I’m delighted to say that my last post was met with great debate and discussion with some people agreeing, some disagreeing and some just laughing at the new state of my bits and pieces – thanks for that girls! Regardless, I am gratefully inspired to bring you my second instalment, this time on the period immediately after birth (pun intended).
As I hinted at in my previous post, I never thought childbirth would be a walk in the park. My dream was that my baby would nudge her way out, Husband and I would ooh and aah then a few hours later we would glide through the hospital corridors with one perfectly behaved toddler and one dreamy little baby in the car seat. Just like in a shit TV advert for an ISA. Obviously I knew this was beyond unrealistic but still I hoped for some of the serenity and floatiness. The reality was so far removed I couldn’t believe it. The labour I talked about in my previous post; the less said about that dark day the better. Afterwards there was little ooh-ing or aaah-ing; I was exhausted from 3 days of contractions with almost no sleep and I had to wait 7 hours post delivery before I went to theatre to be sewn back together – I was imagining Frankenstein’s neck. I couldn’t walk, never mind glide, and I couldn’t pick up the car seat for about two weeks without feeling nauseous from the effort. Instead I shuffled along the corridor quietly yelping like a beaten puppy, terrified that red patches might appear on my trousers and nervous that I might follow through on a fart and bust my stitches in the process. Girly no1 picked this day to become the toddler from hell turning into jelly and sliding to the floor every time I went anywhere near her. Whilst it was an obvious reaction to Girly no2’s arrival, it still only took this happening twice for me to dissolve into a puddle of salty tears. This was before we even made it out of the lift.
For the next 4 weeks I was constantly aching and bleeding. I felt like I had squatted in front of a line of Irish dancers auditioning for Riverdance. The bleeding was far worse than any period I had ever experienced, it was relentless and led to my wearing Always Night at all hours of the day, changing pads every hour or two. Sensitive skin rubbing on gauzy pads (there is a difference between night pads and maternity pads, choose wisely) combined with my healing stitches left me in a total state, it was unbearable. My bits felt like they were intermittently being rubbed and tickled with various grades of sandpaper, I was hoping around like a toddler with sand in their pants for the first time. I mentioned it to the midwife on one of the first couple of checks. She suggested I go pant-free as much as possible, especially at night. I scoffed at her like a 13-year old girl being told to put her iPhone down. Had she seen how much blood there was? And not to sound like an arsehole but we have white Egyptian cotton bedsheets! (I’m very aware of how this sounds but they’re my pride and joy!). These were later sacrificed for the sake of my sanity – they’re covered in wee, sick and poo anyway, from the babies of course. Day times were hell. For the first time in my life I wanted to walk around half naked. In the evenings I would sit on the sofa on my polo cushion with a towel over it, naked from the waist down with my dressing gown over my knees to stop Husband seeing the now-catastrophe that was my lady parts. (This polo cushion was pricey but totally worth it and I still use it to sit Girly no2 on – JoJo Maman Bebe support pillow, £40.) By the time I’d been home for ten days, I couldn’t bear it any longer. I went to the doctors in tears. I cried in the car, I cried in the waiting room and I was choking on my tears by the time I opened the door to the doctors office. Eventually I managed to explain that the itching and stinging was so bad that I couldn’t focus on my baby, was crying all the time and was beginning to think I might have post natal depression. She nodded sympathetically and asked if she could take a look. Never have I so willingly laid down in front of a stranger legs akimbo and voluntarily accepted a finger up my bum. Her conclusion was that it could have been haemorrhoids, could have been thrush, or it could have been another infection but it was most likely just my body healing and would be likely to go on for a couple of weeks. It actually lasted about six weeks, not fun. I was prescribed a hydrocortisone, which helped massively. I returned home to Husband and the girls crying slightly less and desperate to re-assume “the position” on the sofa. I felt better now I was doing something to help the situation. I continued to walk around the house like a crab, wore a wildly unfashionable gypsy skirt for visitors (well, that’s what I should have done) and whenever it was just us, I sat pants free on the sofa on my towel wafting air across my bits with the latest edition of Grazia.
This was my biggest post-labour problem as it was so unexpected. I had (wrongly) assumed that things healed quickly and easily after a natural labour, that was the very reason I opted for this rather than another caesarean – so I would be in a good physical condition for my toddler.
There were a few other post labour problems…
Going to the toilet. I had to take a kit to the toilet with me. Yep. A toilet kit. It contained:
- A squirty water bottle for dilution
- A soft towel for thorough drying
- Witch hazel and cotton wool, a suggested remedy I found online
- A clean maternity pad or ten
- And aqueous cream because the area was so irritated (note to others – don’t put salt in your bath water, it dries things out!)
All of this was just for a wee. For a poo, I had to take all of this and had to do prep in the form of laxatives and a follow up in the form of a shower. Should going to the toilet ever be this difficult?!
Boobs. Ow. Don’t touch me, don’t lean on me, don’t place a supportive hand on my shoulder and if you’re my toddler, definitely don’t roll over onto my boob squashing it under your wriggly, boney little body. They feel like woks and they hurt like someone is giving them a Chinese burn from the inside out. I will cry if you come within touching distance of them.
After birth pains. OWWW! Why, after 9 months of pregnancy, 3 days of contractions and 2 hours of pushing, should anyone be subjected to weeks of agonising contractions?! These make me mad. Especially as they’re were even worse when breast feeding. Why, why, why!
The crying. I’m pretty hormonal anyway and tears are my favourite symptom but I swear I cried for about a month after both of my daughters were born. I could have hired myself out as a professional mourner. The saddest moment was when my toddler started saying “be happy mummy”…it made me cry even more. What a depressing person to be around!
The first poo. Having a third degree tear, in black and white terms, means you tear from front to back, so your bum hole tears. Nice hey?! I can’t describe the fear of those first few poos although it turns out I didn’t need to be scared of those early ones…it was when I ran out of stool softeners I needed to worry! Enough said!
The one area I didn’t suffer, which I know many women do, was a leaking bladder. I like to think that this was in part because I did my pelvic floor exercises every day religiously throughout my pregnancy. At 8am every day, an alarm went off on my phone (smartly named the PF alarm) and we made it a family event. I’m not sure my 2-year old got it but my husband certainly claims that his bladder control is now stronger! The alarm still goes off now and I firmly believe it’s this that means I can hold a wee in for at least 5 seconds.
Similarly to childbirth, I don’t think anyone ever talked openly about all the problems they experienced afterwards. Perhaps people do, and I haven’t been listening. Perhaps I was too was distracted by the dreamy little baby. Or perhaps women just don’t talk about it because, like the experience of childbirth, we don’t want to put everyone off. I don’t know. What I do know is that next time I visit a friend with a new baby, I’ll pay a lot more attention to how the Mum is doing.
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Mrs Hergerburger xx