Let’s be honest, the beautiful story about a mother’s pregnancy usually comes to an end once your beautiful baby arrives as the spotlight shifts to this amazing tiny human that now occupies every moment. But what about us struggling mamas that enter this new era known as postpartum? I was not ready for it. I really didn’t even see it coming. No one really even told me about it.
Yeah… they said a few things to me. Like, “Make sure you have pads” and “be careful the first time you go to the bathroom afterwards” and things like that. But it was always so quick and not very detailed on what to really expect. I never got anyones “postpartum story” or anything close to it. Six weeks later into this postpartum journey, I thought why on earth nobody went into detail about the horrors I would be going through. From the moment the baby is out of you in the hospital, shit pretty much hits the fan and not one warning of this madness?! Looking at it now, I can see why you don’t want to scare an already scared pregnant lady (or give the pregnant lady who is super happy on a high of pregnancy bliss a total buzz kill). However, I’m one of those people who would have much rather known what to expect. Not saying that I plan on running up to every pregnant lady shouting in her face to go find the biggest pad she has ever seen in her life because there will be so much blood for weeks and she will never stop crying from emotional overload and physical torture. But I do want to give the option of sharing my experience for the curious (should you choose to continue reading). And like my birth story, no postpartum story is the same.
THE FIRST 48 HOURS
Maci is born at 10:55pm and I was in this euphoric state, totally in love and focused on my precious tiny human. And then she was taken to the NICU for a few hours to be observed. As soon as she was out of my sight and I snapped back into reality, they started getting me up to move me to my recovery room. The nurse pulled out a huge pad (when I say huge, I mean that shit went from my belly button all the way up my back huge) and a giant pair of mesh underwear. I wasn’t really embarrassed about anything anymore, so her putting this stuff on me wasn’t anything new. It wasn’t until she got me sitting up that I felt it. All. The. Blood. That’s the moment the huge pad made sense. I was wheeled up to my room (after stopping by the NICU to see Maci for a moment).
Then another unexpected moment started happening. They constantly came into my room and would press really hard on my lower stomach to get blood to come out. That was seriously painful every single time. And they would wake me up just to do that. In fact, they would wake me up pretty much every 15 minutes to do something to annoy me, blood pressure check, temp check, general check, baby check, etc. Once Maci was back in the room around 3:30am, I thought I was hallucinating with how tired I was. I thought, they really trust me with her when I can’t even walk and haven’t slept in two days? But thank goodness for Bobby being there. He seriously stepped up learning how to change diapers, swaddle, everything. He saved us. Then I had to go to the bathroom, but wasn’t allowed to get up on my own and was required to call the nurse. This was the moment I wasn’t looking forward to. The nurse helped me to the toilet and as I sat down I looked up at her asking, “So do I just do it or what?” as she smiled down at me nodding while closing the door. Yes, it burned. Yes, there was a lot of blood and blood clots. Yes, replacing the huge pad was a 5-minute hassle that resulted in a mess. The nurse came back in and again I looked up at her asking, “So do I just wipe or how does this work?” as she smiled again showing me this squirt bottle on the counter along with a can of something called Dermoplast. I had to squirt water down there to wipe? WTF? I never quite mastered that thing and only seemed to make more of a mess. SIGH. But let me tell you that the Dermoplast was amazing. It basically cooled and almost numbed everything. Thank goodness for that stuff. I used it for like 3 weeks straight.
My first shower was in the hospital. While standing in there, it was terrifying. I was bleeding and couldn’t really wash anything. Getting my hair washed was my only positive thought about it. Other than that, it was awful. I reminisced the whole time about my last decent shower at home like it was a shampoo commercial where the woman looks way too happy to be showering.
When we finally got to leave, I was running on pure adrenaline and cried in the car. We were on this scary road with my baby. The other drivers were not good enough to be on the same road as my baby. As I cried, my mom pointed out that those were my hormones. Oh, great, this is going to be fun.
