For me one of the most surprising things about becoming a first time mom was recovering after childbirth. Thankfully my preparation for labor and delivery served me well and I was able to have a completely natural birth, but the long healing process that followed caught me off guard. Yes, I talked with my midwife about recovery. Yes, I read the small sections about recovery in my pregnancy books. But this was plain medical information… I had no stories to connect to and as I’ve said before, there is great power in stories. My advice to expecting first time moms is familiarize yourself with the recovery process before your baby arrives.
So friends, I’ve decided to share my recovery story with you. First, I must say that this story is personal and if you do not want to know the grisly details please excuse yourself from reading it now. Second, everyone’s body, birth, baby, and recovery is different. I am not a medical professional and you should always talk to your health care provider if you have any questions about your health. That said, I hope my transparency sheds some light on what can be an exciting but confusing time for many new moms.
Back to my birth story… After skin to skin cuddling, nursing my new boy, BabyCakes, and enjoying a well deserved breakfast in the labor suite, we were taken to our recovery room. My husband, James, snuggled BabyCakes while one of the nurses helped me get settled. Before assisting me into bed she asked if I needed to use the restroom. A blank stare came over my face… “Hmmm, uh, I don’t know.”
Like most mom’s after a vaginal birth, I was a bit of a mess down there, which is perfectly normal. I was quite swollen and slightly numb from the local anesthetic my midwife used while stitching up my superficial tears. I honestly couldn’t tell if I had to pee! “Well, why don’t we give it a try,” my nurse suggested as she helped me to the bathroom and onto the loo. Wait for it, wait for it… no luck, so she helped me pull my pj’s back up and held my hand as I gingerly walked back to bed.
Throughout my labor I sipped water and apple juice between contractions. While this kept me energized and helped me avoid IV fluids, it also left me with a very full bladder post delivery, which my nurse discovered when she examined my belly. She had to place a temporary catheter to empty me. Let me say being poked down there was the last thing I wanted, but ya gotta do what ya gotta do! Luckily family cuddles and loving on my sweet baby helped me forget such unpleasantness.
James and I decided to not have any visitors our first day in the hospital and we Skyped with just our family. Keeping to ourselves enabled us to focus solely on each other and getting some much needed rest. Aside from feeding, James took on the “hands on” baby duties. He became a diaper-changing, baby-swaddling champ. Expecting moms, be sure to allow your partners to step into their nurturing roles from day one.
It was a good thing James was so involved… I felt like I had just ran a marathon. My leg and back muscles were very fatigued. I was quite sore down below and had to move slowly or I would get faint. Additionally, I was still bleeding, which again is normal. But it felt like I was having the heaviest period of my life. To help with my discomfort the nurses had me drink a lot of water, gave me regular ibuprofen, perineal cold pads, and witch hazel swabs. However loving on BabyCakes was the best medicine. Moms to be, pace yourself with visitors throughout your recovery. You need to focus first on bonding as a family and allowing your body to heal.
James made us the perfect little nest. He packed some of our favorite snacks, played relaxing music, and even brought a sunrise lamp so we could control the lighting. All these things made me feel relaxed and cared for. Remember to pack a few comfort items to make your hospital room nice and cozy.
Later I had another routine nurse visit. My new nurse took my vitals, checked my uterus and nether regions, and, of course, asked if I needed to use the restroom… “Oh dear,” I thought. I explained to her the issues I had earlier and she said, “Let me go get you some spearmint oil.” I had no idea what spearmint oil had to do with helping me pee, but I went along with it. She put a couple of drops of spearmint oil in the collection basin and then gave me another bottle of it to smell as I sat and… Ta-da! Something about the spearmint oil helped me relax and open up again. Thank heavens! Find a hospital that is known for excellent nursing care and trust your nurses.
Slowly, I started to get my sea legs back. By the end of the day I felt sturdy enough to take a shower. Despite making our hospital room a peaceful sanctuary, both James and I had a hard time sleeping that first night because we were so sensitive to every sigh and peep BabyCakes made. Still, knowing we had the nurse call button gave me peace of mind and eventually I rested.
The next morning I was feeling better, but it was still very slow going. We attended a breastfeeding class and later welcomed some visitors. We asked one of our friends to bring us some takeout for dinner, which was delicious and brilliant! Do not under estimate the power of good food. It was wonderful introducing friends to our precious son. I was so grateful and overcome with love and joy.
The rest of our hospital stay was pleasantly uneventful. We learned so much from the nurses and felt nervous, but good about heading home the next morning. I knew I had a lot more recovering to do. It was time for us to go home, now as a family of three.
Childbirth make you like Humpty Dumpty. It takes a long time to get yourself back together again, but do not fear expecting mamas. While childbirth may leave you with a few tears, even scars, its true effect transcends the physical and touches the spiritual. It is the journey that brings forth one of the most precious gifts one can receive, a child.