6 Things I Wish Someone Would Have Told Me About Postpartum Recovery

I recently gave birth, and I wasn't prepared for the startling, completely unforeseen aftermath of misadventure that my body has become.
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Dawn McBride
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I recently gave birth, and I wasn't prepared for the startling, completely unforeseen aftermath of misadventure that my body has become.

Three weeks ago, I gave birth to a tiny, perfect, weird little human boy. It was a surreal experience lasting over 30 hours, and it was quickly realized that my carefully cultivated and researched birth plan would be promptly discarded, much like my collection of delicious, happiness-inducing wine upon learning of my pregnancy.

I had planned to let my body go into labor when it was ready. Instead, I was induced at 40 weeks because of my "advanced age."    

I wanted to have a drug-free labor so I could be free to move around during the delivery and enjoy a faster recovery. Just typing out "drug-free labor" makes me want to punch myself in the face for even having such a thought.

Under no circumstances would I need to have my water broken for me. Except for the circumstances that made it necessary for my doctor to pull out that crochet hook of hatred and break my water for me. Immediately followed by throwing up all over my own lap. Which was definitely not part of my birth plan.

Me and obviously not my son because that is a dog and I am still pregnant in this picture. (Photos by Erik Harrison)

Me and obviously not my son because that is a dog and I am still pregnant in this picture. (Photos by Erik Harrison)

There were a number of other things that did not go according to plan; however, none of these things were completely unexpected. I knew of the possibility that things could go awry, and I was prepared. What I wasn't prepared for was the startling, completely unforeseen aftermath of misadventure that my body has become. AND NO ONE WARNED ME ABOUT.

So this is a public service announcement for all expecting mothers out there, who, if you're anything like me, hate surprises (especially surprises dealing with your vagina). Hopefully, you will benefit from my list of post-delivery anomalies, which, as it turns, out aren't anomalies at all but the norm and to be expected — except no one tells you to expect it so how can you possibly be prepared to expect such things? 

*And breathe* 

Let us begin.

Your vagina will continue to fall out after giving birth. Like, in clumps. It's messy, it's gnarly, and it's completely normal. Unless those vagina clumps are plopping out bigger than the size of your fist, you're all good. But it will continue to fall out for up to four to six weeks. And you can't use tampons. And it will feel like the longest. Period. Ever.

Because of the "fallout," the hospital will give you pads to wear. These will be unlike any period pads you've ever worn, unless you've at any point in your menstruating life opted for giant, unwieldy diapers. These bad boys wrap you up from just under your navel, up past your bunghole. But it's not JUST a plain old pad. Nope. On top of the pad, you get an oversized rectangular ice pack you snap like a glow stick to get working and cool off those stretched out, sore and stitched-up lady bits. But that's not all! On top of the ice pack of frostbitten punash, you add a few pre-moistened witch hazel pads, similar to Tucks. All these extra inches wrapped up in the sexiest mesh underwear you will ever have the pleasure of rocking. Not gonna lie — I loved those undies and if they didn't create the most unflattering panty line in the history of horrific panty lines; I'd probably live in them.

Going pee will become a 15-minute procedure. You are no longer allowed to wipe. Not that you will particularly want to. Instead, you will be given your own personal bidet in the form of an eight-ounce squirt bottle. I highly recommend filling this with warm water BEFORE heading into the bathroom. Otherwise, you end up crab-walking to the sink with your mesh monstrosity around your ankles, just hoping you aren't leaving a trail of gore worthy of a Dexter episode and praying to God none of your visitors decide to make an appearance. After getting yourself all cleaned up, you then reapply pad, ice pack, and witch hazel disks, and find yourself missing the convenience of that catheter.

Acne. On my face. No, not the baby's face because that I expected. Nope. My sweet little boy has perfect, blemish-free skin any face-wash model would stab for. I was not aware that it's not uncommon for Mama to break out after giving birth. It was more than a little disconcerting walking out of the bathroom two days post delivery and having my partner look at me with eyes wide and state, "Your face! Have you LOOKED at your face?”

Your feet can swell after pregnancy. While kneeling on the floor, changing a diaper, I shifted around trying to get whatever was under me, out from under me. Finally bringing my foot around, I realized what I had been sitting on was actually my giant, oversized, swollen feet. I was one of the lucky gals who hadn't had to worry about swollen feet during my pregnancy so it was quite a shock to find myself succumbing to this malady after the fact. Another fun tidbit I was not aware could happen. Happily, this along with the acne lasted less than two weeks.

Take the offered prescriptions. Seriously. My hospital stay was a total of four nights and five days, and during my recovery, I never needed anything stronger than Motrin. Because of this, I tried to decline the prescriptions my doc wrote me — one for 800mg of Ibuprofen and one for 10 Percocet. Feeling relatively good during my stay in the hospital, (because — hello! — I didn't have to move other than to get my diapered butt to the bathroom) I didn't think I'd need them. Doc tucked them away in my hospital bag "just in case you find you need them later on." I needed them later on. During those first two weeks home, I ended up using four of the Percocet and on the other days, I took an Ibuprofen. 

Your body will hurt. You will walk like you've just endured a month-long cattle drive while sitting in a saddle made of hostility and salty tears. You will feel like your once glorious body, capable of so many phenomenal miracles, like making it to the bathroom before you pee your diaper, or sitting without wincing, will never be the same. Do not dismay. All is not lost. I promise that you will return to your former glory. You will eventually toss out those comfy mesh delights. Your face will clear up and your feet will deflate. Your vagina will cease to fall out, and all will be right again. I promise.