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postpartum recovery

I've been wanting to write this entry since I got pregnant but haven't been able to negotiate that line between 1) a realistic, down-to-earth entry people will want to read and 2) sounding like a PTSD victim. The issue is that if I were to list out the Top 10 worst things about having my first child it'd go like this:

10) I got a little tired of being pregnant towards the end there
9) Labor and delivery sure is messy
8) Newborn sleep deprivation
1) Postpartum recovery

And the funny thing is, I'm always complaining that NO ONE WARNED ME but I've been re-reading some of my old entries from first pregnancy and a lot of them have comments from people about preparation, not for the baby, but for the healing up and weirdness that I'd be going through after delivery, and I guess it just sort of went in one ear and out the other. I think I figured having a baby was like preparing to be hit by a car... it's just gonna suck, nothing you can do, might as well not think about it.

So two days after birth when I was in a lot of pain I was totally confused. A week after birth I was in tears calling my OB, who told me (gasp!) IT WAS ALL NORMAL. They looked at my file, said my injuries were relatively minor. No "degrees" of tearing, no major internal bleeding. Rest up for six weeks and call us if you get feverish, they said. And quit trying to push yourself. And quit being silly. What'd you think maternity leave was for, picking out baby clothes? Or really anything that has to do with the baby? No, woman, it's for you.

I'd never had anything medically complicated happen to me in my life, this was the first time I'd had stitches anywhere, I'd never had surgery or any internal procedures. I'd been on birth control so long I didn't even remember what a typical menstrual period was like, nevermind two weeks of blood clots landing where ever they wanted while I realized way too late that the consecutive days of dry-weave maxi-pads were making me break out in an itchy rash all over the most inconvenient place you can ever have a rash.

The hospital had written me a prescription for percocet that I'd thrown out because who needs that serious stuff, I'd just take an ibuprofin the next day and call it good. I didn't know I'd NEED that 800 mg of ibuprofin, three times a day, for a long long time. I felt super awkward asking my husband to go buy the stuff my OB's office recommended... the witch hazel pads, colace, ice packs. I never figured out what the hell a sitz bath was or where to get it, and others online had these vague references to "numbing spray" but when I couldn't WALK, I clearly could not go ask a pharmacist what the hell they were talking about. I tried to only ask the man to get one awkward product a day even though he assured me several times he didn't mind reading the packages of pads to find the organic cotton ones. I just assumed that combining it with freaking hemorhoid pads would just get him labeled as the craziest person to enter Target that week.

I was unprepared.

And now I read pregnancy forums and everyone's talking so much about ALL THE THINGS they need to get ready for the baby... we're 32 weeks along and most people in my due date groups are in the "gotta wash all these baby clothes!" mode, asking about what the best brand of pacifiers is or what sleep sacks are the safest or which $300 designer bedding set to pick out... WHALES OR OWLS ZOMG SO IMPORTANT.

I am like the dark angel of pregnancy. I can't get over how stupid all the baby prep is, when I feel like we're all facing some kind of vaginal WWIII from which there is no escape. I want everyone to talk about lists of healing supplies, warn the first timers not to sign up for that marathon in June you've been eyeing. I don't want anyone to be as naive as I was, in as much pain as I was, for as long as I was. They say hormones are supposed to make you forget but I KNEW when I was going through it that NO ONE SHOULD FORGET THIS and made many mental notes to do better next time, and help others.

Am I helping too much? Where's the line? Was my experience unusually miserable? That's what I keep asking myself. Maybe something was wrong. Or maybe I am a total wuss when it comes to pain, despite the fact that I pushed the baby OUT with no drugs and that part wasn't too bad. I just keep asking myself where I went wrong and why I'm the only person who seems to be talking about this.

And deep down inside, I'm a little scared to all go through it again, even though I know what to stock up on now. Am I dwelling on it too much? Have I lost my mind entirely, made too many mental notes to remember everything? I hate being too far in my own head about stuff like this and maybe that's the worst part... all my thoughts make me feel absolutely crazy.


( 17 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 17th, 2013 02:15 pm (UTC)
I don't recall it being quite that bad, even with the first when I had a vacuum delivery -- compared to that the twins were easy! It was labour and delivery that was really bad the first time; the aftermath not so much. I have quite a high pain threshold, don't remember much pain in spite of stitches (which were done without any anaesthesia "because you're full of endorphin anyway, wouldn't make a difference" so I felt the whole embroidery but it didn't register as pain).

