Obsessing Over Postpartum Care

Me three months postpartum, prepping for a huge oral exam in my grad program. Most people worry about fumbling over their words and failing this academic milestone. I worried about crapping myself in front of five of the smartest people I know.

So it started when I shat myself. Literally.

Not once, but twice (and almost a third time) all over my underwear and clothes. My obsession with postpartum care came out of a desperate fear that I’d be wearing diapers long after my infant son stopped wearing them.

During those first months after giving birth I had so many Why didn't anyone tell me about this? moments. They mostly related to the fluids oozing out of my crevasses, the physical and painful reminders of having a baby, and how disconnected I felt from my body.

Breast feeding felt far from natural (bloody hell painful in fact), my uterus felt like it was going to fall out through my vagina, and all my joints felt too wobbly to confidently support the entire weight of my body.

It dawned on me how terrible we (women of modern society) are at talking about our postpartum bodies.

I remember signing up for weekly emails about my growing baby and changing body during the entire pregnancy. In fact, I was bombarded with information about my pregnant body, the range of physical symptoms I might experience, and how to manage my “condition.”

There was no shortage of information on child birth either. Under the “natural birth” umbrella alone, I had the option of hypnobirthing, birth centers, water births, home water births, unmedicated births in a hospital…

You get the picture.

Once that baby was out, I really saw where the priority had been been all along. That baby! Those pregnancy websites and apps too seamlessly transitioned into baby’s first days, baby’s first weeks, baby’s first months, baby's first milestones, how to bathe baby, how to nurse baby, how to comfort baby, baby diapering, baby led weaning, and so on.

Where were all the websites, forums, and droves of articles dedicated to discussing our amazing and vulnerable postpartum bodies?

The allure of modern motherhood swayed me into thinking that my love and joy for this new baby should naturally resolve my very real struggles with basic bodily functions. I felt horrible that I wasn’t loving being a brand new mom.

My expectations of how I imagined feeling soon after birth were humbled. I felt tricked by all those peaceful Instagram photos of moms smiling with their baby just weeks old and those Facebook posts of friends gushing over the overwhelming joy of motherhood.

I posted this photo in response.

I couldn’t sit without feeling the stitches from my third degree tear straining to hold my perineum in place. Walking to the bathroom, I could feel the weight of my uterus throbbing down on my vagina. My back and shoulders ached so deeply, but that was nothing compared to the bloody chaffing of my nipples and the dread of putting a tongue and lip tied baby back on the boob hour after hour.

And when I finally closed my eyes (for a microsecond) I kept having flashbacks to my seven hours of pushing, the OBGYN trying three times to vacuum suction out my son, and the moment when my nurse, doula, and husband rolled up their sleeves and helped me push my little guy out, finally.

I managed to talk about some of my challenges with a few close girlfriends, my husband, and doula, Piper Lovemore. Piper really saved me (and my crotch) from spiraling down a very negative path. She helped me recalibrate expectations about what I thought I should be able to do and when after giving birth. She showed me how to make crotchsicles and soothing sitz baths with herbs, and she gave me concrete advice on how to gracefully maintain boundaries so I could recover and rest amidst excited visitors (anxious to see the baby, of course).

Most importantly, Piper encouraged me and gave me the space to talk about anything and everything postpartum related. 

Here are some of the things we talked about (when we weren't talking about the baby):

  • When I might start feeling normal again

  • What to expect at my 6-week postpartum checkup

  • What concerns to raise with the OBGYN

  • That weird raw tissue hanging outside of a vaginal stitch

  • Postpartum bleeding

  • How to check around and inside my vagina to test what hurts/protrudes/is numb

  • How to soothe burning nipples

  • Worries around the story I keep telling myself about my son’s birth

  • Fears about shitting myself in public

  • Foods for the postpartum body and soul

  • How to communicate with my husband

  • Finding time for self-care

I credit so much of my initial knowledge on postpartum care and inspiration for this website to Piper Lovemore. (And that name? Yeah, amazing right?)

Talking about postpartum realities isn’t to minimize the overwhelming significance of making, delivering, and nurturing that perfect little human being. It's our miraculous gift. Talking about and learning how other women have cared for their bodies and souls after giving birth makes me more in awe of a woman's strength and ability. Our bodies after giving birth are a source of inspiration and fascination.

Shouldn’t we give our postpartum selves a little more attention and conversation that we deserve?

Why not talk about some of those weird, gross, scary, and awesome things that happen after delivery? Trade tips on how to soothe that aching bottom? Belly? Boobs?

Let's laugh about not being able to hold in our farts, then figure out who can help rehabilitate that region. Let's not make sneezing with a little pee leaking out be the postpartum norm. Let's not let the woman be forgotten behind the shadow of Motherhood.

I’m happy to report that I no longer fear crapping myself in public, but I still struggle to control my farts...

...and my son is almost a year old.

My posture still sucks, my core feels too loose and too tight at the same time, I have problems with vaginal scar tissue, and I don’t quite feel like my best self yet. I'm not okay with this!

My journey with postpartum care isn’t over yet. The road ahead isn’t quite as urgent or dramatic as it was the first few months post-delivery, but I’m still committed and fascinated to learn more and do more for my new mama body after pregnancy and childbirth.

Won’t you join me on this journey?