Thursday, July 28, 2011

Postpartum Recovery - What I wish I would have known

As I mentioned when I discussed my birth plan, I spent a LOT of time researching labor and delivery. Thankfully, my labor and delivery with Evelyn were perfect. I got the med-free experience I wanted and I feel so much joy and peace when I think about the day Evelyn was born. It's such an amazing memory for me and I'll cherish it forever. In fact, there's a small part of me that can't wait to do it again. Crazy, I know, but I miss being pregnant (I knew I would) and that day was one of the best (if not the best) in my life. I digress...

In my time spent preparing for Evelyn's birth, I remained completely ignorant of the things to expect afterward. I mean, I would be so enthralled with my little girl, how could I possibly think about anything else? Oh how naive I was. To be completely honest, when I think about the pain of birthing a baby versus the pain and complete irritation of recovering from birthing a baby, I'd choose the childbirth over the recovery in a heartbeat.

So, I feel I would only be doing a disservice to my readers (especially those who follow because of baby info - I sometimes wonder how I still have followers since I'm such a bad blogger) if I didn't share this experience. And, I plan on being very candid. I don't believe in hiding details because they are not "appropriate."

I'll start from the moment recovery started. I distinctly remember asking my wonderful Dr. while in the throes of transition and on the verge of pushing if it would stop when she was born. She smiled at me and nodded and I had the encouragement I needed to keep going. She was a big, fat, liar (I say that lovingly). Evelyn came out and was laid on my chest and I began completely melting as I stared at her. A few minutes later I realized that they were still working on things down there. I had completely forgotten that I had to deliver my placenta as well and that wasn't so bad. A little push and it was out. I expected to tear, I expected stitches. I did not, however, expect the kneading of my uterus due to the blood clots that they were working out and working on getting some bleeding under control. Let me just say, that this was uncomfortable. I remember thinking, "Okay, I have my baby, you can leave me alone now. I'm done with this whole pain thing." I knew it was necessary though. Again, it was pretty short-lived.

Next came the getting out of bed. I can't really put it nicely, but my bum was SO SORE. I mean, many people refer to childbirth as pooping a watermelon (very politically correct, I know). Well, I felt like it. Standing up was... slow. Walking was... slow. I knew I needed to move around or I would just get stiffer. But, I'm not going to lie, it hurt. Of course, why exactly was I getting out of bed? To head to the bathroom. I knew I had to pee. The nurses wanted me to pee. But, no matter how I tried (which trying in and of itself is uncomfortable - mainly due to sitting on the toilet) I couldn't. The nurse was very patient, but after a while she suggested a catheter. Honestly, I was definitely afraid. Who wants a catheter? But, once it was done I was glad. It allowed me to go and be comfortable again. It wasn't pleasant, but I won't fight it next time.

Since we're on the topic of relieving oneself, let's talk about number 2. This was probably my greatest postpartum fear. I have a history of constipation (you really know everything there is to know about me now, don't you?) and I was terrified of the first postpartum BM. I tried to explain this to the nurses. They gave me a stool softener and I said, do you have something more. I know it will be difficult. Finally when hadn't gone the last day I was in the hospital, they agreed to give me Miralax. Thank goodness for this. I didn't end up having a BM until 3-4 days after I got home, but thankfully, due to the medications, it wasn't bad. My advice, don't deny the meds.

Now, onto the meds. I've never taken prescription pain killers. I don't know how I'd react to them, so when they offered me Percoset or Ibuprofen. I took the Ibuprofen. Again, everyone says to take the pain meds. But, I really didn't want to end up sick or loopy and the Ibuprofen seemed fine to me. And, next time, I'll probably stick with it. The pain was manageable. I was sore. What should I expect?

So far, this doesn't seem so bad, right? It was all expected. There was swelling and pain. I expected that. What I didn't expect was the irritation it would be after I got home. For a solid week, getting up and down sucked. I was sore. I just wanted to move again without pain. My tailbone was sore. My nether regions were sore. My legs were sore. I had broken blood vessels in my eyes from pushing which were making my contacts uncomfortable. I was STILL swollen everywhere and I desperately wanted to put my wedding ring back on. (I finally forced it on after 3 weeks).

Again, going to the bathroom sucked. I just wanted to go pee like a normal person again. But, after 10 months I was experiencing bleeding again (no woman I know likes that...) and I had to be careful when wiping, use my peri bottle to rinse which I had to refill with warm water every time. It just... sucked. A month later and I'm still bleeding slightly and using the bathroom still isn't completely back to normal. I'm so done with pads.

