After L was born I realized I was totally unprepared for the immediate post-partum period. Our midwives said I should plan on spending at least 3 days in bed and I somehow imagined I would be totally fine immediately after that. J and I made reservations to stay at a hotel for four nights so I wouldn't have to go back to the boat immediately. I had my maternity leave worked out. I had a nursing pillow and some breast pads. We had all the baby stuff we needed. I figured I was set.
Like I said, I was totally unprepared.
It turned out that I wasn't able to do stairs for several weeks. Since we were living on a sailboat at the time, this meant we had to drive several hours to my parents house after our hotel stay and we weren't really "home" for about three weeks. In preparing for the post-partum period this time around, I've started by revisiting how things went last time. Just so we're all on the same page, this is what I wrote about those first few weeks at the time:
The first twenty-four hours passed in a daze. We got up every four hours
and J. would help me hobble to the restroom and afterward he would
help me sit down to nurse L. Then he would help me back to bed and
he would burp and change L. We would check her vitals and mine. I
was more alert in the morning but still felt like my body was falling
apart. More specifically, I felt like all my insides were falling out. I
was still lightheaded and short of breath upon standing up.
morning we moved to our hotel. It was a great set-up with a little
kitchen and bathroom. I got straight in bed and we picked up where we
left off at the birth center, checking vitals, trying to keep my blood
pressure from jumping around, nursing, napping, hobbling to the
restroom, J. burping and changing diapers and cooking dinner, trying
to get me to eat something, and preparing my herbal sitz baths.
I felt a
little more alive each day. I was also more sore. As all the endorphins
from the birth wore off I was more and more aware of how my body was
actually feeling. We had our first "home" visit from one of our midwives
Wednesday night and she answered all our questions and quelled all our
little anxieties. I was struggling with nursing and she had helpful
suggestions. She also said it was okay to take something for my
discomfort. I hadn't taken anything during labor, birth, or since. It
hadn't occurred to me.
Thursday I gave in and took some Tylenol.
The relief was dramatic. In typical fashion, I overdid it as soon as the
pills kicked in, although I didn't know it at the time. J's mother
and her husband arrived on Friday and I was all ready to entertain
(sitting up in bed--I still couldn't get up and about except to get to
the restroom). We saw the midwives again Friday afternoon. L was
doing great, she'd lost only 4 oz since birth. I was still struggling
with nursing pain. My nipples were cracked and the engorgement was
becoming more and more apparent.
morning I felt horrible. I was so engorged that none of my tops fit. My
nipples were cracked and scabbing. Every time L nursed she sucked
the scabs off my nipples and they would bleed. I was aching all over
from having done to much sitting up and walking around the hotel room on
Thursday and Friday and I was tired from waking up so frequently during
the night. Neither J or I were really napping during the day.
J went to the store and bought me several extra, extra large
nursing tank tops so that I had something to wear with a little support.
They were amazing although my nipples still hurt when in contact with
anything, including the soft cotton. I was leaking milk everywhere.
had planned to take newborn photos with L Saturday afternoon but
there was no way I could go. Aside from the fact that I couldn't move,
L was really jaundice. We cancelled our appointment and I
cried--mainly because I was feeling emotional and frustrated by my lack
of ability to function and also because I'd wanted to take the photos
while L was still so tiny. Since we were going to my parent's
house it would be several more weeks at least before we could do the
pictures. I ended up taking a much needed nap.
and I had a long talk when I woke up. I hurt. I was depressed. I felt
helpless. I felt like I was only holding L when it was time to
nurse--when we were both frustrated (me more than her) and I was in
pain. That first week I remember thinking it was more painful than being
in labor when she latched on. J understood that I needed to have
more positive, quality time with L and helped me hold and cuddle
with her in between feeding times. Every now and then we would have a
blissfully peaceful moment with L and my whole world was surreal. I
would forget about everything else.
