Several people have asked me how I’m doing. I was going to append notes on recovery to then end of my birth story. But who knows when I’ll get to that. I am working on the next installment but writing that is taking concentration and emotional energy so it’s slow going. So I decided there is no reason to wait, I’ll just jump in and write about the recovery process.
I realized the other day that the biggest problem I’m having right now is not how bad but how good I feel. Ironic.
This pregnancy was problem-free; but it wasn’t a cake walk. In the second half I was in a great deal of almost-constant pain in my lower back with shooting pains in my legs along the sciatic nerve. I dealt with it and really all things considered it was just the cross I bore. But the thing is that by comparison now even with the post-surgery pain I still feel much better 99% of the time than I did during my last trimester. I don’t have a great weight of a baby pulling me down, I can breathe easily, I don’t have heartburn or a tiny compressed stomach, I can bend easily, and the shooting pain whenever I walk or stand or lie on my side is gone. The abdominal pains along my incision are actually fairly minor, more along the lines of some of the heaviest menstrual pains I’ve ever had or the contractions of early labor I experienced with Sophia. It hurts but it’s very manageable. I think that this being the third time I’ve been cut in the exact same place I’ve actually started to lose some of the nerve sensitivity. Each subsequent c-section has hurt so much less than the one before. It’s been almost two weeks since I’ve taken anything but extra-strength ibuprofen.
And even those pains that I do feel now come not at the time I’m straining myself but hours later. So there is no direct painful reminder preventing me from doing more than I should. Just a reprimand after the fact that maybe I didn’t make such sound decisions in the heat of the moment. So recovery seems to be two steps forward one step back. I feel guilty sitting on the couch for hours cuddling my baby and think I really should get up and take care of my kids and pick up the mess and get their lunches myself instead of barking orders to my parents and husband. And then when I have bestirred myself to take care of things myself, I realize that I’m really not as recovered as I feel I am. I find at the end of the day that my abdomen aches, that my body is telling me “Not so fast!!!” And so it goes, guilt and overcompensation and the constant struggle to determine what I should and shouldn’t be doing.
Sadly all of this often leaves me over-emotional and libel to snap and lash out at any hapless family member who is just trying to help me. (Or any small child who is doing age-appropriate defiance, whining, crying and fussing.) When I realized that I’d have to have a planned c-section what I dreaded the most, after the actual surgery itself, was this recovery period.
I realized after Sophie was born that I am a control freak. I think part of it may be how hard I have had to work to become a homemaker. Keeping the house tidy an laundry caught up, making schedules and meal plans and grocery lists, organizing and planning don’t come easily to me. It’s been a struggle the past few years since I got married to get these things down.I’ve finally managed to work out a system that more or less works for me. It keeps us mainly on track and everyone is at least fed and clothed and the house is usually clean enough that I don’t shudder when I walk through it. It’s still very much a work in progress; there are so many things I wish I did better; but I’m taking baby steps in the right direction. And then the baby is born and my whole system goes out the window chaos descends and I begin to despair at ever getting back to my comfort level.
I realize that I am incredibly blessed to have such a supportive family. My mom and my dad have come and stayed with us for nearly a month after the births of each of our children. Also, now my sister lives with us and is able to help too. And yet what I struggle most with during this post-partum period is my own impatience and ingratitude. Instead of being thankful and gracious to them for all their help, instead of being patient and understanding as they struggle to figure out how they can best help, I find myself snapping and complaining because they don’t do things exactly the way I want them done. I realized this about myself after Sophie was born and I felt it looming over me during my entire pregnancy with Benedict. It’s different than that first trimester when I was so exhausted and sick that I had to let many things slide in terms of housekeeping. Then I was dispirited and depressed about it but too tired to do more than groan and shrug. But in this phase I have more help but also more energy. I feel like I should be able to do things and I try to do them and then realize I’m doing too much and need to stop trying. I get cranky and irritable and lash out at my helpers and at the kids and a myself and at God too for that matter. Even knowing it was coming, I wasn’t able to keep myself from falling into the same pattern again. Actually this time I’ve felt even better than I did after Sophie was born and had more temptations to overreach as I’ve had two demanding girls whining for more mommy attention.
My poor mom is such a wonderful, loving, giving grandmother, eager to do all she can to help out. And yet she herself will be the first to acknowledge that she is not a very organized or detail-oriented person. I know I shouldn’t be irritated when she doesn’t fold and hang my laundry exactly the way I do. And yet I do. One day Dom ended up going to work one day with his shirt inside out because he’s gotten so used to the way I always turn them right side out for him that he didn’t think to check when he got dressed. It’s no one’s fault, it’s just the way our personalities differ. My mom has many other talents in other areas. Which when I’m not dependent on her I am able to remember. Unfortunately when I am out of control and relying on others I cease to be a rational adult and start acting like a toddler. I suppose there’s a sort of natural relationship there. As an adult I am independent and self-reliant when I am forced to be dependent and when I feel helpless like a child is, I start to act like a child. Fortunately, my mom loves me and forgives me, patiently enduring even my temper tantrums. I suppose she’s had plenty of practice.
Today I feel worse than I have in a while. Too much time on my feet in the furniture store, carrying Ben. The house is chaos and I feel depressed over that. It is hard to take things as they come one day at a time. And yet despite all that, I am filled with joy every time I look at my three beautiful children. I cannot, simply cannot believe how immensely blessed I am when I curl up with all three of them at nap time: Ben in my lap, hungrily gulping milk; Bella curled at my feet, twitching her blankets into place, unable to be still even for half a minute, constant motion; Sophie paging through Winnie-the-Pooh chattering as she reads and then raising her eyes—oh those eyes, those lovely brown eyes!—to give me a grin. Oh how I love them all, my beautiful children. Yes, my dears it was all worth while, every last pain of it. I would do it all again, will do it all again, for you.