The *rest* of the story

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”.

15 days old

50 Things to Do Before You Deliver: The First Time Moms Pregnancy Guide
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  1. I feel dizzy and nauseous after reading that. But also enlightened. Thanks, I think hearing that stuff and knowing what to prepare for will help immensely. Glad you’re feeling a lot better!

  2. This is a great post… you can label it “those things they never tell you, but everyone should know.” I’m going to bookmark it for when I need it!

    And those last few lines made me tear up a bit. So sweet. Can’t wait to see some pictures of the baby… glad you guys are doing so well.

    How’s the niece adjusting?

  3. Hi there… I delivered a 9 lb baby boy (Nate) on May 1…. also med-free (thanks Bradley classes and awesome MW!). I was lucky enough not to need stitches, so I thought i’d just chime in with my experience. Even without stitches, I used the Peri bottle for 8 or 9 days. I wore the mesh panties for 4 or 5 days. It took about 11 days before I started to feel kind of “normal” down there. I still haven’t looked to see what the damage is, and I don’t plan to look if I can avoid it. So, just wanted to let you and your readers know that healing still takes quite awhile even without stitches…. but, like you said, it’s completely worth it! 🙂

  4. I’m a blog lurker, and I love these updates! I had my daughter last May, and I found that a yoga ball was my savior to deal with the post-baby pain ‘down there’. It’s got enough give to be comfortable to sit on, and when you need to stand you can sort of ‘bounce’ yourself up…which was fabulous for that tailbone pain you mentioned. 🙂

  5. I’m also a lurker, I see you around on the Nest. Thanks for writing this! I had a baby 3 short months ago, and it seems I’ve already forgotten all about this. In a funny way it brings back fond memories (not that I miss waddling around with the footlong between my legs), but it reminds me of when my baby was still brand new. Enjoy your time with baby Kendall, it goes so fast!

  6. Lindsey (ClarksMrs) on

    Wow. That. sounds. horrible. I was really excited to read your birth story. This one, not so much. lol.

  7. I found your blog from lurking on the baby sites on the nest and after reading the post-delivery story I have to say I’m a little freaked out, the catheter sounds way worse to me than a med-free delivery for some reason. I’m scared to death of catheters. Also, I loved your birth story and it re-inspired me to try for a med free birth, Thanks!!!!! I love your total and complete honesty about the entire experience.

  8. Hi, I had a 10 pound 1/2 ounce baby boy (Blake) in August also med free, with the exception of the wonderful numbing medicine they used while stitching me up, and I just had to say I know exactly what you mean! I thought that labor would be the worst pain put the post partum pain was way worse! It is all worth it though and I would go through it again in a heart beat. Enjoy your time with baby Kendall because it goes by very fast!

  9. My hubby and I are deep in what we like to call “baby negotiations” right now and your blog brings wonderful, honest humor to the “unknown” for us. 🙂 Please keep the posts (and giggles!) coming! And Congrats on your new little one!

  10. Can I just say that reading this made me feel better? I ended up with a c-section, and I’ve been feeling super sorry for myself and how long it has taken me to feel even somewhat normal. But now I see that it wouldn’t have been too much different with a regular vaginal delivery, just pain in a different area. 🙂

  11. hunter (sept.bride) on

    you’ve got a great way of describing things, makes me feel like i experienced the whole thing with you. and my vagina hurts because of it. 😉

    i’m the kind of person that needs to know these kinds of things (no matter how scary) so i can prepare myself. strangely, at 3 days overdue, i don’t feel prepared enough. thanks for your honesty and for not leaving out any details, i actually feel a little bit more ready for this shindig to start.

  12. BecauseICan on

    Thank you, once again, for giving us moms-to-be a realistic look at what’s going to happen to us. I’d far rather hear the ‘real story’ than hear all of the mushy ‘it was so wonderful’ stuff. I feel like no one’s ever really willing to be brutally honest, for fear that it will make them look weak. On the contrary–reading your story makes me think you’re a hero, and I just pray I can get through it with the same spunk.

