Cesarean Section: the lowdown, and did fitness really help?

Hi everyone – wow, two weeks since my last post. You can guess what happened recently: we had our baby! Baby B is now confirmed to be a little girl, and for the past three weeks we have learned that she loves bath time and cuddling, and hates changing her clothes and being put down anywhere. At all. She knows. And she’ll scream.

 

This post I thought I’d look at the process of the cesarean. When I found out I was having one, I was very nervous about the surgical element: I’d never had surgery that big before, and the recovery was really scaring me. I tried to find some info about the process that wasn’t vague, NHS guidelines (which were helpful, but I was after some actual insights and personal experience rather than general advice), or that wasn’t on a Netmums forum, where it seems you can’t post if you value punctuation and complete words instead of abbreviations.

18713155-8

So here we go. Two days before the birth I was admitted into hospital for steroid injections to help Baby B’s lungs mature as she was coming out a little early. As a result, I had to have my blood sugar monitored every hour thanks to he gestational diabetes. Day and night. For 48 hours. So … that was fun. I only found out on the day that I’d have to be admitted that early, and was kind of tearful as I re-packed my bag from one night to potentially four, and said goodbye to all the nice things I’d planned for the last day without a child. No romantic dinner with SB, no final aqua class. Sounds silly, but I was pretty emotional when SB took me to the hospital and then eventually drove away and left me in my new ‘home’ for the next few days, which was a four bed ward with two other patients.

 

However, this soon wore off. By that stage I was getting some pretty severe braxton hicks, so it felt safer to be in the hospital. It was nice to know that all I had to do was chill in between getting my blood sugar monitored, and helped me to calm down and focus on what was coming up. I watched a lot of Suits (so many good looking humans and so many sports metaphors), and my first episode of the Great British Bake Off. And wrote an emotional blog post 😉

 

On the day itself, SB arrived at 8am, and I put on my awesome surgical gear. We were prepared for a long wait, but by 9am we were called in. It all happened so fast, and we were frantically texting our family as we walked to the theatre. There, we waited for the team to assemble: there were approximately 9 people in the room as well as SB and myself. Once my spinal bloc had been administered, they lay me down and checked that it had worked. Then they put in the catheter (lovely), and they began.

keep-calm-the-baby-s-coming

It was a really weird sensation to lie there knowing that people were digging around inside you, and even more weird to know that in a few minutes our baby was going to arrive. In labour, I’m guessing that the process helps you prepare, plus you’re probably somewhere in your own zone just trying to get through the pain. And once the baby’s out, I’ve read your body is filled with hormones that help you forget the process and help you bond with the baby. My experience was nothing like that – I was conscious throughout and had nothing else to focus on apart from trying to imagine what would happen in the next few minutes. You can feel them rummaging around inside, but you can’t feel anything, and you can’t make sense of what’s happening because you know it’s such a big moment: how do you comprehend what’s going on? At one point, I saw the doctor’s hand above the screen holding two little purple feet, but she wasn’t completely out yet: that was the strangest experience of the whole thing, and really brought home what was happening!

 

Because she was breech, they had to push really hard to get her head out. Poor thing. I could feel a lot of pressure – it wasn’t painful but it was uncomfortable. When she came out, she was blue and in shock, so they took her over to a little bed to give her oxygen and warm her up. Here I should say a huge thank you to One Born Every Minute because I knew exactly what they were doing and that it was normal! Otherwise it would have been pretty scary. After a minute or two we heard a thin little cry and she was here.

 

They brought her over for SB and I to hold while they closed me up. This takes longer than getting her out, but you don’t realise because you’re looking at your baby and trying to work out what has just happened! Afterwards, they wheeled me into recovery where we (unsuccessfully) attempted the first feed. Then they took me back to the ward, where we were left with our baby, and where I waited out the anaesthetic.

 

Because of my diabetes, they were very strict in feeding her every three hours and make sure she ate. So she had formula for the first 48 hours in addition to me trying to feed, because it’s bloody hard work and they needed to make sure she ate. For the next two days, I stayed in the hospital while I tried to feed her, and the midwives topped her up with formula. The midwives were so patient and sat with me for an hour each time trying to help me: neither baby nor mother have any clue as to what to do, so it’s really tricky. By day 2 Baby B and I had kind of worked out what to do (thank god), so we were discharged, and SB and I were left to try and keep this small baby alive by ourselves!

