Hi there, Mama! Are you lying in bed nursing your new little bundle while reading online? It’s a great time to gather information about what’s on your mind.
I know what was on my mind right after I got home from having my eldest…when could I return to normal again? And by ‘normal,’ I meant activities. Because let’s be honest…life as you know it won’t go back to the normal you knew before that sweet baby arrived.
One of the hardest things for me post-c-section was coping with the pain. It took me extra time to get out of bed, so I would avoid affecting my incision and my sore muscles. Once the catheter was out in the hospital, I was encouraged to walk slowly around. And even in China, I was told not to lift anything that weighed more than the baby.
Even though I could lift her, my husband did much of the lifting, especially when it came to changing the diapers. I was so worn out from the whole birth process that it was nice for him to handle that entire mess.
Anyway, you’re here because you want to know when you can start getting back to the activities you love, wondering what you can lift and when, and all that jazz. As always, I’ve got your back!
First Things First…Take It Easy
It’s incredibly tempting to want to jump back into normal activities. But your doctor will tell you (and I will echo it!) that you must handle yourself with care. A c-section is major abdominal surgery. As such, it will take about 6 weeks to heal.
It will help if you wait until your postpartum checkup with your doctor. Once your doctor examines you and gives you the thumbs-up, you’ll be ready to do more than simply walking around and only lifting the baby.
I know it might sound silly, but you can tear your incision and put yourself out of commission doing something simple, like making a snack in your kitchen. The golden rule of thumb is this: If it hurts, stop!
Seriously though, go slow in that first couple of weeks and don’t try to take on too much.
Next Up, Build Strength
We’re all different, but even if you were a super-fit mom, it’s best to proceed slowly when you get that green light from the doctor. Even before that, walking will build endurance and help you get back into the swing. But again, see what I said above about not pushing yourself. If you feel fatigued, rest.
I personally loved walking with my eldest in the stroller when she was a newborn. Of course, I needed my husband to help me. See, our apartment in China had no elevator. And we lived quite a several flights up. The agony of walking up those stairs when we first got back from the hospital is something I still vividly wince at.
Speaking of stairs, you’ll want to avoid them in the first few weeks. If you have stairs in your home, try not to go up and down them numerous times daily. And when you do, take your time.
Anyway, my mother-in-law bought us a stroller so gigantic and so heavy that there was no way that I could lift it and the baby, even if I’d delivered vaginally. So my husband had to come and carry the stroller up and down the stairs. After I recovered enough to shop, we bought a lightweight stroller we could fold with one hand.
Know-How to Lift
When you lift anything, even baby, make sure to do it with your legs and your back. The same rules apply to everyone, whether they’ve had a baby or not. Using your body correctly to lift will also keep you from having a herniated disc down the road.
It’s not silly to make sure you’re practicing proper form, even with a wiggly jiggly little baby. You will feel one wrong move all day long and probably the next several too. Just be safe!
Relevant: When to start doing household work after C-section?
How Can I Tell If I’m Ready for Liftoff?
Once you’ve been to your doctor and had your exam and you feel good, you can try out a few tricks suggested by Marianne Ryan, a New York Physical Therapist. According to Ryan, you should lie down and extend both legs straight out. Slowly lift one leg at a time while keeping your back completely flat against the floor. If there’s pain around your incision area, you should cease and desist.
Don’t be disheartened, love.
I also had pain after my gold-star checkup with the doctor. I kept walking, though, and soon, I could progress to more vigorous exercises. Making sure the pelvic floor region is fine and dandy is more critical than diving right back into running, yoga, swimming, and the rest. If you don’t listen to your body and keep pushing it too hard, your body won’t heal properly, and you’ll risk reinjury.
Final Thoughts on Lifting Restrictions
Again, it all comes down to what your doctor says. Once you’re approved, ease back into everything. I remember feeling like I’d never stop hurting, and then one day, I was nursing my daughter on the bed and got up without any pain at all. And I thought, “Hey, wow! It doesn’t hurt anymore!”
That thought happened about 8 weeks after my c-section. I have friends that felt better sooner and friends that felt better later. Tune into your body and see what it says to you. If it says, “Ouch,” stop what you’re doing and take it easy.
I know it feels like an eternity, but I promise one day, very, VERY soon, you will be back to your old exercise routine at the gym or in your living room!
Leslie Berry lives with her husband and two young daughters in Los Altos, California, where she loves helping other moms get comfortable with motherhood and embracing the insanity with facts peppered with laughs.
She loves eating too much sushi, exercising, and jamming out on her Fender. Read more about Leslie here.