*Image above via Doen.
A good friend of mine just had a baby, and visiting her in the first few days after she’d given birth brought me right back to those sleepless, awed, overwhelmed early days of motherhood. I found myself remembering when my girlfriends had visited me just after my children were born, and I specifically recalled myself wondering: “Will I ever feel normal again? Like, be able to sit on a couch and chat idly about TV shows and nuanced interactions with colleagues without feeling like my brain and heart are spiraling in twenty-two different directions? Without being vaguely concerned about how long I had until the next feed, or whether that strange twinge I just felt along my scar is normal?” In some ways — the metaphysical ones — life after having a baby has never felt “normal” again. But I found myself wondering, on a more practical level, how long did it take me to heal?
Physically, I think it took about two or three months to technically recover from my c-sections. The first felt far more difficult and painful than the consecutive, most likely because I was able to brace myself the second go around, but with both, the first ten days were miserable; there was a major turning point around four weeks; by six weeks, I would occasionally forget I’d had a major abdominal surgery; and by three months, I felt more or less “normal.” At the same time, there are still movements — even now, two years after the birth of my second! — that leave me feeling strange along my scar, and I still feel like the entire area is a little numb. I’ve had a number of friends say the same things, and a doctor confirmed that these sensation are normal.
Emotionally, I don’t think I healed from the shock of mini’s birth until my son was born two years later. My second birth experience was so much more positive than the first. Understanding that birth by c-section could be — if not pleasant, exactly, just better, more supported, less alienating — made me feel validated, or exonerated (?), for having struggled to come to terms with the experience of my daughter’s birth. After mini was born, I had trouble thinking directly about the c-section. I would do anything to distract myself from its memory. I hated — refused! — to be alone for the first two weeks after she was born because I did not want to be left on my own without a fellow conversationalist to prevent me from dwelling on it. When a good friend told me a few months later that her c-section was “a breeze,” I felt defeated. Why was I having so much trouble getting over it? Why was I having trouble to begin with? There was nothing traumatic, complicated, or abnormal about her birth. Still, I would think back to the feeling of shuffling into the operating room on my own, then getting the epidural by myself, then laying down on the operating table under those bright lights with what felt like twenty three people milling about but feeling completely, entirely alone, alienated, and almost anonymous. I was flooded with relief when they let Mr. Magpie in, but by then, I was in a full-on panic. Next came the out-of-body experience of being awake while being operated on. I was shaking so violently from the medication that I felt as though I was jumping an inch off the table every other second, and the tugging was so intense, I could feel my body being dragged downward. After she was born, I was still shaking so badly that I couldn’t hold her, an unanticipated reality that left me bereft, and then it felt like absolute agony waiting the 30 or 40 minutes for them to finish stitching me up. Even writing about this now, I feel the prick of tears in my eyes.
Micro’s birth was a different story. I was mentally prepared. Mr. Magpie had given me an Hermes scarf with a soldier pattern on it the day before, reminding me I was strong and could take on anything. I felt determined. I went in ready to advocate for myself. I begged the anaesthesiologist to help me avoid the violent shakes, and he was deeply empathetic and did everything he could to help me avoid them, placing funny warm air-filled pillows and blankets all over my arms and teaching Mr. Magpie about a pressure point on my palm that apparently helps with preventing them. When I did start shaking, he squeezed my shoulder and said, “Shoot, I’m so sorry, Jen. Let me see what I can do.” I felt supported, and heard, and not in the least bit alone. I was able to hold micro within seconds of his birth, and it was heaven. The 30-40 minutes it took to stitch me up flew by this go around — I had my treasure in my hands. When the wheeled me out of the OR, I felt redeemed, healed, triumphant. After the nurse left us in the recovery room, I remember clutching Mr. Magpie to me with one arm, cradling our baby with my other, and feeling a wonderful sensation of intactness. My boy was here, and he had made me and my family whole.
I’m curious — what about you? How long did it take you to heal, physically or emotionally or both?
+More on the birth of my boy here. I could weep…
+I still stand behind nearly everything on my registry, but there are a few things I would add. I would also seriously consider the Doona (carseat/stroller combo) if I were giving birth again. Just brilliant!
+SUCH a darling dress for a conservative affair.
+Just ordered this lipstick in the Rosewater color on the rec of a reader!
+Have been hearing really good things about these seamless bras.
+A great and versatile brown belt to add to any LWD in your closet.
+Filed under: things to buy for a boring, rainy weekend indoors.