You've had your baby and just when you think the hard part is over, here comes the postpartum period. If it's anything like mine, your entire world will be rocked to it's core. I hope you have a good postpartum period. I hope you are happy and healthy throughout this time. I got the short end of the stick, so let me just tell you how it went for me...
Milk comes out of you.
I remember waking up sweating and my boobs felt heavy and weird. They felt like something was surging through and there was a sort of tingle throughout both of them. The nurse came over and brought my crying baby so I thought ok let me hug her and comfort her. I didn't realize she was hungry. The nurse told me I'd have to feed her and I was like um... how am I supposed to do that? She told me to give my nipple a little squeeze, and to my surprise, THERE WAS MILK! WTF?!?! It was so weird. It was like magic. My mind was blown. There was A LOT of milk. I am convinced that I was a dairy cow in a past life. Baby was feeding just fine with what they told me was a good latch and it didn't actually hurt. It just kind of felt like a little bit of a pull, I could literally feel the milk streaming through each milk duct. After a couple of feedings, my boobs started to hurt so they gave me lanolin. They still hurt, so they gave me a nipple guard and it didn't help. I went back to lanolin and the lactation consultants were trying to help me during my entire stay at the hospital. It was helpful but we just weren't getting it right or my baby and my nipple were not a good fit. It sucked, literally! This was the beginning of one of the worst things I would deal with postpartum. If you ask me, breastfeeding is worse than child birth! I did not have a good experience with breastfeeding but I won't go into detail right now because it would take way too long. We'll just re-visit that in a later post...
Perineal tear care & hemorrhoids & pregnancy poops, oh my!
In my first pregnancy, I had a third degree tear. In my second pregnancy, I had a second degree tear. So as you can imagine, it hurts to do anything. It especially hurts to poop! From the first time you pee, they give you a water squirting bottle so you can clean the area every time you go to the bathroom. My recovery kit came with a squirting bottle, numbing spray, 600mg Ibuprofen, stool softener, hemorrhoid pads and ENORMOUS, SUPER THICK PADS. I ended up with one small hemorrhoid as a result of all the pushing with my first daughter. Luckily, it eventually went away and I did not have a hemorrhoid problem with my second daughter. The worst part is that you're so constipated after giving birth that you don't want to push because it hurts but you also want to push because you want some relief. It's just a miserable few days...or weeks. I had a lot of trouble with my tear healing. Even when the doctor cleared me after six weeks, I knew it wasn't right. I waited 8 weeks to make any kind of attempt at resuming a normal sex life and that was definitely not a good experience. Despite wanting to have that physical connection with my husband, it was just too painful. They prescribed estrogen cream to help with the healing. Eventually, it healed too but it took much longer than it was supposed to the first time. The second time was not as bad. I only tore halfway and I worked out a lot during this pregnancy so my pelvic floor was not as "relaxed." My recovery was much quicker and even physical therapy was completed much sooner.
Pelvic organ prolapse and incontinence.
You can have urinary or fecal incontinence (you accidentally pee or poop yourself). I have a pelvic organ prolapse, bladder prolapse to be specific. I have gone through physical therapy for the last four years and will have to continue doing it for the rest of my life or until I decide to undergo surgery. I wrote a blog post about my experience, you can read it here if you're interested https://www.mamacitafitness.com/post/pelvic-floor-therapy. After having my first daughter, I had to be near a toilet at all times because I never knew when I would have the sudden urge to pee. It came without warning and it was uncontrollable. I avoided leaving my house because of this. My pelvic floor muscles were completely disconnected from each other and even from my brain. During physical therapy, the treatment I had included some electric stimulation and biofeedback. I remember not being able to feel or activate those muscles at all. It was really devastating at the time and still gets to me sometimes. I am so much better now but this is something I will have to work on for the rest of my life. If I slack off, gain some weight, or do a lot of high impact activity it starts to bother me again. Luckily, I do not have an incontinence problem so I'll take that win!
Stretch marks and hair loss.
I had stretch marks way before I got pregnant due to a substantial amount of weight loss so they didn't really faze me. If you do get stretch marks, they can be pretty impactful at first glance but they will fade away or minimize so don't stress too much about it. I think that part comes down to genetics. Some women don't get them as bad as others. For me, the postpartum hair loss was much more impactful than the stretch marks. I remember being in the shower and bunches of hair were just falling off. It was an alarming amount of hair and it didn't stop in the shower. It kept falling off as I dried, as I brushed and as I styled. I actually stopped styling my hair to avoid more hair loss. This was one thing that really hit me hard in the vanity department. I felt so unattractive and self conscious about my receding hairline. Hair loss and my pelvic floor problems were the biggest physical problems for me. They got to me so much that they made me sink deeper into my depression after I had my first daughter. I spent too much time worrying in front of the mirror just examining my receding hairline and visible patches of scalp showing underneath my hair. Eventually, my hair grew back and, after lots of physical therapy, my pelvic floor problems got better. After I had my second daughter, I knew what to expect and I knew that I would be able to grow my hair back and go through physical therapy to rehabilitate my pelvic floor muscles. I made a big effort not to let those things get to me the second time around. There were times when they did get to me but not as bad as before.
Postpartum depression and anxiety.
I am not a mental health expert but I do want to create awareness of maternal mental health issues. I wrote an entire blog post on my experience with postpartum depression (you can read that post here https://www.mamacitafitness.com/post/postpartum-depression) and will soon be writing one for my experience with postpartum anxiety so I won't go into detail here. I do want you to know that it can happen to even the happiest, strongest, calmest, or most composed woman you know. Becoming a mother is a crazy transition. Your entire identity changes overnight and you have zero time to do anything, including sleep. I was definitely blindsided by my depression and the depth of it. Ask for help if you need it! If you feel overwhelmed and you're in need of emotional support, contact your primary care doctor or a mental health specialist. Tragedies happen when mothers don't get the help they need and depression can come with suicidal thoughts. Here is the National Suicide Prevention Hotline 800-273-8255 or visit the website https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/ for more info.
You may be wondering why I am sharing all of this... The fact is that I wish somebody had put the truth out there. Pregnancy, birth and postpartum issues are not all rainbows and sunshine like we see in the media or in cultural/familial circles. Yes, overall, motherhood is a beautiful thing. I wouldn't trade my kids for the world and I'd do it all over again if I had to (but THANK GOD I don't have to!). However, I wish I had gotten a true account of what could happen so that I knew what to expect. So, if this blog series helps to bring awareness to even just one person out in the world, it will have served it's purpose. If you are currently experiencing any of this, just know that things do get better physically and emotionally.