I have read up A LOT when I was pregnant. I have read up on how to have a beautiful birth experience, I have read up on child care, I have read up on breastfeeding…what I did not read up on is well, what happens to ME after birth.
We always hear of post-partum depression, but I now realize it isn’t just that – post-partum (whether you feel depressed about it or not) is real, and these are some of the things I wish I knew before I delivered just so I would have managed my expectations better.
A. PAIN – For those who had a vaginal birth like me, this is all I can say: prepare for this! I tore when I delivered (second degree according to my OB – which isn’t even the worst), so my doctor stitched me up. When the local anesthesia wore off though, that’s when the pain really hit me…hard! It was one full day of stinging pain – you know that feeling when you put alcohol on fresh wounds? Imagine that all day…down there! I was given pain relievers but honestly, nothing really worked. It was so hard to sit, to stand up, to move period. (I’m not sure about the kind of pain when you had a C-section, but they say it’s really painful on the stomach. I guess there’s no escaping the pain!) By the second day, it got a lot better, but it was still painful. In the hospital, they helped me ease the pain by doing heat therapy and cold compress (they would put ice on a rubber glove and tell me to put it down there — this was such a relief, promise!).
OTHER THINGS THAT WORKED TO HELP EASE MY PAIN: Sanicare’s Portable Manual Bidet was my savior from the hospital to home! Since everything down there was painful, a regular bidet’s strong water output would have added much more to the pain! This bidet was perfect, trust me! It was very gentle to use for this purpose! When we got home, I had baby guava leaves boiled everyday and that’s what I would use to wash. It’s supposed to be very effective for healing because of its antiseptic and antibacterial properties (you can learn more about it HERE). According to my doctor, I actually healed well! I’m due for another checkup in a month so she can see if I have fully healed already. Since my sister had extra of Motherlove’s Sitz Bath Spray, I would put that sometimes, too, and it also helped. Oh, and my doula gave me her own concoction of a vaginal balm as part of her post-partum kit, and I loooove it. I feel so much better when I put some on. I read some women also use a donut pillow or a salbabida (lifesaver). I should have used it on the first day, too. Your birth canal pressing on the bed was really quite painful, so having that hole in the middle for it to breathe would have been such a relief.
As of writing, there’s no pain anymore -not the kind of pain I experienced on Day 1, at least. But there is still some discomfort – I mean, it’s really not like how it was…for now.
B. VAGINAL INCONTINENCE – According to www.WhatToExpect.com, “During pregnancy, the muscles that support the bladder are stretched and weakened, as is the pelvic floor from childbirth. And as the uterus gradually contracts and grows smaller in the weeks immediately following delivery, it lies directly on the bladder, compressing it, making it more difficult to stem the tide of urine.” This is why many women cannot seem to control their bladder during pregnancy and after childbirth. Luckily for me, I only experienced incontinence while I was in the hospital. I think in my case it was more because my vagina was still traumatized from the tear and the stitches that it couldn’t function properly. After birth, the nurses were monitoring my urine output, and I remember telling them that I really felt like peeing but that nothing would come out when I would sit in the toilet (and it was so frustrating because it took me forever to get to the toilet from my bed because of the pain!), and then all of a sudden, pee would come out while I’m standing and I just couldn’t control it. This happened twice or thrice (sorry, nurses, huhu!), but I think for others, this can go on longer. I did a lot of kegel exercises when I was pregnant so I think that helped a lot. Whenever you look up kegel exercises, you’d definitely come across this tip: Hold it like you’re holding your pee. But my doctor gave an even better tip: Do it. Really hold your pee while you’re peeing, so you know how it feels and which muscles you’re supposed to hold. She also told me to do kegels as soon as possible after birth so I still do it up to now. Although incontinence isn’t a big issue to me, what I did not expect is that I would pee much longer than before I gave birth. Since my vagina is still healing, I think especially in the first few weeks, my body was telling itself to go slower (and kinder), so whenever I would pee, there would be pauses before another round of pee would come out. This isn’t actually much of an issue – except when you start hearing your baby crying for food and you’re still sitting on the toilet, haha!
