The Post-Birth Bomb Squad

It’s been five days since my husband and I brought 8-pound, 6-ounce little baby boy home and it’s taken me that long to figure out how I can keep the wee one happy (read: full and sleepy) and work on the computer. I now measure the time it takes to create a blog post in feedings rather than minutes or hours.

These past few days have been filled with wonder (I still can’t believe he came from me) and joy (I crack up every time I see him smile); they’ve also been a reminder that I couldn’t be doing this alone. For as much as having three moms (including me) in the house at the same time is two moms too many in a lot of ways (particularly for my husband), I would be a total mess otherwise. And so would baby Aleksi; there would no doubt be a lot more screaming coming from his direction.

I was prepared for being tired beyond belief. I was anticipating the pinches, pulls, and other discomforts that come with breast feeding. But I was in no way, shape, or form aware of the intense amount of post-birth pain I would be in.

Mommies-to-be are probably wondering just how much pain I’m talking about. Does not being able to sit down in a chair without pain sound like a lot? How about the fact that I know my wee one cries longer than he should when he wakes up at night because I can’t move from a fully reclined position to a sitting upright position or even a standing position with any sort of expediency. It usually requires a few grunts to accompany a series of small maneuvers and adjustments that eventually get me to my desired position.

I’m just curious as to why none of the baby books talk about momma’s recovery in any more detail than (1) sleep when the baby sleeps and (2) make sure you eat nutritious stuff and more of it since you’ll be burning an extra 500 or so calories if you are breastfeeding.

All that’s great advice, but it seems a bit shallow when I’m wondering how I would ever manage doing anything more than just feeding and diapering the wee one without at least one person as full-time help. I can’t walk with any degree of ease, so I can’t imagine feeding myself, doing laundry, taking the trash out, or walking the dog–none of which are optional activities in my house.

I have made mention of this surprising fact of post-birth life to a number of mommy-friends. One friend said to me, “Yeah, I meant to tell you about the whole grenade going off down there, but I didn’t want to scare you.” So, for all the mommies-to-be in my life, consider yourself warned. You’ll get through it, but it’s definitely not going to be pretty or painless.

I remember when I was pregnant I worried about the dreaded episiotomy. It just seemed so wrong. I had one friend who said it was the better way to go because it was clean and simple and, therefore, could be sewed back up lickety split. Another friend believed tearing was the more efficient way to go because the skin tears would naturally fit back together and heal more effectively. I’m here to tell you that it doesn’t make one goddamn bit of difference because, at the end of the day, you’ve got stitches holding together some of your most delicate parts. How many ways can you say ouch.

Needless to say, there’s blood and there’s pain. Never a good combination in my book. So, here’s my short list of mother’s little post-birth helpers, thanks to the kind nurses at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, D.C.:

  • Mesh underoos.I’m not sure these even qualify as lingerie, but I

    Mother's Little Helper #1

    really thought these hospital-provided stretchy, mesh boyshorts were a godsend. I had optimistically packed a bunch of my own cotton underoos–ones that I felt comfortable knowing that I would chuck them as I left the hospital–but I never got out of these hospital beauties. They were so lightweight and totally breathable–and chuckable. There’s a lot of bleeding the first few days.

  • The ice-pack maxi pad.I’m so not kidding. This was my most

    Mother's Little Helper #2

    favorite thing in the hospital, as it provided the most singular relief even if it wasn’t exactly absorbent. The docs all said it was only effective in the first 24 hours, but I’ll tell you that I was begging my most sympathetic nurses to constantly bring me more of them. I was literally trying to build a stockpile of them to take home. I have two left now and I’m trying to ration them out. Sad, but true. And let me tell you that whatever homemade substitute you come up with will pale in comparison to these bad boys. So my advice is to start squirreling these away as soon as you can.

  • Squirt bottle.I sort of laughed when the nurse brought me this

    Mother's Little Helper #3

    squirt bottle and told me it was going to be my best friend. I still think the icepack maxi pads were tops on my list, but the squirt bottle definitely isn’t far behind. Basically you fill it with warm/hot water and sort of hose yourself down with it every time you use the bathroom. (Also just a quick fyi, you might find that your needs to use the potty can come on unexpectedly post-birth, especially if you had an epidural, which requires a catheter.) The warm water promotes tissue healing and you feel cleaner and there’s less pain.

So, there’s my list of the essential items any mommy-to-be might want to know about to help her first few days at home be much more comfortable so you can better enjoy your sweet, little bundle of joy.

Of course, there are a few other products that can also help. I also took 600mg of ibuprofen every six hours for the pain, which definitely helped, and was a decent fan of the sitz bath. For those of you, who like me don’t spend much time in hospitals, a sitz bath is basically this tub thing that you fill with hot water and place on the toilet bowl before soaking your arse in it. My docs recommended using it two to four times a day for about 15 minutes each time. Between the feedings, diapering, and sleeping, I’m lucky to squeeze in one or two times a day. But I found it helps.

The nurses also gave me some generic pain relief spray that I could use up to four times a day. Honestly, I use it, but I don’t think it’s really all that effective.

At any rate, I hope this post isn’t discouraging to mommies-to-be out there; these are just tips to help you in the very short term. There’s a lot of pain, but as everyone has probably told you, it’s all worth it in the end because you’ll leave the hospital with your bundle of joy, who will need you and love you in ways you can’t imagine.


Filed under birthing, hospital, mommy care, moms, newbie parents

4 responses to “The Post-Birth Bomb Squad

  1. Jen

    A decent stand in for the perineal ice packs are frozen diapers. Soak with water then freeze them flat. They work pretty well and stay cold forever. They’re just a tad bulky if you’re going to be doing any amount of walking beyond the bathroom and back.

    I can totally sympathize with the post birth trauma, this third time was a doozy.

    • Wow, Jen, thanks for the tip. I’m so trying the frozen diaper remedy. (Do I dare ask how you discovered this?) I can deal with bulky if it provides R-E-L-I-E-F! I’m still sort of digesting the fact that it can take up to six weeks to be completely back to normal. God, I hope not.

  2. Sarah — you are spot on with the mesh underoos and the ice pack maxi pad. Those were my best friends after delivery!!

    • I’m glad I’m not the only one, Tomasita! Glad you found them just as sexy as I do. Also, I didn’t realize you were blogging, too. I’ll have to check it out!

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