Screen Shot 2015-09-10 at 14.22.10

Sorry about the language. But this is what it’s like.

So. The recovery after the operation. Once the anaesthetic wears off, you are definitely very tender, and I was given pain killers every 3-4 hours, but nothing stronger than a powerful anti-inflammatory with paracetamol. The midwife took the catheter out and helped me to stand about 6 hours after the bub was born, and I was advised to walk around. So I did. It was a very ginger walk: I was hunched over, and moved very tenderly, like an old lady. This continued for about three days, but each day was better. I had a shower that night, and took the dressing off the wound. Going to the loo wasn’t painful (which is a concern!): I stayed very hydrated, and I tried to relax when I went which seemed to help. The muscles they sliced into seem to be used for everything: sitting up, going to the loo, twisting your torso, walking, and so everything was done very slowly to avoid pain. The day after she was born I was walking around the ward regularly, and the day after we were discharged, so much more walking that day. Each evening the wound was tender, and the hardest things were getting out of the bed and getting off the sofa. These were painful every time.

 

By the 5th day I was able to walk to our local pub for dinner with friends. I stopped feeling regular pain after about 6 days, and only if I moved the wrong way. The first two weeks were difficult: as well as no sleep, worrying about whether the child is eating enough, trying to get used to your new way of life where you can’t go anywhere and where your house looks like Mothercare threw up in your living room, you also have to be careful of not lifting things and taking care of how you move. But I think that’s the same for natural births too.

 

Now – 20 days after – I can walk my normal distances, however I can’t walk very fast still. I barely feel the wound, apart from in the evenings if I’ve had a particularly active day. Thanks to Baby B being a bit of a cling-on, we haven’t really gone very far, which is helpful as I’m pretty stubborn and not used to being immobile!

 

After she was born, my stomach was still pretty big. I looked 6 months pregnant still, but it was soft and there were marks and bruises from the surgery all over it. I went through a phase of missing my lovely bump, and feeling my little bub inside me. My legs swelled right up after the surgery – much more than anything I experienced when pregnant. They look like two tree trunks, with no definition at the knees or the ankles. This was fluid retention, and went away after three days. Now, my stomach has deflated somewhat and my legs are back to normal.

 

So was all that effort to stay fit during the pregnancy worth it? I think so. I think it really helped with my recovery: it made the first walk not to painful, and meant that I could walk more regularly a lot more quickly than some others (or so I heard from the midwives). I don’t think my core has been decimated as much as I thought, which helped once I was at home as walking up and down stairs wasn’t as problematic as I expected. Plus, I’m very fortunate that my stomach did deflate pretty quickly, and I’m sure this is because of the exercise I did when pregnant. So, even though it wasn’t in preparation for the ‘marathon’ that is labour, it still really helped me out and made the whole experience better.

 

 

I am itching to get out there in the fresh air and start walking regularly. The weather is still nice, and I know Winter is closing in soon. However, Baby B has other plans and hasn’t decided whether she likes the pram or not. If we go out and she’s in the wrong mood, she’ll just cry and cry, which is not nice. To be honest, I’m starting to feel panicked that I’m not getting out and about enough, and the being sat in my living room for hours on end feeding can result in some pretty severe cabin fever. But I have to remind myself that she’s not even three weeks old yet, and that these things will come with time. I should just enjoy these days when my main focus is sitting and feeding – I should watch more Suits. Because really, the cast is so attractive, and they love a quick, slick exchange of words. It’s like The O.C. for adults.

 

 

Sorry if an in-depth analysis of a cesarean isn’t what you wanted from a running blog, and sorry if it’s TMI. But I would have loved to read something like this when I was getting used to the idea, so I wanted to put it out there for others. The whole process was not as traumatic as I thought it would be, and on balance there are definite pros compared with a natural birth, such as:

 

  • You know when your child will arrive, and can mentally prepare
  • There is no long labour leaving you exhausted
  • I think my recovery would have been similar to that of a natural birth, particularly if the natural birth resulted in stitches
  • You get to stay in hospital for longer – this is a major advantage when learning to feed. How are new mothers expected to know what to do when they leave hospital after 5 hours?!

 

So… all I’m saying is that it’s not as bad as you think. And sorry again if you were hoping for a more running-oriented post.

