Postpartum Recovery and Healing
Before reading this post, you might want to read my birth story to learn more about the craziness that went down (24 hours of labor, 3 hours of pushing…yes you read that right). I prepared a lot for pregnancy and birth, but didn’t do nearly as much prep for postpartum recovery. There is only so much you can do to prepare because you really don’t know how your birth is going to go and what your physical recovery will entail or how you will feel emotionally until you go through it, but after experiencing it I do have some tips that I recommend for future mama-to-bes:
Physical - if you are planning on having a vaginal birth, be prepared with products to assist in your recovery. I didn’t have an episiotomy but I tore both internally and externally from the forceps and had a lot of stitches. Because of this and also my stitches falling out early, my recovery took a little longer than usual (around 3 weeks).
Depends - these were recommended by a few people and I want to share the recommendation. They really came in handy not only for the post birth bleeding but also if you happen to have incontinence…yep, that was me for around a week.
Sitz bath - I had no clue what this was until I gave birth. I thought it meant sitting in a bath that didn’t have much water. A sitz bath is basically a little bowl shaped thing that sits in your toilet and allows you to bathe “down there” without taking an actual bath. You can herbs, essential oils and epsom salt to help with recovery. The hospital actually gave me one to bring home but I’m sure you can get it on Amazon and I definitely would if your hospital doesn’t provide it (mine looked like this one - I didn’t use the solution bag or tube). I didn’t do them for the first week and then my mother-in-law encouraged me to when she saw I was having a slow recovery. It really helped soothe the area and I regret waiting so long to start doing them. When the stitches fell out early, it caused nerve pain in the whole area. When I went to the doctor to have it checked he prescribed a numbing cream and wanted me doing 4-5 sitz baths a day! I was doing around 2-3, for 10-20 minutes and using an epsom salt essential oil mixture that my doula made for me.
Products to assist in healing - the hospital will give you a ton of products and I did use them while I was in the hospital but once I got home I started using my products that I knew were safe and non-toxic. Earth Mama makes some great pregnancy and postpartum products. I used their organic perineal balm, herbal perineal spray and drank their organic periodic tea. The perineal balm has a really nice texture that was especially soothing for the external stitches. I could see at least 6 of them that were poking me and also really annoying as they started to dry up and the balm helped make the area feel less dry. The herbal perineal spray I used every time I went to the bathroom, changed my pads/diapers, etc. It was quick and easy to apply with the upside down sprayer as a plus and the cooling sensation distracted me from the discomfort. And I loved the cinnamon-y taste of the organic periodic tea and it was perfect to drink during my sitz baths to make it more of a relaxing experience. I’m technically considered out of the 6 week postpartum time period at this point but plan to continue drinking this tea (1 - because I love the taste and 2 - because it can be used to ease the symptoms for period cramps as well). I also drank their organic red raspberry leaf tea during my pregnancy leading up to the birth and always cherished my tea times as self-care. It also built my tolerance for the strong brew red raspberry labor day tea that may have put me into labor! (more in my birth story post).
FOOD - my sister told me that in the first few weeks it will be hard to find time to eat or pee and I didn’t believe her. She was right. Between breastfeeding, soothing the baby, changing diapers, sitz baths, it taking extra long to get off the couch and sit back down on it, it really is hard to find time to do anything for yourself. If possible, make some meals you can freeze, load up on frozen foods or anything that you (or your husband) can cook really quickly, have your fave takeout meals saved in your seamless account and ready to be ordered, ask for people to bring you food. I also used “The First Forty Days” book to learn about foods that facilitate your healing such as how warming foods such as soups, oatmeal, and broths will help replenish the blood that was lost.
