My Body did WHAT?! Pt. 2
Welcome to part 2 of my first birth and postpartum blog. Last week I spoke candidly about my first labor & delivery experience. If you enjoyed the rollercoaster of shakes & pushing, then I sincerely hope you'll enjoy what comes next! There's really no "timeline" of when a woman's postpartum journey ends-- I just read a post on a Facebook group of someone asking for NFP advice at "15 months postpartum." In a way, I guess it never really ends! But, there is definitely a starting point: right when that baby pops out!
So, get comfy, settle in, & let's chat about the first few weeks postpartum: what it looked like, what helped, what didn't, & what are some MUST-HAVE'S to stay alive & well.
POSTPARTUM LIFE: the hospital
Let's jump right in with a fact: don't forget you have to deliver the placenta, too. Baby girl was getting her measurements done & I heard "ok one more small push." I was very confused but I pushed & out it came! Finally, I was truly done. Well, after my stitches. I was scared about those but after all that I just went through I couldn't feel a THING down there. Praise God.
Our nurses switched shifts & my new nurse came in, got baby girl all latched & feeding for the first time, while she reminded my husband to go get me a big breakfast plate. Y'all. Sausage & french toast never tasted SO. DANG. GOOD. The internet was right: that first meal is the best meal of your life so far.
After we were both fed & happy, it was time to wheel us into our little family suite! I still laugh about the fact that I thought I could hop into the wheelchair by myself. I couldn't even prop myself up on the bed without 2-person assistance let alone wiggle off of it. I was so terrified she was going to fall out of my arms during that short wheelchair ride, but we eventually made it to our new room! All the sudden I thought "why does is smell like cheeseburgers & onion rings in here?"
It was me. I smelled like burgers & onion rings.
It was then I realized how badly I needed to shower, but that I could barely move my entire body head-to-toe. It's true: you will never be more sore in your life (at least for me...I think the shakes had something to do with it!) Thankfully I have the sweetest husband in the world. He put on his swim trunks, got the shower ready, & helped me shuffle in. This is one of my favorite memories I have of us. I could barely lift my arms to shampoo my hair, so he ended up doing it all for me. It reminded me of when he washed my feet at our wedding-- an act of humility so humble & kind for the one he loves. Shampoo, conditioner, body scrubs & all, he washed me clean & made me feel so beautiful & loved at a time when I felt like I resembled a scruffy, puffy raccoon (who just ate a cheeseburger from the garbage).
Ladies: make sure your man brings his swimmies so he can help you shuffle into the shower & wash your locks like the queen you are.
After this I don't remember much, let alone a timeline of when things happened. My nurses were truly the kindest women (thank you, White Plains!) & my parents were our only visitors which kept our days in the hospital quite calm (despite a crying newborn).
So, let's touch on a few things that I distinctly remember!
The Tummy Press: I was unaware of this, but my first nurse explained so kindly that it would hurt but it was necessary. They literally press down on your tummy with full force to make sure all of the blood & "contents" continue to drain out...yeah...sound gross? It is. Sound painful? Absolutely. They would then proceed to give a little tummy "massage" & feel around for anything abnormal. This is all to make sure we don't clot & yada yada. I'm so thankful my nurses took such good care of me but I definitely wanted to punch them every time they came in with the look that said "sorry girl, but it's time for a press."
Aches & Pains: I mentioned that my whole body hurt from the top of my head to the tip of my toes, no exaggeration. I literally slept with a 5-6 pillows to make sure my body was cushioned all around. My tailbone was insanely bruised (they can break during birth...did not know that...) so sitting & standing all felt icky.
Clothing & Expectations: It was so cute of me to think that my "super super baggy" sweats would fit during my hospital stay. HA! I literally stayed in the hospitals gowns they provided all 3 days. So comfy. I put my pink robe on for our hospital pictures & slapped on some concealer but other than that I rocked those hospital socks, mesh undies & gown for dayssss.
Using the Restroom: was not as painful as I was scared of! I mean, it wasn't comfortable by any means, but I didn't cry! Ha. Stool softener became my bff. I was terrified to poo but those softeners are a gift from heaven.
Sleep Deprivation: It's true...we got lucky with a good sleeper all the way from day one. But, that's not to say we didn't suffer the lack of sleep EVERYONE goes through. Looking back, I think the adrenaline of having newborn in the hospital really helped with escaping the exhaustion! It's when you get home without the help of a nurse that it really hits.
Get a Blessing: seriously, get in touch with the hospital chaplain ahead of time or a priest friend of yours (or pastor if you're not Catholic) & get a blessing said over your new family of 3 at the hospital & receive the Eucharist. You need the extra grace, Mama, & it is so freely given in the sacraments & prayer.
This was all just the beginning of a new normal & my recovery. It was a sad morning when we left the hospital & our incredible staff, but it was so exciting to bring our little girl back home to our studio apartment where it felt like "real life" was about to begin.
