Friday, August 17, 2012

Going Home - Post Partum Recovery

Throughout my entire pregnancy any anxiety I experienced was almost entirely related to my fears regarding labour and delivery. Yes, I hoped to have a normal and healthy baby but worried much more about the supposed "worst pain of your life."  So the moment my darling little boy emerged into the world I felt instant relief and I felt that the worst was over.  I realized very soon after that I had been wrong.  I hadn't given a second thought to the recovery process during the entire nine months that I was pregnant and up until the actual delivery I still hadn't. In the hours that passed soon after my little boy was born, I very quickly wished I had given the recovery some thought prior to then.

First things first. I needed stitches. Down there. I was numb from my epidural so I didn't feel it, but as I lay waiting for my little bundle to come for first cuddles I was a little mortified watching the resident doctor take his time pulling stitches through my tear. He informed me it was a small tear, but he was sewing for what seemed like an eternity. When I questioned him about it he said he just wanted to do a good job. I was unconvinced but I was helpless against his needle.  I tried to ignore him stationed at the foot of my bed and focus only on my new baby, but it wasn't easy.

The next unpleasant surprise was trying to walk post-epidural and use the bathroom for the first time. Turns out I could handle the former but no dice on the latter. Great.  Plus no one ever told me about the blood. I bet even reading this now most people are grimacing and gasping that I dare bring up this fact. Newsflash - you bleed after you give birth - of course you do! I wish I had had someone to inform me that A LOT was okay and very normal. Thankfully it only seemed like A LOT during my first two bathroom attempts, the second of which I was a lot more successful in using the washroom. Another thing - the peri bottle is your new friend. This bottle is designed to allow you to spray yourself to keep clean and it is very much needed and from my experience- very much wanted. I had never heard of it before and was a little freaked at the nurses showing me how to use it. However, I soon adjusted and grew to love it.

Those unpleasant surprises were just skimming the surface - I haven't mentioned how tired, sore and raw you feel. There are pain meds that I availed of and didn't feel bad about it. I was also one of the lucky ones and able to shower less than 12 hours post delivery. I wasn't too weak and the shower felt good, even though it was in the dingy hospital shower stall.  Despite the chipped tiles and damp clothes from the spray leaking behind the sticky shower curtain, I felt much better.  I managed a private room after the first night and that was a saving grace. Another thing I realized is that hospital food really is THAT BAD. Have your significant other bring you something to eat other than that junk.

To add to all of this is that I was now breastfeeding for the first time in my life. The nurses were helpful - don't get me wrong but they all had different suggestions that were very contradictory. I will explore this fact more in another post. I was so eager to go home and less than 44 hours from my entrance into the hospital mid labour we were on our way home. One of the driving forces behind this was the success of breastfeeding. My little guy was great with the boob!

Allright, so I survived my time in hospital for my own recovery. Now on to baby - up until that time, I had never changed a diaper in my life - aren't you supposed to have instincts to magically know this immediately? I had some nervous moments, but after those first few changes I mastered it pretty fast. I felt as though everyone was watching to see how I was coping with it. It's not a nice feeling to be watched while caring for your own baby and not really feeling confident in your own abilities yet.

Going home was a relief but it was also a whirlwind. I was exhausted since the moment I became a momma and there appeared to be no day in sight where I would get to catch up on my much needed sleep. I was sore and stiff, and still fat and not caring a smidge about looking nice. It was nice to have my husband and immediate family from both sides there - all excited about being new grandparents and aunts and uncles and willing to help - but beyond that was where I lost my visitor morale. Cousins came out to see him when he was just a couple of days old and I should have said no to their requests. I didn't want to be mean and shy away from the visitors but by the fourth day home I was refusing everyone. I wanted a "closed" sign on my front door to give my new family of three time to just be. I wished these eager visitors had waited until a few weeks had passed so I could at least clean up and be alert enough to enjoy them when they came one after another. After those first few days, I learned to say no to the visitors and took some time to allow myself and my husband adjust to this brand new life.

The last of the major recovery surprises was that I felt watched by everyone - my family, friends and my doctor for signs of Post Partum Depression - the infamous baby blues. I have become a firm believer that while PPD is a serious illness, it is a far cry from the rollercoaster emotions you experience when you get home! The lack of sleep alone is enough to make anyone want to cry their eyes out or snap the head off someone. I had issues with the fact that nothing fit me anymore, that I struggled to catnap between feeds while my mind raced, and yes dare I say it - when I made the dreaded first washroom visit. That was harder than labour for me simply because I had never been forewarned about what to expect. Some tears did flow and I had my rants but I always felt better after an outburst. I only had a couple crying bouts and then things slowly got easier. Most importantly I learned that it was okay to be a little sad and frustrated at times, I was just learning all this!

All that being said - the best part of those first days was that I was in awe of my son - of all his features, how instinctual he was - and just how amazing it was that he had been living inside of me just days ago. I was deliriously happy despite all the recovery hiccups and tried to focus on that point regardless of how tough some of the adjustments were.

Momma's Musts:
  • Be recovery ready - labour may not be the worst part and you have a lot to face when you get home. Ask other moms you know how they coped, and don't be afraid to ask for help if you need it!
  • Say no to visitors - if you are not in the mood, its okay to politely refuse the company. Ask them to wait until you have adjusted. They will understand if they are true to you! (Side note - if a friend has a new baby give them some space! Offer to help but wait to visit until they are ready)
  • Don't be hard on yourself - allow some time to learn how to care for your little one and to adjust to your demanding new schedule. It is a major adjustment and its okay to cry every now and again. However, be wary if your depressed feelings continue and don't be afraid to seek help if they do.
  • Live in the moment  - you're a new mommy and under all the unpleasantness of recovery is this little person that you created and are now sustaining his/her life! That's pretty awesome :)

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