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Postpartum recovery used to be the best-kept pregnancy secret. So many of my friends have told me that they had no idea what to expect and were extremely surprised. Now, I rarely scroll through Pinterest without seeing a post about what to expect from postpartum recovery. While it is a good thing that the secret is no more, it has also had the unintended effect of terrifying new moms. I read a lot of these posts and watched a lot of YouTube videos about postpartum recovery during my first pregnancy. I was prepared and expected it to be absolutely horrible. It wasn’t.
One of my main goals for Like All Moms Before is to take the fear out of motherhood. Not to paint some idealistic picture that motherhood is all rainbows and unicorns, but to empower mothers to face the challenges of motherhood by keeping the hard parts in perspective. Also, it is important for you soon to be mothers to know that the worst-case scenario isn’t necessarily going to happen to you. When a person has a bad experience they tend to talk about it. I am not saying this is a bad thing. It is just important to remember that for every worst-case scenario you read there are many more cases where everything was just fine, but who wants to read a blog post about something that went just fine? I hope you do because that is what this is going to be.
That’s right. It wasn’t completely horrible. Some parts were beyond unpleasant, but for the most part, recovery went pretty smoothly. It was not nearly as bad as I expected it to be based on my research.
Ready for some TMI? That’s what you’re here for, right? If not, skip on down to the must-haves section.
If you’ve read my Birth Story, you know that I had some things working in my favor and some things working against me.
My baby was only 5.5lbs. That means I didn’t have to push out a big baby. However, I did go from “I can’t even feel your cervix” to holding my son in less than 2 hours. That didn’t give my body much time to stretch. Things happened so fast that as I was pushing, the preemie team was scrambling to get in place in time to be ready to support my son if needed. The whole room was chaos while I was pushing. Thankfully, he was just fine. I ended up having two minor tears that each required a couple of stitches.
I know what you’re thinking. Of course, postpartum recovery was easy for her with that tiny baby! You may be right. However, I have two very close friends who had very similar postpartum recoveries to me who each had a baby over 9.5 lbs. You read that right. Vaginal deliveries of babies over 9.5 lbs. These women are rock stars! They each had minor tearing, a few stitches, and a mild postpartum recovery.
Immediately Following Birth
After giving birth, the sweet wonderful nurse that made sure my son made it safely into this world, kindly helped me clean up before I was moved from labor and delivery to the maternity suite. After that, I was on my own. I am sure I could have asked for help, but my husband was the MVP.
The first time I tried to go to the bathroom alone I knew theoretically what I needed to do from reading a bunch of blog posts about it, but knowing what to do and being able to juggle it all was another matter. I should have just asked the nurse to help me the first time, but I didn’t. I carried all of my supplies into the bathroom, tried to figure out where to put everything, made a royal mess, and eventually asked my husband to help me because it was too much to figure out on my own. He lovingly helped me the first couple of times, but it didn’t take long to have the process down. The hardest part was remembering to fill the peri bottle before going to the bathroom. I didn’t end up needing the peri bottle by the time I got home 3 days later.
I am sure you have already read plenty on the topic, but essentially you fill the peri bottle (plastic bottle with a spout cap) with warm water and you squeeze the bottle to slowly run the warm water over your lady parts as you urinate. Urine will burn otherwise.
Other than that, you will need to change your hospital provided pad that is huge and bulky. I feel like I had more to juggle than that first time, but I can’t remember.
The critical piece is that there is a learning curve. Expect it. You will figure out what works for you. Ask for help if you need it.
*Pro Tip* While in the hospital, remember the nurses deal with this every day and they can help you. If you are in pain, tell your nurse. She will most likely have a solution for you. The first day or so they brought me ice packs and made sure I took Advil regularly. If you, like me, walk into the bathroom and are fumbling around and leaving a trail of blood behind you (yes, really), ask your nurse for help. I promise you your nurse will be more than happy to help you get the hang of it.
The worst part of the postpartum period for me was getting my digestive system back on track. I was already having problems before I was induced and it took a while for things to start moving again and when they finally did I would have gladly given birth again instead. That is why one of my Top 5 Labor Tips is to keep your digestion moving leading up to your due date. Literally. There are only 5 and this made the list. That’s how bad it was for me. The good news is you know better now and don’t have to go through it too. You’re welcome.
Other than that, the recovery period was pretty mild.
However, even I have a few recommendations for getting through it.
4 Postpartum Recovery Must-Haves
I liked that the ingredients in this spray better than Dermaplast. It worked well and I plan to use it again with Baby #2. It was great to spray on after visits to the bathroom or any time I was feeling discomfort. It felt like it was actually doing something as opposed to just providing temporary relief.