 

 

Ellie B

Post Great North Run: Half Marathon Recovery

So, here we are two days on from the Great North Run. By all accounts it was a fantastic day, and they were even able to identify the millionth finisher. If you did finish the run, then you’re probably in a world of pain right now! Following on from last post, here are some hints to help you get those legs back to normal so you can climb the stairs at a normal speed again:

 

  1. Stay hydrated. Don’t forget to keep drinking now that the race is over – it’s important to replenish your fluid intake, and focus on drinks that will replace your electrolytes too. And by all means have a post-run beer because, well, why the heck not? You’ve just run 13.1 miles. But don’t forget the water too.
  2. Over the next few days, make sure you rest to give your muscles a chance to recover. Don’t immediately jump back into your exercise routine, but enjoy being able to catch up on your TV. If you’re looking for something, I can recommend Orange is the New Black as the perfect companion for your post-run muscle rest.
  3. Eat Smart. Before the race, you probably stressed about getting the right amount of carbs: post-race, you should still focus on carbs, but also consider getting the right amount of protein.  Ideally, a protein shake just after you finish will help your muscle repair, but you can continue this for the days following the race too.
  4. Foam roll. I am not so good practicing what I preach with this one, but rolling your legs will give you a DIY sports massage. You can use the roller all over your body, but I personally focus on my calves, IT band and quads. Roll slowly over the area you’re focusing on, and when you feel a twinge, hold the roller there for a little bit. Beware that it is NOT fun, but it IS valuable. I promise.
  5. Start introducing light exercise into your routine. If you can manage it, going for a short walk will keep your legs loose and stop them from stiffening up.

Marathon recovery meal

On the day itself, I find that chocolate milk is the best recovery drink: it’s hydrating, and has a good combo of carbs and protein. I also try to sit in a cold bath for 10 mins. I’m not tough enough for an ice bath, but a cold bath seems to do the trick!

 

I’ve collected these over the years from different sources, and they seem to work for me. However, you may need to vary them slightly to make sure they work for you – and if you’re in a lot of pain, then go see a doctor.

 

And now here are some tangents for this Tuesday post:

 

I learned this week that if you annoy the universe, it will come to get you. Karma, man, it exists. Something happened at the end of last week, and then when SB and I went to Lisbon for the weekend, we lost our luggage.

photo 2-13

In case you didn’t know, Lisbon is gorgeous, but our city break was punctuated with a desperate trip to H&M followed by the Chemist (because losing your luggage and sprinting to make tight plane connections is sweaty work it turns out).

 

Here is our best 'lost suitcase' look.

Here we are spotting the latest trends in ‘I lost my suitcase and I all have are the clothes on my back’.

 

SB got his bag earlier than I did, and went for a run. I didn’t go for a run, but I did get to a rooftop bar, plus we both ate lots of great seafood, so everyone’s a winner. My bag arrived just in time for me to pick it up on the way back to the airport on Sunday.

 

photo 1-14

photo-137

 

And on Facebook I was nominated to share 10 books that have stayed with me over the years, so I thought I’d share here too:

 

1) 1984, George Orwell
2) The Baby Sitters Club, Ann M Martin – saw me from ages 7-12!!
3) The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini
4) Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell
5) A Doll’s House, Ibsen
6) Ariel, Sylvia Plath
7) Jamie’s Ministry of Food, Jamie Oliver – this book has literally kept us alive
8) Jude the Obscure, Thomas Hardy
9) Birdsong, Sebastian Faulks
10) Empire Falls, Richard Russo

 

Ellie B

Things You Learn on a 21 Mile Run

On Saturday I ran 21 miles. It’s the furthest I’ve ran so far, and I really wanted to break the ‘final 6 miles’ - loads of people have told me how tough that final 6 are, so now at least I know how one of them feels.

 

After the 18 miles, I was prepared for a challenge, but I wasn’t looking forward to it. On Friday I chatted with Gilly, who said that it will be hard, but that it will also prove that I could do it. I treated myself to a sleep in on Saturday because – thanks to jet lag – it felt like I had woken up at 3am every morning last week. And by 11am I was off.

 

Aw gorgeous bluebells on the run before I was by the road

Aw gorgeous bluebells on the run before I was by the road

In Aussie, 11am would be a ridiculous time to start a 21 mile run. Perhaps even in London. God bless the North East with it’s lack-lustre temperatures, making for flexible running.