  13. Holy moly, what a post!

    I appreciate your honesty and I’m glad you’re here to report on these things since, as you said, many people don’t talk about the post-delivery part. I feel like I’ll be more prepared now, so thanks! And again, great job on the birth, the blog, everything. It’s so fun to read!

    You going to post a pic of your little man for us? 🙂

  14. Hello! Thank you for such an awesome account of what you went through! I understand completely. I just wanted to tell you that my second delivery was a lot easier and my recovery was much quicker then my first. I also delivered babies on the bigger side (9lbs and 8 lbs 13 oz )and I did one without meds and the other with. I thoroughly enjoy your blog and check often for updates. GL on your continuing recovery and congrats on your new baby boy!

  15. Yes … I am scared out of my mind! I’m not even pregnant … but when I am, and I’m reading your blog for laughs, I will always remember to skip this post. Except when I’m feeling like a masocist and saying, “What have I gotten myself into…” Only then will this post help in that reminding me … it’s worth it 🙂
    Thanks for you blog, even when scary, cracks me up!

  16. Ashley, i hate to break it to you, but the epi does nothing for that pain she described. Pick your baby daddy well, ladies, because he will make or break your recovery – especially when you are sitting on the toilet sobbing in pain and fear at the prospect of your first bowel movement.

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  18. So I’ve had both a cesarean and a VBAC of a huge baby, so I can tell you this – either way you go, postpartum is hairy – so you’re not exempt from this when they come out the sunroof.

    Actually, the recovery from my cesarean was MUCH MUCH harder. I never even got to push with my first baby, but somehow I ended up with debilitating hemmoroids that lasted for an entire year. I honestly screamed in pain for a whole year when I had to do “that.”

    So, I tore when pushing out the 10 lb baby, and things did have to get sewn up, and it was hella sore for awhile. But in NO way was it harder than my surgical birth – so I’m afraid that doesn’t get you a free pass. Sorry!

  19. @TheFeministBreeder I won’t dare disagree. As much as recovery sucked hard for me, I can not imagine what a C section would have done. I am so grateful, torn vagina and all, that I was able to deliver vaginally. Kudos to you for your successful VBAC!

  20. I am catching up on all the old entries, being new-ish to the site. I nearly peed my 9month post partum panties on this one! I tried Bradley method but she was STUCK and ended up(after 36 hours of labor, 24 of that unmedicated and then 4.5 hours of pushing) with an emergency c-section. Her head was stuck in the pelvic ring!
    Anywho….. I decided AGAINST the cuban life raft maxi with all its’ leakability and went straight for the Depends. Ahhhh, it was lifesaver on the incision and so nice not to worry about dripping on your way to the bathroom or down the hall. Not to mention it cracked up my straight-laced OB when he saw it – “Uh….. nice underwear.” Glad to make his day.
    Keep up the great work – this is such a true view of new mommyhood…..

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  22. I’m late to the post-partum talk party, but I wanted to chime in. My son is now 1 year old. I had a med-free birth. My recovery was really similar!

    But, I didn’t get stitched correctly and I healed wrong. I had to have surgery later to correct that. Ick!

    Next time, I will use one of those “donut pillows.” You can sit on it without putting direct pressure on your bum.

    If you go med-free, don’t be afraid to ask for pain meds for your recovery!

  23. I was ROFL through this whole post, and cringing right there along with you! I had a very similar experience with my vaginal med-free delivery. But I want to add another word of warning to all the ladies here..if they offer you Demerol just say NO! They said it would ‘take the edge off’ for getting stitched up, but what really happened was it made me loopy and disoriented so I couldn’t talk, which means I couldn’t tell the doctor that ‘hey, I can feel every poke of that needle down there!’ Then afterwards the demerol made my blood pressure drop to some insanely low level and I passed out 3 times. Seriously traumatizing, the whole postpartum thing!

