The Postpartum Recovery Period
You know that part on Jay-Z’s “Public Service Announcement” where that clip is playing and the guy says “but just remember, when it hits the fan brother, whether it’s next year, ten years, twenty years from now, you’ll never be able to say that these brothers lied to you JACK!”? Well, pretend that I’m that guy. I wouldn’t lie to you. And that’s why if you plan on getting pregnant in the future, you may want to reconsider reading the rest of this.
I think there’s a good reason that most women don’t hear about what happens to them during postpartum recovery until they’re well into their pregnancies – no one would ever get pregnant. Depending on your situation, you could have a fairly easy time, or you can go through up to 6 weeks of hellacious pain and mental/emotional instability. No, I’m not hyperbolizing.
I had a fairly easy time. Thank gawd. Taking care of a newborn is no picnic in the early days, so I consider myself very lucky. Even still, there were a number of things I wish I could have avoided. I won’t bore you with that though…at least not yet.
Following is a list of what may or may not happen. Just expect it all to happen. That way, if it doesn’t all happen, you can feel as if you dodged a bullet. Or accomplished. Or something.
Bleeding. Lots of bleeding. You’ve technically injured your uterus and injuries of this nature are only “fixed” by bloodshed. I’ll scare you now and tell you that you can pass clots up to the size of a golf ball safely (if your OB is cool, ask him/her to get the majority out while your legs are still in the air). Take as many of the hospital diaper pads as you can, buy some depends, or invest in some reusable pads.
Hemorrhoids. They usually pop up right after the birth itself, but can come a couple of weeks later. They will make taking a shit seem worse than the birth. If you had a drugged-up labor, it WILL be worse than the birth. Take the Dermoplast the hospital gives you and “prep” before doing the deed. And do your kegels regularly. It helps.
Soreness. Epic soreness. The kind where sitting down sucks, standing up sucks, and lying down sucks. Your body will hurt. If you had an epidural, chances are your back will hurt. Your crotch will hurt. Your boobs will hurt (via engorgement or learning how to breastfeed). Peeing will hurt (you will probably need assistance with this at the hospital – seriously). Stock up on ibuprofen (make sure your doc ok’s this before you leave – certain medicines can’t be taken, especially if you’re breastfeeding), some hot/cold packs, and whatever else relaxes you.
Headaches. A little publicized after effect of having an epidural. These can last for weeks. This isn’t even considering how well you’ll take to a new “thing” whose only method of communication is screaming. Remember when I told you to stock up on ibuprofen? I was serious. Go to Costco and get the biggest bottle you can find.
Mood Swings. Postpartum depression is well covered and I’m not a doctor, so I won’t talk much about it. However, those of us fresh out of L&D are going to have epic mood swings, no matter what. I’m talking Amazon didn’t deliver your diapers on time and now everything about the world is just fucked and you can’t do anything but cry and wish you were a better mother because you can’t even manage to get your kid diapers the right way kind of mood swings. My best advice is to cry it out, call someone, vent, and then realize this is just your body going crazy.
Hot and Cold Flashes. Call it Intro to Menopause. If you’re lucky, you’ll be over this before you leave the hospital. Expect to wake up drenched in sweat or shivering madly. Keep a blanket on hand and someone nearby to get it the hell off of you when it gets too hot 37 seconds after you just had to have it.
Body Dysmorphia. Some women manage to come home after birth in love with their bodies. I was not one of them. Your body may look completely foreign to you. Try not to get hung up on it as best as you can. It took you nine months to get huge, so keep telling yourself it will take nine months to get back to normal. It may not take as long or it may take longer, but it will help you keep things in perspective. ”You just did an amazing thing by growing a person and s/he came out of you.” ”Those stretch marks are war wounds.” The more phrases you can find to lift your spirits, the better.
Fatigue. You will come to know a whole new level of tiredness. Nothing like you got used to when just being uncomfortable or having to pee was enough to get you up multiple times a night. Nooooooooooo. This is a WHOLE. OTHER. LEVEL. You will think you are going insane or are going to die. Neither of these things is likely to happen. Try to find solace in the knowledge that you will get (somewhat) used to it and it won’t last forever.
Contemplation of Murder/Harming People. These are perfectly normal feelings. They will pass (provided you don’t act on them…because that wouldn’t be cool).
Fear of Looking at Your Crotch. It is real and with a good purpose. If you don’t have this, try not to indulge your (morbid) curiosity until you can at least sit without pain. The sight is enough to scar you for a while. I’m being totally serious here.
Incontinence. Could be minor, could be major. Just make sure you’re close to the bathroom if you get even the slightest sensation that you have to pee. EVEN.THE.SLIGHTEST.
As usual, this list isn’t exhaustive, and I may or may not add stuff later. If I never do, know that it’s perfectly ok to not want visitors for the first few weeks, to want for your families to stay away, to want your mother to coddle the hell out of you, and to fully feel whatever you’re feeling. You will cry, you will laugh, you will get angry, you will learn extreme patience, you will feel helpless and incapable and you will feel like Superwoman. Sometimes all in the span of three hours. This time in your life is a complete crapshoot. Welcome it all and if it gets bad enough, take a walk around the block. If the baby is on your good side at the time, take him or her with you. They like being outside.
Other random advice:
Stock up on frozen food, pick up some take out menus, or ask a nice person who likes to cook to set up a meals on wheels sort of situation for you. No one is going to feel like cooking.
Make sure you take as much as you can from the hospital (you’re supposed to take it; if you feel weird about it, ask a nurse and she’ll probably load you up with more than you planned to take): those diaper sized pads, the Dermoplast, the peri bottle (IF NOTHING ELSE, TAKE THE PERI BOTTLE!!! Wiping the first week home is just out of the question), diapers, blankets, etc.
Ask for help. It doesn’t matter if it’s for someone to run to the store for you or to just hang around to make sure you don’t go insane while trying to learn how to care for this new person. People are more than willing to offer assistance. If they aren’t, they are terrible people and you should definitely cut them out of your life. Or not. Maybe that’s too extreme…I blame hormones.
Oh yeah, blame the hormones. You can still get away with it.