Emotional - I think that everyone deals with birth and postpartum very differently on an emotional layer but after opening up to people about how I felt, I’ve learned that it is more common than you think to feel the way I did. In the hospital I was overwhelmed with love, joy, excitement, and started to feel fear and anxiety but also knew that I had the nurses there (who were so amazingly helpful) to guide me through it. The fear started to settle in on the second night when I had originally said that I wanted the baby with me at all times and not to go to the nursery but we ended up sending her to the nursery after seeing her spit up while laying on her back and worrying that she would choke if we fell asleep. On our way home, Bryan wanted to pick up her birth certificate and when he left Parker and I in the car together while he ran inside, I started crying hysterically feeling unsafe. This was when I knew that I was starting to have either a hormonal crash, baby blues or postpartum anxiety. I’m still not sure exactly which it would be categorized under, possibly all of the above, but from getting home through end of week 2 and a little into week 3, I felt a LOT of fear. I was scared of everything, even something as simple as that I might trip while walking with her. I think that when you immediately fall so in love with this teeny tiny human, it is natural to worry but my mind was racing with worries and I would cry often. It was almost as if the more love I felt for her, the more fear I felt. Looking back now, it’s hard to even remember what I was crying about but one of the things, which I mention in my birth story, was the fear that the birth was traumatic for her and that she remembered it. All of that said, week 4 took a turn and I started to feel a lot better and more comfortable and confident with motherhood as I got in the swing of things and started to learn Parker’s ways. I still worry and am pretty sure that as a mom you always do, but now they seem more rational. So what got me through this difficult time?
build your support system - this is SO very important and I think the #1 way to prepare. I knew that I had Bryan and that he would be there for me through everything but he really stepped it up and made this all so much easier for me. He was always there to listen and let me talk through my worries and fears and cry to him without making me feel bad for it. He was also more helpful than I could have even imagined with Parker (on full time diaper duty, waking up in the night, laundry, cleaning, cooking, etc.). While my love for Parker was growing every second, my love for Bryan was also growing enormously as he took care of both of us. I really don’t know how I would have gotten through this without him. I also had both of our families coming over to help when possible and always available to talk through things, my neighbors set up a meal train to cook for us twice a week for the first few weeks (if people ask what you want or need, ask for FOOD, this is so helpful), and mama friends. I found connecting with other mamas for tips, advice and even just to hear their stories especially comforting and helpful. I realized that if I was open to sharing my struggles on Instagram, old friends that I haven’t talked to in years, friends of friends, random people I don’t even know etc. would open up to me about their struggles and offer suggestions and this is one of the reasons I love social media.
educate yourself on the things that could come up - I read SO many pregnancy books and most had postpartum chapters in them. Learn about the signs of postpartum depression and anxiety so that you or your partner can catch it early if it starts to happen. Know that the “baby blues” is both common and normal so that you do not feel guilt or shame when having those feelings. Understand the hormonal crash and what other side effects come along with it (night sweats!! I would wake up drenched in the first few weeks). Having a better understanding will help you differentiate what is normal and what might not be.
continue taking your prenatal vitamins through the fourth trimester - this should fall under both physical and emotional because it will affect both. I am continuing all prenatals at least through my fourth trimester and will probably continue most for longer too but will reevaluate at 12 weeks. I know that I will definitely continue any that were for both pregnancy and lactation support as long as I am breastfeeding, specifically my Hyperbiotics ProMoms Probiotic and Nordic Naturals DHA. One cause for postpartum depression is being nutrient and mineral deficient. So many people assume that because they are called “pre” natals, you don’t have to continue them after birth but you are so depleted after birth that it is essential to support your body with them as it heals, especially if you are breastfeeding. The RDAs while breastfeeding are actually higher for so many of them than they are for while pregnant (ex : 2.8 mcg/day while breastfeeding vs. 2.6 mcg/day while pregnant of vitamin B12).
Hopefully this is helpful for future mama-to-bes. I read so many birth stories prior to giving birth but wish I read more about people’s recovery stories and think that I would have felt a little better about what I was experiencing both physically and emotionally if I knew how common my feelings were. The mama network of support is so very important so please don’t hesitate to comment here on the post, email me, instagram message me…any of the above! I’m here for you :)
**And feel free to use coupon code Lexie20 through 7/31 for 20% off individual, regularly priced products on at Earth Mama Organics!