Yesterday I did a quick glance over the list of things I need to acquire for our son. I then looked at the calendar and realized that I am, in fact, approaching my due date with rapid speed. Actually, I’m only 120 days out to be exact. Now, with my daughter I swear my pregnancy moved at a glacial pace. This one? Heck no. I could have sworn that I peed on the stick last week.
Well, the belly is popping and my daughter is approaching her 1 year mark (meaning the bottles are gone [her choice] and the binkies are about to fly to the moon) … It is time to start newborn baby prep!
First things first I’m going to warn you about something … I don’t see childbearing as this magical, sacred, wonderful thing. I am a Christian and I believe to my very core that it SUCKS for a reason. (Recount the whole fall of man/living in a world of sin/pain in child birth thing …. ) But I wouldn’t say that just labor is difficult, I believe recovery is part of the package. With all of that said, I should also mention that I’m not very timid about what goes on “down there.” In fact, on the phone with my father the other day I had the audacity to say, “Yeah, once you crap on a birthing table in front of your husband the mystery is gone.” He laughed and then began YELLING that he doesn’t want to hear that. Oh well. This crap happens. Pun intended, pun intended.
So this post won’t be a sugar coated “I glowed the whole time and a rainbow shot out of my vagina as I delivered our first born” tale. In fact, it will be pretty gross. You’ve been warned.
One of the wonderful things about my first pregnancy is I had two sisters who had done it (within two years) before me. There were a few things the two of them didn’t get to experience because Pinterest had not been discovered (padsicles), but for the most part they were willing to share their bevy of postpartum recovery information. As the majority of you know I had to move within a week and a half of giving birth – so I needed to be nice and healed (or almost there) within 9-10 days time. I had a postpartum check-up right before I left for Wyoming and my midwife exclaimed, “You look GREAT for only 9 days postpartum!” I had limited pain and “issues” as we made our trip to visit family and then out to the west side of the country, so I assume what I did worked perfectly.
Truthfully, I believe postpartum recovery is case-by-case just like when you get an illness or an injury. If you don’t recover quickly from either, your postpartum recovery may take a little longer than your girlfriend who was wearing her skinny jeans a week after having her baby. (I’ll address that later, no worries!) So if you’re living in padsicles for 3 weeks and you can’t take your morning coffee without a Motrin, no judgment from me. The point of this post is not to say, “Hey do this because I was looking fantastic at 9 days postpartum and it’s the only way to be!” It is merely a list of things that will help ANYONE after they’ve had a baby.
Are you ready?
The Ultimate Postpartum Recovery List
1) PADSICLES, PADSICLES, PADSICLES
I know, the caps and the dramatic repetition is just well … dramatic. But the truth is, if you have a vaginal delivery you NEED these. We are all well aware of what happens to the girl parts when we push a kid out of the old hoo-ha. Even if you are one of the lucky ones to walk away relatively unscathed you will want at least a week’s worth of padsicles to soothe that bottom.
Two of my friends in the past year diligently made their padsicles but then ended up having a c section. You might wonder what to do in that case. Well, I’ve come up with a few ideas.
- Make them after you’ve had the baby. (I don’t recommend this one very highly, as you will want those suckers as soon as you return home.) At any rate, use your visitors to your advantage and while they are spending time with the newborn whip up a bag of padsicles.
- Use inexpensive “ingredients.” I used Target brand (Up&Up) pads, witch hazel, and aloe gel. They worked perfectly. No need to splurge on something simple like a padsicle. I assure you, store brand pads are just as absorbent as their expensive cohorts. This way if you DO have to throw them away because you can’t use them, it’s not a huge loss. ($12 is all I spent for mine … Two bags worth!)
- Find someone to give them to! If you make them beforehand and end up with a c section, I would try to find someone to pass them off to. I’m not recommending that you stalk the parking lot of Babies ‘R Us, but definitely look for someone on your Facebook friends list, in your church, at work, anywhere! Being a military spouse I can throw a rock and hit a pregnant woman so … that wouldn’t be too hard for me. If you DO live near a military base I’m sure you can find someone as well.
