It's been four days since my surgery (which, wow...time has flown!) and I feel loads better. The eight-hour drive home yesterday wasn't the worst, although sitting in one position for a couple hours meant that each stop we made to walk started out roughly. We probably made four half hour stops or so. It might have been better to stop every hour for a shorter amount of time, but on the other hand the extended walking really helped. So it's probably a wash in terms of which is really more beneficial in the long run. There were two painful times that stuck out in my head: one was laughing, and one was coughing. Both suck donkey balls. While we were walking at a rest stop, Chris made some ridiculous comment about pooping and intestines (you know you married the right man when you can talk to him about not pooping for four days) and I started to laugh, and felt one of the worst pains I'd experienced since the first day. It left me breathless and in tears. However, it did diminish fairly quickly, so I know that the healing is going well. The second was after a drink of water went down the wrong way, and I coughed. I was sitting in the car during that one, so there was little I could do for it except press the travel pillow in harder and breathe through it. That pain lingered for a while, I think because I wasn't able to walk it off.
In terms of how I feel right this very second, I'm good. I actually feel pretty great and have experienced just a little pain today. I'm still wearing the abdominal binder, and it's made a world of difference, and I'll be able to use it again after future C-sections. It's also helped keep the swelling down. The swelling hurts worse than the incision itself, I think. It's very tender and raw, though the binder helps with that. Still, the worst is that burning sensation I've talked about. Updated: I've since learned that it's the nerves regenerating, and it's actually a GOOD thing, since some people permanently lose sensation in areas after surgery (any surgery).
My back still hurts from holding it so stiffly. And my chest and lungs ache. Those things reaffirm to me that I made the right decision, since traditional cerclages often require bed rest, and my body just doesn't do that well. I remember it from when I was on bed rest with Caleb too - even after just a few hours of laying flat on my back, my lungs start to get congested and it gets difficult for me to breathe. I was made to be active! The trans-abdominal cerclage will allow me an almost completely normal pregnancy (knock on wood, fingers crossed, and all that).
So what tips or tricks do I have? Man, I don't know. I think this surgery is so different for everyone, but I'll tell you what helped me:
1. Get the first surgery slot in the morning!
This was the biggest difference, I think, between my fairly relaxed, on-time surgery with minimal waiting and lots of time with Dr. Haney and Trisha's crazier one that involved lots of waiting and little time with the doctor.
2. Bring your travel pillow...and lots of other pillows and blankets.
Ok, maybe not lots. But we brought the travel pillow (which is recommended up the wazoo by other ladies who have been here, for good reasons), and two full size pillows: a body pillow and a slightly firm foam pillow. Both from home, straight from our bed. First, it's comforting to have something from home. You don't even realize it, but the smell and the shape and the way you sink into it just like you do at home...all those things help you relax a bit more. Second, the hospital pillow was nothing. Maybe an inch thick. Might as well have tried to use an envelope for a pillow. Third, it helps you get into and stay in a comfortable position by offering support around your sides. I also brought a blanket - my "blankie" if you will. It's not a full-size blanket; more like a throw. Suede-ish texture on one side and faux fur in a tan zebra print on the other. I'm sure it sounds hideous, but it's a) really cute and b) really warm and c) super soft and d) super comfy and e) super comforTING. It was a Christmas present from one of my friends years ago, and while I don't go so far as to take it with me on vacations and stuff, I do use it almost every night. I had it in the hospital with me while I was on bed rest and had it with me when we delivered Caleb. So it's very special. But outside of the sappiness, hospital can be cold, so it's nice to have a good blanket.
3. Think about an abdominal binder.
Actually, don't think. Just get one. It's pricey, yes. But now having used it, I'd pay twice the amount. I have this one. There are other products out there, like the Belly Bandit, but this one was made specifically for post C-sections and abdominal surgeries. It helps support the incision, and the compression helps with post-surgery swelling. When I first used it, I thought that it was the cause of that super painful burning, like maybe it was putting too much pressure on it or causing a rash, but after talking to Trisha and taking the binder off, I realized that it wasn't related at all. I have it on pretty much all day and then take it off at night to let the incision breathe. The feeling of the surgery site with it on and with it off is night and day. Updated: Again, I've since learned that the burning is the nerves regenerating. NOTE: Some hospitals provide these. ASK before buying!
4. Keep ahead of the pain.
Use the pain meds they give you. They are there for a reason! You won't get a prize at the end for not using them.
5. Move around.
The more you move, the more it hurts...but the better it feels in the long run. It's painful. It's excruciating. You might experience a weird burning sensation that is more painful than everything else put together (Updated: the nerves again!). But it goes away, and each time you walk it will go away more quickly. I tried to get up and walk the hallways at the hotel every hour or so. Make your spouse or whoever is taking care of you make you do it. There were many times I wouldn't have done it without Chris, and I'm glad he was there. On the drive home, we stopped for about 20-30 minutes every two hours. If you’re flying, be sure to walk the aisles regularly. Don’t worry about what anyone thinks of you, limping along, walking slowly, hunched over, clutching your travel pillow. You will never see these people again, and you need to take care of youself. Just do it!
