I was writing to my sister-in-law to describe my postpartum experience. I found it difficult to remember, and even harder to describe. I did manage to pull a few tidbits from the murky recesses of my brain, and figured I’d go ahead and share them with the world. Why not? If you feel comfortable doing the same, please comment and add your experiences. I’m sure the information would be helpful to anyone who is preparing for a birth. Of course there are books and websites that will hint at these things but it always seems that books fall short in their descriptions. (Keep in mind – this is not meant to scare, but to give an idea to expectant moms out there so they can plan and prepare for postpartum.)
I took a nap almost immediately after Jack was born. When I finally took a shower, I wasn’t able to get in by myself. I needed Joe there to help, and to lean on because I was so exhausted and weak. My stomach hadn’t deflated all the way yet, and I couldn’t see below it but I could feel the incredible swelling (in fact, I could not close my legs because of it). He helped get me cleaned up.
The first day or two, it was difficult to go to the bathroom. Aside from the swelling, my muscles were all overworked and there was a generalized feeling of pain and numbness. I couldn’t isolate the muscles I needed. Luckily the hospital provided me with a water bottle and the spray of cold water triggered my body to do what it needed to do, but it took a good 15-20 minutes that first time. It got easier each time.
During labor I walked a lot, wrapping my arms around Joe’s neck to sway and use him as support during contractions. Afterward, my arms hurt and my muscles felt overextended. I had trouble lifting them, and I couldn’t feed myself. I had to have Joe or the nurses bring Jack to me in the bed, and I didn’t change diapers for days because I simply couldn’t lift my arms high enough.
My chest hurt. I told my midwife that I couldn’t breathe but she didn’t hear anything wrong with my lungs. I figured out later that I could actually breathe really well without the baby pushing on my organs, but my lungs were sore from all of the breathing and moaning I had done during labor. I was unused to working my body that hard, so I didn’t recognize the pain.
After leaving the hospital:
When I got home, Jack was attached to me constantly. All of the breastfeeding manuals told me that a typical feeding lasts 30-45 minutes but Jack nursed for hours straight and didn’t want to be put down. I would have handled it better if I knew it was normal. He would only sleep while being held, and later in the swing. If I had someone to show me how to use a sling, I would have done that (I am still not coordinated with a sling).
The hormonal roller coaster was insane! I had never been bothered by crying before, but I was shocked at the power my son’s cry had over me. His cry made me want to cry, or crawl under the bed to hide. My husband tried to make a joke to lighten the mood when I shared my insecurities about my new role as a mother and I started sobbing, to his surprise. While I was crying, I was fully aware that there was that old part of me that wasn’t bothered at all by what he said – it was the hormonal part that took over and made me cry against my will! It’s pretty comical when I think about it.
I didn’t cook or make myself food at all. My lovely mother-in-law did all of that, plus the laundry and dishes. I sat in my rocking chair with Jack while MIL or Joe brought me drinks and food. I was thirsty constantly, so I had an insulated mug of ice water at all times.
I attended a breastfeeding support group when Jack was a week old. I should have done it sooner, probably before Jack was born…but it helped immensely and definitely contributed to my breastfeeding success. I surely would have quit otherwise because I didn’t know it would get better. (The breastfeeding issues I had will be saved for another post.)
There is nothing like labor and birth to make a person feel dependent. I was shocked that I, the most independent person I know, had to rely on others to do the simplest tasks for me. It was strange and unsettling, but I had a new life totally dependent upon me, as well, so I didn’t focus on it too much.
Anyone want to add to this?