Oh, and showering? I have a thing about showers. I LOVE my showers. Rob knows this and has done a great job of making sure I get my "shower time" every day. But, I couldn't shower completely normally either. My nipples felt like burns because of breastfeeding, I couldn't clean myself the way I normally had. I was nervous about doing something that would irritate things. It's a lot better now, but again, it took a solid 2 weeks for things to get better and after going through such a physical and mental change in such a short period of time, I craved a sense of normalcy in my body.

Here I am four weeks later and I still don't feel completely back to "normal." I know that normal is going to be different, but my body still has some healing to do.

And, for a genuinely sappy ending... I'd do it all again in a heartbeat. I've been blessed with the responsibility of bringing this perfect little life into the world and caring for her and I wouldn't trade it for anything.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Month 1 Must-Haves

I know when I was pregnant, I found these posts to be extremely helpful. So, here's mine:

1. Definitely not applicable to everyone (and I'll be making a whole other post about my breastfeeding experience so far) but, my Medela Pump In Style Advanced.

I've had some over-supply issues and this has been a lifesaver. As much as I dislike pumping, it is efficient and easy to use. I'm really glad I forked out the money for it. And, FYI, if you are going to buy one, go to Cotton Babies. They have the best price! Also, keep an eye in all the "junk mail" you get from formula companies etc. There was a rebate for $15 off a pump in one of those kits! I'm waiting for my check in the mail.

2. "Cheap" cloth diapers to use as burp cloths.

 I don't care where they are from or how much they cost, they are so easy and absorbent. Evelyn is a bit of a spitter and they have saved me from many changes of clothes.

3. Itzbeen

I really like having this. It's so easy to keep track of things, especially with Breastfeeding. I'm not always withing easy view of a clock and even if I am, I always forget what time it was that I looked at the clock. With this, I carry it with me everywhere (it has a little clip for around the house and the buttons lock so I can throw it in my diaper bag) and I just push a button. Super convenient.

4. Portable bassinet.  (This isn't the one I have, but it's similar - internet picture)

A friend gave this to me to borrow and I've really enjoyed having it. I know it has a recall out on it, but the reasons, in my opinion, pose no risk to Evelyn, so I'm totally comfortable using it. It is simply a little bassinet that has a vibrating setting. It makes for a nice place for her to nap during the day.

5. Waterproof mattress cover. This has saved me from having to change her sheets about a million times. She spits up quite a bit and it's so much easier to change this than to take sheet off of the mattress! In fact, I need to go get a couple more because I'm washing them almost daily.

6. Moby Wrap

While I haven't gotten to use it as much as I'd like, I LOVE wearing Evelyn. Unfortunately, we're dead in the middle of a horrible St. Louis summer and it's just been too hot. I've worn her around the house a bit and she really likes it. However, I really look forward to being able to wear her out and about. Until it's no longer 100 degrees outside, I don't think that's going to happen... It's definitely been a life saver for when she's just in a mood and inconsolable. That doesn't happen very often, but when it does, I know exactly where to go!

I think that's it for now.

Hopefully, as I find time, I plan on some future posts on the following:

  • Postpartum Recovery - What I wish I would have known
  • The Beginning of my Love Affair with Cloth Diapers
  • My Breastfeeding Journey
  • Evelyn's One Month Birthday ::SOB::

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Evelyn June's Birth Story

Sorry if this is a little long and disjointed. It was all such a blur and I've been writing it in spurts. This is my initial take. I'm sure I'll find myself going back and editing and adding things as I recall more, but I wanted to share anyway. Also, my doula is writing her version for me and I'm anxious to read that!

Wow, I can't even fathom where to start. I had a feeling Evelyn would make her appearance very close to her due date when I started experiencing contractions about 10 minutes apart on Monday, June 27. They were not painful at all, just a tightening that was uncomfortable. This lasted for the next two days on and off. I was starting to get antsy, so on my due date I thought I'd see if we could get things going by practicing with my breast pump. Worked like a charm! I only used it for about 20 minutes and already was experiencing contractions less than 10 minutes, so I stopped. The contractions waned, so I got my pump out one more time before I went to bed and had the same results. I woke up to consistent contractions on June 30 at about 3:30 am. They were tolerable for sure, but definitely real. I knew we were in labor! I labored at home the rest of the morning and they were slowly getting closer together and I was having to breathe through them, though I could still walk and talk through them. I had an appointment with my OB at 9:40 that morning, so I thought I keep that and see what she recommended from there.

The car ride wasn't too bad, but definitely uncomfortable and I was talking to Rob about what he thought we should do about going to the hospital right away or not. I was a little afraid to go to the hospital too early when I could labor elsewhere. I got to my OB and she checked me and said I was at 3.5 to 4 cm. Woo-hoo! I had been at 2 cm and 80% effaced at my appointment the week before so I was happy that we made some progress and I wasn't experiencing the contractions for nothing. She said we could go to the hospital then if we wanted or go to the mall or a park and walk around to pass some time. We decided it was too hot outside to walk in a park and the contractions were uncomfortable enough that I didn't want to be "watched" at the mall so we headed to the hospital. It was about 11am.