2) Pain Relievers
I believe, to my very core, that every lady in the postpartum phase of her life should have a bottle of ibuprofen (Motrin) on hand. I was informed by my midwife, as she stitched me back together again, that pain relievers work in different ways and for different types of pain. Ibuprofen, for whatever reason, is a phenomenal pain reliever for women postpartum and during our “time of the month.” I do not know where your midwife or doc stand on the use of pain relievers postpartum, and it is something you should discuss with them, but these are high on my list of essentials and I will have a bottle of Motrin awaiting my return home from the hospital.
My midwife provided me with a prescription for Motrin 800 AND Tylenol w/ Codeine. She wasn’t playing around. And God bless her for it! Definitely bring this up at your next appointment to see where your doc/midwife stand on pain relievers and make sure you plan accordingly!
3) Soft Washcloths
I bet you’re looking at the screen all weird. Prepare yourself. Depending upon how regular you are (and how many stool softeners the nurses pour down your gullet in the recovery wing) you WILL have a bowel movement. And you WILL be absolutely terrified. After your downstairs split itself in half to accommodate your 8 pound baby, the LAST thing you want to do is poop. My friend hooked me up with this trick that she used after she had her son. Get a soft washcloth and run it under warm water, place the washcloth over your sensitive girl parts and apply light pressure, relax, and poop. That light pressure combined with the soft, warm washcloth will help lessen the pressure you feel from the bowel movement and alleviate any dramatic moments of “HOLY CRAP MY ASS (sorry) IS GOING TO RIP IN HALF!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” Which I believe I texted my sister. Exactly those words.
I kept a pile of washcloths next to the bathroom sink and after I used them I tossed them in with the copious amounts of breastpads I had to wash. Worked quite nicely.
In regards to stool softeners, a lot of people recommend them. I recommend you just poop. JUST POOP. I don’t care if you just had a baby 10 hours ago … You won’t need stool softeners if you continue to use the restroom. Now, if you are truly someone who has issues in the potty room pick up a box of stool softeners too. AND POOP.
4) Vicks Vaporub & Cotton Circles/Pads
Hemorrhoids. Hemorrhoids. Hemorrhoids. I feel like if I say it over, and over, and over again it will lessen the awkwardness. When you think hemorrhoids you think of your grandma and her pooping issues. Now, after pushing for 2 hours to deliver a child, I think of myself. At 25 years old. My mother had 7 children and shared this little nugget of information with me. To which I shared with my midwife and she looked at me like, “Are you serious?” Oh, I’m straight serious …
Vicks Vaporub is hands down the only thing that anyone should ever use on their hemorrhoids. Ever.
I know, I know. Preparation H, Tucks Pads … all of these companies who worked so hard to convince us they are the only way. In fact I have a container of witch hazel pads in my linen closet that the nurses gave me. Unopened and never used. Simply because nothing beats Vicks. Nothing.
I bet you’re thinking that it will burn like a sonofagun. Nope! It is soothing and wonderful. Futhermore, it actually DOES help to shrink the hemorrhoids and rid them altogether. Mine were completely gone within 2 days of having the baby. And I know you want to believe that I had just a minor bout … NO. NO! Not at all! AWFUL is more like it.
How does it work? Take a cotton pad and swirl it directly into the Vicks container, get a good amount on there, and “tuck it” up over the hemorrhoids leaving the cotton pad in place. At each bathroom run for the first few days postpartum I would put on a new padsicle as well as a new cotton pad with Vicks. Works just marvelously. Trust me, okay?
