certain parts of the body that have suffered trauma is a good initial first step to healing. I noticed that there was little movement when I took a breath down into my belly, and around my wound. It was my body’s mechanism for protecting me. Mindfully breathing into this and working on it daily, it improved very quickly for me. Speak to a professional for further guidance on this.
4. Touching my stomach and scar. Naturally, I found it really difficult going near the wound at first. Even in the shower. But I spent time reconnecting with my stomach again (there are neurons that need reestablishing after pregnancy and birth – any birth; vaginal and abdominal) that are disconnected to our core area. They have been through a lot in order to grow and nurture a new lifeform. I focused on my hand rising and falling. I tried to appreciate how my stomach felt. It was difficult and I must admit that I wasn’t ecstatic by the jelly-like feel to it. But I was proud. And the touch moved and grounded me. I wish I had done this first time around. Eventually, I moved my touch closer and closer to the scar. I could run my hand across it in the shower in the warmth that helped me to relax and again, connect with the place where my baby was born. I built up the level of touch and pressure over the days and weeks in preparation for scar massage later on.
5. Use a specialist oil. I invested in a pot of THIS oil from Nessa
– and it is lovely. I highly recommend. I use it frequently – both on my stomach (I also have stretch marks) and across my scar to soften it. I also use it for the scar massage (see below)
6. Scar massage. This has possibly made the biggest difference this time (after the rest. Rest, rest, rest). I have seen benefits in a number of ways. Connection to the birth site, appreciation for what my body has done. Enabling movement in that area. Scar tissue massage reduces the adhesions that form in the body, and can create further issues including infertility, pain (in various parts of the body due to the impact on our fascia), headaches, digestive issues and more). I taken this slow and built up. I often do it once I have put the kids to bed or as I am lying in bed before I sleep each night. I have found that the improvement, with regular massage, can be seen quickly. The good news... it's never to late to begin this for healing purposes.
7. Silicone patches. I am giving these a bash. There are studies that say that these can help to improve the texture/look and reduce itchiness of the scar. I don’t know if too early to know yet whether these work. I will report back. These are the ones I bought (but others available). You can do further reading on this study HERE
8. Vitamins and minerals. I will do a separate blog post on my postpartum vitamins/ minerals/ nutrition to aid recovery. BUT what I will say is this. Nutrition is key to healing. Plain and simple. It helps us to put down the building blocks to, well, rebuild. I bought a good postpartum vitamin + omega 3 oil capsule and put a probiotic (this one - which is suitable for pregnant and Breastfeeding mothers) in my breakfast each morning. Gut health is shown to enable great healing in the body and so I knew this was important from the start ( I also used this probiotic during my pregnancy and give it to my toddler)
9. Avoiding caffeine and alcohol. Both have been shown to potentially be detrimental to wound healing (I have read mixed studies on whether caffeine promotes healing or hinders it and so I (in my opinion) rendered it inconclusive, so decided to avoid it).I stayed away from both for over a month. I now rarely touch caffeine unless I feel desperate. And even then, I try to opt for a nap to feel better!
10. Gradual introduction of exercise. Until now (10 weeks pp), I have focused on connecting to my core, my pelvic floor (it is a myth that C section mamas don’t need to worry about this) and some low level movement (walking mostly). Again, I decided to invest in consulting with a professional to help support me back to exercise so that I do it properly. I have enrolled in Lulu Adams’ post partum programme. It is amazing, goes back to basics and is helping me to reengage areas of our body first, that perhaps we never realised we needed before pregnancy. I really am taking baby steps with this one.
Some areas worth exploring (again in my opinion):
- Getting a Mummy MOT. I have booked in for a Mummy MOT with The Mummy MOT. Whilst we are on lockdown, they are still able to do an assessment, including a tummy gap check (diastasis recti), posture check, and pelvic dysfunction screening. I will report back on this – especially with it being carried out remotely.
- Mindfulness. I have been practicing this for years now, but since becoming a mummy, I have turned to this as a tool more than ever. I truly believe it has helped with my healing too – particularly through lockdown, with a toddler and a newborn. I highly recommend the Mother Zen, Nikki who runs Ten of Zen classes. Let's face it, who doesn’t want to be a mindful mummy?!
I hope that helps. I am in no way an expert. The above is purely my experience and what I have been doing to aid my own recovery. But I hope that the article helps you to think about your own recovery and some areas you might explore to support/ promote/ accelerate it further. Let me know how you get on and your own unique experience. Other ideas welcomed, as always.