At so we have a 6 week old!
But this isn’t about her. I mean, it’s about her, but you know. More about her…entry point?
Sorry, SORRY. I know. Let’s get back to the recipes and baby pictures, right?
Today is allegedly the “you are healed” day. 6 weeks is the generally agreed-upon time frame for healing after a vaginal birth. I love that we have a time frame that we supposedly all heal in, because what a crock of shit, right? I actually feel pretty good, but there are obviously a few kinks in the armor that might take many more months to iron out. One of my yoga teacher friends has 3 kids and the youngest is 16 months, and she told me the other day that she still doesn’t feel fabulous in the pelvis area, so it might be safe to say that some things never go back to normal.
The first few days we were home with Beck were such a blur, but the overarching theme is “do not kill baby, do not hemorrhage and die.” It’s a good theme, right? Basic, to the point. Because the baby is connected to the uterus through the placenta, there are tons of connection points (blood vessels) that could cause excessive bleeding in the first few days. But then also there is just a ton of regular bleeding, so knowing how much is too much is kind of tricky, especially when you’ve been awake for 3 days. Also, you can’t use tampons, NOT THAT YOU WOULD WANT TO because omg a baby just came out of there an ow. So basically we have a really intense diapering situation happening for baby and mom, which is super hot for dad!
Now, there are tons of ways that people go about handling the bleeding after having a baby. I had people tell me to get lots of black undies and varying sizes of pads; the hospitals give away mesh disposable underwear and massive pads, and then there are tons of people that are SUPER prepared and pour witch hazel and healing teas into said pads and freeze them to make little ice packs for their booty. I probably would have loved that, but my freezer was full of casseroles, and that was more important to me. I also skipped all the pad + underwear setups for the first 10 days and went full-diaper like Beck. I bought some adult diapers (Always brand, which is GENIUS because otherwise they’d lose a buyer every time someone goes through menopause!), hopped (creaked, more like it) into one in the birth center, and wore two or three a day until day 10, which happened to be when the package ran out. I would do it again in a heartbeat. At day 10 the bleeding had slowed a good bit, but the very. first. pad. I put on slipped and I wrecked a pair of perfectly good underwear. The diapers made for one less thing to deal with in those early days, so if you’re thinking of having a kid think on THAT. There’s very little dignity left after having a baby anyway, so what’s one more diaper, really? I did hate the impact it had on the environment, but the convenience and security (I know, I sound like one of their commercials) was well worth it for me. Also, I bought the big-girl diapers when I was like 35 weeks pregnant so they were just THERE. I know it’s weird to look back on the adult-diaper-days fondly, but I have the funniest memories of me and Beck just in our diapers having skin to skin time and she was so tiny and I was so…EVERY FEELING ALL AT ONCE, and even though there is so much to dislike about having a newborn it was kind of sweet in a way.
In addition to the diapers, I was a big fan of Dermoplast. Again, this is a personal thing – some people like the numbing spray, some people think it’s weird to spray the same thing on your vagina as a scraped knee. For me, the whole area was super swollen and sore, and the area where I had stitches didn’t hurt, but I could just tell it was…there…and I didn’t want it to start hurting, so every time I went to the bathroom I sprayed on the Derm and went about my business. Again, this is where the witch hazel pads or ice packs or other things come in handy, but I did the diapers + Dermoplast and that was it for me.
The other thing that really helped my bottom was warm baths. Some people call them Sitz baths, but I think that’s the brand of contraption that you put over your toilet to essentially create a bidet. Since we have a tub I just took 2 baths per day (when I could) of about 10 inches of hot water. No soap or anything. It was kind of pathetic, just sitting there with my bottom in the tub all achy. I never put my whole body in, just kind of sat there huddled up – I don’t know why, it just felt more therapeutic that way and less spa-like. The midwives told me that the water promotes blood flow and hence healing to the area, and every day after I got out of the bath I had at least an hour, maybe more, of very little pain in my pelvic area. Plus, the baths-as-a-prescription basically forced me to take care of myself, and got Jay into the habit of taking care of the baby a few times a day as a necessity. Now, we’re big on both of us parenting equally, but when you’re trying to learn how to breastfeed it’s only natural that mom+baby spend an excessive amount of time together. This is of course important for bonding and resting and feeding the kid, but also getting Jay more involved was a nice break for me and also a reminder to GET THE FUCK OFF THE COUCH WOMAN AND BRUSH YOUR TEETH AFTER THAT BATH EW. So, I’d recommend the baths.
The other major piece of my postpartum experience was Colace, the most wonderful stool softener in all of the land. Actually, I have no clue if it’s the most of anything, it was what we had leftover after Jay’s surgery over the summer. I was advised by several folks to take more than was prescribed on the box, which I did, and I swear it made the entire postpartum pooping experience much more manageable. It’s like this fabled moment of torture, The First Poop, and tons of people advised me to get. it. over. with. because obviously waiting on something like THAT only makes it worse. So I took 3 Colace per day and pooped on … day 3, I think. Be very clear: even with all that and gallons of water and kale and other fiber sources, this was a very reluctant, very non-softened stool. Do not fear the Colace postpartum or post surgery. It is your friend.
