What do Quasimodo and healing after a baby have in common?? Well, friend, let me tell you.
Google "Healing after baby" and you'll get about 50,600,000 results. You'll come across articles like Crotch Care 101: The truth about what's up down there after your vaginal delivery, Postpartum care: What to expect after a vaginal delivery, and Healing Hints: What Postpartum Recovery Is Really Like. You'll see really lovely photos of beautiful women looking peacefully at their sleeping baby or gorgeously round baby bumps with perfectly manicured hands making a heart right over the belly button. You'll see words like swelling and soreness.
Any resource that sheds light on postpartum care gets my Hallelujah hands. Postpartum care tends to be an afterthought when it comes to birth, so I appreciate any article that will remind women to take care of themselves. That being said, I just could not identify with these articles. Postpartum, I don't feel or look even 10% as perfectly put together as those pictures would have us imagine. Even the words seemed too cautious, too modest, too nice. Labor is hard freaking work. Giving birth is hard. Being a mom is hard. So, I just wanted someone to be real about it.
(I'm getting to Quasimodo, don't you worry)
First, I need to give you a little info. My first two nuggets were cesarean births and I rocked the physical recovery for both. Fast forward to 2015, when I had a successful VBA2C (vaginal birth after two cesareans). LISTEN TO ME. I am a birth doula, I love birth, most of my friends are doulas...vaginas regularly come up in casual conversation...but NO ONE told me what was going to happen to my vagina after I pushed out my baby.
The first shower after you deliver a baby is magical. It is seriously one of my favorite things in life. Seriously. If I were to make a top 5 list of the best things received after delivery it would be:
3) Those disposable mesh undies (also magical)
4) Hospital apple juice w/ crushed ice
5) Bacon cheeseburger
So, I had delivered my baby (vaginally - woohoo!) My sister brought me a bacon cheeseburger from Wendy's. My doulas (and great friends!) made sure I had apple juice. All I needed was a shower. I got rolled into recovery, nursed the babe to sleep, and I was ready.
I made sure the water was steaming hot. Put out my travel sized, lavender scented soap, shampoo, and conditioner. Lathered up. But when I put my hand on what was supposed to be my vagina I literally froze in place. Silently, I mouthed the words "WHAT.THE.F#@$?!?!?" I could not tell where my vagina, perineum, or anus started or finished. It had turned into a vaganus, a vagerinus....whatever. Apparently, in labor they all met, decided they really liked each other, and were now inserperable BFFs.
So here's where Quasimodo comes in. First of all, if you don't know who Quasimodo is look him up (the Disney version, please). When I came out of the shower, I'm sure the horror was evident. I told my husband, doulas, sisters, midwives, nurses, friends...literally, anyone who would listen...that my vagina now looked like Quasimodo. She was swollen and disfigured, lumpy and bumpy (I'll be honest, I didn't look and I still haven't looked but I can assume).
But this isn't some shock and awe campaign. Like Quasimodo, my vagina just needed a little love to feel like herself again. Frozen newborn baby diapers feel amazing and help with the soreness. Using a peri bottle filled with warm water is also pretty fantastic. Dermoblast will literally numb your bum (ha, yes, I did that on purpose) and Tucks pads were my go to. I don't think I used toilet paper for the first week, or two. Just my friends, Peri and Tucks. And y'all it took a long time. Like weeks. to regain any sense of normalcy down there.
I was so horrified to go to the bathroom, but was given some really useful tips (that I occasionally still need to use today): take a full cup of water into the bathroom with you and blow bubbles through the straw. It helps release the muscles so you can go pee or poo. Making horse lips will also help relax those muscles. And don't worry about feeling ridiculous. If you already have small ones, sitting in the bathroom with you doing horse lips will be the highlight of their day.
The other thing that was super helpful was talking with friends. It was such a relief to know I wasn't the only one. We'd share our birth stories and talk about how weird our vaginas had become. This is what I love about having a tribe of women friends - they celebrate and admire the pieces (and parts) of you that get labelled "ugly", "not for show", and "awkward". Which in turn helps you celebrate and admire those same things.
So, now it's your turn. Share your stories and tips in the comments. What was it like for you after your delivery? Shock and awe or rainbows and roses? What are some of your favorite tools and tricks for healing after delivery? Me & Quasi can't wait to hear :)