One of the biggest fears in my life was the whole labor and delivery thing. I wanted kids SO badly, but this fear was big enough, I wasn’t sure that dream would be possible. The movies seem to equate birthing to a heart thudding horror flick. Pregnant with our first (eeek!), I wasted no time enrolling in prenatal education classes. Afterwards, I felt semi-prepared (even relieved) but I never EVER realized that postpartum recovery was what I really needed to worry about.
We learned all the details of labor in our prenatal classes (all the options) and watched videos that were a little cringe-worthy but hey, it’s childbirth. Knowing what to expect put us at ease.
However, I was TOTALLY unprepared for postpartum healing and pain. Everything about the realities of life after birth seemed to come as a complete shock to me.
Warning: TMI postpartum recovery spoilers ahead. Read on only if you really want to know what recovering from a vaginal delivery is really like.
5 Shocking Truths: What Postpartum Recovery Is Really Like
1. The pain is NOT over exaggerated
I don’t know what the *$#& people were thinking when they vomited out the worst labor stories possible when I was pregnant. I couldn’t escape the horror stories!
But all those postpartum tales…
Yeah, those were true. In fact, they did not even compare to what really happened.
Add this to a sleepless series of events you’ve never ever in your wildest dreams even remotely imagined. This combination can make life completely miserable.
The pain was so bad, I could hardly sit. Next time I’m getting one of these donut pillows I keep hearing about and making sure I stock up on those medical cooling pads just like they have at the hospital. DIY Padsickles were a joke.
Also, make sure you buy a couple extra Dermoplast Pain Relieving Spray cans (just like they give you at the hospital) to help with the pain. These are vital. I did not do this, so we were running to Walgreens to desperately rummage through the shelves and find it. Live and learn. Do not make the same mistake I did!
There are some other ways to help with the pain. Make sure you keep up on the medication your doctor prescribes and you rest, rest, rest whenever you can. Don’t do the laundry, entertain, do a little dusting, clean or worry about anything other than than taking care of you and your baby. If you sweat all the other things you normally do, then sister, you are drawing out that pain.
Your recovery will, without a doubt, be much longer.
Also, I do have a related article to help you heal asap from delivery with less pain: 10 Unbelievable Postpartum Recovery Tips For Healing After A Vaginal Birth
2. The amount of blood was shocking
In my hospital bag, I packed all these cute pjs and comfy clothes, but I never wore them. Everything I wore became soaked.
(While we are on this topic, you really do need to make sure you pack your hospital bag correctly. I lived, learned and wrote a post about it. Check it out here: Hospital Bag Checklist, For Mom-To-Be + Free Printable)
On the hospital bed, they laid down about a 2′ x 2′ square disposable pad that was changed often. Leaking came through the giant pads I wore (make sure you stock up at home with the best postpartum pads possible), and through the hospital gown. I bought a super cute delivery gown and it was a great idea for pictures, but all those gowns were decimated.
After a day and a half in the hospital, we were homeward bound and I was still in shock of the amount getting everywhere. It got on the bathroom floors, soaked through underwear and just ran in the shower.
I’m incredibly thankful that I read up on other blogs and knew to stock up on disposable underwear like they give you from the hospital and super comfy boy short boxier brief panties that I could just toss afterwards if I wanted to. No granny pannies here! I could still feel somewhat human again with cute underwear.
3. Six weeks to “fully recover” did not happen
Sorry to be the bearer of bad news.
There was still pain and the though of *ehem* returning to “normal” sexual activity was just not in the stars right at six weeks. The bruising, stitches and overall soreness did not wear off by then!
In fact, some of the pain came back.
The itching, burning and white-hot knife feeling pain had subsided a little and then came back with fury. I thought I must have gotten an infection. Okay, so taking a mirror to those lady bits was probably not a good idea but a girl’s gotta know. At the six week postpartum visit, I spilled all my worry about the flared up pain.
My doctor did say I was recovering slower than normal and here’s why: I needed to slow down and really take care of things down there.
The doc gave me a few wise words of wisdom to help recover quicker:
- Make sure you are using the peri-bottle every single dang time (this is not optional!) after going to the bathroom. I’ll save you the trouble of using that pathetically terrible one from the hospital. Put that one in the second bathroom or your purse. Buy a peri-bottle you can actually use like this one.
- Take a sitz bath. Buy a sanitary, simple plastic cover like this top Amazon sitz bath by Yunga Tart that sits neatly over your toilet. Use Epsoak Epsom Salt made specifically for sitz baths. You can also add lavender and witch hazel to help sooth, cleanse and fight inflammation.
- Rest! I will say it again because it is SO important. Take care of yourself. It’s okay if the laundry doesn’t get done and the house is a mess. Let yourself binge watch Netflix. Make yourself take naps (even if naps aren’t your thing). This is your healing and recovery time. Make it count as much as you can.
4. Postpartum hormones -> way worse than pregnancy
Normally a warrior-like Amazonian woman (in my mind), I deal with things on a fact-by-fact basis. Yet after having a baby, the lack of sleep, pain, new responsibility, and change hit me like a 40-ton semi truck.
I cried like I had never in my life cried before. I was more stressed than I had ever been.
You can read why (and how you can prevent this) in my post: 10 Things I Wish I Knew Before Having A Baby.
They say that you’re hormonal during pregnancy. No one tells you that you might be more hormonal the month after delivering than your entire pregnancy combined.
5. The postpartum period was not that bad
So, here’s a positive!
I heard crazy stories about the postpartum period (okay so these ones weren’t true). It wasn’t that bad.
Okay, so the cramping was worse than normal. It especially hurt after breastfeeding. Those cramps felt like I was having contractions all over again (the ones you can talk through…mostly). The postpartum period lasted a little longer than normal (like a week or so).
However, the first bowel movements were very painful.
You can prepare for this!!! Make sure you have a stool softener like Colace and check out the Squatty Potty toilet stool. Yes, the potty stool really is a thing because the angle you sit at matters if you want to prevent pain. Anything to help with that time is welcome and I keep hearing raving reviews about it.
It’s good to be as prepared as possible for that whole postpartum time. Yes, it sucks. It’s shocking, gross and can be super terrible. I don’t know one woman who can’t wait for the day she’ll go through postpartum pain and recovery again for the sheer enjoyment of it all (minus having that beautiful new baby).
Postpartum recovery and healing after birth isn’t rainbows, butterflies and rainbows but what you can do is properly prepare for it. This will make your recovery much easier, quicker and more comfortable.
Check out the complete Amazon “Idea List” I put together below so you can have what you need (and be somewhat prepared). This list includes all the recommendations from my doctor, the hospital and the things that helped out most with postpartum recovery: