Things I wish I had known about birth and recovery
(Disclaimer: This might be a little TMI for some people. So read at your own peril!)
When you become pregnant, there are several pieces of advice you’re going to hear over and over. These include:
- Say goodbye to sleep! You’ll never sleep again!
- Your clothes are going to be covered in baby goo for the next 100 years of your life
- You’ll never have time for yourself again
These things are true to a certain extent (though they are greatly exaggerated… I get a good amount of sleep, my clothes stay pretty clean and I actually have a lot of time when Ezra is napping to do what I need to do) and I appreciated the tips, but there are also things people are not going to tell you. I’m not sure if this is because they forget, or they just want you to be surprised…but I hate surprises (of the bad variety), so I’m going to share a few things I wish I had known about birth and recovery. This gets graphic, people, so bear with me. Here we go!
Contractions feel TERRIBLE.
Yes, people told they would feel terrible. But I didn’t believe them. I was silly to do that, and you are too if you’re reading this and not believing me.
Yes, it’s true that you won’t remember what they felt like, that doesn’t help you very much when you’re in the moment and feel like you’re dying inside every 3-4 minutes.
If contractions felt so great, everyone would get pregnant. But you got pregnant because you wanted a child and also you are a beast and can handle monster amounts of pain, right? I thought as much.
Good news: the contractions don’t last forever! They give way to pushing, crowning (probably worse feeling than pushing) then the birth of your child. And that last bit makes it all worth it.
It helped me to make unnatural sounds and writhe my body in weird ways. I’m not kidding. It also helped to take a shower. And it also helped to get an epidural 😉
Not everyone’s water breaks.
Mine didn’t. I had to have it broken. So don’t count on your water breaking being the main sign that labor is imminent. I think tracking your contractions are your best bet for knowing what’s happening in your cervix. The closer they are together and the more intense they are is a great clue that baby is on the way.
Crowning. It sounds like a lovely word, but it also brings pain. But it’s good pain because it means you’re almost done giving birth.
Crowning is when the head is passing through the vaginal opening and about ready to make its appearance in the world. I remember thinking, when Ezra was crowning, “OMG..” over and over again. You would think crowning would go quickly, right? Wrong. You don’t want to crown quickly. Here’s why: your baby’s head could be measuring anywhere from 12-14 inches at birth. That means you have to stretch to that circumference. You read that right. If you stretch too quickly, you’re looking at a few bad tears. But if you gradually crown, there will be less damage.
You really only have one option during crowning: take it a little at a time, breathe through it, and realize that you’ve reached the end of the tunnel and you’re just about through with this birthing business.
Nurse: “Oh she looks so peaceful. She must have not read this blog entry before coming to the hospital!”
Pushing while giving birth is the equivalent of pushing while going to the bathroom. And I mean number 2.
When you push during birth, you’re supposed to pretend like you’re pushing as if you’re pooping. I am not kidding.
No one told me this until I had a meeting with my doula about a week before I gave birth (which, at the time, I didn’t realize was a week before I was going to give birth). I’m so glad she told me because it made pushing that much easier. People talk all the time about pushing but having never pushed anything out of my vagina before…I wasn’t exactly sure how to maneuver that one.
So, when you’re on the table, push like you’re pooping. Don’t be afraid of pooping. It probably won’t happen. Also, when people say “bear down” they mean scrunch up real tight, tuck your chin to your chest, take a deep breath and hold it, then push. It’s a lot easier if people just say that instead of “bear down” because I had no idea what that meant. So now you know.
You are going to have to wear a giant-ass pad.
Okay, so I already knew this was going to happen… I just didn’t know the full story. As in, why a pad of that size is necessary. No one talks about that part.
There’s a reason you are given about 9 or 10 giant pads and a pair or two of mesh underwear when you leave the hospital, and it isn’t just so you’ll feel like a baby while taking care of your new baby.
I found an image of the pads… but it’s been sexified. Well as much as you can do that to an image of a giant pad and mesh underwear. Because seriously, whose stomach looks that great after giving birth? No one’s. If you’re like me, you’ll have muffin top hanging out over that mesh underwear. It’s really attractive, let me tell ya.
