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.
The day I gave birth I tore a lot, both internally (sulcus tear) and externally. My biggest fear prior to giving birth was ripping myself a vaganus unihole (ripping from pee hole to b-hole) and that I did. My midwife thought I had a 4th degree tear (a literal unihole, there’s no longer a separation between butt and vag) because of how long my tear was (again from pee hole to b-hole) but it wasn’t deep enough, it was actually a 2nd degree tear with sulcus tears (internal tears don’t have a degree rating). I received many stitches and felt them all.
After I gave birth (either that evening or the next morning, time is a little fuzzy for me) my nurse helped me up and followed me into the bathroom. Standing that first time was a shock, I was so weak and in so much incredible pain. At first my butt hurt the most. I really blew that b-hole right out during my 4+ hours of pushing. My vagina mostly felt heavy, like it was falling off, and stung and felt bruised the maximum amount possible. My nurse kneaded my stomach for the second time (to ensure I didn’t bleed out) this time on the toilet, it hurt very badly just as it did right after birth (they do the same thing right after the placenta comes out). She then gave me some Dermaplast (numbing spray, it doesn’t numb you, it’s a lie), hemorrhoid cream (my whole b-hole was hemorrhoids), tucks pads, a peri bottle to spray myself clean with warm water, giant mesh underwear and an extreme pad to go inside them, and a baby diaper filled with ice cubes (you put this in your mesh underwear on your vagina and butt, it’s the only thing that feels good). She then showed me how to best feel less like death. First pee and simultaneously spray yourself with warm water, then dermaplast, then rub on the cream, then fold tucks into your butt crack over the roids, then put the pad in your underwear, then put the diaper in and pull everything up. Repeat 10,000 times a day. I was also provided with stool softener, this is key to not wanting to die on the toilet (for the first month it’s scary every time). Take it religiously, as I did, and you will be fine though very afraid. The nurse checked on me soon after to ensure I did use the restrooom, they want to make sure everything is working and moving along.
The first shower was later that day, 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. I hobbled my way in (raising my legs over the ledge was excruciating) and took a shower very unsteadily. I had to hold onto the handle on the wall the whole time and couldn’t bend over (I was so weak after delivery and had a spinal headache). I used a peri-bottle to clean myself, I didn’t want to feel my Frankenstein vagina and freak myself out, also pain.
I would say the first 3 weeks postpartum were pure agony. I could feel my stitches pull and dry out and everything felt really heavy (like my vagina was falling off) and bruised. There was no position I could sit in that was comfortable in any way. Car rides and sitting in one position too long were the worst for sure. Walking was really unpleasant and made the “falling off” feeling much worse. Also during that whole time I was leaking lochia (the afterbirth fluids) and used adult diapers rather than pads and underwear because it’s 1000 times easier and feels less gross. At 5 weeks postpartum my period returned in a really scary way (I thought and was told it probably wouldn’t return till I stopped breastfeeding…hahahahaha). I started bleeding much more heavily than I had been for the last 4 weeks and was passing clots that ranged from the size of a dime to that of a golf ball. I was told if I had clots at all to go into the E.R. immediately. That I did (to rule out a hemorrhage or retained placenta) and everything was fine after 2 ultrasounds, I just started my period and was FULL of clots my midwife had to remove one by one with a very long stick. Oh yes, I almost forgot to mention that during this time your organs are settling back into place and your stomach is shrinking and you can see and feel (or at least I could) them sloshing around and moving, it was so gross.
From 4-8 weeks postpartum I was still very uncomfortable, but it was more manageable. I could shower and shave much more easily (though personal grooming was a last priority and scary). 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 ridged seam where they sewed everything together. It looked better than I thought but just slightly different than before. I also had trouble from the time I gave birth to then holding anything in, that includes all the things (gas, pee, poo) pee was easiest but I couldn’t stop midstream like I was able to before (I warned you! TMI). 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 still hurt, and then it was really slow going and painful and things didn’t feel the same. It kind of felt like a fading echo of what it once was, that would dissolve before reaching full volume.
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. Also sex feels fully normal and amazing again, but still because of breastfeeding it takes some easing into. Things look normal again as well, the seam is not as noticeable or visible.
So there’s all that. You’re welcome.