But more often I hated
feeling like I couldn't meet her needs. I couldn't turn over or sit up
quickly in bed if she needed something. I couldn't change her diaper. I
couldn't walk around with her in the Moby. I couldn't even burp her
because it hurt to hold her again my chest. But, J understood this
and helped me feel I was a more active participant even though I felt
paralyzed. This made all the difference in my emotional health.
when we drove to my parent's house. It was the longest drive ever. I
felt saddle sore. Completely bruised and tender, aware of every bump and
turn. L slept the whole way. We got to the house and and I went to
bed immediately after feeding L. Sleeping in my parent's gigantic, soft,
cozy bed felt like heaven.
Monday morning I was feeling a little
better. My body wasn't as sore (not including my engorged breasts that,
by this time, had a life of their own--more about the boobs in a
separate post). I was feeling less sore overall but I had a new
discomfort--shooting pains in my abdomen. I figured I just hadn't been
eating enough. I'd been taking laxatives because of my stitches, not to
mention the caster oil earlier in the week, and I thought that had to be
the culprit. I quit the laxatives (the directions say to stop if you
have any sharp pains) and tried to eat well all day Monday but it didn't
help. I felt like I had knives inside me when I moved.
morning I passed a huge blood clot. The midwives said to call if I
passed anything larger than a golf ball, so I did. (Just in case you're
wondering, the clot was the size of a large kiwi fruit and large enough
to freak me out). Our midwives suggested I have an ultrasound to make
sure everything was okay (they wanted to make sure I didn't have any retained placenta). We went to the hospital near my parent's
house. It was weird being in a hospital. I hadn't stepped foot in one
the entire pregnancy (okay, that's not entirely true. Our infant CPR
class was at a hospital but it was in the cafeteria so it didn't really
feel like a hospital).
The abdominal ultrasound was okay and not
terribly uncomfortable. I thought we were done but the technician turned
to me and said they were also going to do a vaginal ultrasound. I honestly didn't know such a thing existed. She
said, "this shouldn't hurt at all but let me know if you feel your
stitches ripping." I was like, "are you kidding me? Why don't you just not rip out my stitches?!!?"
she didn't (so far as I could tell) and I was glad when it was over. Everything was fine. I
wasn't bleeding anywhere I shouldn't have been bleeding. I had one more good size
clot to pass but nothing concerning. The midwives suggested I do a
caster oil plaster on my belly to help my uterus contract and pass the
clot. I did and it worked (in the process I discovered that caster oil
gives me a super intense gag reflex. Ugh.).
But I was still
having abdominal pain. Wednesday I talked to our midwives again (I was
starting to feel like that annoying customer who never lets up). I told
her I was concerned that the caster oil and laxatives had flushed all
the good bacteria out of my insides. That was my "gut" instinct. Haha.
Sorry, I couldn't resist. Seriously, I really felt like my problems were
digestive. She agreed and suggested I take a probiotic.
are little miracles in a pill form. It helped almost immediately. The
change was dramatic. I felt light years better and could move much more
easily. By the end of the week (L's second week) I was able to take a
shower by myself! I no longer had dizzy spells, my blood pressure
really leveled out, and I started to feel more human. I still have to
spend a lot of time sitting and lying down (I get sore if I'm up too
much), but I no longer feel like there are knives on my insides. I am at
a point where I can truly enjoy my time with L and J and our
friends and family.
Looking back on what I wrote almost three years ago I have mixed feelings. I can tell how I positive I was trying to make everything sound even though I was still really struggling at the time (I was trying to update my family and not freak them out). I also know I did too much too soon. I should have spent more time laying down and less time trying to sit up. I was much too focused on becoming completely independent too soon. I didn't want anyone to have to take care of me or my baby.
I'm starting to compile a list of things I'd like to do differently this time, regardless of how the birth goes.
But that will be the Part 2 post...
How was your post-partum recovery period? Would you do anything differently if you did it over again?
This post is part of Tuesday Baby Link-up at Growing Slower.