Okay, so you’re getting ready to have your first baby (or maybe your seventh, we don’t judge) and you’ve set up nursing and diapering stations around the house, washed the baby clothes, found a place for ALL THE THINGS you registered for, (Why did you register for so much stuff? Only a few things will do!) packed your hospital bags, and stocked the freezer with easy crock pot or throw in the oven dinners for the next month (you overachieving Pinterest mom, you). Now what?
Don’t forget about you. You’re about to bring your baby earthside, and regardless of whether or not baby comes out your hoo-hah, your undercarriage is going to need some major TLC for at least a week after baby is born. If you’re having a cesarean section, you’re probably thinking, “WHAT?! HOW IS THAT FAIR?!” Get used to it momma. Nothing in motherhood is fair. It’s wonderful and terrible and absolutely not fair.
Never fear! There ARE ways to keep you comfortable and to encourage healing and cleanliness as your vagina returns to its former glory. This is the part that NO ONE SEEMS TO MENTION when you are pregnant. They give you horror stories of how long and terrible their births were or even how badly they tore (shudder), but they don’t offer you advice on how to cope with the impending damage, whether minor (lucky moms who probably do yoga and perineal massage every night- who has time or energy for that?) or major (ouch).
Your external vaginal area will hurt. Duh. You know how if you ride a bike for the first time in a long time, your crotch hurts for a few days afterward? It’s kind of like that. Super sore muscles from stretching and working and sometimes (eeek) tearing.
Good news? It’s not for long. Two weeks tops unless you’ve had some major medical problems below deck. I had a second degree tear and felt back to normal after two weeks and felt pretty normal after only one week. It wasn’t as horrific as everyone made me think it was going to be. Honest. It wasn’t fun by any means, but it wasn’t the worst.
What you don’t realize is that from the moment baby comes out, your bathroom routine changes drastically for a few weeks. It even has a fancy name: peri care; peri is short for perineal, meaning the perineum (or the area that includes your vagina and the area between it and your pooper), not to be confused with perennial care, which will get you drastically different search results in Google.
1. Toilet paper? Ouch. Your new best friend will be a peri bottle with warm water. Do yourself a favor and buy a few of those bad boys so you can have one in each bathroom of your house.
2. The peri bottle rinses you off so you can gently pat yourself dry before applying either some Motherlove Sitz Bath Spray or Earth Mama Angel Baby New Mama Bottom Spray to sooth the irritated and angry area below deck.
3. Finally, embrace those giant mesh panties complete with either a mammoth sized disposable pad or treat yourself to super comfy cloth postpartum pads by Pink Lemonade.
Pro-Mama Tip: Before you have baby, prep some extra large overnight pads for your peri care by pouring alcohol free witch hazel (make sure it’s the alcohol free witch hazel, otherwise you’ll be cursing my name instead of praising it; alcohol on open wounds BURNS) down the center of the pads and freeze them on a cookie sheet in your freezer. Leave them there until you need to use them. I know it sounds cold, but it will feel SO GOOD. Trust me. You’ll probably get something similar at the hospital (ice pack pad combo thingies) and I highly encourage you to squirrel away as many as possible for home care if you can.
Your breasts will hurt. You will feel like a blue ribbon dairy cow when your milk comes in. Your breasts will be swollen and hard and painful and leaky. Oh, and ITCHY and veiny. Not a good look. Sometimes you even get fevers when your milk supply comes in (I did- 103.7 fevers. SO fun). If you nurse and baby doesn’t have the miracle perfect latch (very few do) you’ll also have the pleasure of experiencing sore, raw, cracked, bleb-ridden, or potentially bleeding nipples (we’re talking very minor bleeding, so please don’t freak out).
The good news is, just like the perineal pain, this goes away as your milk supply regulates (or dries up if you choose not to nurse). The veins chill out eventually and you no longer look like you have Hulk boobs.
1. The itching on your breasts and belly (and anywhere else) can be quelled by slathering on Motherlove Pregnant Belly Salve or a very thick salve or lotion- just makes sure you don’t put it on your nipples.
2. Earth Mama Angel Baby Booby Tubes help with the pain and swelling.
3. Reusable cloth nursing pads (like Pink Lemonade’s or Bamboobies) help with the leaking in an inexpensive way, while also not making you feel like you’re wearing your mother’s shoulder pads (circa 1995) in your bra.
4. Finally, there are tons of nipple creams out there like Earth Mama Angel Baby Nipple Butter (my fave for daily use and it smells a little like chocolate to me for some reason) CJs Best Boobie Butter (also great for chapped baby cheeks), and Motherlove Nipple Cream to help with your temporarily damaged nipples. If you go the lanolin route, I like Lanisoh’s thick lanolin for before you get in the shower (it melts slowly so your nipples aren’t exposed to the razors coming out of your showerhead) and Medela’s Tender Care lanolin for longer periods in between nursing (it’s smoother and softer to apply-no wincing- than the thick Lanisoh lanolin).
Pro-Momma Tip: Your own milk is one of your best nipple creams. Once baby is done nursing, just wipe off baby’s drool (gently so as not to scream and wake the baby) and express a little and rub it on your nipples and (here’s the important part) air dry. (Obviously, there’s lots of topless time at our house during the newborn stage.)
Your insides will feel sloshy, and your belly will feel like a big empty squashy thing, kind of like a balloon filled with shaving cream.
Good news: this isn’t forever.
Bad news: when this feels back to normal is different for everybody because it depends on the state of your body before you had baby. For me, I’m rather fluffy, so I didn’t feel completely whole and solid again until Lucas was like a year old. When we went skiing at 11 months post-partum, I was terrified to fall because I felt like my insides were going to end up continuing down the hill without me. My very fit friend, however, felt good enough to work out like four months after her second baby was born, and she did 41 hours of labor followed by an emergency c-section. #beastmode
Best thing you can do for it is to wait six weeks post partum and then exercise how you feel comfortable and give it time. Walking, swimming, hiking, whatever floats your boat and doesn’t cause you pain.
Happy laboring and happy healing, mommas. Having a baby changes everything, especially your body. Your heart will never be the same. ♥