C. LOCHIA (BLEEDING) – I expected some bleeding after birth, but I dint realize it would actually be that much. No wonder everyone tells you to bring adult diapers, leaking pads, and sanitary napkins in the hospital! I was really able to use all of them. According to www.BabyCenter.com, “Because the amount of blood in your body rises by about 50 percent during pregnancy, your body is well prepared for this normal blood loss. Here’s what happens: When the placenta separates from the uterus, there are open blood vessels in the area where it was attached, and they begin to bleed into the uterus. After the placenta is delivered, the uterus continues to contract, which closes off those blood vessels, dramatically reducing the bleeding. If you had an episiotomy or tear during birth, you may bleed from that site as well until it’s stitched up.” I was expecting it to last a few days or weeks, but apparently, it can last up to six weeks (and even longer for some women). The thing is though, there are days when the bleeding is sooo heavy, and you can literally feel the blood clots making their way out. It doesn’t seem like a big deal because hey, we women have our periods all the time, but when you’ve just given birth, breastfeeding, and generally taking care of your baby, then you have this – it can get frustrating. My doctor told me the best way to shorten your bleeding is to get A LOT of rest (if possible, she said, that’s just what you do!). Another way, I think (I’m not sure about this but it’s a theory since uterus contractions reduce the bleeding), is to help your uterus contract even more. A few days after birth, I started wearing my WINK binder (medical grade binder and shaper) and noticed that the contractions were much stronger whenever I was wearing it. Actually, I only felt the contractions whenever I was wearing it. I stopped using it though because I was contracting too much that I would also go to the toilet a lot (and WHILE breastfeeding). But looking back, I should have worn it more and maybe my bleeding would be done by now. I am actually back to wearing it again now, and no more hyper-contractions and frequent toilet visits.
D. ITCHING – When a wound is healing, it itches. It’s as simple as that. Again, this would be no-biggie until you’re breastfeeding and attending to your child then it suddenly itches down there and there’s not much you can do. 😀
I honestly thought post-partum was just about post-partum depression, but I was soooo wrong. Now I realize it could even be these little things you go through after birth that lead to post-partum depression. Thankfully, I did not go through depression (I believe having a strong support is very crucial – I am blessed with a husband who co-parents with me!), but I can totally see where others are coming from – between losing sleep and endless child-caring activities and then feeling all these things…only a woman who has gone through this can really, truly understand.
Now, from what I gathered (which I researched only after delivery haha), post-partum period happens during the first few weeks after birth, when a woman’s body begins to heal and adjust to not being pregnant anymore. It goes through a lot of changes and these changes are not necessarily the same for everyone. In my case, it started when I felt a strong back pain while I was standing up from our floor bed. If you’ve been reading my journey, you probably know how I have a history of back pain but that I countered that with Pilates and Yoga during pregnancy so I did not go through back pain for both my pregnancy and during labor. So imagine my surprise when I was standing up one time and I felt like my whole pelvis was going to collapse! I think this was around day 4 or 5 since birth. That’s when I researched and went “ohhh…no wonder I feel this and that.” There are other things I was feeling that I just brushed off, not realizing right away that they’re part of the post-partum period. These things were: dry skin + dry lips + dry hair AND feeling hot all the time. Thankfully, my “hot flushes” are gone now, but I was really feeling extremely hot during the first few days post-birth, and it was really hard because babies cannot really regulate their temperature yet, so my husband and I were so paranoid about keeping the airconditioner on a cooler temperature because our son might feel too cold…And then we couldn’t face the electric fan directly to me because Pablo was always beside me…honestly, I don’t know how I survived the heat. Whew! As for the dry skin and dry hair, I’m still feeling it. I’ve been itching to go to a salon to have a haircut, a hair treatment, and just anything to make my dry hair feel better – but I’m still researching on which treatments are really okay to do for breastfeeding moms.
To avoid back pain, the WINK medical-grade binder and shaper supposedly helps. That’s actually why I started using it then. Thankfully for me, the back pain only happened once. I immediately did stretching that day, and then I started wearing the WINK binder. I don’t know which one worked — probably both.
Anyway, you can read THIS to get an idea and prepare for your turn. Again, it’s not necessarily the same for everyone, so what I experienced may not necessarily apply to you! THIS one seems very helpful, too!
A. LATCH – I cannot stress how important doing the right latch is! Sure, I attended many talks on breastfeeding, but of course, there’s no real practice for this. I had to wait for my baby to come out before I could try this out! I may have been given tips of latching during the breastfeeding classes, BUT, it did not really get into my system until it was too late and my nipples have been wounded. If there’s one thing I would advise you to keep researching on, it’s how to achieve the right kinds of latch. It will spell a difference in your breastfeeding journey! Of all the videos I watched on breastfeeding (which I did AFTER I gave birth — do it BEFORE you give birth!), THIS is the one that really helped me! THIS one is also good to help you understand how a baby is supposed to latch! It would really help if you make a lactation consultant/masseuse visit you at the hospital right after birth so you can be properly guided already before you have issues of plugged ducts, infection, and wounds. If you decide to get one, make sure you are taught all kinds of position (Australian Hold/ Football/ Cradle and Cross-Cradle/ Sidelying) and practice it with them so you’d be more comfortable doing it when you get home.
B. EFFECTS – I read up a lot on breastfeeding, although mostly I read up on its benefits and advantages more than the effects it can have on the mom (I am not undermining that knowledge though — that’s what kept me going each time I went through a painful breastfeeding session!). I only expected to feel a different kind of hunger, because I hear every breastfeeding woman say that, but still, I did not really imagine the kind of hunger I was going to feel until I gave birth. I swear I never felt that kind of hunger throughout my pregnancy! Haha.
