Postnatal Recovery- The Part No One Prepares You For

“Every thing you need to know before you get pregnant!” 

“How to Survive Pregnancy!” 

“Preparing for Childbirth!”

The above genre of articles are a dime a dozen. I should know- I immersed myself in them throughout my pregnancy. I felt fully prepared for whatever might come my way… Except I wasn’t. 

A few of the articles mentioned in passing that I’ll want pads and some witch hazel wipes for after I have my baby; that’s pretty much how they left it. 

If I could choose one phase of bringing another life into the world to skip it wouldn’t be pregnancy and it wouldn’t be labor and delivery. Nope. It would be the recovery period. Hands down. 

Before I continue with my advice for preparing for your postnatal recovery phase, let me just add two disclaimers:

  1. I had a vaginal delivery. If you are scheduled for a cesarean section, or have an emergency one at the last second, I cannot attest to what your recovery will be like or how to prepare. My apologies. 
  2. I had 1st degree tears and just a few stitches. Could be better, could be worse. Remember that no two people are exactly the same and your experience may differ from mine. 

I’m about to get extremely blunt- so the faint of heart and men may want to stop reading at this point. 

What to Expect:

  1. Blood. Lots of blood. Huge clots with tendons and sometimes unidentified particles. Imagine your heaviest period ever… Got it? Ok now take that times roughly five. It’s like that. Every time you stand: GUSH! Every time you sit: GUSH! Every time you pee: GUSH! So. Much. Blood. It gets lighter and lighter each week, but can last up to 6-8 weeks on average. It’s gross and uncomfortable. 
  2. Everything “down there” will be swollen. I’ve heard not to look with a mirror… But believe me, no mirror is needed to know that things are MESSED UP down there. And it hurts. And it feels awkward. Jump on the imagination train with me again: you’re walking around with a baseba–no. Scratch that– a FOOTBALL in between your legs and it’s covered siracha sauce. Especially when you pee. Yep. Just like that. 
  3. Sitting down is hard to do. 
  4. Standing up is hard to do. 
  5. Sitz baths are AMAZING. The more you take, the quicker you’ll heal, and the better you’ll feel. (If you’re unfamiliar, a sitz bath is just shallow warm bath where you soak your bottom for 10 minutes or so). 
  6. No toilet paper for you. That’s right. You’ll be using a squirt bottle to clean yourself after #1 and #2. You can “pat dry” very gently with TP. Do your sleep deprived best not to forget to fill the bottle with water before sitting on the toilet… Or forget to grab it if you go anywhere outside your home. It’s annoying, but necessary. 
  7. Speaking of #2, it will feel like you’re pooping serrated knives for awhile. Sweat. tears, and pleading to God to let you live through it may or may not be involved. I’m so sorry. It’s just awful. And typically results in hemmorhoids. So there’s that.  
  8. Breastfeeding is painful at first. Like clench-your-teeth-and-close-your-eyes painful. It’s just during the initial latch and will stop hurting in a few weeks if it’s something you plan on doing and committing to. If you’re determined to breastfeed, it will eventually be easy. If you’re not, there’s nothing wrong with formula. Just make sure your baby gets fed 🙂 
  9. Once you’re cleared by your midwife or doctor to have sex again, it will hurt. A lot. Take it slow… Some people heal slower than others. 
  10. Your heart will explode. Over. And over. And over. You’ll cry tears of joy and you’ll wonder how you ever lived before that precious baby filled your heart with an overpowering, unconditional love. You’ll also be overwhelmed by God’s love all over again- because how could He POSSIBLY love you even more than you love your child?! He does. 

    What to Buy Before Baby Comes

    You’ll want your husband around as much as possible as you heal, so sending him off to the store for necessities will be less than ideal. Here’s my shopping stock-up list to prepare you for those first few weeks: 

    1. Pads. Once your bleeding lightens enough to stop wearing the hospital grade variety, you’ll want something more comfortable. I recommend buying several absorbancies so you can transition as you go. I also recommend Always overnights (purple package). Some brands stick to stitches. Ouch!! 
    2. Stool softener pills. I kid you not, I was taking three a day and still having a hard time. 
    3. Miralax. Just in case you need even more help. 
    4. Foods that help you poop even more: Fiber One bars, Activia, oatmeal are good examples. Seriously- you’ll want all the help you can get. Stock up!! 
    5. Witch hazel pads. Your hospital will provide some in your bathroom (make sure you take it with you when you leave!), but you may want more. You can “pat” your sore spots with them, as well as line your pads with them. They help heal your stitches and provide hemmorhoid relief. 
    6. Boppy pillow. But make sure you have extra regular pillows to prop up baby for feeding… Because you’ll be sitting on the pillow. I grabbed extra disposable bed pads from the hospital to lay on top of it in case of any leaking, but you can buy them in stores as well. Sitting on the Boppy will take some pressure off your sore spots when you’re sitting. I called it my nest 😉 
    7. Large water bottle. You NEED to hydrate a TON. All day long. Your body was literally just traumatized; if you are breast feeding, the milk is made up of mostly water; and it will help you POOP. Score another point for pooping!! 
    8. Ibprofin. You’ll get some in the hospital along with stool softeners while you’re there, but the pain doesn’t stop when you sign the discharge papers. Make sure you have the medicine cabinet stocked. 
    9. A notepad and pen. You’ll be sleep deprived and a little overwhelmed at first. While trying to track how often baby is eating and how many diapers they’re going through (there’s awesome apps for that!!), it’s easy to forget most other things. Leave a notepad with your stool softeners & pain relievers so you know when you took it last. Believe it or not, it’s hard to remember! You can also scribble down how much water you’ve had and when friends or family are coming to visit. Hopefully with foods that help you poop. Just saying. 
    10. Snacks that don’t need to be refrigerated. It sucks to stand up. And sometimes you just won’t want to because there’s an adorable baby sleeping on your chest. It’s very convenient to keep several snacks within reach each day. Gotta stay fueled!! 

    If I just scared the living crap out of any mamas-to-be… I promise it is so worth it. When you look into that baby’s eyes you’ll simply forget everything your body is going through, even if for just a second. ❤️ 

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        1. Trisha

          Great post Gabby. I completely forgot about the #6 squirt bottle until you mentioned it. If it makes you (and other soon to be moms) feel any better, 11 years later, you won’t remember most of this 🙂 God’s great way of allowing us to continue to have children!

        2. Darcy T.

          Question: If you can’t use TP other than to just “blot dry,” how do you get ALL the poop off with just the squirt bottle? That seems really GROSS, going around with not only blood gushing out your vag, but with leftover poop on your bum. I know it’s necessary not to wipe vigorously for healing purposes, but I want to be clean too, darn it!

          1. gabbagirl89

            Great question! Luckily I was able to reach the sink from my toilet and refill the bottle- if you squeeze the bottle hard enough it works sort of like a pressure washer. Another option is to use unscented baby wipes (or the adult version), very gently if you need a little extra cleaning help. The main concern is to not pull at any stitches. Another thing that helps, is that early on if you’re taking roughly 3 sitz baths a day, it helps you get and feel cleaner.

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