You’ll have to wear this pad for about a week. After that, you get to downsize to a slightly-less-larger-but-still-huge-compared-to-what-you’d-normally-wear-pad (enough hyphens for ya????). And you’ll wear that until the bleeding is manageable and can be contained in an average pad. If you aren’t a normal pad-wearer when it comes to periods, tough luck. No tampons allowed for risk of infection.
You are going to bleed. A lot.
And it’s going to come and go as it pleases. It definitely eases up over time, but it could hang on for two weeks, five weeks, three weeks… it’s really just up to your body, as it heals. One thing you can count on, though, is that it should get less and less heavy as time goes on. See? There is some good news after all!
All I have to say is that you should have a package or two of jumbo/nighttime pads on hand. You aren’t going to feel like running out to the store to get those after having just given birth on top of dealing with everything else.
You will have to irrigate yourself. Yes, irrigate. As in squirting water. On your privates. Yes. It’s true.
But you know what? You aren’t going to hate it! Because the thought of using toilet paper to wipe yourself sounds like pure torture.
Pooping post-partum is not as scary as everyone makes it sound
It just isn’t. Your stitches aren’t going to rip out. You aren’t going to bleed like crazy (unless you are one of the lucky ones who got a hemorrhoid or two!).
Ask the nurses to start you on colace or some other softener while you’re still in the hospital, and continue taking it when you get home. Keeping up with some kind of softener, a fiber supplement (such as benefiber… or just downing a bowl of raisin bran plus a banana each day) and adequate water intake will help get you regular again no problem.
Fearing going to the bathroom is, I think, what makes it so bad. So just don’t fear it. Welcome it. Get it over with. Then do a celebratory dance that one more thing is finally back to normal.
While we’re talking about things down there, I’ll also mention: hemorrhoids can happen and they suck.
I’ll just say it: I got a hemorrhoid from pushing. It’s probably because I pushed for 45 minutes and was in a big, fat hurry to get my baby out. I’ll also say this: taking care of myself plus slathering on the Preparation H really took care of the hemorrhoid in no time. If you are really suffering, you can call your doctor for a prescription.
Do not be alarmed, though, if you have a periodic reappearance of hemorrhoids. Once you’ve had them, they’re more likely to come back. It doesn’t seem fair, I know, but then again life isn’t fair now is it?
Now wasn’t that a piece of cake?!?!
Okay, here’s where it gets really awkward but… if you didn’t know, your vagina is basically a bunch of skin. And skin can get stretched out. Really stretched out. And your vagina will probably get stretched out. I’m sorry, it happens.
But it isn’t forever!! It will snap right back in a day or two. In fact, as soon as birth is over it starts working on recovering. So no need to worry if you find yourself going to the bathroom for the first time post-childbirth and you feel something between your legs that you’ve never felt before. It will go away and everything will be back to normal soon.
You will not be able to control your flow of pee. It’s just a fact. But thank God you’re wearing those huge-ass pads, right??
I remember walking to the bathroom while still in the hospital, having to pee, but peeing myself while I was walking. Humiliating? Yes. Did anyone know it was happening? No. Because I was wearing a huge pad. Those pads come in handy.
And your ability to control your flow of pee will come back. I promise. It just takes time. You can help yourself out in the meantime by doing kegels. That will bring it back quicker.
People will touch you ALL THE TIME. They will poke you. They will press on you.
Nurses will press on your stomach a lot during your stay, because they need to verify that your cervix is shrinking and returning to where it belongs. It might be kind of painful when they press on you. But they have to do it. Trust me, you want to know if your cervix is shrinking.
I’m not sure if they will do this if you have had a c-section. I can’t imagine that would feel very good. But I’m sure they will do some kind of check if you have a c-section. If you’ve had a c-section, maybe you can weigh in on this in the comments?
For now, that’s all I can think of. I am very sorry if I’ve traumatized you, but this is stuff I would have liked to have known before giving birth. Not that there’s anything I could have done about any of it… but it is nice to be prepared, you know?