    And 6 weeks to be back to normal!? Hahahahaha, no way. How about 6 months? I couldn’t walk around my house without being sore for about 8 weeks. Actually, to say I ever fully recovered would be a lie because when I got pregnant with #2 a few months ago I still got that horrible postpartum soreness every month with aunt flow’s visit.

    Thanks for writing this, nobody ever told me about the postpartum recovery. Labor and delivery were a breeze compared to the postpartum recovery!

  24. I just read this because you linked it on twittahhh. But I have to say this makes me rethink the whole idea of really pushing to have a VBAMC. Two c-sections and at least I know what sort of hell to expect!

    • Nooo! Don’t let this scare you. I promise I survived. It was worth it 🙂 And from what I’ve heard, I had an unusually hard recovery experience. I think it’s because my labor and delivery was relatively hiccup free.

  25. I’m also late to the party but wanted to chime in and say that I had a similar experience (in many ways) when my son was born in Feb. 2009. I’m not sure if I would have wanted to read this before his birth, or if it would have helped. I learned all about episiotomies in Bradley class and did plenty of reading about how to prevent tears, and I knew that my midwife had a 70% intact perineum rate, so I was pretty sure I wasn’t even going to tear, or at worse, a small first degree tear or “cat scratch” that wouldn’t even need stitches. Ha.

    I’ll spare you the full details of my son’s birth, but suffice it to say, I ended up with a “small” 2nd degree tear — supposedly I only needed 4 stitches and only 1 was into muscle — but I was very swollen “down there,” and it took 30-40 minutes for my midwife to stitch me up. There was a lot of “discussion” going on down there — my midwife WAS demonstrating to her student midwife, but my mom (who’s an L&D nurse) told me that with that amount of swelling, they have to be very precise and make sure they put everything back in the right spot for optimal healing. Fun!

    Fortunately the injection from the numbing medicine wasn’t too bad for me, and I don’t really remember feeling the stitching. I was also catheterized, but that was my choice. I’d been having trouble peeing before my son emerged (due to how low he was) and couldn’t make myself go afterward (my nurse tried all the same tricks except the ammonia tablet), so she offered to catheterize me while I was still numb from the lidocaine for the stitches. So I didn’t feel it, and she emptied 600 or 700 ml of fluid. Again, fun!

    I was also incredibly sore afterward (though I found that super-soft seats were much worse than hard seats) and actually sat at my kitchen table and cried to my mom a few days after the birth, wondering when I would ever feel normal again. I’m not sure she had a lot of sympathy, considering she had a huge “routine” episiotomy with me even though I was a small baby, then ended up with another episiotomy (toward the side, which is way worse for healing, apparently) with my 8lb, 15oz sister. I also made the mistake of looking “down there,” though on purpose, with a hand mirror. As you said, BAD idea. I did feel much better after a couple weeks, but for months afterward I felt like I was stretching or re-tearing in that spot during sex. It hurt so bad we had to stop the first time we tried, 8 weeks after my son’s birth.

    Okay, I’ve rambled enough about my own post-partum woes, but I do have one question: why didn’t the hospital staff encourage you to nurse Kendall right after birth to help your uterus shrink, instead of the brutal (and ineffective) “massage” or the Pitocin shot (which can interfere with bonding)? At first I was assuming that you did nurse right away, before you sent him to be weighed, etc., but then I realized that everything you described happened in the first hour after birth. Baby-friendly birth practices include an hour of uninterrupted bonding/breastfeeding initiation after birth. Stinks that your midwife didn’t encourage that. 🙁

    • Ugh. I so feel your pain on all of that!! Sounds so similar. No fun. I’m really glad it went differently for me this time around.

