Postpartum Recovery, Part 1 (5 Weeks)
I had a dream last night where I was talking to someone who was pregnant, who was complaining that when people talked to her, they only asked about the baby and not about her. (This is 100% true and I am not making this up as a lede for this post! I promise!) I feel like this is the case after giving birth too, not just in pregnancy. The babies are so cute and the new moms are so… not. The first week, like I said in previous posts, I was running on adrenaline and felt like I could get anything done. But by the second, third, fourth week… Definitely not the case. My body was achy, sore and uncomfortable – not to mention so tired! And although there was so much to do for baby, I feel like taking a little bit of care of my own body helped in taking care of baby too – for practical things like being able to stay awake and in producing milk, but also for mental stability and emotional toughness! (Although the emotional and mental part of postpartum recovery deserves its own post… part 2 will come eventually!)
All in all, I feel like I had a fairly quick physical recovery. I had a second degree tear, so while I was at the hospital I definitely felt pain and was pretty swollen, and continued to bleed. I think having to lay flat for a while after birth and have a catheter in actually may have helped since I didn’t have to try peeing or pooping on my own for like twelve hours. The nurses would also help me with making an underwear stuffed with an ice pack, witch hazel pad, and spray me with the numbing spray, so that was very nice! I’m not sure if this is a Covid thing or a “hospitals getting wise to people taking things home” thing, but I’ve always heard you should stock up on the hospital underwear, pads, etc when you leave the hospital, and that was not that possible for me. They were fairly stingy when I would ask for new pads and underwear, haha.
At home, I realized I didn’t like the ice packs, so I just ended up using pads and leftover Depends diapers (leftovers from friends) and taking some Tylenol and Motrin. I stopped feeling major pain after a week, and while I still bled, I didn’t have to use the numbing spray either. I would recommend the Depends diapers for people who don’t want to deal with pads, since they’re super convenient to just pull on. I ended up only using them at night since I didn’t like having to take my pants off all the time to change them out. A family friend also brought me a sitz bath, but I only used it once!
Joanna also gave me her peri peri bottle, which was nicer to use than the squirt bottle they give you at the hospital. I only realized a week in that you’re supposed to push the squirt part into the bottle when filling it so you don’t have to unscrew the top each time.
Pooping was definitely something I was worried about, but my ob/gyn prescribed me milk of magnesia while I was at the hospital and helpfully suggested prune juice – I am now a strong believer in prune juice in relieving constipation (but don’t overdo it… haha. Like half a glass a day is PLENTY.)
According to the Chinese postpartum tradition, the new mom isn’t really supposed to get up and move that much, but for me I found that moving around helped me to recover physically because I didn’t feel as weak. I’m not sure if this applies to everyone, since this urge to do housework and clean was a coping mechanism for me. I also took showers and washed my hair once a week, which I wasn’t supposed to do. But I did drink my postpartum medicine every day! I have never eaten this many dates in my life.
The first three days of the postpartum food also included a special drink that was supposed to help me pass lochia – the discharge/bleeding that occurs after birth. I drank that twice a day, and it was a lot nastier than the medicinal soups… but maybe that’s also why I didn’t feel as much pain or bleeding sooner. Who knows! The postpartum food included a lot of peanuts, pork knuckles, congee, dates… I do feel like my milk came in fairly quickly and easily and Junie was able to feed pretty well within the first two weeks. I don’t know if the food was responsible for this, and for my overall recovery, but at the very least it didn’t hurt! And it helped knowing we didn’t have to cook.
Some other odd physical things that happened in postpartum:
– My feet were always sweaty, clammy, and cold. I also would wake up in the middle of the night with night sweats, which was not fun. It wasn’t so bad that I had to sleep on a towel, but I had to change pants in the middle of the night a few times.
– I also don’t think this is the usual, and I’m not trying to brag or anything (because I kind of think my weight loss had to do with stress and not resting) but I went back to my pre-pregnancy weight around week 4. I still have a little extra something around my belly, which I think is because my uterus is still not completely shrunken down. I was told by my doctor at my postpartum appointment that I have a tiny bit of diastasis recti (splitting of my ab muscles) so I’m working on getting those muscles back together as well! My hips are a little bit wider, so it’s still hard to pull up my jeans, but with Covid I had been living in athleisure and comfy pants for the last two years anyways, haha.
– My dry skin is back! No more oily skin and oily hair… now the opposite problem. It’s probably also because of the dry winter air, but my skin has been so dry.
– Breastfeeding makes you so thirsty – I’ve been drinking around 100 ounces of water a day! I guess this is supposed to be good for my skin too…
If there’s anything else you’re curious about, ask away!