Ellie is 10 weeks today! Her personality is really starting to emerge and it delights me. She is mercurial and opinionated, charming and funny. She loves her mobile and her bouncy seat, but hates the stroller and the car seat. She likes to look at me while she’s nursing and when she catches my eye will give me a big cheeky grin, which is annoying because it pours milk all over my lap, but come on, how could you not smile back? Watching her learn things (woah, I have FINGERS) just gobsmacks me. What a wonder my child is!
Is there anything more boring than a blogger blogging about not blogging? I don’t think so.
(Sorry about going MIA. I plead newborn.)
Anyway! Moving on swiftly.
Amazingly enough for the worry wart that I am, I gave almost no thought to what recovery from child birth would be like. My mom had assured me that I would be up and about in a few hours, like she was, so I assumed it was all good.
Now, I love my mother, and I don’t want to speak ill of her, but she fucking LIED to me. A couple of hours my ass! I felt like I had been ripped open (…because I had been) and hit by a truck. I had trouble sitting, standing, walking, doing stairs, etc for the first two weeks or so, and really only started to feel like myself again after a month.
So, keeping in mind that there is no universal recovery experience, in no particular order, here are the things I wish someone had warned me about, and what I found to help:
1. Even if you have an epidural (which I highly recommend), crowning hurts like a BITCH. You know that song, Ring of Fire? Yes. That, exactly.
Here’s what helped me: Delivering the damn baby already. But, postpartum, those ice packs you slip into your (gigantic) underwear, numbing spray and time. Some people have found heat packs feel nice, but I liked ice better. OTC painkillers, or something stronger if your doctor will prescribe it. Stay on top of the painkillers – don’t wait for the pain because you will be in agony waiting for the drug to kick in. Don’t be a hero – take the damn drugs.
2. Stitches make walking, doing the stairs, etc difficult. I mean, this one is kind of obvious but it hadn’t occurred to me so there you go! Also, those stitches might have bits and pieces fall out as you heal, which will make you panic, but don’t. It means you’re healing.
Here’s what helped me: Again, ice packs (or heat), numbing spray, and painkillers. Also try to lay down or recline as much as possible – being upright puts pressure on things. Do take a few short, gentle walks (Iike, to the bathroom) every now and then to test the waters, but don’t push yourself.
3. Peeing stings like CRAZY. You may cry when you go to the bathroom.
Here’s what helps: Use the little squirty bottle. Experiment with cold or warm water to see which feels better, and squirt yourself while you pee. It doesn’t help a ton but it does help. Also, use tucks pads (witch hazel wipes) and the numbing spray.
4. Pooping will make you want to die. You will feel like you are going to rip open and you may have a panic attack on the toilet.
Here’s what helped me: Take lots of stool softeners. Drink smoothies. Drink a shit ton (Do anything to help make that first poop easier on yourself. But prepare to spend a LONG time in the bathroom. And prepare to cry. Try using your labor breathing when you poop – it totally helps.
5. Being upright may make you feel like your organs are going to fall out. I don’t know if this is because I tore so badly (“Y” shaped scarring, holla!) or my pelvic floor muscles were damaged from two hours of pushing or what, but it took about a month for this to go away. It was an awful feeling.
Here’s what helped me: Time. Kegels. Your muscles have to heal. Don’t push yourself.
6. Engorgement is scary. It doesn’t matter if you’re breastfeeding or not, your boobs will get enormous and rock hard a few hours to a few days after you deliver. You may continuously leak (drip, drip, drip, like an annoying faucet you keep meaning to fix) and they will HURT. I went from an A cup before pregnancy, to a C cup during pregnancy, and then overnight from a C to a DD when my milk came in. It was shocking. I looked like a porn star, in the worst way possible. You may also run a low fever and feel a little fluey.
Here’s what helped me: Nurse as much as possible if you’re breastfeeding. You can also experiment with cool or warm wash clothes, or hot showers, and put cold cabbage leaves (put the cabbage in the fridge or freezer) on your boobs. I know, it sounds weird (and you end up smelling like coleslaw) but it totally works. Some people have found this reduces milk production though, so be careful if you’re trying to BF. (Didn’t cause any problems for me, but that’s what I’ve read.)
7. Do not assume breastfeeding will be easy. Ellie would not latch in the hospital. Just, would not. Blame hormones, blame shock, but I was completely unconcerned that she hadn’t eaten anything for 24 hours after her birth. Tammy, meanwhile, was having silent conniptions and the nurses were getting concerned.
Here’s what helped me: supplement if you have to, or just go to formula feeding. And check in with a lactation consultant, or multiple LCs. The LC in the hospital was completely worthless (her advice consisted of “just keep trying!”) but the second LC (not affiliated with the hospital) diagnosed Ellie with a tongue tie. Also, nipple shields. Use them. Love them.
8. Do not underestimate the power of hormones. The day we came home from the hospital, my parents told Tammy and me to go upstairs and nap while they watched Ellie for a few hours. Tammy passed out within 30 seconds, I shit you not, while I lay there shooting murderous looks at her. How could she sleep?! Our baby was downstairs!! All alone in the world!!! Vulnerable and unprotected!!! I gave up on sleep and went downstairs to check on Ellie only to find that my mother had put her in the bassinet with a blanket on her. I nearly had an aneurysm. “Blankets cause SIDS,” I hissed, snatching the blanket off. I then laid down on the couch and sobbed for 5 minutes straight, sat back up, and asked my extremely alarmed dad to make me a sandwich.
Here’s what helped me: Time. Taking a shower every day. Eating good food. Daily crying jags. Having help.
8. In that vein, people will surprise you with their helpfulness (or lack thereof). I expected my parents to be super helpful with Ellie. They were in the sense that they provided an extra set of hands (or two) but when Ellie started crying they would immediately hand her back to me*. Other people, random friends I wasn’t all that friendly with, surprised me by being so kind and helpful, bringing food, checking in, providing support and commiseration.
Here’s what helped me: Nothing really helped with this. It just is what it is. Try and roll with it.
9. Nothing will prepare you for the sleep deprivation. Nothing. You think you know because you pulled all nighters in college? No. You do not know. This kind of sleep deprivation is pure torture. It makes everything, simply everything, a million times worse. You may fall asleep standing up. You may think you will die, literally die, if you do not get some sleep. You won’t die though.
Here’s what helped me: Coffee. Time. Learning sleep tricks (swaddle, white noise, shushing, etc). Also, forgive your partner for the things you say to each other in the depths of crushing sleep deprivation.
What about you, oh wise parents of the internet? What are your best tips for recovery?
*I feel like an asshole saying that, because I think my parents were scared of messing up. I think I made some crappy remarks about how she put on Ellie’s diaper, for example, and made my poor mom a little gun shy. I suck. Also, so many things have changed since they were caring for babies – all the SIDS stuff, back to sleep, all that stuff.