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.