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Post C-Section body

In my mind I was having a normal birth. I was petrified at the thought and was trying to block it out until nearer the time when I had to deal with it. So, being rushed to hospital and being in an emergency situation where I needed a Caesarean section 10 weeks early was a shock to the system to say the least.

I had not read up about it and it certainly wasn’t in my birth plan, so apart from what I had seen on TV I didn’t really know much about it.  Some people choose to have a C-section, some need one for medical purposes and some people are “too posh to push” – however I can tell you whoever came up with this phrase needs there head looking at!

The pain after a section is horrendous. I’d had to have a hip operation 2 years ago, which was major surgery and was very painful for several weeks; however I’d say the C-section was worse. With my hip I got time to recuperate, with this surgery the midwives had me doing exercises and moving round very soon. In normal circumstances I believe you’re shipped out of hospital with your baby 24 hours or so later. As I was in critical care and needed medical care, I was in a bit longer, but they still encouraged me to move around. Hats off to all those ladies who get sent home to care for a new baby after a section.  I’m writing this post 5 weeks after and I’m still sore, so I’m grateful that I’ve had time to get better before looking after a baby.

Anyway, I knew that after surgery I had to get to neonatal to see my baby. Initially I was taken on a bed, then wheelchair, but I was determined to get stronger so I could walk to get to her.  Sitting up and getting out of bed for the toilet was excurtiating and Phil had to help me, but in the night, if I didn’t call the midwife I had to do it myself.  My friend Emma (who is a midwife) text me instructions how to get up without using my stomach muscles and this helped me over the next few days pull myself up and out of bed. Gradually I managed to do it, but Christ it hurt! I didn’t have time to lie in bed…I needed to get strong for my baby girl.

The shower post surgery was bliss, but again hard work getting in and out of the shower and drying and dressing myself. When I was in the shower, I felt down to my scar as I hadn’t seen it and it felt awfully strange. That evening I was taken back up to ante natal ward and I broke down on the midwife as I wasn’t sure if it was right. She looked and I’d had a bleed. She redressed it for me and cleaned it up. The doctor also checked it the following day and it was fine.

When I walked for the first few days, I walked hunched over as it felt like my insides we’re going  to drop out of my belly. I had to hold it as any movement hurt, but the sensation was very odd.

I also had a mirror in this room, so precariously balancing on the side of the shower I got a first look at what was hiding under my bump.  I discovered a very neat scar about 10cm long. I am ok with the scar as it was hidden on my bikini line and the chances of anyone seeing it are very small.  However the part I was not expecting was the ‘shelf belly’. I had never seen or heard about this before. Of course I’d only just had a baby, so I still had a bit of a bump, but this weird “shelf” that had appeared was horrible. Gradually ‘shelf belly’ has gone down as I’ve lost weight, but it is still there. It is still sore and tender to touch and I’ve reverted to ‘hold me in’ knickers to support it.

I never put on loads of baby weight (only 9 pounds to go until I’m back to pre-pregnancy weight!!!) and I’ve always had a bit of extra weight round my tummy (I like my wine too much) however the shelf remains. I’ve googled it and it looks like the “shelf ” never really goes. I am slapping on so much firming cream to the “shelf” whilst trying to avoid the scar, in the hope that it continues to shrink.

I will update again in a few weeks to let you know the progress of “shelf belly” however I fear this is something that I’m going to have forever and that no amount of sit ups will reduce.  I am quite a body conscious person and having this deformed stomach on top of everything else gets to me. Every time I look in the mirror it’s all I can see. I have to cover it up with loose baggy tops and jeggings, which isn’t me at all.  I know everyone says your body is never the same after having a baby, but I just wasn’t expecting this at all.  Being emotional does not help me deal with this deformed belly, but I try to remember at the end of the day I have a beautiful daughter as a result…and if all all else fails Phil cracks a joke about ‘having somewhere to rest his pint’ and it cheers me up!

UPDATE:  30th May 2016 – 7 months later

Read my update here

“Shelf belly” 6 months on!