5) Yoga Pants/Sweat Pants
I asked my sisters the other day if it was “ridiculous” that I had “buy yoga pants” on my to-do list … They all confirmed that no, it wasn’t. Truth is, we know that your girl parts essentially go through a meat grinder when you have a child. The jig is up. We know you’re sore and you are in pain. Put the yoga pants on and relax. You’re proving nothing by wearing your pre-pregnancy jeans. And this is speaking from experience. I had to make a Target run right after I had our daughter. I had just given birth 24 hours prior and I gave the kid to my mom and went to Target with my husband. (I wasn’t allowed to drive … Tylenol with codeine and all … ) You might think I’m crazy, but after 48 hours in a hospital I did NOT want to go home and sit around for days on end. I refused to wear my ratty old yoga pants out, so I wore my jeans. It was uncomfortable. Not just for my downstairs but my tummy as well.
Truth is, even if you CAN fit into your pre-pregnancy jeans it truly isn’t vital or necessary that you do. Purchase yourself a pair or two of new yoga pants prior to the baby and expect to live in them for a week or so. There’s no shame in this. And I’m willing to bet that not shoving your girl parts into skinny jeans will be beneficial to your healing process.
Below are my favorite pants of all time – and they come from Target! Bonus for all of you tall ladies, they come in extra long. I know what it is like to have a pair of comfy yoga pants but they look like you’re prepping for a flood. And they often go on sale at your local store, so keep an eye on them if this price tag is too high for you.
6) Nursing Essentials
If you plan on pumping or nursing there are a few things that I used that I could have done without and a few things I didn’t have that I found out I absolutely needed. Here’s the list!
- Lanolin. (You mean, like, like sheep’s wool?) You can buy it in Walmart, Target, etc. All in the bottle/pumping section. Multiple varieties. I used Medela brand and one tube lasted me 4 months of pumping and breastfeeding. If you have flat or inverted nipples this is a lifesaver, because those suckers will be especially raw. I refused to pump without this.
- Gel Hot/Cold Packs. I purchased two sets and would have one set for hot and one set for cold. The heated ones I would place about 20 minutes prior to a feeding/pumping session and the cold ones would go on after I was entirely drained. I believe these truly kept me from any significant pain with engorgement or otherwise. There are multiple varieties of these as well, and they all work the same. Perfectly fine to buy a cheaper brand.
- Snacks. You do, in fact, spend a good amount of time on your butt feeding a kid or pumping for a kid. Prior to having the baby stock up on your favorite quick snacks. I made cookies and brownies. (Wrap individually in saran wrap and pop in the freezer. Rest on the counter to defrost.) I also made sure my pantry had trail mix and a few other snacks I like. Plus, my mom went to Chickfila for me. Score!
- Movies/TV Series/Kindle/Books. Again, as with the snacks, you’re going to spend a lot of time on your butt. I reserved Downton Abbey seasons 1-3 for my pumping/feeding sessions. I am saving season 4 for when our son is born. Don’t tell me what happens! Netflix membership/Amazon instant download membership/borrow DVDs or series from your friends. Either way just prep to have something to watch or read.
- Multiple Pumping Parts. I had three sets total. An amazing friend of mine gave me her Medela pump and parts so I had to buy nothing besides new tubing. And because I know her and I’m not skeeved out by her, I used the parts that were given. I recommend that you purchase more than the one set that comes with your pump. Having 3 sets was a lifesaver because I could swap them out if I wanted. Usually I would give them a good rinse, put them in a ziplock baggie, and pop them in the fridge to use at my next pumping session. This meant I only had to wash them once a day.
- Nursing Bras. I love Target. And I love that Target has nursing bras. And not just cheap, fall apart nursing bras. They’re awesome and the only kind I will ever use. I have included 3 different types. #1 I used for sleeping and for the first few days prior to my milk coming in because I felt as though the looseness of it would accommodate ample milk flow. #2 I used for sleeping and for wearing around the house after my milk came in. #3 I used for everyday after my milk came in. It is a little more restrictive and I wouldn’t recommend ANY bra like this prior to your milk coming in. A non-expert tip on nursing bra purchasing – buy one cup size up. I bought my normal cup size and the girls were falling out once it was milk producing time. This also meant that my breast pads were also coming out … A wet tshirt contest as a result of leaky boobs? Not fun. Not fun at all.
