I am on day 39 of my postpartum recovery, and I thought I’d share my experience. Mine will be different then most because my son is still in the NICU. Also, as a warning: Some of this might be TMI!
Immediately postpartum I felt fine. My chief complaints were back pain and exhaustion. The back pain was from the epidural, which is not something I was expecting– though it obviously makes sense. The exhaustion was from a myriad of things. The night before induction I could not sleep, and then my labor progressed quickly for a primigravida not allowing any rest even after the epidural. I also was dealing with processing all of the emotions of finding out my son had EA/TEF and having him shipped off to another hospital, along with trying to develop a breast milk supply by pumping every 2-3 hours around the clock. So when I was discharged from the hospital 18 hours after our baby boy was born the doctor warned me that this ‘fine’ feeling would pass as she believed I was running off of adrenaline. She made my husband promise to keep an eye on me.
Physically I needed to take 600-800mg ibuprofen every 6 hours around the clock for the first 3-4 days, and didn’t I felt it. My back stopped hurting by this point, and I hated how the ibuprofen gave me a stomachache!
My ‘nether’ region was not as sore as I expected it to be– Sure my stitches itched and burned a little, but using my peribottle and dermoplast every time I used the bathroom was perfect. Until my stitches completely healed (about 3 weeks pp) it felt like I was walking around with a tampon placed incorrectly… Best way to describe it. It was uncomfortable, but not painful.
My bleeding pp honestly surprised me– I was fully prepared for bleed like a stuffed hog for weeks, but I would say that by my 5th-6th day postpartum I didn’t need those giant overnight pads anymore and I switched to always infinity foam regular flow with wings. These things were heavenly! I could hardly feel they were there, and they ‘wicked’ away the moisture and kept me feeling dry. About 2.5-3 weeks pp I was mostly just having discharge and only needed liners. I still need the liners, but otherwise I’m good.
I was warned about the hemorrhoids and the constipation, but I had no hemorrhoids and actually had mild diarrhea immediately pp. So I didn’t take my stool softener…. but on the 4th or 5th day I was in pain. I was so constipated and had stomach pain that felt like someone was stabbing me below the bellybutton. I took stool softeners and suffered through it. Godspeed my friends! Take the stool softener… even if you don’t think you need it!
The lactation consultant informed me that it appeared I had IGT (insufficient glandular tissue), and probably wouldn’t be able to produce a lot of milk. Still, I was going to try! I was loaned a Medela Symphony from the NICU. It is a hospital grade pump made for exclusively pumping and costs close to two-thousand dollars! Luckily the NICU has a free loaner program for mothers to use while their babies are still in the hospital.
I pumped every 2-3 hours for 20 minutes. The NICU had pumping rooms so even when we were with him I could pump. I took 9 fenugreek pills a day, drank 4 cups of mother milk tea, held hot compresses to my chest while I pumped, looked at pictures of him while I pumped… and after 10 days the most I had ever produced was 0.2ml (combined from both breasts), and I was so exhausted– in 10 days I had not had more than an hour and half of uninterrupted sleep.
I was heartbroken and mourned the loss of my breastfeeding dream. I wish someone had told me that there were really women out there who physically couldn’t breastfeed. I was so unprepared for this, and this was one of the hardest things for me to come to terms with. Even now when someone asks me if I’m using formula or breast milk… I feel like I need to make excuses and explain to them why he’s only getting formula.
My husband and myself were both very concerned that I was developing postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety. As an already anxious person, we really didn’t know how much of my pp emotional roller coaster was normal for me. For the first two weeks I was so upset and cried everyday– In the shower, while I was pumping, at his bedside, when I talked to his doctors, when we left to go back to the hotel… It was awful.
Now looking back I think I was just dealing with an extraordinary set of circumstances– We went from having a perfectly healthy baby to a baby with a life altering defect who needed surgery, and then he got sick, and I watched him turn blue in front of me… It was agony. What helped me realize that it wasn’t anything more was… When my son was having a ‘good’ day, I had a good day. When he was having a ‘bad’ day, I had a bad day… And it just turned out that he had a lot of ‘bad’ days in the beginning.
As for the anxiety– I still feel that from time to time. I have a hard time falling asleep because I’m thinking of him; I’m worried his nurse doesn’t know how he likes to be soothed by having someone talk to him, or thinking his resident forget to weight-adjust his medication for his 100gram weight gain, etc. That I think is just me being a mother… We’re supposed to be worried about our babies all the time, right?
My postpartum recovery has been a lot easier on me than I thought it would be. The emotional aspect was probably the hardest. My 6 week appointment is tomorrow (technically I’ll just be 5 weeks and 3 days pp), and we’re going to discuss getting and IUD when I’m 8 weeks pp. My husband and I are thinking we’re done having children (thinking of going through this experience again literally makes me sick to my stomach), but we’re young and don’t want to do any permeant methods of birth control incase we change our minds. I’ve handled hormonal birth control well in the past and I think the Mirena IUD will be a good fit for us– I’m 23, don’t smoke, and have no plans to have children in the near future. We considered ParaGard which can last up to 10 years, (Mirena lasts up to 7), but I think we’re leaning to the Mirena. I’ll fill you in on how that goes later.