My (Difficult) Postpartum Recovery
When I found out I was pregnant last November I was thrilled, to say the least. However, I was also nervous about, you know, the whole pushing a baby out of my body element that comes at the end of pregnancy. I read countless birth stories in an effort to prepare myself for the big event; somehow, it eased my mind to be aware of other women’s experiences.
While I also did a little bit of research on postpartum recovery – let’s just say I knew “pad-sicles” were a thing before I needed to use them myself – I didn’t give it nearly as much thought as the actual birth. Then, of course, I experienced a difficult birth and, while things are starting to look up, I’m still in the midst of an even more difficult postpartum recovery. So, I want to share my experience in the hopes that it helps other moms-to-be prepare for the so-called “fourth trimester.”
As I mentioned in Luke’s birth story, the doctors used the vacuum, the forceps, and cut an episiotomy to get him out safely. In addition, I suffered a third degree tear from pushing. Thankfully, I’d had an epidural at the eleventh hour during the birth itself, so the most pain I felt was extreme pressure when the forceps were inserted. Luke was born at 6:13 am on August 12th, 2017, and after the doctors spent about 45 minutes stitching me up – my first clue that the damage would hurt a hell of a lot later – our families, who had been anxiously waiting, came to visit. I was still blissfully numb from the epidural and we spent the morning and a good chunk of the afternoon soaking up the time with our new babe and loved ones.
Fast forward to late that afternoon when the epidural began to wear off. I was now painfully aware of the traumatic entrance Luke had made to the world – so much so that I could barely shift around in my hospital bed let alone get up to walk. I was taking morphine, Tylenol, and Advil, but they did little to ease the pain. I was so thankful that our night nurse (seriously, we had great nurses during our hospital stay!) let me keep my catheter in overnight so I wouldn’t have to get up each time I needed to pee.
Since I was also prescribed morphine to take home with me, we decided to leave the hospital the next morning. The catheter had been removed by that point so there would be little difference between being at home and staying at the hospital. Plus, we were anxious to introduce our little guy to his new home. However, just getting up to change was quite the ordeal. For the first 48 hours, I needed help using the bathroom and changing my pads since I couldn’t bend down far enough to do so myself.
The first few days at home had me confined to the couch or bed. Whenever I got up I would apply counter pressure to my bottom area. Essentially, I walked around holding my butt cheeks together for a good two weeks. And, when I had to have a bowel movement I nearly had a panic attack.
Part of the reason my recovery was so difficult was that there was an unexpected twist. Six days after giving birth I was in the shower and noticed a stitch fall into the bathtub. Thinking I probably popped a stitch, we headed to ER to have the incision checked out. Well, it turns out that I hadn’t just popped one stitch – I had popped ALL of them, leaving me with a nearly two-inch open wound. After talking to my OB, we decided the best course of action was for her to surgically repair the laceration in my perineum. So, that evening I underwent a short surgery and spent the night in the hospital. I was discharged the next day, but the area was so sore I felt like I had just given birth again. While I was glad the area was repaired and I was on the road to recovery, it was also discouraging because I felt like I was starting from scratch again.
The worst part of it all was not being able to take care of my baby the way I wanted to. In the first days following Luke’s birth, and then again after the surgery, I relied on others to change his diapers, bathe him, and even bring him to me for feedings. I couldn’t walk around with him to comfort him, let alone carry his car seat or push his stroller, which was emotionally draining.
Three weeks after Luke’s birth (and two weeks after the surgery), I’m still squatting over, rather than sitting, on the toilet, I roll in and out of bed to avoid sitting directly on the stitches, and I sit on a donut pillow when I have to sit upright. When the incision site is less fresh, I’ll be going to pelvic floor physiotherapy. Essentially, it hasn’t been easy, but I get a little better each day. And, I would do this a million times over if I had to because we have our beautiful, healthy baby boy.
So, if you find yourself facing a similarly difficult postpartum recovery, here are my tips.
Get the Goods
At the hospital, I was given the standard mesh underwear to wear over a large pad and ice pack (simply a newborn diaper wet with water and put in the freezer). My nurse kindly offered to let me take a few of these items home (and I also raided the bathroom in my hospital room before leaving), so I had supplies to last me the first few days at home. Once these were gone, I found Depends worked just as well, if not better because there are less layers to contend with. I highly recommend getting yourself some of these not-so-sexy but oh-so-practical disposable underwear because not only will you still be dealing with postpartum bleeding, but they are much looser and more comfortable than regular underwear worn with a maxi pad.
For the first week at home, my husband Adam was off work. While we hadn’t anticipated that I would be in such bad shape, he really stepped up in taking care of both me AND Luke. He did everything to care for Luke in those first few days, from bathing him to changing his diaper to bringing him to me for feedings to handling all the housework. Seriously, I don’t know what I would have done without him.
The next two weeks, I had my mom stay with me during the day, which was also a huge help.
Know it Won’t Last Forever
I had a few emotionally difficult days during which I was so worried my stitches would pop again and I questioned whether I would fully recovery. I also felt like I was failing my baby because I couldn’t take care of him like I wanted to. It wasn’t – and still isn’t – easy, but I know that, like most things in life, this too shall pass.