Because that’s the only effect I expected, imagine my surprise when I realized that breastfeeding also makes me the following:
- sleepy – Yes, super, especially during the first few days! Breastfeeding apparently releases hormones that put you in a deep state of relaxation, especially in the newborn period. Amazing, maybe it’s nature’s way of telling you to relax and get some rest! No wonder newborns also prefer breastfeeding positions that are perfect for this effect – sidelying and Australian hold.
- cry – Well, this was before my son and I finally found our groove. I was not prepared for the kind of pain you’ll experience from breastfeeding until I was already in it. Seriously, I think only moms who breastfed and went through this can understand the pain! I may have cried a little during labor, but it’s no match for my tears from breastfeeding!
- thirsty – I was drinking from my huge bottle like there was no tomorrow especially on the first few weeks! I would always feel thirsty during or after feeding!
- leak A LOOOOT – I heard about milk leaks, but again, I didn’t realize how much leakage it’ll be until it happened to me. When I was making my breast wounds heal faster, one advice was to airdry it as much as possible, and truthfully, my breasts were too damaged at one point that anything touching it (bra/ clothes/ breast pad) hurt, so there were nights when all I had on was a gauze cloth (lampin) and after a while, my side of the bed would be WET. Milk leak stains were all over our bed the first few weeks. It has been greatly reduced now but I still have it. The good thing though is that my breasts have recovered from the wounds, so I can wear breast pads and bras all day everyday already!
C. TONGUE TIE – I’ve heard about this in classes, though it was always discussed in passing. The thing though is that it’s pretty common, although often undiagnosed/ overlooked. So what is it? It’s a congenital (present at birth) condition wherein the thin piece of skin under the baby’s tongue (called lingual frenulum) is unusually short and restricts the movement of the tongue. Many babies are born tongue-tied (and/or lip-tied) but was not really given much thought. However, nowadays, there’s been more attention given to it because of its proven correlation to breastfeeding issues (among many others which you can read about HERE). Essentially, tongue-tied babies have a harder time sucking / latching properly to get the milk out. In my case, this was apparently the reason why he was such a vigorous sucker and why my breasts were hurting even if we were doing the latches properly (more about tongue tie and breastfeeding HERE). When we found out he had tongue (and lip) tie, we decided to have it snipped right away. He was 3 weeks old then and it was a good time to do it because newborns don’t have fully developed nerve endings yet, so the surgery is supposedly painless. True enough, in our case, his latch got so much better after the surgery, so breastfeeding is so much better now – he enjoys feeding, AND he no longer sucks vigorously. I, on the other hand, no longer cries when it’s feeding time! He got so much better with his latch that there’s no more pain for me, and my wounds have healed, all thanks to the tongue tie release. However, not everyone opts to have their baby’s tie released. It’s best to have your baby evaluated if you feel your baby has it and consult with your trusted doctor for the next step.
THIS is really what I should have planned before giving birth – little details to chronicle our baby’s first year or so.
You know how our parents used to have baby books? Well, I’m not a fan of ready-made baby books (maybe I have not seen anything I like yet), but I really should have thought more about whether I wanted to make a scrapbook for my son, and if yes, what kind? What will I use to print the photos? What milestones must be included? Or should I make a journal instead? Should I write down things worth remembering and looking back on years from now?
As for the photos, I should have decided earlier whether or not we were going to take photos of him everyday or every week or every month just so we can have a nice documentation of how much he’s grown! Good thing we were able to decide how to chronicle his monthly growth, though. You can read about the first month HERE.
I should have prepared for a “family photo” session with our newborn, too! My photographer friend who did Pablo’s newborn shoot (at 11 days old) told me she wanted to take photos of us, but I was too busy direct feeding and attending to my son that I had no time to fix my hair and put on make-up! Looking back, I should have made time. We were able to take photos of us as a family when he was already a month old (photo above), and he has grown so much already. We missed the “super newborn” opportunity.
There are so many things my son does now that I know he’ll stop doing later on – his moro reflex is so cute, for example! I still can’t seem to catch him doing it on photo or video, though. Maybe some things are just meant to be embedded in our memories, but still, catching what we can when we can on photo/ video/ writing would be a nice thing to have years from now. My mom sure wishes there were cellphones (with cameras) back then so she could have taken videos of us breastfeeding and doing all these cute little things, too!
So if you have not yet given birth, make time for this. Everything will go fast, promise (even though it can feel so long sometimes)! When you feel like capturing a moment, do not get lazy and capture it – it’ll be gone before you know it, you can never capture what you would have wanted to capture anymore.
Hope this post helps you in your preparation for your birth! Have a safe delivery, mommies! You can do it!
PS: For grammatical errors, wrong spellings, or whatever error you may find here, forgive me. I am doing all these in between feedings and when my son’s asleep, so I have no time to proofread anymore. Hehe!