February 17, 2014

After Birth: 10 Things You Don't Know

Giving birth is really very very amazing. It's crazy intense, really wild, and can be painful. I say can be painful because I have read a lot of birth stories where women say that they did not experience pain. One minute you have a baby inside of you and the next minute you are holding your newborn. Birth changes your life, body, and relationships. It makes you realize how strong you are and what you are capable of handling. It is also very emotional and can leave you either broken or empowered. It can also bring healing. And the biggest thing about birth is that it brings you a child, which is sort of terrifying because you are now in charge of this little persons life.

Birth is truly amazing. There are many things that women are told about birth, mainly how it works and that it is really painful. The after birth part is less discussed. Most women don't know what happens until they experience it for themselves. I have decided to share what I have learned from my after birth experiences. Also I have only had vaginal births so some of these points might not apply for a Cesarean birth.

1. You find it hard to breathe. Literally it is hard to breathe. Every time I would stand up to walk around after giving birth I found myself gasping for more breath and apparently this is normal. As the uterus grows it slowly squishes the lungs more and more. You get used to it and it feels normal. But after birth there is this large emptiness in your belly area and your lungs sort of get lost and you have a harder time breathing. It takes a day or two for your lungs to figure it out and everything goes back to normal. It was really weird to experience this though.

2.You are very very sore. You'd think this would be a no-brainer but for some reason I didn't realize it until after I gave birth. The perineum area is just so so sore. It hurts to sit down and to stand up. The first time I had an episiotomy so I assumed that it was the cause of the soreness. My second birth I didn't even tear and still I was extremely sore. Actually it was the only thing I could think about. Thankfully there are things that help like sitz baths (a bath up to the hips that you sit in to promote healing and cleansing of the perineum area, you can add healing or soothing herbs to the water too) and witch hazel pads (pads made with the witch hazel plant that acts as an astringent and soothes the perineal area) which feel amazing!

3.Peeing can be really difficult. After all of that pushing and straining to get your baby out your body forgets how to pee. It's hard to find which muscles control peeing and it can take a while of sitting on the toilet until you finally figure it out. With my first birth I asked for the nurse to use a catheter to get the urine out. I tried and tried to pee and just could not do it and felt pretty terrible. In that case I hadn't peed over the course of many hours while being connected to an iv so I had 2 liters of pee in me. It was an oversight of the staff for sure, my bladder could have burst because it was completely full while I was pushing. So if you are going to give birth in a hospital make sure to assign someone with you on pee duty, to remind you to go pee or to remind the nurses to use a catheter to empty your bladder. With my second birth I also just couldn't pee. My midwife tried putting peppermint oil in the toilet because the smell of it helps you pee (pack a bottle with you, it has helped many a woman). Then my other midwife suggested to sit backwards on the toilet whilst blowing bubbles into water through a straw. It sounds ridiculous I know, but I think the idea is to get you relaxed enough to let your muscles do what they need to do. When your laughing at how ridiculous you look, you won't be holding your pee in. Another thing that helped me a lot was to use a perineum bottle with warm water and spray it on your perineum. This one worked really well for me.

4. It's kind of terrifying to poop again. It really was! After going through the intensity of birth, the desire to have any more pain down there is at its lowest. Everything is so sore and your muscles are so used up that you simply are afraid of pooping. Taking a stool softener helps a lot, a lot. Something like naturalax or different natural stool softener is a godsend. You can look for them at Whole Foods, New Seasons Market or Chucks Produce here in Vancouver, or just take a look at what your local drug store has. In the hospital you are given stool softeners, but you might want to have a bottle of them at home.

5. You bleed for a long time. This is also something that you would expect but for some reason forget. It only makes sense that your uterus takes a bit of time to clean itself out after giving birth. The upside is that you get wear pads the size of folded dining napkins and wear underwear that resemble white sheer tights with the legs cut off. Things to look forward too!

6.Giving birth to the placenta is daunting after giving birth to your baby, but it really does not hurt. It has no bones and it comes out relatively easy with one push. Still it makes you a bit nervous to yet again, push another thing out of there.

7.Your boobs leak A LOT. When your milk comes in, your boobs leak like crazy. At times they might even spray out! Stock up on (nursing pads) because you are definitely going to need them. It takes a couple of weeks I think, for you boobs to figure out how much milk to make and when, but until then they are just trying to provide as much milk possible to keep your baby alive. You do not want to be caught without nursing pads or you might have a slightly wet and embarrassing situation on your hands, or should I say on your shirt.

8. Your body is really foreign for a while. It's amazing to me how natural birth is. Your pregnant and then your not, but you are completely whole, still you, nothing is missing. However, your body will be different. Your stomach hangs and wobbles for a while, all of that skin that stretched out does not spring back like a rubber band. It'll take time and some exercise to put it back where it was before. That great linea nigra that you had also does not disappear immediately. It takes a couple months to go away completely. You might also have diastasis recti, where your ab muscles have separated down middle because of your pregnant belly. It usually fixes itself and there are exercises you can do to help it close. You should not do regular ab exercises until it is closed or you could drive it further apart. Some cases are really bad and might need surgery to close it. Last but not least, your boobs get huge and swollen with milk. It could be really uncomfortable, but you can use things to relieve the pain. Cabbage leaves for instance help relieve swelling. You can buy cooling pads that can be used cold for engorgement or warm to relive mastitis or plugged ducts. I bought those and they worked really well.

9. Your baby might be a little bruised from birth. This one surprised me. Your baby's journey through the birth canal can cause bruising on his or her body. Teddy had two bruises, one on his head and another on his chest or shoulder, I can't remember, from how he came out. It was weird and unexpected.

10.Your baby might have enlarged genitals. This one is a bit bizarre but true. Your baby still has a lot of your hormones going through his or her system which can cause swelling of the genitals or the breasts. Sometimes girl babies have a little period and both sexes can have milk leak out of their breasts. It's really weird but normal and goes away by itself. For boys it may take up to a year to go away if it is a hydrocele (a fluid filled sac around the testes). It's normal, but you can always check with a pediatrician for peace of mind.

So there you go, 10 things that you may not have known that happen after giving birth. I hope this was insightful and I hope many women can agree with me on these points. I could have missed a few things that may have not happened to me. And of course I have never had a cesarean and do not know what comes after having one of those. Thanks for reading, xo, Yana.

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