If you’re looking for a ‘how to’ guide on getting your body back after a c-section, this isn’t the blog for you. This is a hopefully reassuring account of the astounding resilience of the female body and the reminder that; whatever physical or mental challenge you have been or are still going through; this too shall pass.
I had a glorious pregnancy, so much so that until I saw that heartbeat at the 12 week scan I questioned if I was in fact even pregnant! I trained until I was 32 weeks pregnant and gained a good amount of weight. Over 7 years as a Personal Trainer I had gained a lot of faith in my body and her capability and was all set for a natural labour; without pain relief. It seemed, my son had other ideas! After 30 hours of natural labour at 9.5cm I was told they believed the baby was breech and suggested an emergency c-section. I won’t go in to too much detail on that here, that’s for another blog, But following the fear he would die, I would be injured, then the sweet relief of a spine block, he was born. An hour later I had been stitched back together and I was wheeled into recovery.
It took me a while to process what had happened, I’m sure this is normal. I took about 12 hours for the pain to kick in and, I am fortunate enough to say; I had never felt pain like it. I could not move, i had been cut in half and didn’t I know it. Determined to breastfeed I would dig my feet into the bed and use my arms to pull on the headboard so I could sit up, then someone would hand me my baby and I would be instructed to help him latch. Tears would pour down my face as I felt all that trust in my body flowing away, I couldn’t get him to latch and he would cry and I couldn’t bear the pain of moving to try another way.
I can’t remember the pain of natural labour, that’s not to say I don’t know it was agony but it has faded, but I can still feel the pain of my scar, looking down and seeing the edges of my skin barely held together by raggedy stitches. New Mum’s are fragile, my physical fragility was something I couldn’t seem to come to terms with. It made it hard to sink into motherhood, to accept I was unable to move much and resentful that my birth hadn’t gone at all to plan - I had always had control of my body.
4 weeks later and I could walk and I had stopped taking pain killers. 6 weeks later I could carry my boy in a sling, and I did so for hours each day, it was often the only place he would sleep. I was in survival mode, my previous life felt like it had been lived by a different person.
Months passed and my legs got stronger and my arms, that had held my baby for hours and hours began to feel capable again, My messy scar healed into something I could accept. When he was 7.5 months old I went back to work. I was determined to train again, not because of any pressure I felt to get back into shape, but because I needed the mental boost; I needed to trust myself again and building up my physical fitness made all those other things feel possible.
I welled up during my first session, holding weights above my head, puling on cables and deadlifting from the floor, I looked at myself in the mirror and there was a faint recognition ‘there you are’, I thought, I haven’t lost you after all, you just went away for a while, you had other things to do. I pulled my waistband down and photographed my tummy, scar and all. I observed the changes and I was reminded just how strong I had been, that I had recovered, and I wasn’t broken, but I was different.
Motherhood has changed me, I am more fragile, more vulnerable, but I am stronger, I have fought more battles, I have breathed more deeply and my heart has beat harder and with more purpose than ever before. I was cut into two and I feel that as mothers we forever feel split in two - the half of us that misses who we were able to be before and the half of us that wants to be by the side of our child(ten), holding their hands as they figure out how to step into the world.
Fitness for me has changed too, I still want to feel that surge of power, that confidence that my body can do those things and I am capable and strong, but, the biggest thing it gives me now, is space, to shut off from all the noise, the merry go round of my thoughts and the trust that I am bigger and more resilient to whatever curve ball life throws at me.
I’m sorry if you wanted to know ‘how I got my body back’, but what I learned is she never went away, she was always there, just waiting for me to be ready to move, lift, stretch, run, jump and most of all, be free, to just be….me.