Out of everything, I used this spray the longest during my postpartum recovery. It was easy to keep by the toilet and spray on each time I used it. I didn’t have to remember to get anything on the way and it didn’t take any time at all to apply when I was in a hurry. Also, I still have over half the bottle left and that should be plenty for Baby #2.
*Pro Tip* During my stay in the hospital, I kept this spray in the mini-fridge in my room. This added an extra soothing quality those first couple days.
2. Freezer Pads
I did make padcicles, but I didn’t use them all. After the first couple of days, it wasn’t worth the trouble of remembering to grab on on the way to the bathroom. There are so many recipes on Pinterest that you should have no trouble finding one. I mixed a few different ones and landed on overnight pads*, aloe*, witch hazel*, coconut oil*, and lavender essential oil* (because I had it on hand).
I folded the pads back up after applying the ingredients and put them back in their wrappers, then I put them all in a tissue box with the top cut out in the freezer. I think I made them when I was around 34 weeks. It is an easy project to get out of the way ahead of time. They did come in handy those first couple days when the discomfort was at its peak, but 6-10 were plenty for me.
3. A Pillow
We have really hard chairs at our breakfast table. I can’t sit in them for very long on a good day. So, I just kept a regular bed pillow in my chair for a while. This did the trick. A simple, but effective solution.
The number one must-have for postpartum recovery is help. I know everyone says this, but it really is true. My preference is close family. Those people that you don’t mind asking and that you know are happy to help. My sister was here for the birth and stayed to help me for the first week after my son was born. My mom was in and out too. My sister left and we had two days on our own before my mother-in-law arrived and stayed for another week.
My son is her 9th grandchild and I have 3 sisters-in-law. My mother-in-law has this postpartum period down to a fine science. She took wonderful care of us all and allowed me to focus on my son and figuring out how to be a mom. She cooked and cleaned, refilled my water cup and brought me snacks, and she didn’t get upset when I monopolized the baby. All I had to do was bond with my baby and recover. It was a wonderful time having all my favorite women surrounding me during such a sweet time.
I would be remiss if I didn’t also brag on my husband. He was wonderful through it all, except for a couple of middle of the night, not his best self moments that were so funny I couldn’t even get upset with him. It didn’t take long for the slightest whisper of his name to have him awake and jumping to help when I was so tired I wasn’t functioning. This was an improvement from the first few nights of having to elbow him repeatedly to get him to wake up. He was the better swaddler. He also encouraged me to trust myself, which was probably the best thing he could have done.
Unexpected Joy in the Postpartum Period
All that brings me to my next point. Show yourself grace and show your husband grace. This is a new experience for both of you and it is going to take some adjustment. I think labor and the postpartum period have the opportunity to bond husbands and wives like nothing else. Don’t miss that opportunity. Be patient with yourself and your husband. Enjoy watching him grow into his role as a father. It really is a beautiful transformation. As is your transition into motherhood on this side of the womb. Together you can figure it out.
Lean on each other and trust you’re each doing your best.
Look for things your husband is doing well and praise him for them. He needs to hear he is doing a good job as much as you do.
This leads us to more TMI…
This sweet time of bonding makes the wait to “reconnect” extra difficult. We may not have waited the 6 weeks you see recommended most often. I don’t remember that being part of my discharge instructions though. We did wait until the bleeding completely stopped. It was just shy of 4 weeks. It may be worth asking when they go over discharge instructions. We went with the ignorance is bliss method.
There was a little bit of discomfort where my stitches had been, but for the most part, everything was just fine. I was really worried about this part of recovery, but it didn’t take long before things were, I was going to say back to normal, but it was (is) actually better than before pregnancy. I didn’t expect that to be the case and it was a pleasant surprise.
Sex after having a baby is another thing that tends to spark fear. Unnecessary fear. While some women may have issues after birth, the majority are just fine. Like I said, for me, it made it better. If you do end up having a problem, talk to your doctor. There are solutions.
A couple more nice-to-have items…
– Amazon Basics Underwear in Black* so you don’t ruin your favorite undies. I am still wearing these over a year later. They have seen better days, but have served me well. I will likely buy another set for postpartum recovery with Baby #2.
– Overnight pads, regular pads, and panty liners to be ready for whatever flow the day holds.
Notice I don’t have a special peri bottle on my list. The one they gave me at the hospital was just fine.
In summary, the postpartum period is without a doubt a unique time. There are some challenges, but along with those challenges come opportunities. Don’t miss the opportunity to bond with your husband during this time. Remember, it isn’t necessarily going to be absolutely miserable. It could just be uncomfortable and a little annoying. Fear is your biggest enemy. Your body was uniquely made to stretch to accommodate a baby. Read my Labor Tips for more encouragement.
You’ve got this mama. I promise every time you look at your new bundle of joy you will see that it is worth every bit of it. Hard things usually end up being the best things.
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