Birth - The Aftermath
Last night was prenatal night. As Mark and I walked into the building, we were reflecting on the last two evenings of prenatal. One had been on the topic of labour and delivery. The other had been a detailed look at breastfeeding (along with discussions of mastitis and clogged ducts etc.) Mark thought aloud, "I hope this week's session is less gross than the last few."
The first topic was Physical and Emotional Changes After Delivery. That sounded harmless enough. "Changes" is a nice, neutral word. Change can be good, right? WRONG!!!!!
I spent the entire class with my heart and mind ping-ponging between two very different states: mortified terror and uncontrollable giggling hysteria. I was shocked at the information, as well as the candidness with which this nurse (and mother) was describing the "physical and emotional changes after delivery".
First of all, there is swelling. Well sure. I guess that makes sense. (Friction causes heat, baby.) I'd heard about the frozen maxipads which very kind nurses will offer at the hospital. But, as our prenatal nurse put it, she found herself wondering for how long her labia would be at her knees.
Also, she mentioned the importance of religiously doing one's kegel exercises. I guess I'd always been of the mind-frame that incontinence could not happen to me. Or, at the very least, that I was in the midst of the most difficult part right now...you know....fetus parked fairly heavily upon my bladder as we speak. But no, apparently the bladder has not had practice filling to its full capacity in quite some time, therefore, when the baby is gone, the bladder can then rebel. Our prenatal nurse confided without hesitation that she'd be like, "I have to pee" one minute; she'd take a step and then, "OH, I already went." And this is a beautiful, young, vibrant woman! This is an Incontinence-Can't-Happen-To-Me Woman. This was when one of my uncontrollable giggle fits began. However, even before I had the laughter under control, I was already doing kegels. And I looked around the room in the fit of my hysteria and wondered how many other women had, in that instant, decided to do theirs too.
Poops. Apparently this becomes a huge deal after having had the vaginally mutilating experience of childbirth. Apparently, it's not uncommon to go four days without a poop. Our nurse said that it's a myth that you have to pass a poop before they'll let you leave the hospital (or we'd be there a lot longer). No, she said, you just have to pass gas! That's enough of a tell-tale sign that your gut is in movement. Yay for peristalsis!
But when the pooping moment comes, it is evidentally like giving birth all over again. People feel their insides are ripping out again. This brings us to the age-long debate: To take stool-softeners or not to take stool-softeners. This topic is one of the very few (and I do believe in open discussion about nearly everything) that is really not necessary to discuss with one's partner. Sitting there in the classroom, I felt a bit badly that Mark had to learn that I was going to have to go through some major trauma to pass a bowel movement at some point just after having had a child. He looked a bit distresssed.
The last two topics were hemorrhoids and squirt bottles.
I knew a bit about hemorrhoids. My friend had told me that all the pushing could cause them. She said there were creams one could take. I just didn't know that one of those creams was called ANUSOL! Could it be more self-explanatory? I mean, where do I put it, wait, I think on my ANUS-ol. No one's going to mistaken that for toothpaste. But our nurse took it one step further. She described hemorrhoids as part of your intestines poking out your rectum. She even said sometimes you can just take your fingers and POP them back in. POP...just like that. Handy to know. "They look like grapes," she described. Women around me nodded seriously.
And at the hospital, apparently they give you a squirt bottle or perineal bottle. When you pee, you fill it with warm water and squirt it on your sore areas to keep the pee from burning and, get this, you continue to use it for a week in place of toilet paper! I think I gasped aloud, "I CAN'T WIPE????" The nurse even added, "If you've got two bathrooms in your house, see if you can score two squirt bottles so you don't have to yell HONEY, COULD YOU PLEASE BRING ME MY PEEING SQUIRT BOTTLE.... I LEFT IT IN THE OTHER BATHROOM." Also, she noted, when you're done, perineal bottles make great rice shakers for toddlers.