Sunday, October 02, 2011

Slightly Taboo Subject: The Post Pregnancy Recovery Edition


In general, I try to stick to a policy of not writing anything on this blog that I wouldn't say to someone's face. History has proven, time and again, that
your boss might be tuning in, or that your horrible Great Aunt Mildred does, indeed, know what twitter is.


I feel it's important to discuss a few post-pregnancy bobbles that I had in the immediate weeks following Benjamin’s birth and I have a feeling that broaching this topic with any male readers (save my husband) might make us all squirm, just a bit.

So, consider yourself warned, my dears. Graphic content ahead. Feel free to disengage now.

While pregnant and preparing for Benjamin's arrival, I was focused on labor and the painful trials that would likely make up the process of giving birth. It was the post-labor recovery period for which I was woefully unprepared.

I [naively] assumed that I'd push this baby out and voila! Back to normal. Sitting, walking, everyday activities, no problem. While I understood that it was going to take a while to lose the weight, I didn't consider the physical trauma my body had endured and the recovery time it was going to require.

Clearly, I skipped that chapter in the birth book.

I recall discussing it very briefly during birthing class but beyond that… nothing. And this makes sense, after all, as
a) not everyone is going to require significant healing time and,
b) it maybe one of those things that you don’t pay much attention to, even if your friends and family members try to prepare you for what lies ahead.

Besides, discussing the recovery of one's lady parts is hardly dinnertime conversation.

But it was still a bit of a shock to discover that I needed a long time to heal and that it was a painful process. And, you can’t concentrate solely on your recovery as suddenly you have a squalling infant that requires round the clock care and spends a good deal of time physically attached to your body.

In talking to other new mothers, I got the sense that many of us struggled in the weeks following the births of our babies. It was overwhelming, we were sleep deprived, and frankly, we were in pain.

So here is a quick look at what the post-labor period for me was like. Only eight months after the birth of my little boy.

My case was slightly complicated by the fact that I suffered a fairly large tear (grade three) to my perineum that required some creative stitching. Benjamin may not have a giant head, but it was certainly big enough to do some damage. And while they used anesthesia, it had to be re-administered a few times due to insufficient numbing coverage. Ouch. The scar tissue left over from that event will require a bit of care, should additional children be on the agenda. Additionally, the stitches made using the loo quite uncomfortable for almost a month after Ben’s birth. The witch hazel pads that our midwife recommended did a bit to relieve the pain but certainly weren’t a cure-all. Our dear midwife also recommended that I take a 30 minute hot bath everyday….for a month. While it was well intentioned advice, it was also impractical. Who was going to look after the baby while I lounged in the spa? Maybe during his nap times? Not a chance. If he was sleeping, I was trying to sleep too.

I also lost a fair amount of blood during labor, just this side of needing a blood transfusion. Chris says he thought things were generally serious when he saw it pooling on the floor in the delivery room. And there were a few complications with bleeding in the following weeks which required medication to contract my uterus and force everything out. It’s the same one they use for early term abortions, incidentally.

And perhaps most significantly, there is the fact that you just pushed a large bundle of child into the world. All the muscles in the vicinity of your uterus (including one’s GI tract) are going to be completely and utterly shot. It's going to take a long while for them to recover. Things don’t function like you’ve come to expect. Frankly, I think that was the biggest, most painful shock. Right after I gave birth, the nurses trundled me out of bed and told me to go use the bathroom. I sat on the pot for 30 minutes trying to remember how to empty my bladder. No fun, peeps. They send you home with pain killers, stool softener tablets, and suppositories. I used them all. For a long while. Time heals most wounds.

Much to my dismay, I’ve also continued to have problems with my eyesight. Randomly, just my left eye. I went through a brief period during pregnancy where I tried not to drive due to fuzziness. It cleared up but returned for a week when Ben was a month old. Evidently high levels of estrogen can cause some funky problems, specifically changing the shape of the eyeball. Wearing my glasses helped slightly, but the daily headaches were pretty crippling. I’m dreadfully nearsighted to begin with and I don’t take kindly to a further decrease in my vision.

Of course, there are much more serious complications that arise from labor: hemorrhoids, tears that don’t heal, and infections. A cesarean section, while one of the most common surgeries performed in the US, is not to be taken lightly. It’s an incision into the gut wall that caries with it a risk of infection. I think us non-C-sectioners had it easy.

So there you have it, my dears. Clearly my intention isn’t to scare but rather to provide a bit more in the way of preparation for those post-labor days. Advance notice is a good thing, in my opinion. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and if, by some chance, you have someone on hand to watch the baby while you take a 30 minute hot bath, TAKE THEM UP ON THEIR OFFER.