Ahhh the fourth trimester! My last post about this sort of touched on the lovely Instagram version of events, the bits you know about, dream about, obsess about but the most infuriating thing for me, when I was googling the shit out of everything, was not finding one honest account of what to expect my post partum body to look/smell/feel like. So here’s my honest, good bad and ugly, definite TMI account of my post partum body in all it’s glory.
Lets start at the top. Literally.
My brain was foggy, DELIRIOUS from lack of sleep while in hospital, OVERWHELMED by the sheer magnitude of responsibility for this tiny human that we made, CONFUSED about that happens next, TERRIFIED that I’m already doing it all wrong but completely, all consumingly filled with so much LOVE and JOY for my body, my baby, my hubs and the future.
I just carried a human being, all it’s luggage and some extra pregnancy pounds for the best part of a year. Then I entered a marathon and won the race. Labour and Birth are hard work! Even if you had all the intervention, drugs and assistance available, contractions take it out of you, C-Sections are major abdominal surgery, pushing is hard bloody work and you are going to have carried some tension and anticipation around in those shoulders for a few weeks on top of all that. I literally ached. Painkillers every 4 hours, the comfiest clothes I could find and lots of water helped but this one just takes time. I sat on the sofa, I slept (in the same clothes), I peed, I ate pizza. That was it for days. And I needed it.
Knees & Toes Boobs
Day 5 (or whatever day it is for you) when your milk arrives hurts. Like your tits got rigor mortis and the rest of your body didn’t get the memo. I couldn’t breast feed so I was feeling especially useless and was ordered not to touch them or over stimulate them. If you’re breast feeding then I am praying it’s all just got a lot easier for you but if it doesn’t, please seek help quickly. It could transform your newborn bubble. Also, sleep in your maternity bras! You NEED that support right now and I promise they won’t feel like this for long.
What amazed me most about my tummy immediately post birth and in the days and weeks to follow is that after having a solid human body in there for so long and feeling the stretch and strain of every kick and wriggle. Suddenly it’s like your tum has been replaced by a marshmallow. It’s soooo soft, wibbly and literally like jelly. It feels strange! I look back on photos now and am amazed at how big I still was 3 weeks after he was born. It felt tiny in comparison to my pregnancy bump. It does take time but I promise your tummy will reduce dramatically. Meanwhile, LOVE your MumBod. You are a fucking superhero!
When we are pregnant we produce a hormone called Relaxin which literally relaxes all the bits that need to scooch over to make space for a baby. You keep producing that hormone for some time after baby comes out so hips, knees, elbows, pelvis etc. can all feel a bit odd. A bit loose. It doesn’t last forever but I struggled with back pain, sciatica and pelvic girdle pain while pregnant and this did not go away immediately after baby arrived.
Your Vajayjay and Your FartBox
OK firstly please accept my apologies for the above. Call yours whatever you want, I went for least offensive (and a bit LOL) for this post. Also I need to remind you that I am speaking from my own personal experience here so please remember that at all times. Manage your own expectations and you’ll hopefully be a little less shell shocked than I was. Moving on to the nitty gritty (does anyone call theirs that?!) I do feel like I got off lightly ‘down there’. Due to Theo’s dramatic arrival I suffered a third degree tear (not caused by me pushing, actually caused by the midwives that tried to free him) which basically means a tear that goes into the anal sphincter muscle. You can google tears if you want, there’s a good diagram floating around but I wouldn’t, there is nothing you can do (I am not going to even mention perineal massage aside from I didn’t do it and ew) to change the outcome in that regard. I am a firm believer that your body and your baby will determine how that pans out. Long term, your butthole is not the bit you want to lose feeling in for obvious reasons (poo incontinence is a real thing so I’m told!) but I have had amazing after care, womens health physio etc. and follow ups with surgeons. I was also lucky enough to be offered an epidural for the repairs so I didn’t feel a thing (although they also neglected to administer the Brazilian Wax I had ordered while they were down there!) and I stayed on top of my pain killers (for about 3 weeks, every 4 hours – you don’t get a medal for avoiding drugs during or post birth) so I wasn’t in pain at any point. However, I did discover that my body does not dissolve dissolvable stitches so 14 weeks later I finally ‘got rid’ of the last stitch (it came out in my poop) as my body rejected them one by one. I even ended up at my GP’s assuming the ‘smear test position’ asking her to pull them out as they were digging into my butt but unfortunately they were very much under the skin so couldn’t be tugged…. ** insert grimacing face emoji here
The post birth bleed. (AKA Lochia) Everyone is different and yes you still get it if you have a C Section, breastfeeding, stress etc. all affect this part too. Mine lasted about 5 weeks (I think?! Hard to remember now!). My first period arrived on the day of Theo’s first immunisations at 8 weeks (I cried all. fucking. day) and it was not pretty, it lasted about 10 days and I had period number 2 less than 2 weeks after. All very normal. Don’t panic. Hormones take time to settle again but a friend of my mine was so shell shocked by her first proper period she called her GP to check!
Another interesting thing I hadn’t considered was tampons. Doctors advise you to avoid them for the first period at least due to infection but I still haven’t quite made the switch back because I can’t quite get them to sit right. Just an FYI.
Ah yes, almost forgot that first post partum POOP! Everyone is terrified, you haven’t even dared look down there but that shit is literally coming out whether you like it or not. Firstly if you tear they will give you stool softeners to make it easier to go, if they don’t – ask for some! Mine was actually not that bad, I was dosed up on stool softeners and it was MUCH softer than it should have been (lack of water/food, too many drugs, the shock, the anxiety, the adrenaline etc. will affect this) but please don’t over think it. It’s happening whether you like it or not and just remember that no one died from a post partum poop.
Believe it or not this has got to have been the most debilitating post partum symptom I have had. Also add fingers and wrists to this list. I’ve half googled this and not bothered to go to the GP because everything I’ve read says it will just pass in time but basically I think I’ve suffered with some carpal tunnel syndrome post natally and have arthritic symptoms in my knees. It is easing but it has been especially painful and getting up off the floor with a baby in your arms is HARD when those joints hurt. Hot baths, drugs and rest help but time seems to be the greatest healer (at 16 weeks PP as I type I can confirm it’s MUCH better than it was).
Your ankles are going to be swollen for some time after you’ve given birth. Think of it this way, all that spare fluid you were carrying to cushion baby from your rib cage has to go somewhere and immediately it goes south. If you had an epidural or C-section (or have any other medical issues) then you might be sent home with blood thinners that you have to inject into your tummy everyday for about a week after. I’m not squeamish about needles but I struggled with this one. I did it but it was not fun. Extra points if you can bribe a spouse or someone to do it for you. And yes you will look like a pin cushion for a bit.
I think that’s the important stuff. My best advice would be to not overthink it, Amazon Prime is your friend so you can order literally anything you find you need when you get home depending on how you feel but I wouldn’t buy too much of anything for this part initially. You might be feeling incredible and ready to hit the gym, stranger things have happened**! Apart from a few packs of seriously enormous pants – which you will secretly love and wear for much longer than you had planned (warning – may hinder the chance of baby number 2) and the thickest maternity pads you can find!
Lastly, sniff that babies head. Oxytocin is magical stuff .
You got this Mama.
** A midwife told me that she attended a birth which was all lovely and natural etc. walked back into the labour room a few hours later and the husband and wife were already at ‘it’ again….. yep. Not kidding. In the hospital.
Mrs G x