For pain, I didn’t do any prescriptions (I honestly don’t know if they were an option, but my pain wasn’t too bad so I didn’t ask), but took 600mg of Ibuprofen every 4 hours like CLOCKWORK, and I think it made a big difference in my swelling and just overall willingness to try things. My mom told me over and over to rest but also do what I felt up for, and those two things combined, for me, made a difference in how “normal” I was able to feel. Of course, there’s no normal, just kind of the creation of a new you or something, but for me doing things like dishes and putting on makeup helped me feel better and like myself. Some people really like to totally let go and have a true lie-in for several weeks after having a baby, which is also really really wonderful, but I preferred to mostly rest but also do a few kind of non-baby-related items each day.
So then there were the emotions. We’re supposed to somehow monitor ourselves for postpartum depression these days, have you noticed that? It’s very trendy. Well, even though diagnosing depression is my JOB I still think it’s a little wonky to have to look out for it myself, RIGHT? That’s what the people closest to you are for. I have been lucky so far in that I haven’t felt terribly emotionally dysregulated. There have been a few 4am moments when I’m like “this is it. this is my whole life and I can’t leave and I will never do anything fun again.” And then very literally the sun comes out and Jay wakes up and helps and it’s really all fine. That being said, I 1. totally get why people harm their kids and 2. also don’t have a super fussy baby, which could SEND ANYONE over the edge. Don’t freak out, I’ve never come anywhere close to hurting Beck, but I do understand how you could want to shake your child to a quiet state and WHOOPS shaken baby syndrome. Sometimes it seems like nothing else will work. Regular emotional-settling hasn’t been all that bad for me, and I’ve been lucky with family and friends being involved but not overbearing so I haven’t felt very alone ever. I think that’s the key – finding a balance that works for you between being totally overwhelmed with having a baby and being totally overwhelmed by family and friends “helping.” It looks different for everyone, for sure. At the pediatrician AND midwifery I take a depression scale at every appointment, I think 3 or 4 total since I had the baby. Now, they’re pretty easy to figure out how to fake, but if you read the questions carefully they’re also useful to think on “how desperate do I really feel?” and if you answer honestly then the provider can tell you what range you’re in in terms of normal new-mom stuff to ok-lets-find-someone-to-talk-to depression. More and more pediatricians are doing these little inventories for new moms, and I think it’s a WONDERFUL practice to add a little more parent care to baby visits. It’s something I specifically asked about when we were picking our pediatrician.
For me, the bigger emotional issue has been more recent – about a week ago I started to feel really strong “she’s going to die” anxiety, which I know is normal but also it surprised me that the feelings were kind of late-onset. Maybe I was too tired in the early days to care if Beck died – it might have been a relief to that really tired version of myself, if I’m being honest. Now, though, I think a lot about her just stopping breathing, or getting some kind of random disease with no symptoms and just perishing before my very eyes. I also think about her getting really sick and having to go to the hospital, because one of my friends told me that it’s the standard of care to give a spinal tap to babies under a year, and the thought of someone holding my baby down to stick a needle in her back makes me want to kill someone and throw up all at the same time. And then I feel bad for taking her anywhere ever because if she gets sick it’s my fault RIGHT? That’s the kind of stuff we’re dealing with. It doesn’t affect my ability to live my life for the most part, but they also aren’t super FUN feelings to have around either.
Physically, I feel more and more like myself all the time. I’ve gone to yoga twice so far, and both times have been hard but satisfying. I start teaching again in February, and I’m keeping a really limited schedule at first but am excited for those little bursts of work. I started pumping last week so I can leave Beck for slightly longer periods of time, and even 3 hours away is really refreshing and long enough to make me miss her by the time I get back. I’m 10 pounds or so above my original weight, which is funny because I eat dessert like 3 times a day and make zero effort to add veggies and avoid fatty carbs, so…maybe I’ll look into losing more weight in a few months. Or maybe I won’t, I don’t know. Everyone said that breastfeeding will make you LIKE OMG SO SKINNY but do those people eat frozen chicken tenders? I’d be interested to see.
It’s funny, having very little control over your own life. I can make plans and try stuff and wish more sleep for everyone, but then we have this tiny little terrorist who is so cute that you’re all “meh, let’s stay up all night!” and then you do, and it all somehow is fine even though it’s totally not. AND THEN once one thing gets easier another gets harder – oh great, baby wakes up a little more and eats more reliably but now all she wants to do is nurse 24/7 especially when you’re out in public and the response for NOT nursing is loud. Really loud.
Like I said, a tiny little terrorist.
But she slept 4 hours alone in her little pod last night which makes me happy for her and me but also sad because I kind of love the forced cosleeping most of the time and wahhhhhh she doesn’t need me anymore. And then in 5 minutes she’ll scream and I’ll roll my eyes but go running because yayyyyyy she needs me.
But yeah, emotionally I’m doing TOTALLY fine.