On the 11th day I was sitting up and roleplaying, with the infant NPCing as a rescued baby. The worst thing for me was the weeks-long flow of blood and other stuff that just wouldn't stop.

Mar. 17th, 2013 02:17 pm (UTC)
Interesting. I didn't do any prep for postpartum recovery (and figured if it was that important to prep ahead the midwives would have told me...) Ended up with a c-section anyway.

I don't think most people do any prep for it. I wouldn't even know where to begin...
Mar. 17th, 2013 02:17 pm (UTC)
What threw me is that I had worse tearing time #2 than #1. Second degree first time, third degree second time, even with a smaller baby. I blame the circumstances of the birth. I didn't like the on-call OB, I had to wait forever to push b/c the hospital was so busy the night, and there was meconium so the entire NICU team was in the delivery room watching me, like, "Can you push that baby out already please?" So I felt like I never got in a good rhythm and pushed her out faster than I was comfortable with.

I remember complaining a lot this last time, although I wonder also if part of it was that I was more overwhelmed the first time with just being a mom, and the second time, I had an easier baby-related experience, so I had more time to just think about the discomfort. I still think the sleep deprivation was the worst thing though :)
Mar. 17th, 2013 02:58 pm (UTC)
You are not obsessing. It is important to know what to expect, although it is, also, important to remember that no two pregnancies/deliveries are the same. What I went through is not what you went through. How your first delivery went probably won't be the same as the second, nor the third. It is helpful to know what other women have gone through so you can prepare yourself for your own. No matter how many "mental notes" you make for yourself you will forget a lot of the details from the previous time. If you really want to remember, write yourself a journal of your 12 month experience (yes, the 3-4 months post-delivery are important, too). Most of all, relax, enjoy your children and give yourself time to heal. When they nap, you nap; rest now is more important then making sure the room is dusted or the toys put away.
Mar. 17th, 2013 04:07 pm (UTC)
This doesn't sound like obsessing to me, but it does sound like something people should be more aware of as part of the process.

If you ever feel like writing up the 'list of things to stock up on before birth', I'd be very interested in reading it.
(Deleted comment)
Mar. 17th, 2013 07:02 pm (UTC)
When I am just sittign around post partum, I tend to jusy lay down a towel with a chux pad inside to sit on and put a blanket over my lap for modesty. I cannot tolerate pads one after another either.
Mar. 17th, 2013 07:00 pm (UTC)
I've been through it three times. I think its common to be underprepared the first time through. I didn't even do great the second time around. Third time? I had tons of help. Husband tooka week, babysitter over 4-5 half days for the first two months. I took naps, I didn't get out of bed. It was good for me! I did have the horror of retained membranes two weeks later. Think giant ball of gross that has OMG BEEN IN ME FOR TWO WEEKS EW OMG.
Mar. 17th, 2013 08:38 pm (UTC)
I think you probably did have a worse recovery than many women do. Sure, there's a lot worse, but a LOT better too.

My labor and delivery was much worse than yours. I was induced, somewhat against my will, but I was so pressured and scared, I gave in and 'consented' even though I would have rather held out for a few more days to see if labor would start on its own. I went w/o food for about 40 hours total and was so weak at the end. The pitocin contractions (w/ broken waters) were so tough, I had an epidural, which ultimately didn't work all that great. I pushed for 3.5 hours and ended up with an episiotomy. My son coming down *broke my tailbone* I've heard much worse labor stories, but my labor was still pretty much the opposite from how I wanted it. The only positive was not having a c-section.

That said - vaginally - my recovery was a piece of cake. I never needed pain meds for it until the 4th day when the tailbone pain was just too severe. I took some pain meds for 2-3 days and then I just had to be super slow and careful when sitting down and standing up again. My girly bits felt pretty great, though, all things considered. The blood was nasty, but that's life. I did use Tucks and Dermoplast on the episiotomy site (which doesn't really numb, but does feel nice and cooling). Using a peri bottle to spray warm water while urinating and to clean up afterward (no TP if it were just pee!) helped a lot, too. I was so impressed with my quick healing that my biggest fear with this pg is having a c-section.

