It’s been a while but I remember it like it was yesterday. The day I gave birth to my first child I wasn’t consumed with love, I was consumed with relief and fear. Relief that I had done it, that my baby was here safe but fear that I now had to keep her alive.
I felt battered for days afterwards, battered with exhaustion and by all the changes to my body. While I was in awe of my body – it had grown and birthed my baby, it had kept her safe and it had given her to me – it felt alien to me. My body was torn and bleeding, my boobs were sore and they were leaking, my insides hurt and my tummy was saggy.
It hurt when I peed, it hurt when I walked, it hurt when I sat down. I cried a lot. But I looked at my baby and I loved her. She was beautiful and I had made her. And then she would want feeding and I would cry again because that hurt too.
Naively I wasn’t prepared for what pushing a baby out of my body would do to my vagina – wizard’s sleeve really isn’t an exaggeration. Swollen, loose and completely baggy and misshapen. Of course shape and tone did return fairly quickly, especially with some pelvic floor exercises but a laugh or a sneeze would challenge my continence long after I had finished with the maternity pads!
Feeding took three weeks to crack – every day I would cry, every day I would say I was going to start bottle feeding but I was unprepared for the emotions attached to wanting to feed my baby myself and I started each day with fresh hope that today it would work – until it did. And then the pain stopped and I could start to enjoy it.
In those initial few days and weeks, I felt fragile and vulnerable, tender and sore. I bled for 6 weeks, my stitches itched as they dissolved and my perineum was sore for about 4 months. But slowly my body returned to normal again, it felt more familiar and I remained in awe of all it had been through.
Women’s bodies after birth vary so much, from a little discomfort to a painful recovery. All three of my births were different and so was each recovery.
After my next baby, three years later, I only bled for 2-3 weeks, I didn’t need any stitches, I knew what to expect of my boobs, and my fanny seemed to bounce back into shape pretty quickly. I was swollen and sore but still able to chase my 3 year old around a soft play within a week – before I gave birth I was on crutches thanks to an almost crippling and painful SPD but after I gave birth I was able to walk normally again..
The biggest memory after baby number two was the after-pains as my uterus contracted down. Initially every breastfeed created sharp pains that took my breath away.
After baby number three I needed stitches again and, because of the manual removal of my placenta, I felt bruised and battered. The spinal anaesthesia left me with a sore back and a hideous cough, along with a familiar soreness that didn’t last for too long.
Each of my births have meant some recovery – only a little with baby number two but much more with one and three. These were the aches and wounds of all my hard word making and birthing my babies, which initially made me feel quite vulnerable but eventually made me feel much stronger.
I’m going to follow this up with a post about the range of the different experiences of women to normalise and talk about our bodies after birth.