 

Mentally I broke the run down into 5 mile chunks, as that’s when I had an isotonic gel. And it helped. I could run at a pace of 8:45-9min miles without feeling like I was pushing myself too much. In fact, when I was at mile 12 I started running 7:30-8min miles and had to make an effort to slow down for the last bit. So…. at around mile 15 I was feeling a lot more confident about this whole thing.

 

I finished in 3:05. That’s a long time running, and you don’t go through something like that without learning a thing or two:

  • Cola isotonic and caffeine gels aren’t a good choice. They taste like vodka and coke. No one wants to be reminded of those one-too-many-vodka-and-coke-student-nights when they are in mile 15 of a marathon.
  • Chafing!! I knew about chafing already thanks to my sports bra. But my bellybutton bar against my belly button? My arm against…. what? The shirt that I wear all the time???? Vaseline will be my new best friend for the next three weeks.
Olly Murs chafing

Even the biggest pop stars aren’t immune to chafing. Poor Olly Murs.

  • A running belt would be nice. Usually I stuff my gels down my sports bra (which might explain the point above), but it gets a bit ridiculous when you have 4 smashed in there, all vying for space. Plus, others might think I am a mutant am…. unusual.
  • My left foot is destroyed at the end. By the time I finished, I had two angry blood blisters (my little toe looked like one giant bruise), and a ginormous normal blister covering my big toe. After a night of dreaming they would burst in the bed and I’d wake up to a scene from a horror movie (or something a little less dramatic), I burst them this morning. It’s glamorous stuff, this marathon training!
  • I need a super play list to take me to the finish line. For the first 1:45 I had Beyonce for company, and then Mumford and Sons. But all my awesome running tunes were required for the last bit. So I’ll create a special playlist for the final hour on the day to kick my butt to the end.

 

The last 5 miles were tough. The blisters affected my tread, and I think I was getting pretty dehydrated (who goes out on a long run without liquids? Idiots, that’s who). But at the end, could I imagine going for another 45 mins? Yes. The Edinburgh route will also be much flatter than D-Town, so that will (hopefully) work in my favour.

 

Ellie B

Running ‘Straya Style

Running in Australia is a different beast to running in the UK. Since I’m taking it easy this week to work on my IT band, I thought I’d give our non-Aussie readers a peak into what it’s like to run over the other side of the world!

Running in ‘Straya

1. Choosing your time of day is important. In Summer, it gets hot early, and dark early (about 8pm in Sydney). So you need to be quick to get that window before you’re either sweltering and running at 5km an hour, or running in the dark!

2. As a result, lots of races are either in Winter, or start really early in the morning (eg. 6.30am for the Sun Run). It’s awesome to walk through a city first thing in the morning which is full of runners and no one else.

Image006

Sydney full of City2Surf runners.

3. Everyone will have either sunnies or a hat (see above pic). And everyone will wear sunscreen. We don’t need Baz Lurhman to remind us of this one.

Sunscreen runner

This is the alternative to sunscreen!

4. Sweat. Sweaty sweat sweat. Depending on the part of Australia you’re in of course – Sydney is humid anyway, so throw in a run as well and you’ll be amazed at how much liquid you’ll lose!

5. It doesn’t take long to warm up your muscles!

6. Contrary to UK folklore, spiders and snakes aren’t part of a gang who wait to start wrestling matches with runners. Or humans in general.

7. There’s no hay fever to contend with.

P1010542

No spiders or pollen on this trail!

8. You worry about hydration even more than in the UK. And it’s no joke: heat stroke and dehydration is a major risk when running in ‘Straya.

9. As it’s a city, Sydney offers mostly road races. But they are often around the harbour or right on the beach, so it’s not too hard on the eye!!

Not a bad view for a lunch time run!

Not a bad view for a lunch time run!

10. At the end of the beach races, there’s nothing more refreshing than running into the sea to cool down.

Manly Beach: the finish to the Sun Run

Manly Beach: the finish to the Sun Run

I have 100% acclimatised to UK running: when we were back in Sydney in March I ran a couple of 10ks, and it was like I was running in a sauna! I don’t know how I used to do it. I also ran with Gilly when she visited but ended up walking (that might have been because of the wine the night before rather than the heat – I don’t know which one’s better for my pride!).

So there you have it! As you’d expect, running in Australia is hotter than the UK, so different preparation is needed. But you’re also more flexible, and Sydney in particular is a beautiful city to run in. If you’re in Australia, check out the park runs or the Sun Herald running series to find an event near you.

 Ellie B