She Says… The Road to Recovery

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 πŸ™‚

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!

27 responses to “She Says… The Road to Recovery

  1. Ms. E @

    Congratulations! I am so excited for you and your family. Your commentary on the bleeding has me a little concerned… sorry! I’m an ex Labor & Delivery nurse. Be sure to call your provider if you’re soaking through your pads and if your blood clots are bigger than a quarter, CALL YOUR PROVIDER!

    πŸ™‚ You’re a trooper!!!!

  2. It truly is astonishing what your body goes through during & after labor! The amount of blood surprised me, too… and I LOVED those ice packs and I used the squirt bottle way longer than I really needed to, just ’cause it felt good!

    I had a serious case of the waterworks, too… my hubby & I actually shared a lot of laughs over the things that made me cry! The random tears subsided after 3 or 4 weeks.

    We also figured out very early that Hubby does not do well without sleep. Women must just be programmed for the ability to function on broken sleep. I went back to work this week (Eli is now 7 weeks old) and I am surprised at how much energy I have even with still only sleeping 3-4 hours at a time at night.

    I am so glad to hear things are going well… it has been so fun to follow your journey, especially since our babies’ due dates were so close, and I can’t wait to watch your little man’s progress!

  3. Kate, thank you so much for your honesty in this post! Those of us who one day hope to be mamas really appreciate it. Our bodies are truly amazing! Hope you continue to heal well πŸ™‚

  4. Thanks once again for keeping it honest. πŸ™‚

  5. Kate, thank you so much for this post. I am 38 weeks pregnant now, and although I’ve read everything on the whole recovery process I really wanted to read a first hand account. This post is really what I was looking for!

    I wish you and your family all the best. Hope you heal quickly and be able to have all of your energy back again soon πŸ™‚

  6. Thank you for sharing — the good and the bad!!

  7. I have heard from many people that recovery is worse than the actual labor – if for no other reason than (as you said) you think your work is done, and it’s actually just beginning! I’m somewhat anxious about it, but appreciate you sharing your experience.

    Also, I am terrified to poop NOW so I can only imagine how I’ll feel post-birth. Ah, pregnancy.

  8. This is a great post! I am so glad to read an honest account of the 1st week at home, even with the not-so-lovely details. We all know it can be tough, but you never know quite how it’s going to go until you go through it. I’m glad you are surviving it all, and hope I handle it as well as you do!

  9. Wow! Glad you’re doing well! I know why women don’t share much of post birth details to women who haven’t had children……it’s freakin’ scary!

    I have learned more about post birth since I got pregnant than I ever though possible! This is the best I’ve heard yet though. Nothing super duper traumatic or awful. I’ve only got a very short amount of time before it’s me though. haha

  10. You mean you didn’t just randomly cry before the big day?! πŸ˜‰ Sweetie, I can see me in you soo soo much and I know that it will be me any day now and appreciate your honesty in the reality of the post pardom period. To be honest, I have always been more anxious about the recovery than the birth itself (not that I wasn’t anxious about that too), but more because the recovery last longer. I fret about the tearing etc. My mom was “too small” to have me naturally and I was born by c-section and the docs are telling me how they think my baby is already around the 8.5 lb mark so they think and I’m at 39 weeks and think it’s time for him/her to come out! I feel like I’m going to be torn apart if all goes “well” with a vaginal birth and it’s not a fun feeling to imagine.

    I’m very happy to hear that breastfeeding seems to be going well and you two are finding your rhythm. I’m already amazed how my body has adjusted to less sleep just through the pregnancy where before I was the one that hubby was worried about on functioning on less sleep. Something just “changes” it seems.

  11. You are amazing – I love your openness, honesty and determination. Keep doing what you’re doing – you two are wonderful parents and I cannot wait to watch over the coming weeks and months!

  12. Wow, tons of memories came flooding back while reading your post. You described it perfectly.It is amazing how ,inch by inch you start feeling better though, considering how much you went through.

    Can’t wait to see the pictures πŸ™‚

  13. I agree with everything you said 100%. However, I’ve only cried once and it’s when I woke my husband up at 4 AM to take the baby and he like freaked out on me. He appologized later but I agree that women and men are programed different in the sleep department!

    Icepacks in undies sure were weird and I’m still using the squirt bottle; toilet paper freaks me out. LOL. I think recovery was worse than pregnancy, labor, and birth combined. But it is over faster than you’d think and like you said the prize is worth it :).

  14. Thank you so much for your honesty- the post labour stuff is what they forget to tell you until it’s too late. As a soon to be TTCer, it’s good to know what I’ll be letting myself in for!

  15. So glad to hear that you’re doing well and recovering nicely. What you wrote is so true – they don’t tell you just how much you’ll bleed afterwards. I didn’t stop bleeding completely until around eight weeks after – I was starting to worry! But I was one of those with a huge tear apparently (10 lb. baby will do that to ya) and it took a long time to heal I guess.

    The part you wrote about crying made me smile because I did the same thing. Mine was when we took Henry to get his shots and some blood work done. I had to leave the room and was crying like a, well, a baby. πŸ™‚ Good thing my husband was there to hold him because I sure couldn’t!

    It does get easier! Now I do fairly well at his shot appointments and I realize that I have to be the strong one so that he doesn’t cry. Easier said than done, I know!

  16. I loved the way you told us everything! I want to have a natural birth and i appreciate that you were realistic about it! I know every woman is different, but know I know what to expect!
    Congratulations on the first week as a mom!!

  17. Andrea Arbuckle

    Congrats to all of you!! Reading that confirms having my unexpected c-section 2 1/2 weeks early with no labor really wasn’t all that bad. I was really bummed at the time that I didn’t get to experience labor, but we each have to make the best out of our situations! I would cry in the shower after I had my daughter, heaving sobs for no reason!

  18. Kate– thank you, thank you, THANK YOU for this post! I am far more terrified of the recovery period than giving birth!! This gave me a little comfort, knowing what to expect with stitches and pooping. Ouch!! πŸ™‚

  19. thanks for keepin’ it real! you are a champ.

  20. I couldn’t have said it better myself. I don’t think you left out a thing! If only I would’ve known all of this before my first child, things may have been a tad easier. Congratulations on sweet baby Owen, and good luck on your road to recovery! Mine lasted a good eight months!!!

  21. thanks so much for posting such detailed and honest accounts.

    I’ve been reading your blog for a while, and find your posts immensely helpful. My own due date is a few weeks away!!

    Hope you’re enjoying motherhood and your sweet baby.

  22. Oh yes, recovery…lordy it is QUITE difficult. i wish people would talk about it more.

    i did a post here:

    if you’d like to see. Also, about the bleeding, it lasts for a LONG time. Just when you think it’s better, it’ll start all over again. i PROMISE it eventually stops…took me about 3 weeks.

  23. Great post! Love the honesty! I have all this to look forward to come December! I am terrified of the actual birth process…I have decided I’m not actually going to give birth but will tag team out…sounds good right?

  24. I agree with all of the above!!

  25. OH honey! It’s ok..the crying is just the hormones. Be careful not to watch those starving children or homeless animal commercials.

  26. I came back to re-read this as I’m going through my own recovery…we are similar in so many ways! I’m about a week in and it’s hard for me to nap during the day, too. I also wasn’t prepared for how FREEZING I would be all the time once my baby was here – I was always so hot during pregnancy! Night sweats aren’t pleasant either…oh well. Anyway, it’s interesting to compare πŸ™‚

  27. I’m *very* surprised you didn’t take time to research the vital issue of circumcision. A 100% unnecessary, sexually damaging, human rights violation.

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