As bad as labor and delivery hurt, I felt prepared for the pain. I had spent months teaching myself how to cope with it with various techniques. I was mentally prepared for what was going to happen to my body leading up to Kendall’s grand exit. And it was pain with a purpose and a wonderful reward. However, I foolishly neglected to prepare myself for the pain of postpartum recovery. It’s not anything I heard anyone really explain in detail prior to having him.
Yes, I knew there would probably be tearing. Yes, I knew I would be sore, but I didn’t KNOW to what extent. I just figured that everything would pale in comparison to the pain of L&D and that I would be up and bouncy and fine in no time. Imagine my surprise when immediately after delivering Kendall I find myself freaking out as I see the world’s largest needle headed straight toward my already battered and bruised vagina to numb me up for the stitches! It was like I went from being the “I just kicked med-free birth in the ass because I’m rock star bad ass” to a “You’re going to stick that where? No! I’m such a wuss!” In a matter of minutes.
So I type this, the *rest* of the story, NOT to scare you (which I’m afraid is what I did with my birth story for so many of you) but to INFORM you. I think it’s important to know what you’re getting into. I also think it’s important to blog this as it’s fresh in my mind so that when I start to suffer from mom-nesia, I can look back and read carefully before deciding to put myself through this again (not that it hasn’t been worth it the first time around). Please keep in mind that I by no means am saying you are going to have the same experience. I don’t know what my pain tolerance is in comparison to yours, and I DID have a big baby. I’m sure that has something to do with it.
Okay, so let’s revisit that needle thing. I had just handed Kendall off to go get weighed, measured, etc. when I look down to discover my midwife coming at me with what looks like a needle big enough to euthanize a cow. Typically, I’m not afraid of needles, but let’s just say I was a little jumpy about ANYTHING touching me down there, especially a needle of that enormity.
I have no idea to what degree I tore or how many stitches I needed. I mean, really…why do I need to know that? All I know is it took them a good thirty minutes to put things back in place, and while I couldn’t feel the needle pierce me, I could feel the sensation of the thread/string/whatever it is they use to stitch you up being pulled through….ick…I totally shudder just thinking about it.
As gross as that was, what scared me the most was hearing my midwife say to the nurse, “Yeah…we’ll have to take our time with the right labia”. O….M….G. She must have done a good job, though, because every nurse who came in as I laid there spread eagle commented on how good things looked down there. I also got several compliments from the recovery team. I’m so glad everyone got so up close and personal with me.
Then there was the second big ass needle that came at me in the middle of being stitched up. This one was for the Pitocin. I guess my uterus wasn’t contracting enough on it’s own and I was starting to loose a lot of blood. They tried the uterus “massage” a few times, which is such a misleading term. Massage would, to me, imply something gentle, soothing even. Not this one. This should be more appropriately termed the uterus “smack down”. Two nurses took turns kneading my lower abdomen like a lump of bread dough. There was nothing gentle about it. When that didn’t produce the results they were looking for, I got jabbed in the thigh with the Pitocin. I have to give my husband some more credit here because as all this was going on, he left Kendall (only feet away) to come and hold my hand. We both had him in clear sight, and in fact he was what I looked at to keep my focus off the pain, but it helped tremendously to have Scott there to inflict just a little of my misery on via hand squeeze.
About an hour after birth, the room started to clear out. I was informed it was now time for me to get up and head to the bathroom. This was a terrifying challenge. My fabulous nurse Karen assisted me into the room with the magic tub that had once brought me such comfort. She sits me on the toilet and asks if I have to pee. Uhmmm…no. Nothing is coming out of me down there for a long time. She then informs me I have 6 hours to make myself urinate or I will have to get a catheter and says, “You girls who go without any meds…I don’t want to be the one to put a catheter in ya… it’s not pretty. So you gotta drink lots of fluids, okay?” Okay. Will do. And I drink probably two bottles of Gatorade in the next six hours, along with a bottle of water.
Then nurse Karen pulls out a giant bag full of all sorts of lovely medical supplies. She begins to make a super pad concoction for me. I don’t know if it’s because I haven’t eaten in 9 hours, or the $5 Subway Footlong jingle that’s stuck in my head, but I can’t help but think how much this pad and all it’s “fixins” resembles a sub sandwich. It’s a footlong pad, topped with a cold pack, lined with round witch hazel “pepperoni” pads, and “dressed” with a good coating of Dermaplast. I will forever think of them now as Heiney Hoagies, and I will think of them fondly. The combo of the cold pack mixed with the witch hazel pads is heavenly, despite the fact that you are waddling around with a footlong sub stuffed between your legs.
