I am a realistic kind of person. I had no fantasy in my mind that I would skip out of the hospital after giving birth feeling brand new, despite how easy Kate Middleton made it look. If you read my birth story, you know already that I was in labour for twenty eight and a half hours and let me tell you, that takes a lot out of a person! I knew labour would hurt and I would be tired but I guess I never in a million years realised how difficult recovery afterwards would actually be. Despite how long I was in labour, the birth itself was very straightforward. I had an epidural and managed to push her out fairly quickly myself. My mother always talks about how ill she was after having an emergency C-section on me and how quickly she recovered after a natural birth on my sister in comparison so because of how the delivery went, I did figure I would be as right as rain within, maybe, a week max.
I gave birth at 9:36am and because I had an epidural, I was bed bound once I got to the ward. The midwives emptied my bladder for me before I left the delivery room so I had no need to get out of bed anyway. However, from about 3pm, the nurses in the ward started to warn me that they would be around to help me to the bathroom within the next few hours. They left me with three cardboard measuring bowls that I had to bring to the bathroom the next three times I went, reporting back with how much I had done each time, presumably to make sure everything was in working order.
It was actually half five before the nurse reappeared to bring me to the toilet. She told me I would be having a body shower too and helped me retrieve the toiletries from my bag. After I gave birth they moved me from the bed in the delivery room to a trolley to transport me to the ward and then on to my new bed all, the time leaving me without any pants on. Instead they put these sort of pads down on the bed to catch whatever leaked out. I was covered with a blanket so it wasn’t like everybody could see. I had taken a peek and seen that I was bleeding quite a bit and I had heard horror stories about women standing up out of bed for the first time after giving birth only to gush blood all over the floor so I was anxious about this venture. The nurse handed me two giant pads (honestly, even the jumbo night time Always have nothing on these!) and told me to wedge them between my legs as we walked to the bathroom. I did as I was told and gripped her arm for support as we made our way down the corridor. I was relieved that my legs felt absolutely fine. I just felt weak and exhausted so I was grateful for the support but I didn’t have any trouble actually getting around.
I had to get some minor stitches after the delivery and the midwives warned me that the placement of some of the stitches meant that they would really sting when I peed. Once alone in the cubicle, with a cardboard bowl wedged under the toilet lid to catch my urine, I was very anxious. I felt incredibly beaten up and really wasn’t up to experiencing pain. It took me a few minutes to actually go and I was happy that it didn’t hurt too much (bear in mind I still had morphine in my system). Of course, having to check how much I had actually done meant I didn’t get to flush and ignore it. I had to lift the cardboard bowl out and check the measure on the side. There was such a strong smell from it, just like the smell of whatever I had vomited after delivery, and I’m only bringing it up because for weeks afterwards, that odour would drift back into my memory and give me goosebumps.
I updated the nurse on how much I had done and she guided me towards the shower, telling me to holler if I needed her. I had packed a load of toiletries that you can see in my post about my hospital bag but the nurse told me to just have a body shower and not to worry about my hair (I wouldn’t have had the energy to wash it even if I had wanted to). All I managed was a quick rinse with shower gel, the scent of which still reminds me of the shower I took while I was in labour so ensure you don’t pack one of your favourites as you will never want to smell it again!
The nurse offered me some Paracetemol a few hours later but I honestly felt fine so I declined it. However the next morning when I woke up, I could feel a lot of discomfort down below and when I asked, the nurse brought me iBuprofen and Paracetemol. That is what they prescribed for me once I left too. Paracetemol every six hours and iBuprofen every eight. They encourage you to get out of bed and move around as much as possible, and of course I had to change Indie’s nappy (which you aren’t allowed do in the ward) and had to go to the loo myself, so I was up every so often. That’s when I felt the pain. It was this awful dragging sensation like my vagina wanted to fall out on to the floor. It was horrifically uncomfortable. As the strong medication wore off, it did sting when I peed. Quite a lot. Enough so that I would be closing my eyes and holding my breath whenever I went. I was also way too sensitive to wipe myself properly. A quick dab and I was done.
I would like to say that within a few days I was back to normality but that was definitely not the case. I still felt so sensitive that it was difficult to sit down and sometimes when I sat in a weird position, like with my leg underneath me on the seat or something, I could feel a pulling like I was possibly stretching an area that was stitched. I couldn’t stand for more than a few minutes at a time without that awful dragging feeling too. Couple that with the fact that I was so overtired, leaking milk everywhere and changing my sanitary towels every hour or so and you might have a slight idea of what life is like after childbirth. About a week after I gave birth, I felt the pain was getting worse instead of better and the visiting midwife checked my stitches for me. I was certain that they were infected or healing badly because the pain wasn’t normal. She assured me everything was perfect down there. Seemingly the pain was normal! Three weeks later and it still hurt to stand.
I’m seven weeks postpartum now and – apart from the constant fatigue from feeding through the night – I actually feel great. I feel fully healed and have no more pain, although I am still bleeding.
I’m not writing this to scare you. In the grand scheme of things, labour is a lot worse than any pain you feel afterwards but both are very different. It is difficult living in pain every day for weeks, especially when you aren’t getting the sleep and rest to heal quickly. I am writing this so that when you see people like Kate Middleton having a photo op hours after giving birth, or those Instagram posts of people showcasing their two week post-partum baby bods, that is not normal! There is so much pressure on women to bounce back and even my own father was guilty of urging me to “get out for a walk with the baby” when I still found it hard to get up and down the stairs! You have to listen to your own body and you will know yourself when you are ready. Don’t feel any pressure to do it before then. You are healing from something massive and you could do more harm if you overexert yourself. Instead take that time to be lazy, nap when the baby naps and spend your hours awake just staring at the tiny person you created. Indie is only seven weeks old and already she looks so grown up next to a newborn!
My other reason for writing this is that nobody warned me. People had shared all of their horrific birth stories with me but nobody told me how grim it could be afterwards. My cousin had an elective C-section a few weeks before me and she was hopping out of the bed three days later which is practically unheard of. Again that gave me a very unrealistic expectation of what to expect afterwards.
Everybody is different so I would love to hear other people’s stories of their experience after birth. Please share your stories in the comments.