- Breast Pads/Nursing Pads. Whatever you call them. Some people swear by disposable, I swear by washable. You can buy both and try them out to see which you like best. There are also plenty of tutorials on making your own. I’m contemplating asking Hilary to whip me up a few sets in some cute fabric. Anything to make nursing fun. 🙂
- More Milk Plus Supplement. My husband’s staff sergeant has a beautiful wife who served as a lactation consultant for a while. When we went to their house to hang out for a while one night she ripped open her closet ‘o lactation and tossed me some of these supplements. I was astonished at how well they worked. At that point I had tried a lot – oatmeal, tons of water, fenugreek, and the list goes on. While those helped a little bit, the More Milk Plus capsules were great at increasing my supply. A friend of mine used these as well, but said that they made her gassy. They had no such affect on me and didn’t affect my daughter either. I will be starting out of the gate with these this go round.
- Drinking Tumbler and Dry Erase Marker. Water consumption is pretty important in the breastfeeding/pumping world. My husband and I have a ton of these tumblers in our home. My secret is drawing hash marks on the lid. These represent how many of those tumblers I should drink for the day. Each time I filled it again I would erase a line. And truly, with a newborn you probably aren’t going to be able to keep track of all of the glasses of water. I would aim for 120 ounces a day therefore I would aim to drink 6 tumblers.
- Nursing Tank Tops. I’m not one to go without a tank top under most of my outfits. Plus, when you are nursing/pumping you don’t want that stretchmark laden belly hanging out. At least I don’t. So I followed this tutorial to make my own. I liked making my own because it attached to my nursing bra instead of being a separate entity. (And of course didn’t cost as much as if I bought a nursing tank in the store….)
And no, I don’t mean just for the baby. I sat on the boppy on our couch for the first few days postpartum. It was like a less embarrassing doughnut they give you after you have your hip replaced. It was helpful in standing up as it lifted me off of our couch a little easier, and it kept my bottom from being more sore than it already was. In addition it was a lifesaver when I was nursing our daughter on one side and pumping on the other side. I just rested her down in the boppy and fed her as she was soothed to sleep by the woh-woh-wohing of my pump.
Plus, your kid will like to sleep on it too. And it will be a great tool in absorbing their falls when they learn to sit up. And your husband will like to lay on it on the couch watching football on Sundays.
This is probably a stupid one for many of you, but I cannot stress enough how much patience you will need with your body after you have a baby. The first week you are home your body will be sore and ache and of course your downstairs or c section incision will cause discomfort. The best thing you can do is just being patient. Take care of yourself as best as possible, rest, and allow your body to heal itself. We can do many things to soothe ourselves during this time (read: padsicles and ibuprofen) but unfortunately the rest is up to our body. Getting stressed out because you’re not in your pre-pregnancy jeans 10 days after giving birth like your friend Susan won’t do you any favors. And who cares?! Truly! If I see a woman in Walmart with a newborn that lady is getting ZERO judgment from me for wearing a pair of yoga pants and sneakers with her hair in a ponytail. Shoot! I don’t even judge a mom with 3 kids wearing yoga pants and a pony tail at the grocery store.
It’s draining! And you do have to pour a good majority of yourself into your children, and for that I applaud you! You’ve figured it out. You have realized that sometimes, yes, my “stuff” has to take the backseat for my kids. You’re not bitter about it or angry, and yeah they can be annoying, ungrateful little buttholes sometimes … But who cares! Someday those kids move out (hallelujah sweet baby Jesus!) and we will be all sad and mopey because hey … I have no one to take care of! That is of course until we go on our first retirement vacation and realize what sweet bliss comes out of not having kids at home after 18 years …
The reality is postpartum healing is draining and its a learning process. The best you can do is take care of yourself and hold on for the ride!
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I do have a 1 year old in need of a serious reality check that I like to call … Naptime.
Happy 2014, friends!