I've heard some women with random, tiny tears can have a worse recovery than if they'd had an episiotomy, but I'm doubtful and would never advocate for a woman to have one unless she really needed it (my son's heartrate started dropping at the end and I just couldn't get him the rest of the way out w/o one). Epis. seems so barbaric and vaguely patronizing, but hey? Maybe there's some truth to random tears being more painful?

Regardless, your second labor will likely be an entirely different and better experience, and at the very least, you'll be much better-prepared if not!

Mar. 17th, 2013 09:27 pm (UTC)
I just keep asking myself where I went wrong and why I'm the only person who seems to be talking about this.

You're not. There are a few other factors, but overwhelmingly, this is why I am not willing to have another child. There was so much I was unprepared for--not in parenthood, but in the recovery process. So much that went wrong. People describe their beautiful birth stories, which I don't have. My daughter's delivery was a closed door in a world of open windows. My body still hasn't recovered, as I have periodic pain stemming from the nerve damage of her delivery.

The worst advice I got following my birth experience was, "Just focus on the good things." Aside from her resuscitation back into the world of the living, there aren't many good things from it--and not sharing the whole picture means keeping other women from learning so that they have a better experience than I did. I want to explain to people why I wish I'd had a doula, why I regretted being pressured to take an epidural so I had no choice but to labor on my back...so many things I want to save other women from, because birth is amazing and transformative and should be an occasion of joy, not sorrow.

And that includes the recovery process. So you're not crazy, or alone. You're simply trying to be the best thing you know how to be, which is an activist helping other women.
Mar. 17th, 2013 09:52 pm (UTC)
I don't think my physical recovery was nearly so miserable as yours was. My c-section recovery wasn't super happy fun time but I took my pain meds like they told me to and tried to be careful about doing too much. Certainly not anything I'd be worried to go through again. I was actually surprised a little considering how many horror stories you see about c-sections.
Mar. 17th, 2013 10:20 pm (UTC)
I remember being really sore with my first, but not so much with the last two. I had an episiotomy with my daughter (first) and had tearing with the boys. I also bled for nearly 7w with my daughter and for under 3w with both boys. I don't think your experience was abnormal or that there was something wrong with you. I'd definitely recommend stocking up on a variety of pad brands with different tops, or maybe even trying out cloth pads or some cloth liners you could lay on top of a disposable to help with chafing.
Mar. 18th, 2013 02:10 am (UTC)
I worked in parenting education and I made sure to warn all my clients about this. I worked with younger women too who were all very optimistic and scoffed when I was like "no, you're going to need a week off of school, minimum, trust me, then ease back with half days..." Yes, that system is designed for childbirth and healing from childbirth, but healing doesn't happen overnight.
Mar. 18th, 2013 02:42 pm (UTC)
I think there's a reason why some people call the 3 months after birth the fourth trimester. Because you need time to recover, to adjust, and to bond.

I remember spending a lot of time sitting on a boppy in the post-birth days.
Mar. 18th, 2013 04:41 pm (UTC)
Ugh recovery was horrible for me too, though not as bad as it sounds for you. I was really prepared though, I guess I had enough people who were Really Serious about making sure I had all that stuff. My MIL and my mom, bless them, were wonders. I don't really remember that much of the first few weeks apart from total and utter exhaustion.

My labor and delivery though, yeah, that's totally the reason I'm never doing that again. Ever. And I had it "easy" and went "according to plan". Hah.
Mar. 18th, 2013 10:04 pm (UTC)

^that's been all over Pinterest and it seems really good.
Mar. 19th, 2013 12:57 am (UTC)
In Chinese culture, we actually have a whole profession of ladies who are trained/deal with postpartum recovery!! Their entire job is to look after a recovering mother for one month, called the "sitting month" (or confinement period). My family back home were so shocked that this is nonexistent in America.
Mar. 21st, 2013 01:45 am (UTC)
Well, I learned a lot of new things so thank you! Mostly what I knew about recovery goes something like this "it hurts so you sit on a donut". Pretty much sum total there.

So yes, posts like this are very helpful. And I'm with the poster above, I'd be interested in a list of supplies!
( 17 comments — Leave a comment )

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