First of all, I cannot thank you all enough for the amazing comments, emails, tweets and thoughts. I have only had a few minutes here and there to be at the computer over the last few days, and your words have melted my heart one by one. It means so much to Benjamin and I to know how many people out there are thinking of us! Little by little I’m coming back to earth, so more blog regular blog posts and tweets (and OF COURSE pictures of our little man!) are on their way :)
Since time is scarce when one is breastfeeding at least 12 out of the 24 hours in a day (and trying to eat/sleep/hydrate/possibly shower in the others), let’s cut right to the chase: Labor does a real number on your body. Although I’ve never been through war, I imagine it’s somewhat like that… but from the inside out. There’s pain so extreme you think you might just break into a million pieces and blood and guts like you’ve never seen before. It takes a crazy amount of determination and focus to make it through. But at least with labor, you get this incredible gift at the end. A prize that is undoubtedly worth the pain.
After it’s all over, you are left to pick up the pieces. So that’s where I’ll start. Right after I delivered little Owen, he was whisked away to the other side of the room to be checked out by the docs and cleaned (see the story here if you missed it). I kind of thought my job was over. I had just pushed a baby out! Couldn’t I relax now? Nope, apparently not. I still had to deliver the placenta, and then the rebuilding process began. Owen’s head, although tiny, was a bit bigger than my body could handle, and I tore a bit during the final pushes. After the labor Benjamin asked the doctor (while she was sewing me up) how much I had torn. Before she could answer, I blurted out: “I don’t want to know!”. I just didn’t want to talk about it. I figure I’ll heal the same way whether I know the details or not, and frankly I don’t plan on being one of those women bragging about what degree their tear was. Sidenote: Even with an epidural (albeit, one that had started wearing off awhile before this moment), I was pretty uncomfortable during the stitching. I could feel tugging and pulling, and I couldn’t really shake the idea of what the doctor was doing. Nonetheless, it was over in just a few minutes.
When the doctor said, “You’re all finished”, my legs turned to jello and began to shake as I realized it was all over. I had done it. I’m pretty sure that’s when the tears started. Well, they had started earlier when the baby finally came out, but at this point the tears were like body heaving sobs that released the tension I had been holding in since we arrived at the hospital. For me, this kind of uncontrollable tears has been a big part of the recovery process for me. Apparently it’s the way my body chooses to deal with the stress and anxiety and tumultuous emotions. Several times in the days right after delivery I found myself sobbing without good reason. I didn’t feel sad, and I certainly don’t think it has anything to do with postpartum depression… it’s just the way my body releases pent up energy.
The first time was when I looked at Owen’s circumcision the day after he was born. After his procedure, the doctor took us into the nursery and showed us how to care for it. A tiny blood vessel had been cut during the circumcision, and so they put this stuff on it to make it stop bleeding. Unfortunately, the stuff turns black and looks horribly scary. Owen was red-faced and crying (I mean really, who wouldn’t be?), and it was the first time I really heard him cry. I took one look into his bassinet and just lost it. I was sobbing my brains out. The nurses were all saying things like, “Oh honey, don’t cry, he was given something to numb the pain” and “He’s ok, he’s just a little stressed out”. The thing was, I’m not sure I was even crying about Owen’s little weenie, I was just crying to cry. Step one on the road to recovery… cry. A lot. Let it out.
Holy cow. Of course I knew that you bleed a bit after birth. What I didn’t realize is just much you bleed, and for how long. I won’t go into details for the sake of the family and friends who come here just to see cute pics of Owen, but let me just say that it looks like someone committed a murder in the bathroom whenever I go. And for the first few days your lady parts are so swollen and puffy they are completely unrecognizable. And you sit on ice packs because there is a constant, throbbing pain. The reality is, though, that although this is uncomfortable, it completely melts away when you look into your newborn’s eyes. Also, pain like this pales in comparison to the pain you just felt while giving birth, so it seems totally bearable even though it sucks. Step 2 to recovery… bleeding and soreness. My advice? Take time to treat yourself like they treat you in the hospital — use that squirt bottle with warm water, take a sitz bath or two (heaven, I tell you), and don’t be afraid to poop. Coming from someone who was terrified to “push” again, it’s not that bad (umm, provided you take those stool softeners they give you).
I thought I was thirsty during my pregnancy. But that was nothing! Now I have a water bottle attached to me at all times. Maybe it’s the nursing, maybe it’s the swelling and excess fluids working their way out of my system, I don’t know. All I know is that if I don’t drink anything for about 10 minutes, I am parched. And for me, parched leads to angry and frustrated and that leads to tears. See “Crying”, above. Step 3 to recovery… stay hydrated. Honestly, it helps everything else run its course.
Last but not least, sleep. One of the first question everyone asks me these days is, “Are you getting any sleep?”. The answer, in comparison to the amount of sleep I got pre-baby, is no. But to tell you the truth, I haven’t really noticed much. I seem to have some magical mommy hormone that is powering me through these long nights of waking up every 2-3 hours to feed Owen. I’m doing my best to nap during the day, but I’m not a very good napper. I have a feeling that’s a skill that I will acquire in the coming weeks and months. We realized very early on that Benjamin does NOT do well when he doesn’t sleep at night, and I seem to do fine with broken sleep periods and some naps during the day. So we’ve worked our “schedule” (and I use that word very loosely) around that. I’ll do another post on our schedule later, but the bottom line is that you have to sleep whenever you can. Everyone says “sleep when the baby sleeps”, and although I haven’t been able to do that successfully yet, I’ve been making a concerted effort to take time to rest. Watch tv, read a book, lay on the couch and stare at the ceiling, whatever quiets your mind. Step 4… sleep. No excuses, just do it. Or you’ll never be able to do the other things.
Amazingly enough, my body seems to be patching itself up pretty well. A mere 6 days after being split open and having my insides on my outside, I am beginning to feel like a normal person again. My swelling is going down (my feet are cute again — hallelujah!), the soreness in my lady parts is less and less each day, the tears are subsiding and even my nipples are surviving the daily biting, twisting and shockingly strong sucking that Owen dishes out. As bad as it seems in those few days right after birth… it passes!