Whenever I speak to someone who is expecting they ask about the birth and as I have said before it’s all a bit of a blur but even if it wasn’t I still don’t think it’s all that relevant. I think everyone’s birth story will be different and in fact it’s only a very small part of motherhood.
For me the bit I want people to know about is the days and weeks after you get home from hospital. I went to antenatal classes, I never missed an appointment with my midwife and I read two pregnancy books in the 40 or so weeks leading up to the birth of my daughter. But I don’t remember anyone telling me how hard the first 6 weeks are. They told me there would be bleeding and I might be uncomfortable but I couldn’t have anticipated the pain for about 6 weeks after the birth.
Issue #1 – stitches
I had an episiotomy during my delivery after pushing for an hour. Once I was sewn up I asked how many stitches but was told they don’t count them anymore – no one told me any more about it. When I got home I could hardly sit down with the pain and as the days passed it got worse and worse. I couldn’t walk far because of the pain. The stitches pulled and when I went to the toilet I screamed from the pain. Eventually I got a mirror and had a look and what I saw could only be described as a gaping wound. I went back to the hospital and told them what the problem was. My stitches had partly come out and there was indeed an open wound down there. Which I peed into several times a day – you piss a lot in the days after giving birth… did you know that??
Top tip – Pouring water with tea tree oil in it over my bits when I had a wee made things slightly easier.
Issue #2 – bleeding
This bit I did know about – the bleeding – you can expect to bleed for something between a week and six weeks after giving birth. A super period if you will. Mine was 6 weeks. 6 weeks of non stop period. But you can’t wear a tampon so you’ve got a pad that is visible from outerspace between your legs. Eventually you can downgrade to a normal pad. But after probably a week in my case my vaginal was so itchy from wearing pads that I probably ripped out my own stitches just to relieve the itching. Long after I have forgotten the pain of the contractions I will remember how itchy my fanny was in those weeks.
Top tip – no. Can’t help here.
Issue #3 – nipples
My baby had no latching issues and wasn’t tongue tied but the pain of starting breast feeding was real. For the 2 or 3 days before your milk comes in it feels like baby is permanently sucking and nothing is coming out. It doesn’t take long for your nips to get cracked and bleed. Eventually the milk comes in and you think you’re on the pigs back. But no. Your new enemy is the pain at letdown. Yes, when milk is released it causes actual physical pain. This too passes. Not before you have been sitting in bed at 3am gritting your teeth through the pain of a feed. You know it’s bad when your eyes well up with the anticipation of the pain of a feed.
Top tip – lansinoh nipple cream
Issue #4 – tiredness
My baby wouldn’t sleep anywhere but in my arms for several weeks. People kept telling me this was a bad thing so I kept trying to put her down which made her cry and made me sad and anxious and stressed. So I held her and sat with her and let her sleep. But I couldn’t let myself fall asleep because that was apparently the most dangerous thing in the world you could do with a new born. Particularly if you did it on the sofa. My husband kept reading on the internet that co-sleeping was a dangerous game and should be avoided at all costs. Eventually I compromised by propping myself up in bed while she slept on me and I dozed for a few hours at a time during the night. Occasionally I fell asleep on the sofa and vowed never to tell my husband what had happened.
Top tip – If I could go back in time I’d give myself a massive break here. I’d sleep and sleep and sleep. I’d sleep on the sofa, on the floor, in bed wherever and whenever and I’d never give it a second though.
Issue #5 – the 4th trimester
Babies don’t want to be on their own, ever, when they are new born. Don’t fight it.
Top tip – If you want to get anything done buy a sling. End of.