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Time to grow

Today was weigh in day again. I enjoy weigh in day as its little milestones and it feels like we’re making progress all the time. Today was a little different though. April only put on half an oz…however it is half an oz put on rather than lost. The nurse explained that because she is staying on the breast longer, she is using more calories and more energy to suck…she’s been used to having it tube fed before, now she has to work for it. She is also still very young and small. A term baby will be born and instinctively get to work right away, whereas I’ve had to train my boobs to produce milk and train April how to feed.

April enjoying painkillers

April enjoying sucrose

As a result the nurses put April’s milk up to 61ml to see if it will help her weight gain. If she’s not put on more weight by Wednesday they will add fortifier to her milk again.  I didn’t feel too bad when she hadn’t gained much, but we are willing her on…the more weight she gains and the quicker she learns to feed she’ll be home.

Time and time again we’ve said we need to take it day by day. It feels like such a long slog, but it’s gone so quick too. I’m notoriously impatient when it comes to certain things, but I need to remember to be patient in this instance. We want April home well and ready for it.

April's double chin

April’s double chin

I looked back at some old videos I’d taken when April was in NeoNatal unit and it reminded me how far she’s come in 5 weeks. She was so tiny; a little bag of skin of bones, but she’s filled out, put on weight and got so much stronger. I need to remember how far she’s (and we’ve both) come in such a short space of time…she can do the same now and I’m confident she’ll do it… If she’s anything like her Mammy & Daddy!

 

Expressing selfie

Expressing selfie

As April’s feed times have changed to 4 hourly, it gives me a little more time to catch my breath in between feeds. I was trying to do every 3 hours in Middlesbrough, then when I came back to Carlisle my milk production slowed down, so had to express every 2 hours, which was so much harder.  I’m still so tired, but getting up once in the night is so much better. Although saying that last night I slept through my alarm at 3am and went from 11pm to 7am without expressing. When I woke up I could hardly roll over; it felt like I had two bowling balls attached to my chest, or had a boob job. By the time I got downstairs to my “pumping station” my PJs were wet as I was leaking.  The most I’ve expressed is 115ml, but this morning it was 160ml! I’ve also managed to fill the freezer with milk, as well as the freezer at the hospital, so now it’s time to move on to my Mam’s freezer!  April is in for a feast!

 

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Family time

You’ve probably noticed my blog posts have slowed down a bit recently.  We’re at a stage where we’re a bit in limbo and like I’ve said before every day is a bit like Groundhog Day. One of the nurses described the babies like plants, being fed and watered and growing. This is so true and what it feels like. Each day April is getting stronger and growing and we just have to be patient.

Sleepy head

Sleepy head

She has less wires on her now, so it’s easier picking her up, dressing her and doing her cares. Her monitor doesn’t beep half as much and she is taking more and more milk. Yesterday she went on to 4 hour feeds and up from 41ml of milk to 54ml! I had her on the breast and she really went for it…when the nurse checked what she’d taken it was over 15ml (mind it took over an hour), so topped her up and she took another 25ml…then only a  few hours later she took even more. She’s loving her food; but that’s what she needs to do so she outs on more weight!  It’s tricky to know how much she has taken, but as she is be fed it’s all measured and if she looks like she’s going to puke or explode we stop as she’s being greedy and having too much. It’s now just a waiting game.

One of the other babies on the unit went home yesterday. Her mum had actually been on the ante natal ward with me when I’d initially been in Carlisle, so we knew each other when we came back. Her baby was 10 or so days younger than April and born at 32 weeks and was over 4lb. She also had pre-eclampsia, so it was nice talking to her. She’d been told her baby could go home on Monday and could spend the next two nights on the unit to prepare. When she told me I gave her the biggest cuddle and she burst out crying. I was so happy for her and almost cried myself.

