In this post I will be talking about my recovery after labor and delivery. If that is not something you want to think about, read about, or care about, stop reading right here. I will be talking about very personal things that might make some people uncomfortable. If that is you, stop reading and browse my hundreds of other posts! You’ve been warned.
I want to talk about my experience with recovery because this is a topic that is not talked about enough. I had no idea what to expect going in to it and I was very scared. I’ve learned a lot along the way and now I want to share an honest account of my recovery. All recoveries are different and some people have an easier time than I did, so it doesn’t mean what happened to me will definitely happen to you. I really want talking about what to expect postpartum to be a normal conversation for women to have.
The First 6 Weeks:
After giving birth, all women can expect to bleed for about 4-6 weeks. It is not a period although cramping is normal as the uterus shrinks back in size. My bleeding lasted for about 4 weeks. The first week was extremely heavy and hard to deal with. Think murder scene from a movie every time I went to the bathroom.The last week was more sporadic and lighter bleeding. The cramping felt a lot like bad period cramping and got more intense every time I breastfed (every 2 hours).
As I mentioned in Aubrey’s birth story, I had an episiotomy. This was stitched up with dissolving stitches which were supposed to dissolve within 2-4 weeks on their own. This was the most painful aspect of my first few weeks of recovery. The first 2 weeks I had to sit on a special cushion, couldn’t easily walk around at all, and needed help getting up and down from bed.
My milk fully came in about three days after giving birth. This wasn’t as painful as everyone told me it would be. I felt full and uncomfortable and there was a lot of leaking milk but it didn’t hurt. I nursed on demand and Aubrey ate every 2 hours day and night for about 8 weeks. It was exhausting and made my nipples very sore. During this time, cat naps and nipple cream were my best friend. I’m still unsure how I survived those first few weeks.
During the first 2.5 months postpartum, I struggled with baby blues. This is not extreme like postpartum depression, but it is still very hard to work through. For me, it happened every night. As soon as it started to get dark, I would get anxious and very sad. I would often cry when I thought about night time coming. I was so exhausted that the thought of going through another sleepless night of feedings around the clock was just too much at times. Baby blues made me wonder what I had gotten myself in to. It made me really miss my old self and the freedom I used to have. With the help of my family, I got through those tough days and sometime around week 8 or 9, the baby blues were gone.
The first 4 months I also dealt with some intense anxiety. My mind would never want to shut off and I had trouble sleeping even in the small windows that I was finally able to. During this time, I wanted to check myself in a hotel to sleep alone, I wanted to eat a meal without having to stop to nurse, and I even wondered what I had gotten myself in to on an almost daily basis during this time.
6 Week Dr Appointment
I was told to come in for my 6 week appointment to make sure everything was healed up. This is typically when women are seen again by their doctor. I was terrified for the exam. After giving birth vaginally, I was terrified of how painful the exam would be. The whole thing was pretty quick and although uncomfortable, wasn’t anything compared to labor. My doctor told me everything looked good, my uterus was back to the original size, and was cleared for exercise, sex, the whole nine yards. I was still quite sore which the doctor said was normal, so I figured with time it would get better.
Months 2 & 3:
Nursing was going well and Aubrey was gaining weight. Around week 9 she did longer stretches of sleep which did a world of good for me and my mental health. I felt a little bit more rested, although was still exhausted overall. We started to get in to a slight bit of a routine and that made me feel much better.
I started working out again around 7 weeks and had a lot of joint pain. This is because the hormones necessary for breastfeeding also make your joints very loose and lax. I stopped doing the more intense workouts and decided to ask my doctor because my workouts weren’t feeling right.
I was still very achy and sore where my episiotomy was and was unable to have sex. Around 10 weeks postpartum, I made an appointment to return to my dr’s office because of this pain and my hip/pelvic pain I had been feeling when I tried to workout. During this exam, she told me that she could feel my pelvic floor muscles spasming and she could feel a build up of internal scar tissue. She referred me to a pelvic floor specialist for physical therapy. This spasming and build up of scar tissue is very common for any women who have an episiotomy or who tear naturally. (This is more than 50% of women)
I went back to work after 12 weeks of leave and the same week got my period. Many women do not have a period while they breastfeed, but I am lucky enough to enjoy both. WOMPP! Sometime around 4.5 months, I had my first physical therapy appointment. I plan to do a separate post on my experience with this therapy as it is not well-known. I am still continuing to go to therapy once a week and am starting to feel improvement. More on this later!
In this window, Aubrey began her sleep regression which lasted 6 weeks. During this time, she was up 5-7 times per night screaming. She did not nap well during the day either. She was overtired all of the time and so she was almost always cranky, clingy, and crying very often. It was hard and during this time I never wanted to go out anywhere with her because all she did was cry. Then we started sleep training and we all got a little better with sleep.
This month I am still going to physical therapy and still feeling pain internally. I am also still having hip and pelvic pain on a regular basis. Sleep is still slightly unpredictable but much improved. I’m still really tired much of the time, but things are slowly getting easier. Leave any questions you have for me about recovery and I’ll be happy to answer them. I will be working on my physical therapy post soon!
Recovery has been much harder and longer than I had anticipated. Many people make it out to be a few weeks and then you’ll just snap back to normal. I did not expect to have to be dealing with the scarring and pain 6 months out. It’s been pretty frustrating at times. It’s also been hard that recovery is such an awkward uncomfortable topic for people to discuss. I hope that more women can feel that it’s okay to speak about how they’re feeling both mentally and physically postpartum.
Have any questions for me?
Leave them in the comments below!
Thanks, Amanda for letting me think out loud today!