6. Don't overdo it.
You don't want you incision to open up, and you don't want the pain to become unbearable. If you overdo it, you'll be less likely to want to move around again in an hour, and in the long run that will prolong your healing time.
7. Drink lots of water and eat healthy food with lots of fiber.
Don't eat heavy, rich foods before or after the surgery. You won't poop for a few days anyway. Eating light foods - avoiding fried food or any of that food that makes you tired afterward - and drinking lots and lots of water will help you work through it. So say no to that hamburger and yes to that grilled salmon salad. Or something. I started taking Colace three days before the surgery and am continuing now. For what it's worth, I still haven't pooped...but it's not painful. Yet. UPDATE: I pooped. It was horrifically painful. I cried. I should have followed my own advice more. So to this I add: Drink MORE water. MORE. Have a water bottle with you at all times for the few days leading up to the surgery, bring a water bottle to the hospital, and have one with you when you leave. Make sure it's always full, and always be drinking from it. Also, eat lots of high-fiber foods. Raisins. Prune juice. FiberOne bars. Whatever it takes! And maybe take some of your drugs before you go for the first time. Note: If you are having your surgery at UCM, they don't give you a water bottle. You get a pitcher and paper cups. I should have brought one with me to the hospital to make drinking while laying down easier.
8. Go pee regularly once your catheter is out.
I don't know if this is universal, but for me, the pressure of a full bladder is really, really uncomfortable and actually makes standing and walking painful. So go pee right when you first feel that little tingle to avoid it. Keeping your bladder as empty as possible will keep you comfortable. And besides, you should be walking all the time anyway. ;)
9. Stretchy, comfy clothes.
I wore the hospital gown the entire time I was at the hospital. Once I got discharged, I changed into lounge pants, a tank top, and a sweater. I bought the lounge pants at Target the day before we left in a size larger than normal (they tie so I can cinch them tighter if needed). I can wear them above the incision or below and they're perfect. I have a million pairs of these Supersoft Hiphuggers from Victoria's Secret and they are the perfect post-surgery underwear. No tight elastic and they sit higher than the incision so there's no rubbing. I also brought a light summer dress (like this chemise from Anthropologie; thank you birthday gift cards!) that would have been completely perfect and I wouldn't have to worry about the waistline irritating the incision, but I never wore it. Truth be told, I barely changed. I wore one outfit on the drive down, lounge pants and a tank to the surgery, that same lounge pants and tank home to the hotel, and then stayed in same outfit for the next two days. I know, I'm dirty. I changed into different pants and a tank for the drive home, more for the sake of anyone I might run into at rest stops than my own. Looking like a dirty hobo who hasn't washed her hair in days for my husband is one thing, but for the general public I'd prefer a slightly cleaner reputation.
10. Get a Brazilian wax.
I'll give you a second to compose yourself. But seriously. It helped. Well, it didn't help, I guess, but it definitely prevented some uncomfortableness and pain. You don't have to go full Brazilian, but getting rid of the hair around where the incision was going to be definitely made life easier for both me and the surgical staff. When they pulled off the bandage, it didn't hurt at all, since there was no hair for the tape to pull out. Before the surgery, the staff didn't have to shave or clean up the area at all. I guess usually they shave it, and then use strong tape to pull up any remaining hairs, so basically a wax anyway. Might as well get it done by a pro! One of the nurses asked if I got it done just for the surgery, and said she always tells friends to do it when they're having C-sections or other surgeries in the same area. And yes, it's pretty painful if you've never had one before. But compared to the surgery itself, it's a piece of cake. Take a few ibuprofen, forcefully breathe out with each strip getting pulled off, and if you're really worried use some of this.
11. If your surgery is at UCM, use valet parking.
It's cheaper than the parking garage (for all time periods) once you get it validated from the hospital.
That's really about it. I slept most of the time in the hospital, so I didn't have to worry too much about entertaining myself. When I was awake, I watched bad TV or read a book. Chris got a new computer game just before he left so he played that pretty much the entire time and was glad for an excuse to sit around and play it. We brought a bunch of movies and TV shows and I downloaded a ton of books for the Kindle, but we ended up not really needing most of it. Your experience might be different, though, so I'd take all that you can. Better too much to do than to end up bored!
If anyone has any questions at all, please feel free to ask! Trisha is a great resource as well, especially if you're having it placed during pregnancy. Just know that you will hurt. You will be swollen. It will burn (though I still don't know exactly what is causing that). But quite literally, it gets about 50% better each day.
All in all, I think it's pretty obvious that this will be well worth it once we've got our one or two or three or four kids running around the house. Knock on wood, cross your fingers, and all that.