Parts 1-3 in our blog series introduce you to Sarah,* a mother to two young children who decided to undergo a 360 fusion at L4-S1 with bone graft spine surgery.

Read Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3

We hope to offer some insight on how a mother to young children handles the physical and emotional demands of motherhood and recovering from a major surgery.

Read more about Lumbar Spinal Fusion Surgery

An MRI revealed Sarah was suffering with severe herniation, bone spurs, stenosis (see above for image), and arthritis.

In part 4 of our series, Sarah offers some tips on how to survive the first day home from the hospital:

  1. Time the homecoming just right.

    Sarah stayed in the hospital for four nights and five days. She knew she would need lots of hospital rest in order to have the strength to put on a brave face for her young children once she was home.

    See Postoperative Care for Spinal Fusion Surgery

    Additionally, Sarah's husband made sure the children were well rested and well fed when Sarah got home, in order to avoid any melt downs. Because Sarah had so much support from her family at home from day one, she feels that coming home on the fifth day was a good decision.

  2. Have a plan to deal with the children's joyful rowdiness.

    Sarah's two-year-old daughter was so happy to see her on her first day home from the hospital that she had trouble containing herself. She wanted Sarah to pick her up and play with her, but of course that was out of the question.

    Sarah didn't want to upset her daughter by raining on her parade, so Sarah had her mother distract her two-year-old with special treats and gifts, redirecting her energy and attention to other things.

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  1. Set up a large recovery area that accommodates little visitors.

    Sarah's recovery area was her king-sized Sleep Number bed with a railing. The large bed allowed Sarah to sit next to her children with the comfort and support of the bed to support her spine.

    She also used her memory foam wedge pillow to add support or to act as a barrier between herself and the children. The railing was essential to help her get in and out of bed, and it served as a tool to help her roll over in the weeks following her surgery.

  2. Plan some low-key activities to do with the children in your recovery area.

    Sarah and her children watched TV shows together on Netflix from her bed. This quiet activity allowed the children to take comfort in their mother's presence while not demanding any emotional or physical energy from her.

  3. Take your medications on time.

    Stay on top of your pain medication schedule. Sarah noted, "I tried my best in the beginning never to fall behind with my medication, which helped me avoid any pain tears in front of my kids. I didn't want them to see that side of my recovery because I knew they were too young to know that it wasn't their fault, and they might have internalized things in a bad way."

  4. Read more about Getting Adequate Pain Control After Back Surgery

  5. Depend 100% on another adult.

    This probably goes without saying, but there is absolutely no way Sarah could have taken care of herself or her children on her first day home from spine surgery, and for many weeks thereafter. She felt blessed to have her husband, mother, and a reliable day care readily available to take care of the children.

On a final note: Sarah's children weren't the only ones who were happy she was home.

One of Sarah's two cats definitely noticed something was different when Sarah returned home. Sarah notes, "She [the cat] has been my shadow ever since I returned from the hospital. She sleeps at my feet or on my lap, and is constantly checking on me… I always knew she was a protective animal, but the extent to which she appears to be 'concerned' about me has been interesting to witness. My other cat, however, hardly notices me!"

Overall, Sarah feels that her homecoming was a success because of the overwhelming support she received from her family.

Over the next few days after returning home from her surgery, Sarah's physical pain was intense, especially in the mornings. A significant source of her surgical pain came from her iliac crest bone graft. In the next installment, we'll take a closer look at this surprising source of pain.

Read more: Bone Graft for Spine Fusion

*Sarah's name has been changed to protect her privacy.