I don’t know if I didn’t do research on it, paid no attention to it, or people just don’t talk about it – but post partum healing SUCKS.
I was one of the unlucky women who got to experience a 3rd degree tear. Except I didn’t experience the tear – since I didn’t even know it happened – but the paranoia of having stitches so close to where poop comes out is what bothered me the most. They gave me the Peri squeeze bottle to use every time after going to the bathroom (warm water never felt more important), but I still didn’t #2 until the next next day. My instructions from the OB were to take stool softeners, because the last thing I wanted to do was get constipated and tear my stitches with a rock hard deuce. Fair deal. On top of that, I was afraid to move period because if knew if I ripped through any of the stitches, it wouldn’t heal properly and I’d probably have to undergo surgery to fix it up all over again. I know, worst case scenario, but still – made it incredibly hard to move. I used a wheelchair for the first little bit just to get back and forth to the NICU in a decent amount of time. It took about 5 minutes just to get up from bed to sit in the wheelchair, and then another 5 minutes to get out of the wheelchair and sit in the nursing chair. Lots of time, lots of slow movements. One of the nurses told me that if I “clenched” as I was getting up and down, it would hurt less – and it kind of worked, but hey – I’ll take anything at that point. I was taking 2 ibuprofen every 4 hours, but switched to Tylenol as it seemed to give me a bit more relief.
I never imagined I would stay in the hospital more than 4 hours after birth, but of course Birth Plans tend to deviate sometimes. Here are the things I’m glad I had with me:
1. BOY UNDERWEAR.
Hah. Well, male underwear. Boxer briefs, specifically. I inherited a bunch of Dan’s old Fruit of the Looms when we started buying sets of Champion ones from Costco. He liked them better because of the spandex blend, so I took the boring cotton ones and used them as pyjama shorts. (What, judge.) Well it turns out that when you have a bleeding hoo-haa full of stitches, the LAST thing you want to put on is a pair of panties. So, I used boxer briefs!
The nurses gave me these blue “chux” pads to fold into thirds, stick a maxi pad on them, and I then placed that in the boxer brief. I could have never held that monstrosity in with a pair of Victoria’s Secret bikini-cuts, nor did I want any of that compressed against my torn-up vagina (said it!!!). Boxer briefs: must have.
2. Maxi pads
When I registered at the hospital, I bought their “guide to childbirth at the hospital” book and received a box full of baby samples. One of the items in the box was a package of Stayfree Ultra Thin Overnight maxi pads. These things were huge, and probably the closest thing you’ll get to an adult diaper without being a diaper. They had ass-wings for crying out loud. Anyways, this was the preferred type of pad because of the type of surface. They’re smooth and cottony, not meshy – which can be a problem if you end up with stitches because they can actually get caught in that mesh layer. I know Stayfree isn’t the only brand that has this type of layer, but when I ran out and needed Dan to get me more, I wasn’t about to go on a testing spree to find out who else made theirs this way. (In hindsight I could have just asked Dan to get me Stayfree regulars instead of playing it safe and just asking him to get the same thing. In my defense I just pushed a human out of me, so I wasn’t exactly considering all of my options.)
3. Breastfeeding pillow
Not for the obvious reasons. I have the Jolly Jumper Babysitter pillow – that U-shaped puff that I didn’t realize would be so valuable to me. For the first couple of days, yes, I used it as a breastfeeding pillow – but after that, I realized it helped me so much more if I could sit on it.
It was amazing. So much relief! I don’t know about the “donut” pillows for hemorrhoids, but this has GOT to be better than whatever is out there. It was ridiculously comfortable, that I just instead started using regular pillows or rolled up blankets for my football-hold-feeding-baby.
If you are planning to breastfeed, that is. For me, it was a little different because I was away from Sweet Pea for about 10 hours each night while she was in the NICU. If I wanted any chance of establishing my milk supply, I had to pump while I wasn’t with her.
