“Why do I always forget how miserable I am after having a baby?” I asked Scott with tears in my eyes.
It was a rhetorical question. I mean, obviously your mind erases memories of that hot hell to protect the human species. It’s nature.
If I could vividly recall what it’s like to experience sleep deprivation, engorged breasts, raw nipples, night sweats, a patched up vagina, and this…
I would have never had a 2nd or 3rd child.
That is a horrific postpartum rash. I get it every. single. time. I have a baby. And each time it starts all up in my crotch and spreads further down my legs, up onto my stomach, and even onto my arms.
After Kendall, it was suspected I had contact dermatitis from Always pads, and that’s probably true. I likely had that all up in that area where the pads actually came in contact with my skin. Looking back, though, I think I also had a small reaction to the narcotics I was prescribed as pain relief (following an un-medicated birth). I had no idea I was allergic to them at that time.
After Leyna, that narcotic reaction got a little worse, but cleared up with a steroid pack. Still, I hadn’t put 2 and 2 together that it was the pain meds causing this.
After Lowell, for the first time ever, I took a prescription for narcotic pain meds home with me because I have 2 other kids to keep up with now. (I just took high doses of Advil once I got home after Kendall and Leyna were born.) So this mystery rash came, spread, tortured me, and persisted even after I finished a steroid pack (because I was following those pills up with my pain meds).
Once we finally figured out the cause, I immediately stopped taking them, and the rash cleared up within a few days.
Imagine, if you will, your crotch is being held together by stitches, that entire area is so sore and swollen you have to use a gentle stream of water to clean yourself after using the bathroom, and all you want to do is SCRATCH THE ITCH AWAY, except no, because who wants to even look down there after having a baby, let alone scratch. And every time you take a hot shower, which you crave because your muscles are so sore, the hives get worse. The itch is so intense you cry and writhe around just to keep yourself from scratching it because even if you can get past the thought of accidentally scratching off a stitch down there, scratching just makes it WORSE.
Oh, this is so much of my hell after I have babies.
When I was about 4 days postpartum, my curiosity got the best of me, and I looked at myself in the mirror below the waist. My rule after having babies is usually to NEVER LOOK DOWN. For a long, long time. But this time, I really wanted to know what was happening with that cystical. (A cyst on my labia the size of a golf ball that showed up while I was pregnant because the universe is hilarious.)
What I saw… oh my God… what I saw was a scene from a horror movie. I looked deformed. I thought for sure I would never go back to normal. I sobbed in the bathroom in the middle of the night.
8 weeks later, I’m happy to report things are looking much less like they’re about to explode down there. I should have stuck to my original plan to NEVER LOOK DOWN for a long, long time.
In addition to all the physical BLECH that goes on after having a baby, for me, I have those pesky hormones to deal with.
I love all my children so so much. Promise. But when I come home from the hospital with a tiny, fresh baby, I just can not with the older kids crawling on me and touching me, smearing me with their germs.
Of course, outwardly I am loving and excited to see them. I tell them how much I missed them and hug and kiss them. I’m not a monster on the outside, y’all.
Just on the inside.
Just inside my brain, where I’m like, “Oh good God, go to bed. Please leave me and your innocent new sibling alone in our quiet, dark room. No, you can not touch him or kiss him or even LOOK at him while he is slowly demolishing my nipples and killing me quietly. GO. AWAY.”
Nipple pain is real, and can make me blind with rage in the beginning.
Breastfeeding can hurt. Bad. Is it supposed to? Technically, if you have a “perfect” latch, no. Reality? You might not start out with a perfect latch. Should you strive for that? Yes. Should you get help from an LC as soon as possible? Yes. Is it likely you will have someone help you perfect that perfect latch in the first 24-48 hours before any damage is done? In my experience, no.
Nipple pain DOES go away. You CAN make it through. The quicker you work to get a good latch, the faster it will get better. I say these things not to discourage anyone from breastfeeding. I say these things because not many people do, and it helps to be prepared so you can work through it and stick with it, knowing it will get better.
All of this isn’t to scare anyone or make anyone feel bad for me. This is just the reality that so many gloss over, forget to mention, or just plain forget when it comes to life after baby arrives. Those last few weeks leading up to having a baby are usually mega uncomfortable. This plus labor seems to get all the focus when it comes to talking to expecting moms about how to cope.
Oh sure, there is some talk of preparing freezer meals and arranging for help post-baby. But, in my opinion, this is a transition period in a woman’s life that is grossly neglected. I can see why, honestly.
It’s hard to recall the exact pain of labor and delivery, but there is enough of a dialogue about that to remind moms most of the time that just because we can’t physically remember it doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. It also seems more socially acceptable for a woman to experience pain and to reach out for help during this time.
8 weeks out from having a baby, and it really is hard to recall exactly how awful those first few weeks postpartum were, and nobody is talking much about it. People don’t seem to want to hear how a mother of a 2 week old is absolutely miserable and not at all “enjoying this time.” It’s not so acceptable for a mother of a newborn to tell people to please hold off on visiting because she’s in misery and would rather sit on a pack of ice with her shirt off all day.
We don’t blog or tell recovery stories like we do birth stories. By the time most of us come out of the haze of recovery enough to talk to others about it, we either don’t want to re-live it, or we are too drunk on fresh-new-baby smell to recall the details. (Nature has powerful amnesia drugs.)
I asked my Facebook page if I was alone in feeling unprepared for postpartum recovery each time. Turns out, I’m not. Hundreds chimed in, and most agreed that postpartum recovery can really knock us on our ass unexpectedly.
Some people report that their postpartum experiences went great. They were back to life as normal within days. I’m not saying you’re guaranteed to have a brutal recovery, but be prepared for the possibility. Give yourself a lot of time, a lot of grace, and have a plan. Don’t be afraid to tell people no. No, you’re just not ready to come out and meet them yet. No, they can not come visit yet.
Take your time. It takes more than a few days, for most people, to return to a shade of “normal” after having a baby. And that’s okay. You’ll forget it eventually (mostly), but that doesn’t make living through the discomfort in that moment any better.