Daddy & two girls

Proud Daddy & his two girls

Then the next day the nurses had called her first thing and said she may as well take her home that day! She was so shocked bless her. I was so happy that they were getting to go home, but part of me felt sad too (or maybe a little jealous) there have been lots of babies that come and go, but it never feels like our turn. The thing I keep reminding myself is that April was born very early, we were both poorly and she was small her her gestational age. So, even though other babies might go home earlier, I mustn’t compare as every baby is different and April has to be right before we can bring her back.  However, it is heart warming when babies go home sooner than expected…at 35-38 weeks. If April keeps up the good work, my dream of getting home for Christmas could be a reality.  I am realistic though and we’re still aiming for due date (29th December) if I keep that in mind I won’t be disappointed if we’re singing Christmas carols round her cot on Christmas Day!  Phil is always the voice of reason and keeps me grounded so I don’t get ahead of myself…though I have started trying to sort out the nursery just in case 😉

Proud big sister

Proud big sister

Anyway, this afternoon was lovely. We had Eve this weekend and Phil brought her up to the hospital to visit us. There is a little playroom in the unit and one of the nurses brought her letters to Santa to fill in for her and April so she was happy to go and write those while I breast fed.

April wasn’t having any of it today though. This morning she had been so alert and just wasn’t interested…she wanted to just to look around and kick. Then this afternoon she decided to fall asleep on my boob! I’m taking it all in my stride though. I know she has good days and bad days (just like me) and tomorrow she may have a bumper day! All the skin to skin and having her on me helps with expressing though and I’m consistently now getting 70-100ml each time. The freezer at the hospital and at home are almost both full…so will have to move into my Mam’s freezer next too…less room for the Brussels sprouts at Christmas!

First family selfie

First family selfie

Afterwards Eve got to hold April for the first time, which was lovely. We wanted Eve to hold April before anyone else, but wanted to make sure she was happy as it is quite daunting with all the wires. Now she has less wires it felt a more suitable time. Eve didn’t look to keen and didn’t hold her for too long, but they got a little cuddle, which was a really special moment.

I’m not sure why, but I didn’t want to leave her this evening. I think it’s because she was stirring a little when we left…normally she’s fast asleep. Her care/feed times have also changed to 10.30, 2.30, 6.30 am & pm. Previously we had cares at 4.30pm, which meant Phil would come for that time from work and we’d leave after about 5.30. We have to leave earlier now to get home in good time. If we did the later cares, we wouldn’t get home until about 8pm – I’d be a zombie if I did that. On the plus side we get home a little earlier now, but it means I have to leave my baby earlier. I just need to remember it’s a step in the right direction again and she’ll only keep growing on 4 hour feeds. Let’s see how much she weighs tomorrow!

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Hat trick for Baby Jackson

April Jackson has managed to achieve what her Daddy never could in his football career in only 5 weeks…a hat trick of goals in one day!

The first time I saw April's face without her prongs

April’s without her prongs

I can honestly say today has been one of the better days we’ve had (a bit of a rocky start) but a great day to round it off.  I didn’t get to the hospital until late today,max I needed to go to the GP…I couldn’t wait to get there to see her and hated being away until late and missing her morning feed and cares.

However when I arrived I was soon greater with goal number 1…April had been taken off oxygen and was ‘in air’ all throughout the night. This means that she breathing in her own completely .  This is a major step for us.  It is the main monitor she is always connected to and the one that brings the nurses running through when she goes high or low.  There has always been talk that she may need to come home on oxygen, for us to have oxygen tanks at home and administer it ourselves. The fact she is off it completely now is huge and a massive step in the direction. Her prongs/tubes were taken out of her nostrils and plasters taken off her face, so when I arrived I got to see her face unobstructed for the first time since she was born…she looked beautiful.

April's 4lb sticker

April’s without her prongs

 

Goal number 2 is also a big achievement…it was weigh in day and today April made it to the 4lb mark. Again this is a huge achievement…it is still a tiny weight, but a lot of weight for April to out on in 5 weeks! It means she is heading in the right direction and taking her feeds well to grow!

The final achievement of the day was April’s feeds. As her weight has gone up, she milk intake is up to 41ml every 3 hours.  I have started putting her on the breast when her feed is due and before I express. Generally she has a little go and takes a little.  Yesterday she took about 7ml, but today she was on for over an hour and took over 15ml. Then on top of that she was topped up with 25ml of milk…then only and hour or so later she took another 41ml.  She obviously likes her food like mammy and daddy!

