Warning: If you’re easily grossed out, avoid this post. And, though I go into detail about some of the happenings of labor, I want to emphasize that it was the greatest thing that ever happened to me and I feel so blessed to have had this experience. I think if a woman can, then go for it. I promise, there is nothing as incredible as what happens when you deliver that child and hold him in your arms. Check out my previous post entitled The Great Battle of Labor to read more about that.
There are some things that aren’t said to a woman that will happen in the process of giving birth and I wish I would have known some of this stuff. Or maybe it was good that I didn’t…!
- There will be a lot of blood. Obviously, there is blood when you’re giving birth, but I’m talking about the blood afterward. It’s like a super heavy period that lasts for weeks.
- There will be swelling. Lots of swelling. In your nether regions.
- Sometimes there is tearing when that big beautiful baby’s head comes out of your vagina.
- There may be stitches. And, when the stitches are put in, you have to be numbed. When I was numbed, the midwife put a needle directly into my clitoris, which was utterly mean. It may have been the most painful part of the whole birthing process.
- Sometimes, a woman can’t walk afterward. Yep, I was one of those people who couldn’t walk for two weeks.
- Your nipples will become sore and yes, they can even bleed as you are getting used to breastfeeding. Thank God for Lanolin, which is a natural way to soothe them and help you survive the first week of breastfeeding. It’s this waxy substance that comes from sheep. To get it, they squeeze it out of the sheep’s wool and bottle it, so that women can deal with tenderness. Oh, and, don’t forget about cabbage leaves, which literally steam on your engorged breasts, as your milk production comes in. I would put them in the freezer or in the coldest part of my fridge and within seconds, they were cooking on me.
There are a few things you absolutely need at home in order to survive the aftermath.
The pads are necessary. You need extra thick pads and even with extra thick ones, you will be changing them constantly. Peeing will be awesome (if you can’t sense it, I’m being sarcastic) and cause a burning sensation. The underwear is something that your hospital will probably give you. They are special stretchy net underwear that accommodate your swollen vulva and the pads that you are shoving in.
Witch Hazel will go right on top of the pads and will relieve pain like you wouldn’t believe. The cool effect only lasts a few minutes, but it’s worth every second of relief.
The dermoplast spray numbs you a bit. I found that it wasn’t as effective as the witch hazel, but I was willing to try anything that even gave me the tiniest relief.
The Sitz Bath is one of the greatest inventions for post partum. When those humongous blood clots are coming out of you, this helps the process along and makes you feel a little cleaner. I would use herbal tea with the water and it helped me a lot. There were times when I literally was shaking with pain and this helped further my healing process.
Not photographed here are newborn diapers. This I learned in the hospital. You cut the diaper and fill it with ice, insert it just like a pad. Oh, GLORY. Let’s leave it at that. And, finally, the spray bottle. I learned this lesson the hard way. I tried to wipe after I peed for the first time after birth. The pain was so excruciating, along with weakness, blood loss and the pain of the IV, that I feinted in the bathroom. Luckily, a wonderful CNA, named Nicola, grabbed me before I fell to the ground. The next thing I remember was waking up a hot, sweaty mess in a chair near the bathroom and cold compresses being applied to various parts of my body. This spray bottle became my best friend for four weeks post partum.
I’m writing this and thinking back to a woman I saw giving birth in the Congo who most definitely did not have any of this stuff. I am fairly sure of this, since she was giving birth on dirt. I can’t imagine not having a ton of disposable pads and a shower and indoor toilet through this process. It is times like this that I am grateful that there are little things like this to make life a little easier. Giving birth is a difficult process, but something I do not regret, even for a minute.
Addendum: I want to add that it definitely was a shock to experience the aftermath and I was wondering how/if/when things would actually heal; however, the entire time I felt this immense, euphoric love that I didn’t realize could exist. And all those myths about your body changing for the worst and things not being the same in the nether regions are just that-myths. I went to my 6 week postpartum visit and my doctor said I looked like I had never had a baby. I am 10 weeks postpartum now and am almost feeling completely healed and after all of this, I have the most amazing child to love. So result: two thumbs up!