From the moment your baby, or babies, come into this world, your focus is probably on them. As important as that is, you also need to take care of yourself so that you can be a better mother for them. I want to focus now on the immediate postpartum period of the day that you give birth. You have just either pushed a baby out of your vagina or had major abdominal surgery. Either way, you’re exhausted and sore. But, you are also probably elated. Some women get this surge of serotonin once their baby is out and they don’t even think about what they just went through. Others have so many issues during labor and after that they aren’t able to concentrate on their baby. Regardless, you need to recover.
Now depending on what type of delivery you had and where you had it is what type of recovery you will have. I had my first three children in a baby-friendly hospital and my fourth at home. But all four were unmedicated, uncomplicated, vaginal births. This made a huge difference in my recovery from someone who had an epidural, an episiotomy, or a caesarean section. Remember also that every birth is different and they cannot be lumped together as if everyone has the same experience. I was very lucky to have quick labors and not have contractions for 18 hours. This doesn’t only mean that you had a rough day, but that you have been awake for a very long time. So sleep is very important. I know this seems obvious but it is something that is overlooked. Mothers sometimes think that they can handle running on little sleep. And yes, you can. But it will catch up with you quickly and can cause other issues, including increasing your risk of postpartum depression. My hospital experience was in a baby friendly hospital where the baby rooms-in with the mother. So my children were always in the room. But that doesn’t mean that I couldn’t sleep. I would nurse the baby, swaddle her, and lay her back down in her bed. Then, I would lay down. My home experience was even easier because I did not have nurses or doctors checking me every four hours so I only was woken up from the baby’s schedule. This is obviously a personal choice on your comfort level of being without medical personnel. I knew the signs and symptoms to look for if there was a problem. Many moms feel more comfortable having someone check them. Whichever is your preference is up to you.
Besides sleep, your body needs to recover. Whether you have a vaginal birth or a c-section, you will have a discharge called lochia. This is just a medical term for the bleeding that you have to endure for the next several days to weeks. It tends to not be as bad for moms who had a c-section but those moms have another whole type of healing to do. These moms either have staples or stitches holding their abdomen together, along with the internal stitches. Usually, you are allowed the day of to recover in bed. You will be catheterized and have venodyne boots on your legs to prevent blood clots. I don’t have any firsthand experience with this, only what I have learned in school. So I am going to focus on the vaginal birth recovery. Moms usually are able to bond with their baby for the first hour uninterrupted as long as they are both healthy. If there was a tear or an episiotomy, this can usually be stitched during this period as well. Breastfeeding can also be initiated during this time.
After the initial bonding, it is time for the baby to be examined and the mom to get cleaned up. You usually are told to use the bathroom and get wiped down. You are given a peri bottle of warm water to squeeze over your genital area as you pee to help discomfort. This actually feels awesome. Some hospitals also provide a spray to help treat the area. A shower is usually postponed until at least 3 hours after delivery and even longer if an epidural was used. Personally my favorite thing after delivery was taking a shower. I felt like a real person afterwards. Then comes the new wardrobe. This includes a hospital gown, some sexy mesh underwear and the biggest maxi pads ever. But you will be happy that you have these so you don’t bleed all over the bed. The pads are usually doubled up for the first day or two due to the heavy bleeding. If you’re lucky, the hospital you use will give you a maternity pad ice pack. These feel great on your sore body and help with swelling. It is important to pee frequently and change your pads. If your bladder is full, it makes it harder for your uterus to contract. Frequent urination and breastfeeding both help this. If this is your second or subsequent child, you may feel after pains. If you’re really lucky, your uterus will basically give up on you and your doctor or midwife will have to deeply massage your uterus and pull clots out. I have had the pleasure of that experience twice. This can also be done by having Pitocin but I really wanted a natural experience. If my bleeding hadn’t slowed down, then I would have had to have it. Some doctors automatically give Pitocin after delivery so it is different for everyone. Then after all of this fun, you can bond with your new baby, eat, and have visitors keep you up all day. But it is all part of the package, especially if you are Italian like me. Hopefully, you are able to sleep that first night and be relieved that your pregnancy, labor, and delivery are all over.