      I did breastfeed him pretty shortly after having him. I may have just not recalled that or written about it in my birth story or this part. I know it wasn’t an hour before I had him on my breast. I think what happened is I was losing a LOT of blood. I don’t know if I was technically hemorrhaging, but it was pretty bad. The breastfeeding wasn’t cutting it and they had to massage and do pitocin to stop the rapid blood loss. And during all that, I was just so out of it and exhausted I’m pretty sure I handed Kendall off and consented for him to be weighed and checked and all that because it was just too much for me in the moment. I don’t remember anyone taking him from me or keeping me from breastfeeding.

  26. Somehow, I managed not to rip or tear while delivering a 8lb 2oz baby girl with a head circumference off the charts! Ladies, get a midwife who will massage the hell out of your perinium when you’re pushing!!! It may hurt and feel uncomfortable when you’re doing so, but man oh man does it help you not tear! I had “lacerations” but required no stitches!

    And P.S. The heiney hoagie is your best friend. In the world.

    I did experience HORRENDOUS cephasous (or some spelling) cysts after delivery. hurt. so. bad. And I had a laceration “heal too much” which caused a TON of pain for months after delivery until I had it removed.

    So worth it though!

  27. I am so glad you shared this. Even if it wasn’t pretty, because really? These are the things we need to go, going into it. Thank you.

  28. I know you wrote this a number of years ago, but I’m a fairly new reader (catching up on your posts). My son was born last February, and my oh my, this post brought back memories! My experience was VERY similar to this – as I’m sure it is for many ladies. 🙂 Only thing I’d add, that really threw me off, was the birthing of the placenta. I was totally not prepared for all these things AFTER the baby. I’m getting to the point of getting “baby rabies” again now, but I think reading your post here and previous made me swallow hard about wanting to go through it again ……, yep, I think I still do. 😉

  29. Thank you for being so honest about it!
    I’m currently 30 weeks pregnant, and everyone I know who has kids glosses over the after-delivery part. They’re more than happy to try to scare me about labor and delivery, but they won’t give me any info about what happens after!
    And yes, your post does scare me a little, but now I’m PREPARED. 🙂

    (and, yeah, I’m late to the party on this one. I’ve been lurking for a few months, and just happened upon this post tonight…)

    • The biggest thing you can do to help yourself is prepare! And don’t expect to be entertaining or visiting anyone right away. Best of luck to you and congrats!

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  31. I totally, 100% understand your feelings in this post! The healing after you have your baby is terrible. My son was 9 pounds, 10 ounces. I pushed for about an hour with no luck. Finally my OB came in, took one look, and said I was going to tear. He asked if I wanted him to give me an episiotomy and help Braydon come out. Sure! Why not? I was exhausted after almost 24 hours of labor. I just wanted my baby there. He told me with an episiotomy, they could control the amount of tearing/cutting and the suture line would be a lot nicer. In hindsight, I probably would have rather torn, but can’t change that now. The pain from my episiotomy was AWFUL. So awful, in fact, that I felt like I was such a mess, I could hardly take care of my baby. It was scary to pee, and DAMN TERRIFYING to go #2. I literally took stool softeners for a month straight. I don’t know how many stitches I had, but I am absolutely horrified at the thought of having to have one with our next child. It used to take me forever to go to the bathroom. I loved the “Heiny Hoagie” comparison. So hilarious, and so true. I would go to the bathroom, fill up my peri bottle, try not to pee on myself because everything down there was so weak, try to sit on the toilet without peeing myself LOL, finally pee, rinse myself with my peri bottle, try to fan myself, then eventually take TP and gently pat myself dry. Put on the pad, with witch hazel, then spray the heck outta down there with Dermaplast. Literally used to take me 10 minutes to get everything done. It hurt to walk, sit, sleep, etc. I bought a Doughnut cushion, hoping that would help. Heck no. Pillows really are the best, imo. I normally don’t post on things like this, but women DO need to be educated at the possible outcome of the healing being so painful. Yes, you’re told you’ll be sore, but not THAT sore. It does get better, though, and your baby is so worth it. 🙂

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