Feeding time

April’s without her prongs

When we were in Middlesbrough and April was so poorly in NICU everything seemed to go so quick as there was so much going on and so many small steps for her to take. It felt like she took a step back after the journey to Carlisle and with her cold and everything felt like we were in limbo. Now it feels like there is light at the end of the tunnel.  Today I felt the most positive I have since this whole thing started.  It actually feels like we are making progress and may get her home in time for Christmas (all keep your fingers crossed please!)

I started the day off with a bit of work (yes I know I’m crazy…going through all this and trying to keep my business afloat is another challenge in itself – thank you to my amazing clients for being so understanding!) I then visited Penrith hospital as ironically both Phil and my Nana’s are also both in hospital. I am very close to my Nana and usually see her 2-3 times a week. I’ve not seen her for 2 months, so was desperate to see her. She has been very confused about the situation, but her face when she saw me brought us all to tears. I don’t think she understand she has another great grandchild and where I have been,  but I was so happy to see her. She’ll be 101 next week, so every day is precious.

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April’s Nursey

After that I had an appointment to see my GP to discuss the implications of the pre-eclampsia and the next steps we need to take in my recovery.  I literally sat down and burst out crying. I couldn’t have picked a better doctor as his wife had had pre-eclampsia and his daughter was born premature 30 years ago. He was very understanding and I spent a bit of time talking through things with him. The task now is to wean me off some of the drugs by Spring, but unfortunately it looks like I will always now be affected with hypertension and will be on medication for the rest of my life.  The nurses have given me leaflets about talking to someone about what has happened to us,  but I found it helped just talking to the doctor and getting it off my chest to someone who appreciated it from a personal point of view.

So, although it was a rocky start to the day…it turned out well and we had happy tears this evening rather than tears of sadness and desperation.  It feels like we’re on countdown!

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Groundhog Day

My nurses love me!

My nurses love me!

You’re probably wondering how we’ve been since our ‘bad day’ and the answer is pretty much the same really. April was much better yesterday and back to her old self after her eye examination.  Today she has just been a proper sleepy head and hardly even woke when she had her morning wash and nappy change.

This morning April was weighed again and has put on weight. She now weighs 3lb 12oz and her head has grown to 29.6 cm.  All little steps,  and it’s great to see progress.  Because she has put weight it means her milk intake has increased to 39ml as well.

April has been on the breast again the last couple of days. It really wears her out as she is so small and only just developed her sucking reflex.  Sometimes she wants to and sometimes she just isn’t interested.  Again it’s little steps each time and patience until she progresses.

Feeding is probably the most important area that needs developing.  She is able to come home on oxygen if she still needs it, but she needs to be able to feed without the gastric nasal tube before she is able to go anywhere. This time last week she wasn’t breast feeding, but little steps in the right direction help us get closer to home.

April with her comforter

April with her comforter

I didn’t post yesterday as I didn’t have too much to say.  Every day feels like Groundhog Day – the same thing each day – basically sit by April’s cot, express, cares, express, eat, express, sleep, express and repeat.  I feel like things are in limbo, just waiting for April to grow.  I feel really frustrated that I can’t get on and do things and sad that I don’t have my baby at home. Things got on top of me a bit yesterday and I had a really long talk with one of the nurses.  I know what I’m feeling is normal and things take time, just when you’re ‘in’ the situation it is so overwhelming.

I have such mixed emotions – thankful that both April and I are still here, grateful of the care she is receiving, amazed at how well she is doing and proud that I have such a gorgeous little girl…but then also cheated out of my pregnancy, jealous of other people taking their babies home, anxious about how well she is and when we’ll get to go home.

I feel like I should have a euphoric feeling that The majority of mums get when they’ve had a baby, but I just don’t feel that right now.  The day Phil and I bring her home I’ll get that feeling and I’ll be cracking open the biggest bloody bottle of champagne and showing my beautiful baby girl off to the world. That day can’t come quick enough and then I’ll get my life back!