At this time I was also introduced to the wonderful Peri Bottle. It’s merely a squeeze bottle that you fill with warm water, but it will become your best friend. Not only does it help clean you up down there without having to subject yourself to harsh and scratchy TP, but that warm stream also provides a lot of relief, especially when you pee on your stitches (ouch!).
Now, I must interject a PSA at this point because, as I type this, I am dealing with the fallout from too much Peri Bottle and not enough TP. Here’s the thing – as much as you don’t want ANYTHING touching you down there for a long time, please suck it up and make sure you pat yourself dry every time before slipping on your lovely Heiney Hoagie. I have spent the last two weeks in pads and made the mistake of rarely using TP to pat things dry. I just washed off with the bottle and pulled up my mesh panties (another fabulous medical invention). I now sit here with what can only be called an adult diaper rash. It’s terribly itchy and the only thing I can do is air myself out, spray Dermaplast all over it, and smear Kendall’s diaper rash cream on. Yes, I know that if I would have given it just a little bit of thought it would seem common sense that sitting in a moist pad for two weeks would lead to this, but I’m telling you you aren’t thinking that far in advance when all you can focus on is how bad the stitches hurt.
So that leads me to the stitches…. ow, ow, owie, ow, OUCH! First lesson to pound into your mind – do NOT try to cross your legs! I made this mistake when we were taking our family pic together before leaving the hospital. It was second nature to me to sit that way, and as soon as I did I regretted it.
Second lesson – do NOT look down! The day after delivery I dropped my Dermaplast on the bathroom floor while making a Heiney Hoagie and happened to catch a glimpse of the carnage on the way back up. It was merely a glimpse and I was terrified of what I saw. I vowed to not look that way again until I was sure things were healed. I won’t even let myself look that direction in the mirror when I walk past to get in the shower.
Third – take a pillow everywhere with you for at least the first week and avoid hard chairs. I couldn’t even eat at the dining room table without sitting on a pillow and a large folded up comforter. Overcoming the pain from the stitches was the part of the healing that surprised me the most.
At two weeks postpartum, I would say I feel about 90% healed. This time last week, I thought I’d feel, as my husband so kindly put it, like someone beat me with a baseball bat down there forever. In addition to that, my tailbone is STILL healing from what felt like being crushed as I pushed Kendall out. I spend most of my time sitting shifting back and forth from one butt cheek to the other so I can avoid direct pressure on it. It DOES get better. I keep telling myself that.
Finally, the pain that was the worst (and I mean worse than labor and delivery itself) was the catheter I ended up getting at 6:30 am the day I delivered. After Karen made me promise to drink lots of liquids, I hydrated myself constantly, convinced that I would have no problem peeing in the 6 hour time frame. Well, by the time 6 am rolled around, I had to pee sooooooo freaking bad, and yet was so scared to do it at the same time, that I had to have Scott come with me to the bathroom to hold my hand.
We both sat there, door wide open, nurse coming in and out, as I tried and tried to pee (as you can see, modesty is completely out the window at this point…forget any mystery that is left between you and your husband…it is gone forever). The nurse tried everything from spraying me with warm water, to turning the water faucet on, to dropping an ammonia tablet in the toilet (I have no idea how that is supposed to help). Nothing worked, and yet I felt like I was going to pop.
I reluctantly agreed to the catheter. It. was. TERRIBLE. Scott was there again to hold my hand (his must have been terribly bruised by this point). I had two nurses try unsuccessfully to get it in before angel nurse Karen finally came to the rescue. Remember the “right labia” comment? Yeah…those stitches were dangerously close to my urethra. That made the whole thing 100x worse. The ordeal lasted about 30 minutes and I sobbed through the whole thing. I think Scott thought I was dying. Seeing me in pain in labor and delivery never bothered him because we both knew how to handle it…we were prepared and knew it would be over soon. However, seeing me like this was a whole other ball game, and I could tell it was killing him. When they finally got the catheter in they managed to drain a LITER of fluids from me. Looks like I did a good job re-hydrating myself!
So, are you scared out of your mind yet? I’m sorry. Let me just say this. Even after writing and re-living all of this, I would do it all over again 100,000 times the same exact way if if meant having the same outcome. Kendall is amazing. I love him more than I ever thought possible. He was/is worth all the pain. Because here’s the thing about having a baby…. no matter how you go about it, it’s never going to be pain free. Epi or not, c-section or vaginal… it’s going to hurt, but you usually come to terms with that by the end of 9 months, and you don’t care. You do it for the reward. And as whiny as this post may have come across, I didn’t write it merely to complain. I wrote it to show you how much you can go through and still come out saying, “Man…that was really hard, but it was worth it”.
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