When you’re first-time parents who don’t know jack about raising a tiny human, you’re bound to make terrible choices. My husband John and I had some questionable ones early on, especially the first few days after giving birth.
There were things that nobody told me about recovery. All I knew was that after the utter destruction of my honeypot, it was not going be the same again. At least, that one is true.
I hope to share some advice and some truth bombs on postpartum recovery. Note that I had a natural labor and spontaneous vaginal delivery (with some tearing, huhu) and things may be different for those with other circumstances. These may seem scary. But if I can get through it, so can you!
#1 You will need help On our first evening with our baby Sophie at the hospital, John and I decided that we wanted the night all to ourselves (cue the pointing and laughing from seasoned moms). We declined every offer from our family to stay and help because this is how we fantasized our first night as a trio: lots of warm cuddles with Sophie, John and I seamlessly sleeping in shifts, and cute selfies galore.
Obviously, we forgot about diaper changing, swaddling, feeding, burping, soothing the baby…so we were naive. But can you blame us? We got excited at the prospect of her first night to be ours, just ours, and how we will always have it etched in our memory.
Brutal is what it was. With my choice to breastfeed, I was compelled to feed Sophie (or try to get her to latch) every two hours. My debut to breastfeeding was, of course, riddled with challenges that I think it deserves its own future post. Add the doctors and nurses that came in intermittently every few hours to check on me and the baby. There was also the matter of our little Houdini breaking out from her swaddle and unleashing banshee-like cries. Yes, no sleep was to be had.
It was utter insanity to think the first night with a newborn can be survived by a scarred mom and a scared dad all by themselves.
#2 Don't hold that painful pee or poo in After my baby pretty much Wolverine’d my vaginal walls, I was not exactly so hot about urinating or defecating, for that matter. I gave birth at 2:04 a.m. and at 10:00 a.m., I still had not done either.
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The truth was I was quite terrified. My ob-gyn was aghast to learn that I’ve been in toilet boycott for eight hours, so she threatened to insert a straight catheter in me if I did not pee by noon. Eep!
I limped to the bathroom the moment she left. The squatting motion to sit on the bowl was difficult due to the stitches, so I had to hold on to the safety rail. I took my Earth Mama Angel Baby Bottom Spray and hoped for the best. My strategy was to keep spraying and spraying while I was urinating. The idea was to dilute the saltiness of the liquid so I wouldn’t feel the pain as much while it streamed down the wounded canal. It worked! I read that warm water on bidet works as well, but what I like about the Bottom Spray is its cooling effect, and it does not sting at all. It also has a nice cucumber scent.
Doing number 2 was a challenge though. I was only able to do my business after 36 hours, with the help of stool softeners, which I had requested after 24 hours. Don’t strain and push if it’s not meant to be because the stitches may come apart, and you may also find an unwanted visitor (hello, “Almu” Moreno / hemorrhoids!)
P.S. I also employed the same strategy of dousing my behind with the bottom spray.
#3 The V will swell At the recovery room, I was given an ice pack to sandwich between my legs to help me as the anesthesia wore off. However, it was not readily available once I was transferred to my private room, so make sure you ask your nurse to prepare one before the previous one melts away. Don’t be shy about asking for this lifesaver, even if they charge you extra.
Another thing that helped is mefenamic acid, as prescribed by my ob-gyn. I took this as needed for the first week. Safe for breastfeeding moms, it really worked to manage the pain.
#4 Blood will be everywhere ‘Nuff said. Your partner will have to be okay with this real quick. Do what you got to do -- maternity pads, wipes, liners, feminine wash. Personally, I used Tena Adult Diapers for Women, GynePro Wash, and bed liners (forgot the brand!) After a few days, I switched to overnight pads, and it was fine.
#5 You can say no to visitors Don’t feel compelled to say yes when someone wants to visit. And if you want them to come, I suggest you give them a time frame so you can focus on healing first. Those who love you and care about your well-being will understand this. Save your energy when you have to care for your baby (see #1). There will be plenty of time for visitors when you’re settled at home and much more mobile.
We scheduled visitors in this sequence: immediate family like mom, dad, siblings (morning after delivery); extended family such as grandparents, aunties, uncles (noon to the evening after delivery); and very close friends (two days after delivery). It worked well for us because we didn’t overcrowd the room, and we were not too overwhelmed in “entertaining” anyone.
One thing I have to say though, ladies, throw your modesty out the window. A breastfeeding rookie, I was daunted by the prospect of relatives seeing my bare boob. But, trust me, with a newborn screaming for sustenance, you’ll get over it sooner than you think.
#6 Brief your partner about paperwork I have always been the designated form fill-upper in our household, so delegating the paperwork to my husband was pretty terrifying. So it was a good thing our nurse was very helpful and patient in explaining to John what he needed to process (i.e., birth certificate) before we were discharged. He spelled our baby girl’s name right, so no complaints here! I had also prepared a clear book of documents for John's quick reference (Philhealth, SSS, etc.).
#7 Yes, it is a life-altering experience There is one all-encompassing, fundamental truth after giving birth. Whether it’s for the first time or the fifth time, the experience of childbirth and motherhood will always be life-altering.
At that exact moment I met my baby Sophie on February 14th, I assumed the permanent assignment of a mother, diaper changer, boo-boo healer, bento box maker, Facebook stalker, secret boyfriend keeper, and best friend forever.
So, be ready to keep up with lightning-quick life changes after giving birth. Just don’t ask me how. I’m still here trying to figure it all out.
Karla Magno Suguitan, who used to manage various brands from a Spanish high street fashion house to an American cosmetics line, is now a stay-at-home mom to Sophie Ella and wifezilla to John. In her free time, she enjoys watching vlogs, reading books, making grocery lists, and consulting Dr. Google for all things baby.