I think my title makes it clear that this post will be fairly graphic, but if it didn’t here’s a second warning, I will be talking in extreme detail about recovering from a vaginal delivery. I feel like this is something that should be discussed more often but people feel weird about it because well…gross. But it’s really not gross, it’s natural and every woman that chooses to breed and doesn’t have a c-section will go through it, and should go through it informed and having heard the reality of what happens. Obviously everyone has a different experience, but here’s what happened to me. Hazel Ivy’s natural birth story is here, so feel free to read that if you’re interested in how that whole process went.
My biggest fear prior to giving birth was ripping myself a vaganus unihole or 4th degree tear (a literal unihole where there’s no longer a separation between your butt and vagina, you tear through muscle and skin). My midwife scared me right after I gave birth, she thought I had a severe 4th degree tear because of how long my tear was (I literally ripped from pee hole to b-hole) but my tear wasn’t deep enough to be a 4th degree, it was just long. I actually had a 3rd degree tear with sulcus tears (internal tears that don’t have a degree rating). They stitched me up, and I felt it all. I had many many hemorrhoids, it was like a bundle of grapes down there.
Ok now let’s get into recovery.
- The nurse walked me to the bathroom, they insist on helping the first time so you don’t hurt yourself and they can show you how to care for everything you shredded.
- The nurse kneaded my stomach to prevent postpartum hemorrhage, one of the most painful things I’ve experienced (they also do this after you deliver the placenta).
- I was given care supplies including: mesh underwear, a giant pad, hemorrhoid cream, tucks pads, a peri-bottle (spray bottle to help using the restroom hurt less and for cleaning), Dermaplast (numbing spray, it’s worthless in my opinion but I still used it for good measure) stool softeners, a sitz-bath, and at my hospital they gave me a baby diaper filled with ice (my favorite).
- They checked on me to make sure I used the bathroom, so they knew everything was “flowing” and I could later go home.
- I was given the opportunity to shower. My nurse kept saying shower, you’ll feel like a new woman trying to be nice and not just say Allison you smell like a toilet covered in B.O. go shower for me please, not even for you. I knew what she meant though, I could smell myself. It was hard maneuvering in and out of the shower and I was still shaky and unstable, but clean myself I did.
The first day I felt in a daze, there was pain of course, and an overall heavy numb feeling, but I was just in shock about the whole thing. Walking felt like it would make everything from my vagina to my butt fall right off, it just felt like it was dragging so low it would absolutely hit the floor. My butt by far hurt the worst initially.
First 3 Weeks
This whole period was pretty painful. I felt a lot of tightness, burning, stinging, and just that heavy “falling off” feeling. There wasn’t a comfortable position either sitting or standing, and I swear the donut pillow I bought just made sitting feel worse. I ventured out for a few short walks and went to lunch a few times but it wasn’t very enjoyable. I don’t know if everyone experiences this but I also could see and feel my organs shifting back into place as my stomach shrank. It was…interesting. Most people experience after-pains, which are basically cramps just like your contractions during labor. They happen when you breastfeed as your uterus shrinks back down to size. I didn’t feel them because I was dealing with a spinal headache and that just overshadowed all else, but I’d prepare for it! My tips for getting through this stage are below.
- Lochia and after-bleeding are really fun and long-lasting, don’t bother with pads, they feel gross. I used adult diapers, these ones to be exact and they were so freaking easy and comfortable. No leaks, no annoying gross feeling, and I could just toss them when they needed a change. I didn’t deal with underwear laundry for a long time. They aren’t noticeable even in leggings either.
- Use that peri-bottle like it’s nobody’s business. I filled mine with witch hazel, lavender, and warm water every time before I sat down to use the bathroom. It made everything feel so much better and I swear it helped with healing. I also used the peri-bottle in the shower because I just didn’t want to feel how mangled everything was but I needed to get clean.
- Make and use padsicles. They are frozen pads covered in witch hazel, aloe, and lavender. They provide so much relief.
- REST. Don’t try to do too much or visit with people too much, or just generally push yourself because you think you should or even just because you want to. You will regret it. You need time to heal and adjust to your new life.
- Ask for help. Recovery especially in this early stage really sucks. I am not a “help me” person at all but even I knew my limits and I had to ask for help. You don’t have to ask for big things but help cleaning, cooking, running errands, etc, it helps so much and takes so much pressure off of you.
- It’s normal if you have a hard time holding things in, like pee and gas, and for me because I ripped my butthole, when I had to go to the bathroom, I had to go ASAP. It gets better, it’s normal though if you have control issues.
- Know that it will get better and you aren’t broken forever, even if it feels like it.
- Don’t make your weight a focus…you just had a GD baby and you have your whole life to get that together.
From 4-8 weeks postpartum I was still very uncomfortable, but it was more manageable. I could shower and shave much more easily. I still pretty much refused to look at or touch anything down there for a while and used the peri-bottle filled with witch hazel, water, and lavender every time I used the bathroom. My hemorrhoids were long gone thankfully. When I did finally brave the mirror and feel my stitched area, I was surprised to feel a raised seam where they sewed everything together. It looked better than I thought but just slightly different than before. I was finally able to do kegels again at this point (4 weeks), but had almost no feeling or control. Some people are able to have sex right away after birth, not I. I waited I think until between 8 and 10 weeks because I was terrified and everything still hurt, and even then it was really slow going and painful. My period returned at about 6 weeks postpartum. That’s not typical for breastfeeding mothers but it is normal. Expect that you could go without one for a year or you could get it back right away like I did. I also had some heavy clotting, it scared the crap out of me and we went to the E.R., everything was fine, It was just my first period combined with leftover lochia but be aware and go to the Dr. if weird shit starts happening. Tips for this period:
- Get out! It’s really easy to be stir crazy and getting out even for a walk around the mall helps a ton. We went on daily mall walks and got Starbucks and it was heaven. We also took trips to the beach and walks around the neighborhood.
- Be patient. Things may not be normal still but they’ll get there. Everyone’s experience is different and you should give yourself some grace.
- Things might still feel heavy or weak, they’ll get better and stronger.
- Call the Dr. if you’re concerned about something.
- Still don’t need to be focusing on weight. The weight will come off, focus on healing and your baby!
12 weeks to now, 18 weeks, I feel have progressively felt pretty much normal. I’m not constantly aware of my vagina like I was and I can control and feel things like I originally did (so nice to not feel like pooping my pants!). I don’t have the heavy feeling at all and only occasionally do I feel bruised. Things look normal again as well, the seam is not as noticeable or visible.