I had the Medela Swing electric pump, but when I used it for the first time – it broke!! The motor just kept shutting off. I got maybe 10 minutes of use from it before it cacked out on me. Not helpful for an emotional, hormone imbalanced, post partum woman worried about her milk supply. My husband tried calling Medela to get them to repair it – but take note, they are NOT helpful on the weekends. I used a Medela Harmony manual pump to tide me over until we got a hold of the company, and it worked pretty well. I was actually getting better results than with the little use that I got out of the Swing, and it let me understand how my let-down worked, and just the whole process in general. Surprisingly, using my hands to pump the lever wasn’t painful at all. I was expecting some bout of carpal tunnel by the end of it, but it’s actually quite comfortable to use. Even at 15 minutes per side, that time is lighting fast compared to the 1-2 hour feedings I’m faced with now.
Have someone bring it/make it/buy it – because hospital food sucks, and even if you’re at home, cooking is probably the last thing you want to do. It would have done me well to pre-make some freezer-friendly meals while I was 38/39 weeks pregnant, but I slacked on that and had nothing prepared. Next time, next time. Speaking of which – where’s my crock pot….
I opted to stay in a standard ward room and not pay extra for something a little more private because of the assumption that I would only be there for a short time. Luckily, the standard “free” room was essentially two semi-private rooms joined together. So why would I pay over $200 for something we got for free?
The first night was amazing, because I was the only one in the room. The next morning, however, a mother got admitted after her C-section and was put beside me. I went about my day and that night – after my busted pump fiasco and defeated breastfeeding attempts – another mother got admitted on the other side. The nurses in the NICU begged me to get some sleep even though I asked if I should come and try to breastfeed Sweet Pea since I wouldn’t be able to express any milk. So I’m in this big room with two other mothers and their babies who are waking up every 2-3 hours crying for some boob.
Well, I was waking up every 2-3 hours as well, except I wasn’t even feeding MY baby. To add insult to injury: the two babies weren’t waking up in sync – that would be too convenient. The woman beside me also turned on every single light for some reason, even though there was enough ambient light to see everything in front of us, and screamed for the nurses because her baby wasn’t latching properly.
I’m not complaining about all this, I’m just mad at myself for not remembering that I had packed earplugs in my bag and didn’t think about them until the groggy, miserable morning after. Again, I had just pushed a human out of me, what do you want for nothin’?
A lot of things happened to my body after giving birth. First of all, the swelling in my legs and feet that had started about 3 days prior to going into labour was intensified by the fact that I had to be up and about between the NICU and my room, and got worse when we started commuting from home to the hospital for the next 5 days. I could only elevate my legs at night for short periods of time, obviously because I had to get up and pump every three hours. I was drinking so much water yet not enough, and I just kept retaining fluid. The mornings would be fine but by the time evening rolled around, I was sure that my feet were going to explode. The skin felt so tight and I was the puffiest I had ever seen. Cankles would be an understatement. My left hand even swelled up for a few hours one day.
The swelling didn’t go away until about 2 days after Sweet Pea came home – probably because the stress of traveling back and forth to the hospital disappeared, OR, it was just a standard 10 days of swelling post partum. Who knows – but it sucked, and finally seeing bones in my feet never felt so good.
Secondly, my vision was a lot different afterwards. I wear glasses for near-sightedness, but all of a sudden things that I should be able to read were a little blurry. Nothing too drastic, but signs that I know were big enough, or digital clocks that were red or blue in font were hard to focus on. It’s still that way today. I should probably see my optometrist.
But the most puzzling aspect of my vision was the “buzz” that I had with my eyes. You know when you sneeze too hard and then kinda see “stars” afterwards? I was seeing that all the time… It was even worse if I looked out the window (like the giant one beside and in front of my hospital bed) or looked at bright/pale surfaces (like beige hospital walls). Everything seemed slightly electrified and although it wasn’t invasive to my vision, it was definitely just a matter of WTF is happening?? Fortunately, my midwife chalked it up to adrenaline and the drastic event that my body just went through, and it went away within three days.
The last thing I really noticed with my body were the shakes and chills that would happen if I stood up or walked around, then disappear when I got off my feet. This went on for about 36 hours from the time I got up to leave the delivery room. Again, it was chalked up to adrenaline and shock because my temperature and blood pressure were both normal each time it was checked.
Stay tuned for my post regaling my experience with the ever so wonderful post partum hormones!