Your postpartum experience will depend on how you gave birth, if you are breastfeeding, how many babies you had and many other factors. While most pregnancies follow a similar path, I found that postpartum is much more individualized. With that said, this is my experience recovering from a vaginal birth with a stage 2 perineal tear.
At The Hospital:
My hospital had a separate labor & delivery unit and mother/baby unit. I was transferred after about an hour and a half to mother/baby. I personally liked getting a clean room rather than staying in the same room I delivered in. In the immediate postpartum period, I was still bleeding quite a bit. I had a Pitocin drip and nurses routinely checking my bleeding, massaging my fundus (which was pretty uncomfortable) and monitoring my blood pressure. My blood pressure was borderline low so they checked it more frequently. I was very exhausted after delivering a baby and had not slept during the night since I was in labor. I also remember my whole body being extremely sore. I held my legs up for about two hours while pushing so I had a pretty intense upper body workout. Immediately after giving birth I noticed that my belly felt strange and empty yet I still looked about as pregnant as I did during my second trimester. I was able to get out of bed and walk around after delivery since I did not receive an epidural. However, I moved very slowly and carefully because I could feel my sutures pull with sudden movement. I decided to wear the lovely hospital-provided mesh panties and gown until the bleeding subsided enough to put on the Depends underwear and robe I brought from home. The first several hours after delivery I also used an ice pack which provided a lot of relief. The hospital provided everything that I needed for postpartum care. They sent me home with so many things that I didn’t actually use all of them. The items I did use at home were the perineal spray bottle and Dermoplast spray.
Going home was an emotional experience. It's hard to prepare for the feeling of stepping out of the hospital carrying a tiny, beautiful, and wholly dependent human. Taking care of a newborn is a full-time learning experience. However, as the paramedics mentioned to me a few weeks before, the baby's health is limited by my own. I would need to focus on making a speedy and thorough recovery in order to be the attentive mother I strive to be. Once home, my recovery can be split into the following topics: bleeding, weight, general health, and my emotional state.
I went home from the hospital wearing Depends which were AMAZING. I would absolutely buy them again for my next baby because they were so comfortable and I could just throw them away instead of worrying about ruining a nice pair of panties. I wore those for about a week when the bleeding was the worst. Then I wore overnight pads because my bleeding resembled my normal period. It’s important that you use pads NOT tampons during this time to prevent infection. I continued to wear pads until around four weeks postpartum. Then my bleeding became scant so I was able to wear panty liners. Around five weeks my bleeding completely stopped and I no longer needed liners. I used the Dermoplast and perineal spray bottle for approximately two weeks at which point my sutures were completely dissolved.
I was very small when I got pregnant and I gained 30lbs during my pregnancy. The first time I weighed myself at home I had only lost 10 pounds. I had some swelling when I came home from the hospital that accounted for some of the retained weight. However, at the two week mark I had lost almost a pound a day since I went home from the hospital. I was breastfeeding Noah which might be why I lost so much weight initially. The weight loss tapered off and at 6 weeks I weighed seven pounds more than my pre-pregnancy weight. I do not want to return to my pre-pregnancy weight but I would like to work on gaining my core strength again. I have already gotten rid of several of my old clothes and am slowly getting clothes in my new size (it may not seem like a big difference, but I went up 2 pant sizes).
After delivery I still walked slowly, only sat on pillows and was careful because my sutures were very sensitive. That improved as the sutures dissolved. Less than a week postpartum, we went to the Christmas tree farm where I walked up and down hills carrying Noah. The first two weeks my body made tremendous improvement. David and I were even able to go to the gym where I walked the track without difficulty. I struggled most the first several weeks with exhaustion. My hemoglobin was low leaving the hospital (around 7) so I had to start taking an iron supplement (my low hemoglobin obviously caused me to feel weak and tired too). I was also getting very little sleep because Noah was cluster feeding at night and I had engorgement (I will go into more detail in a breastfeeding post). It’s crucial to sleep when the baby sleeps those first few weeks so that you can fully recover. I wish that I had taken that advice instead of trying to do housework and have company during his naps. The last thing I want to talk about in general health is going to the bathroom for the first time. This might be TMI but I was terrified to poop after having a baby. I started taking Colace at the hospital and drank Miralax once a day. Even still, it took me a week to go the first time (probably because I was so paranoid). When I did finally go it wasn’t uncomfortable at all. I think the Colace and Miralax were helpful and I would recommend them to anyone after having a baby!
Finally, I want to talk about my emotions postpartum. I wouldn't say that I had postpartum "blues" or postpartum depression. However, I was exhausted, in pain, and overwhelmed with all of the new responsibility that came with being a new Mom. The first couple of weeks, I also felt my relationship with David was strained. We would sometimes snap at each other during the late night feedings that seemed endless (although we both regretted it the next day). I remember sobbing once because I was so overwhelmed and felt alone. Thankfully, we were able to talk through everything and realized that we were feeling many of the same things. Certainly we always loved Noah and wouldn’t trade him for anything. Nevertheless, it’s OK if you have some negative feelings to go along with the positive ones. Becoming parents is a huge life adjustment and can take some getting use to! At 6 weeks I can say that I LOVE being a Mom and I couldn’t be happier to have Noah as part of our family.
I tried to be as open and honest as possible (sorry if it was TMI) because I think that the postpartum period was the part I was least prepared for. I focused solely on the delivery itself and I wish I had been equally prepared for life back at home! My best advice is to take it one day at a time and realize how much can change and improve in only a few weeks.