I'm going to insert my little rave about Barnes Jewish St. Peters. They were AMAZING. Super supportive and not at all pushy. I got there and immediately got my room. They gave me the quick rundown of things and I signed papers and they put me on the monitor (20 min or monitoring is required every hour) and let me be for a while. During this time my mom and my doula arrived and we just managed contractions which were about 3 min apart by now. The nurse came back in and saw how well the baby was tolerating contractions and took the monitor off. She didn't come back for monitoring for another 2 hours, which I am so grateful for. It was hard to stay in a position that kept the monitor happy and me somewhat comfortable. I was also able to eat and drink as I pleased (although I vomited any food back up) and the nurses never once questioned it. 

I walked the halls a bit and then I hopped in the jacuzzi tub (I LOVED, LOVED, LOVED the tub!!!) and labored there for a little while until my doula suggested I get out and move around a little more - I think it was about 3 or 4 pm at this point. Honestly, I had no concept of time at all during labor. I was amazed at how focused my body was and keeping my mind on working through the contractions which were definitely getting intense. I labored by leaning on Rob while my doula and mom took turns putting pressure on my back (I had back labor). The nurse came in and I asked to be checked. I wanted some idea of if I was making progress.Thankfully, I was at 7-8 cm! I then hopped back in the tub with some hope of getting a little relief. I was getting some "coupling" in my contractions (this is what my doula called them) and was really questioning myself at this point as I was lacking the much needed breaks between. I realized that I was hitting transition and that meant I was in the home stretch. The tub was, again, amazing. I just sat in it with the jets going and breathed through contractions while Rob just sat next to me. He was amazing. Just amazing. He seemed to know exactly what to do/say, exactly when to say it. 

At about 6:00 I was beginning to feel pressure and knew I needed to get out of the tub to get things going some more. I wanted gravity on my side, so I was back to leaning on Rob. I would sit on the edge of the bed between and rest and eventually I just laid down on my left side and worked through them some more. I knew we were getting close as the pressure intensified, but I didn't feel like I hit that point where pushing felt "right." Again, I was so in awe of my body. I remember literally falling asleep between contractions. I would go from full-on focus and determination to complete rest and relaxation in a matter of seconds. 

Finally, at about 6:30, the urge to push was making it's appearance. I had rolled over on my other side by now and started a couple of "practice" pushes. I had no idea if I was complete or not and no idea if I was even pushing correctly, but the nurses had fetched my OB and she was letting me go on my own. (BTW, if anyone is looking for a natural-friendly Dr. I would recommend my OB to anyone!!) I remember everyone just letting me do my thing. No one touched me except to give me a hand to hold or a cold washcloth on my face. About 15 minutes into pushing, my water broke (I should say exploded everywhere) and my OB said she'd be back in a few (I think she got a shower...). I was a little discouraged, but kept at it. Finally, the nurses said to fetch her again. When she returned I asked her if I was making progress and she looked at me with great encouragement and said yes, she could see a head of brown hair! I continued pushing and Rob just whispered in my ear that I was doing great and he was so proud. He was telling me that he could see more and more of her head with every push (I can't believe he looked!) and my OB encouraged me some more. Eventually, I started to feel the ring of fire and knew I had made it to the end. There was no question. I had to get her out (lol, I remember asking my OB if it would stop when she was out... she smiled at me and nodded). Finally, at 7:27 pm, She arrived and was laid directly on my chest. Rob told me that she was a girl and we all laughed because we'd been calling her a "he" for so long. 

We spent the next hour bonding, attempting to nurse and just staring at our little girl. I finally realized that the nurses and never weighed her as they had just let us be while they cleaned up the mess (which apparently was a pretty big one as I ended up delivering "caddy-wompus" off the side of the bed, as my mom put it) and my OB took care of me. I had some blood loss and clotting and tore a bit (not sure how bad yet) and I honestly thought the massaging of my uterus and all of the "messing around down there" was more irritating that any bit of labor and delivery. The nurses finished and came to ask if I was ready for them to take her and check her out (they did all of this in the room) and I said yes. She was a perfect 8 lbs 2 oz, and 19.5 inches long. She had the most perfect round head and was just the most beautiful little miracle. 

I couldn't believe it was over. I couldn't believe she was finally here and that I had done what I set out to do. We had finally reached the end of the road and could start our lives as a perfect little family. I couldn't have asked for anything more.