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A bad day

Today was not a good day…

Last week we were told April would need to have a Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP) test. This is a screening for all babies born less than 32 weeks gestational age or birth weight less than 1501 grams (3lbs). As April ticked both boxes it was essential she had it.

ROP is an eye condition which affects the blood vessels of the retina and is found in 65% of babies under 1251 grams. The condition is usually mild and settles on its own, but if not treated, very severe ROP can seriously affect a babies sight and even cause blindness.

Before the screening

Before the screening

I was prepared for April having the screening today and had been given leaflets to read about what to expect.  About an hour before the screening she was given 3 lots of eye drops 5 mins apart to anaesthetise the eyeball and to open up the pupil widely to the retina could be seen.  I sat and cuddled her to keep her calm and try to get her to sleep.

Then it was time for the screening. I could have gone in with her, but I’d been advised that it wasn’t very nice to watch and with my BP (and emotions) still not right I decided it was best to leave the doctors to it.

The proceedure only took about 10 minutes.  The ophthalmologist then examines the eyeball using an ophthalmoscope placed on the surface of the eye. They also use a speculum to hold the eyelid open and an indentor to rotate the eye to enable a better view of the retina.

I was called in when they we’re finished…I thought I would be treated with lots of crying, but she was swaddled up I a sheet and very calm. They also gave her some sugar, which is like a painkiller for babies. The doctor said everything looked fine and she doesn’t have any signs of ROP (thank god). She will need the screening again in 2 weeks just to make sure there have been no further signs of ROP.

After the screening

After the screening

When she was brought back into the nursery, I was told she would be very weary and agitated and that she would need lots of rest. I just sat next to her cot and stroked her head. She looked so helpless, with red swollen eyes. I couldn’t help but break down. I’ve felt ok the past couple of days, but I couldn’t help but cry. I was so pleased she doesn’t have the ROP, but just the reality of the situation came flooding back. She is so small and vulnerable and not a clue what is going on poor thing.

On a brighter note she has gained more weight and is now 3lb 10.5oz. She is still on minimal oxygen and yesterday took her first milk from the breast (rather than expressed breast milk) She is making lots of progress and I know that all the screenings etc are to rule out any illnesses or problems she may have in the future.  In reality she will need lots of check ups for the next 2 years, but as I’ve said before we just take each day as it comes and deal with what faces us. Tomorrrow is another day, but I’ll be making a few calls to the unit tonight to make sure she is settled.

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Saturday 21st November – 4 weeks today

4 weeks old

4 weeks old

Well, I can’t quite believe that 4 weeks ago our gorgeous little April came into the world. The time has gone so quick, yet each day seems to go so slow as well. i just hope the next few weeks feel like they go quickly as well, as I really can’t wait for her to get home!

We had a nice day today as Phil was at the hospital all day with me. In Middlesbrough we were both at the hospital most of the time, but now we’re back home Phil has to be back at work…until April comes home. Each day seems like Groundhog Day, but today it was so nice having Phil with me to break the day up.  It was also nice to have my expressing partner back with me to set things up while I get ready.

April knows who her daddy is

She knows her Daddy! 

April definitely knows us both and is so alert and reactive towards us. As soon as she hears us her eyelids start flickering, and when her eyes are open she looks at us and follows our movements.

I got a tear in my eye today as it was the first time April had properly sucked when I put her to the breast.  She is developing so well and her sucking reflex has developed so quickly…it won’t be long before until I can do a proper feed with her.  In the meantime my milk production is back to full force.  I almost have 2 freezer drawers full of milk waiting for her.  I think production decreased last week as I felt stressed and anxious coming back to Carlisle hospital and the changes that came with it.  Feels like I’m back in the swing of things.

Look how small she is...and this is after she's grown!

Look how small she is! 

April is still doing wonderfully well, considering what we’ve been through.  She is a tough little cookie. Her oxygen was right down and she was just on air (breathing for herself) for part of the day, so that was lovely to see.  She is now also on 36ml of milk at 3 hourly feeds…and managing to tolerate it without being sick.

Every day we take a step closer to getting home. It is a long road, but each little step is very important in her progress.