POSTPARTUM LIFE: back at home
And real life sure as heck began! Because we were in NY at the time & far away from any family, we had a set rotation of people flying in to help out. My parents stayed at the RV park for a month so they were thankfully there to "fill-in" when we didn't have other visitors. I'm the type of extrovert who doesn't need to talk, but definitely needs people around, so I'm very thankful to everyone who came out to help those first two weeks.
I thought the first few weeks of postpartum at home would look a little more...cute? But the reality was this: bra-less, leaking all over, still in mesh panties that I snagged from the hospital, sitting on ice pads while I tried to figure out how to breastfeed propped up on a bed with no backboard or wall behind me. Oh, & lots of bleeding, like, the worst period you can imagine lasting about 2 weeks. I did, however, put on some makeup & an old dress for my first Mother's Day which we celebrated 2 days after our hospital release, so that was a win! Of course I got dressed when we had visitors, but behind closed doors the "let it all hangout" approach was more of my vibe.
I thought of a few pieces of advice I'd give to a new mom so here we go:
Accept the Help: seriously. Just accept it. If your sister in law wants to stock up your fridge with Trader Joe's best-selling frozen/easy-to-cook items, let her (you go glen Coco!!) If your mother in law wants to deliver thai food for dinner, say yes please & thank you. If your mom offers to watch the baby while you & hubby go out for a cup of coffee, put on your shoes & run (more like wobble) out the door! Someone will take care of the baby while you nap AND they'll fold your laundry? Let them. Hop in bed & lock the door. You need the rest. It's not an option. Need more help? Ask for it. If no one steps up oooooh girl you better contact me & I'll help you set 'em straight!
Buy Extra: if your living space allows, just buy extra. Extra pads, lady diapers, booby pads, pumping parts, bottle parts, etc. It's such a hassle & waste of time to have to wash & sanitize the same two parts over & over!
There is No Timeline: if there's any time to listen to your body, it's now. Be gentle with yourself. Maybe you'll fit into your old baggy "mom jeans" in no time. Maybe they'll look like extra-skinny jeans with a muffin top (me!) still at 3 months pp. Every body is different. I tried to run at 3 months & immediately thought my insides were going to fall out down under. Your body went through some major trauma so sit on ice pads as long as you want & don't be hard on yourself if you find yourself wearing some maternity pieces 7 months in. Remember: 9 months in, 9 months out. You have time to fall in love with the new "mama" in you.
Take the Stuff from the Hospital: the creams & numbing sprays might not be the "all natural" stuff you ordered & have waiting for you at home but gosh dangit this stuff WORKS GOOD. Take as much as you can-- pads & panties included!!
I can't really get into much else without spilling my must-have items so let's just get into that! It's more exciting anyway...
MUST HAVE ITEMS: these aren't affiliate links or anything, I'm not that cool
Frida Mom Upside Down Peri Bottle for Postpartum Care The bottle at the hospital just does NOT do it. This was a must in my new 10-minute going-to-the-bathroom routine. It's upside down so it literally takes no effort for the cool water to rinse you right off where you need to heal most!
NEWGO Reusable Perineal Ice Pack Please, please do yourself a favor & get these. They come with washable slips & they are actually pretty comfy to sit on. They have little gel beads which makes them super flexible as they warm up but they still stay cold! They can also be used for heating as well. I still use them for sore muscles & injuries!
Witch Hazel Pads These were the ones they had at the hospital. Again, not the "all natural" witch hazel spray I had at home (& used too!) but these felt like heaven every time I put new ones in.
Dermoplast This is the spray they had in the hospital & next time I give birth I'm stocking up. Like I mentioned, I loved my organic witch hazel spray too, but when I needed numbing this was absolutely the way to go.
Adult Diapers I would rather wear these (especially to bed) than the granny-panties I bought with pads ANY DAY. The bulky pads + normal big panties didn't give me enough room to breath (they were fine with mesh hospital panties) so lady diapers were my freakin jam! I highly recommend getting "maximum" & "night defense".
Pads These were useful after the first 2 weeks when the bleeding was still there but not like a raging river.
Pumping Bra Hands-free pumping...a NECESSITY.
Reusable Nursing Pads So soft, they never leaked through, & they stayed soft after every wash. There's no sense in buying ones you constantly throw out!
Lanolin Nipple Cream A word to the wise: start using this BEFORE you give birth. Get those babies moisturized & don't go a feeding session without it.
Sunflower Lecithin You just don't know when a hint of mastitis is going to hit. All of the pumping, hand expressing, & hot compresses in the world didn't seem to work until I finally got my hands on this.
I know I didn't go into too much detail about postpartum body image or breastfeeding, but those will be explored posts later on, I promise!
I sincerely hope that this 2-part blog spoke some truth to you about another girl's birth & postpartum experience. If you ever feel called to share your own story of bringing life into this world, please feel free to contact me here or on my instagram!