Wednesday, 11 November 2015

10 Things They Don't Tell You About Your Postpartum Body

Here I am: the proud owner of two small children. I am also now the veteran of two very different childbirth stories, having successfully delivered my second child by the conventional method, as opposed to having her lifted out of the sunroof. Neither is easy and they are starkly different experiences, which I will delve into at a later date when the memories don't make me cringe quite so much.

Today, instead, I plan to look at all the little bits of information that your midwife won't have given you about your body after your baby has left it. For the purposes of this piece, I will be focusing on what happens after you push one out, although a lot of these little nuggets of information will be relevant to both delivery methods.

Expecting soon? Pull up a chair; you're going to want to know about the weird shit about to befall your body...

1. You will be forced to pee.

It's immediately after delivery and you may or may not have just received more stitches than the Bayeux Tapestry. You've barely had time to re-establish which way is up and can't quite believe the things that your vagina has just done, when the midwives start demanding that you pee as soon as possible. You're not going to want to pee. Stitches or no, the thought of anything else touching your undercarriage is absolutely abhorrent, but they're insisting because they want to measure how much comes out of you. You see, some women get a thing called urine retention after childbirth and can't go at all; the hospital just want to make sure your plumbing still works after major trauma. My advice? Dab it dry, don't wipe.

2. You're going to sweat.

Pregnant women retain a lot of water. Once that woman is no longer pregnant, that water wants to leave her body. You're going to sweat harder that Oscar Pistorius on trial. Don't even think about taking polyester nightclothes to the hospital; it has to be cotton and it has to be comfortable.

3. You'll be frightened to poo, yes, but also to cough/sneeze/walk/breathe.

It's psychological really, but the sooner you get control back over your pelvic floor, the sooner you'll be able to go about normal day to day activities without feeling like your perineum is about to explode. If you've had stitches, holding a clean pad or piece of toilet paper against them when you poo will really help. I also recommend prunes, because the less effort you have to put in, the better. As for coughing and sneezing, I can't really comment; it's been a week and I've still done neither for fear of losing my womb. 

4. It feels unclean.

Postpartum bodies bleed. The loss that you'll experience is called lochia, and it's half period, half bloodbath. In the few days after delivery, you're going to ruin every single pair of pants you put on, not to mention any surface on which you sit. Getting out of the shower becomes about applying a pad to your undercarriage before you've even had a chance to locate your towel and you're still going to drip some onto the floor. Eventually, it'll settle down to being 'just' a heavy period, and we all know how delightful those are.

5. The bruising takes a while to come out.

It's a week after delivery and you might be starting to feel a bit better. Your tears will be healing nicely and your stitches might be starting to dissolve. At this point, you can probably even poo in relative comfort. Then, all of a sudden, you wake up one morning feeling like you've been kicked in the fanny by a horse. Your clitoris is swollen and throbbing (and not in a good way) and your insides feel a lot like they're trying to be on the outside. It was only after much frantic googling and a panicky text to my friend who gave birth earlier in the year before I realised that this was just normal bruising, caused by an enormous noggin forcing its way out of my lady garden.

6. Recovery takes longer than you'd expect.

After a Cesarean, I thought that the recovery from a natural birth would be relatively straightforward. In a way, I guess it is compared to major surgery, but don't expect to be walking like anyone other than John Wayne for several weeks afterwards. 

7. It'll go old testament God on you if you try and push your luck.

If you don't give your body sufficient time to recover, it's going to punish you. Your womb will suddenly send forth another river of blood to tell you that you're getting too ambitious and to sit the fuck back down on the sofa. Listen to your body; it knows what it's doing.

8. It adapts to sleep deprivation really quickly.

The early days of parenthood are a heady blur of sleepless nights and mild panic, but it's incredible how quickly your body (and brain) will adjust to this change. There will be days when you're so tired you think you might actually die, but for the most part, you and your baby will slowly find a rhythm that works for both of you, and allows you to continue as a reasonably functional human being. And the days that you can't function? Don't. Stay home and cuddle your baby; this is a time for you to go easy on yourself. 

9. It's glorious in it's state of not being pregnant. 

Being pregnant is shit. Welcome back to a world of sleeping on your back and tequila. You may be wobblier than a blancmange, but your body is finally your own again. Enjoy being the only person living in it.

10. It'll make you feel like a bloody superhero. 

And rightly so. However your baby was delivered, your body grew and nurtured them, and then went through something akin to either being hit by a train or surviving a shark attack to get them here. You've sacrificed everything from your dignity to the ability to hold in the smallest amount of piss to bring this tiny human into the world, and you deserve to feel invincible (you know, once you can walk normally again).