FIRST WEEK HOME
The hormones were real. I would look at Maci and start crying because I just loved her so much that I couldn’t even handle seeing her. I couldn’t even think about her without crying. We had only one night at home before being sent to the NICU for two nights due to Maci having high levels of bilirubin causing jaundice. I hadn’t slept at all, was struggling with breastfeeding, cramped up constantly, had so much pelvic pain that walking was really difficult and was starting to swell. I refused to leave her in the NICU alone, so Bobby and I just curled up on the couches in her room. I was one hot mess. By the end of the first day there, my feet and ankles were so swollen that when I walked it felt like my skin was going to rip open on the top of my feet. I even had to shower there, which thank goodness Bobby helped me out because I could barely stand with those swollen feet!
Another unexpected moment was pooping. Yes, I’m going there. I had a second degree perineal tear, so it was deadly to try and poop. I didn’t realize that you won’t have any bowel movements for a few days after giving birth. So I didn’t have one until we were in the NICU about 5 days after I had her. It would have been nice to experience this in the comfort of my own home. And it just had to happen as we were about to be discharged.
Bobby and I took a carseat safety and CPR class before being discharged from the NICU. The lady was so nice and helpful. I started crying at the end of it. I had no reason to cry, but the tears started rolling. It was so weird. I just got this gush of overwhelming feelings as a new mom. I loved her so freaking much but was also so terrified of messing up. I hated these hormones.
Each week, things did get a little easier with my body. Walking was still a task. I was still cramping and bleeding. Luckily by week 2, I was wearing a smaller pad and by week 4, no pad. For me, the worst part was pooping. I pretty much got teary eyed every single time. And the boob madness. They got so big and hurt so bad. I was excited to be able to finally sleep on my stomach again after months of side sleeping, but now I had these giant, sore boobs preventing me from this luxury. I had been pumping my milk since the NICU, so Maci wasn’t nursing straight from my breast but was drinking only my breastmilk out of a bottle. That was (and still is) hard on me emotionally. I think my breastfeeding struggle is for another post. Having to pump every 4 hours is hard, physically and emotionally. I’ll dive into that in my next post.
I had my postpartum check-up at 4 weeks. I could finally wipe (gently) after going to the bathroom and didn’t need pads anymore. I just felt pelvic soreness. I ended up getting cleared to exercise again and my doctor said I had healed up nicely and the stitches were out at last (they come out on their own). And, yes, I ended up exercising again at Camp Gladiator a few days later. It was ROUGH, but I made it through.
Today, I’m exactly six weeks postpartum. Last week and this week were pretty much the same. The cramping, bleeding, difficulty going to the bathroom, and outrageous hormone outbursts have all subsided. I feel really good overall. My doctor says the pelvic soreness will go away with more time. It hurts mostly when I sit on a hard, flat surface, but not nearly as bad as it did before. It gets a little better with each week that passes. I’m hoping the more I start exercising, the stronger I’ll build those muscles again.
The one thing I don’t have experience with in my postpartum journey that I feel very blessed about is postpartum depression. I experienced a mild version of the baby blues, where you’re so sleep deprived and overwhelmed by everything that you feel a little down for a few days. But that was really only during the first week when everything felt so brand new and my body felt like it was a foreign object. I can understand those who go through it though especially if you don’t have the right help. I’m blessed to have my mom around to help allow me a shower or a nap when needed or a husband who is more than willing to take night duty on the weekends and change diapers at any time. I don’t take anything I have for granted. I realize how blessed I am and am forever grateful.
Even though my body is completely different now and I gained back 50 pounds out of the 80 I lost last year, I am so in love with my body now. It created, grew and birthed the beautiful, tiny human we love and call Maci. I see my stretch marks and loose skin in the mirror differently now. It all gave me the gift of my daughter. And while I know it will take a while to get it back to where it was 50 pounds ago, I still love it and feel so proud of what my body is capable of. All women are so powerful and strong to be able to create another human and bounce back like warriors.
Cheers to all the warrior women out there.