Monday, September 28, 2009

At least my hair hasn't fallen out

Before the birth of my son, I spent a long time talking with many of you about physical effects postpartum and how, considering the lengthy list of potential problems, it's odd how little they are discussed.

For the curious, here's my experience. I don't claim that it is typical in any fashion.

Pain down there-- achy three days and then serious stinging on the toilet for about 5 days, much less bad than I imagined.
Boobs- sore cracked nipples for about three weeks; needing to wear a bra all the time, including sleeping for 5 weeks; itchy, sweaty and generally uncomfortable all the time still. Leakage when my "milk came in" and minor since, mostly at night. Did have an infection at a week and a half-- didn't take antibiotics and it went away.
Bleeding- very very heavy first two days, like a heavy period for another week, like a normal period for the next week, spotting for a while and then starting up again heavy around my four week appointment. Actually stopped at five weeks. Might have been longer since I was on blood thinners. Never had any clots the size of a fist or larger (you're supposed to call your doctor with these) but definitely passed some doozies.
Temperature control-- horrible when my milk came in (freezing and sweating simultaneously) and off for a full five weeks, including bad night sweats.
Contracting uterus-- one of the freakiest things I've experienced is the draining of my uterus by a nice nurse pushing on it, followed by direct links between dianthus sucking and tingling in my tummy region. It was very weird while still at the hospital my tummy was still so large and hard. By two weeks it was soft and now it looks like I'm just carrying excess fat around the stomach rather than recently pregnant. I'm still wearing my maternity capris but really want to lose some weight before it gets much colder so I don't need to wear my maternity pants (all of which are dress pants for work with fairly wide spandex tops and no pockets.
Post partum depression-- my crying all the time for most of the first five weeks felt more like a physical than a psychological symptom, if that makes any sense. I never thought that I was going to hurt myself or my child and I always thought that exercise and time would make it better (and I thought that it would get better), so it may not "really" have been PPD, but many books label "regular" baby blues as lasting a week or less and PPD lasting longer. I didn't stop crying daily until sometime after I stopped bleeding, about five weeks. I feel much better now.
Incontinence-- Never had any fecal incontinence, thank goodness, and urine hasn't been bad-- just when I sneeze or cough, and it's less of a problem than when I was pregnant. Still, should have done more kegels.
Hair loss- One doesn't lose much hair while pregnant (mine looked great, I might add) so sometime after the baby is born, hormones shift and one can lose six months worth of normal hair loss at once. This has not happened to me and my hair is lovely when it is down. Of course it is never down because Dianthus can grab, so I didn't really realize how long and blond it currently is until I brushed it out over the weekend. 'Cause I'm vain and want somebody to see it, I thought I'd post a picture for all of you to admire.

Oh, as to why the physical aspects are so little discussed, I suspect it is because the emotional issues overwhelm the physical or there are just too many other things to do (unlike pregnancy, which is largely waiting, so you can think about and talk about your body). Or that people need to forget quickly.


Tucson Trekker said...

Wow! Your hair is gorgeous!! Makes me think of you in that wine-colored flow-y, flowery thing you have that looks so stunning. I'm sure that's still in the closet for a while, but it'll come back out when the baby's bigger (and other things are smaller).

Thanks for this post, I was entirely unaware of some of these concerns.

Ooh the shrinking of the uterus sounds weird!

I have been thinking so much about the birth that I have thought very little about anything AFTER the birth. I figure that will come after caregivers for the birth are FINALLY lined up.

I do periodically wonder if nursing will work out OK...

I'm really glad things are settling down for you. In some respects, I am anxious to have all this done with and settle down to some kind of normal routine. Sounds like you are pretty much there in as far as 'there' really exists.

Irene said...

You might not claim that your experience is typical, but as a fellow "expert" (i.e. someone who has been through it once) it sounds fairly standard to me.

I imagine that most people are afraid/embarrassed to talk about their genitalia, bodily fluids, and emotional upheaval to anyone who is not also going through it, recently gone through it, about to go through it, or whatever. I'll freely admit that before I got pregnant, I probably would not have cared or wanted to know about any of that (except maybe the emotional aspects) even coming from a close friend.

My experience was similar, except for these 2 things:
1. No leakage during milk coming in (one of the early signs that I was going to have milk supply problems with nursing).

2. During the first week and a half, I had a very difficult time getting any sleep, even when the baby was sound asleep. I still don't know whether that was mostly a physical phenomenon or a mental/emotional one, or equal parts of each.

Beth said...

SS - first off, AWESOME AWESOME hair. It looks great!

Thank you so much for sharing all these experiences, especially the physical ones. I'm really glad that I'm going to have these resources about pregnancy when I get pregnant (at some point in the future). PPD sounds like a time-period of life that will both be a sucky emotional place and also the great time of the baby has arrived.

On that note for those that are curious - my plan is to wait until after next fall since I have a document of information due. I don't want to juggle that and physical and emotional upheaval at the same time. Trying to sell the house is bad enough. :-)

Erin said...

Oooooh, you're hair is so pretty! You're lucky. I know a few women here who's hair fell out in handfuls. But the emotional stuff, bleeding, and other symptoms don't sound like much fun. I'm glad you made it through the worst of it without harming anyone. I'm glad you shared your experience, too. Not just for reference, but so we can know what you have been going through. If I could I would make you some soup and give you a big hug!

Sparkling Squirrel said...

Thank you all. While I don't claim to speak for anyone else, my understanding is that most of this is fairly normal, as Irene pointed out.
For some reason I think I need to clarify that I wasn't sad. The PPD or blues or whatever felt separate from my emotions. There were many times I was thrilled with the wonder of my son, thankful that my husband would change him and delighted to be hanging out with my parents and still needing to cry.
I don't think it's just that bodily fluids and special conditions are seldom discussed in our society. Everyone knows that pregnant women get nauseated, have weird food desires and wants to nest. Most women who have been paying attention know that pregnant women need to pee all the time and that menopausal women can't control their temperature and have emotional upheaval as well. I just think that it is odd that I knew more about the phyisical effects of menopuase than I did about what happens after giving birth.