Looking back at my first pregnancy, if there was one thing that caught me totally by surprise, it was the long road to postpartum recovery. In the months leading up to my first birth experience, I spent all my time focusing on prenatal care and relieving labor pain; I took a 10-week Bradley Method birthing class, set up a beautiful custom nursery, and packed a basic hospital bag.
Unfortunately, no one…NO ONE, prepared me for the pain that comes after childbirth. The frequent, painful bathroom trips. Feeling like a truck had ran over my abdomen. My hormones (and subsequent mood swings) were all over the place. AND I had several perineal tears. I was bleeding, swollen, overwhelmed, in pain, and uncomfortable. I wish someone had the uncomfortable, honest mom-to-mom prep talk with me. So here’s my mom-to-mom prep blog for the expecting women out there who are expecting everything but the pain down there.
(hey, that rhymed)
I just delivered my third child, and after two prior vaginal birth experiences I finally feel ready to handle this postpartum recovery journey. Not only the wall of emotion, but more knowledgeable about tending to my lady parts.
The key is to prep your home, because the last thing you want is to be caught in the wrong place without your arsenal. So I created two portable postpartum baskets to help me get through the first 6-8 weeks. And I am patting myself heavily on the back because these baskets are lifesavers!
The Bathroom Kit
Herbal Sitz Bath
Having a portable bidet sitz bath is a convenient at-home solution to soothe perineal soreness and swelling. I always plan on at least soaking my bum twice a day for 15 minutes each. For a speedy recovery take the time to find a good DIY sitz herbal blend. Unfortunately I found it difficult to obtain all the herbs needed here in UAE, so I got a ready made solution from Amazon made with certified organic ingredients and zero toxins. A local alternative with similar qualities is Little Bairn’s “Heal Me” Postnatal Bath Soak.
I love this stuff – it is so soothing and aids quick healing so I bought in three forms: liquid, pads, and wipes. First I pour the pure liquid witch hazel into small spray bottles and apply to the region right after washing with warm water. Then I line a cold-pack pad (or, “padsicle”) with Tucks Witch hazel circular pads. Tucks is my most favorite brand because it is “large” so you’ll use less. Then I save the wipes for when I’m out of the house.
One thing I look forward to after delivering is taking warm, soothing Epsom Salt baths. It really helped with healing and reducing the swelling. These baths are my favorite. I sometimes ask my husband to bring in the baby during the last 15 minutes and I get to relax with him in my arms…you might even find us breastfeeding in the bath.
Available at various pharmacies, but I preferred using lavender salt.
You might never have a problem with leaking, but just in case, have a pack ready! I place them with my regular pads and change them as needed while I’m freshening up.
Available at grocery stores, pharmacies, and children’s retailers.
Pads, Pads and more Pads
This goes without saying – expect some bleeding, even if you’re a C-Section mama. The heaviest bleeding will be during the first 10 days while your uterus is contracting, followed by light bleeding for up to 6 weeks postpartum. But everyone’s different, so it’s best to keep an assortment on hand: cold-pack perineal pads, maxi pads, 100% organic cotton pads, ultra-thin pads, pantyliners, and even Padsicles (see note below)! This way you’re ready for the different recovery phases and don’t have to send your husband out in the middle of the night to hunt for them.
At first, I use the Perineal Cold Packs with adhesive strips placed on top of the jumbo sized maxi pads. These are pads with a built-in cooling pack – just twist to crack it open and immediately cool the pad. Ice is awesome for decreasing swelling during the first 48-72 hours. Cold pack pads were common practice at the birthing inn where I delivered my first two babies in the U.S., but they are no where to be found in UAE. When I asked about it on some of my hospital tours, they looked at me like I was high maintenance and explained that they, “umm, only give ibuprofen for the pain!”, then added, “bring your own maxi pads, because we charge 5 AED each”. Hahaha.
I then work my way from the perineal cold packs to jumbo sized maxi pads to ultrathin pads. I honestly dislike synthetic cotton pads *ugh* so this time I decided to invest in 100% organic cotton pads and they were awesome and very worth it! I had no irritation or discomfort at all.
Note: Last month, a good friend made me padsicles as a welcome home gift. I had seen them on Pinterest, but yeah…was too lazy to actually make them so I am beyond happy with the gift! They are my favorite! In the hospital, I used the Perineal Cold Pack, because I did not have access to a freezer but at home I definitely preferred my friend’s padsicles. I highly recommend taking the time to make at least 10 pads. You’ll love it and you can thank me later!
The Bedroom Kit
I suffered from “baby blues” in the first few weeks postpartum with both of my older kids. I was a mess. I would even weep over dropping crumbs in the kitchen. The hormones that helped me grow my bundles of joy were all over the place and made me very teary-eyed and it took time for my body to level out. It is important to take care of yourself and keep it together for the sake of yourself, the baby, and loved ones. I would highly recommend that moms look into hormone balancing essential oils such as lavender, bergamot, and geranium. They don’t only help keep baby blues at bay, they also are great to soothe postpartum maternal anxiety. Use an oil diffuser and add a couple of drops.
Lavender Organic Essential Oil, AED 100+, Neal’s Yard
If you are planning on breastfeeding, you must invest in a good nursing balm. Expect some degree of nipple discomfort, soreness or even cracking…it may not happen right away, but always keep some on hand for those cluster feeding nights. I have always used Anna Naturals because it’s light, completely safe for baby, made from organic all-natural food-grade ingredients, and there is no need to wipe it off before feeding. Another favorite I discovered recently in UAE is Little Bairn Nipple Balm,which is lanolin-free and formulated with 100% organic ingredients. If you have serious discomfort, my mommy friends all swear by Lansinoh’s balm; they mention it so much it must be better than gold. I used it mainly during my first week to soothe the soreness and it worked like magic! For the following weeks I switched back to my favorite organic nipple balms because I prefer the texture of lanolin-free formulas.
Some of the best postpartum advice is – don’t be a hero. I tried the whole 100% natural with my first and endured a lot of pain and discomfort. This time around I took the recommended dosage of ibuprofen/panadol as prescribed by my fabulous OBGYN until I no longer needed it. I bought small bottles of each and stuck them in my postpartum basket. I also went ahead and ordered Aloe Comfrey Gel, a soothing gel, and Dermoplast, a numbing spray. BTW, the Aloe Comfrey gel could also be used to make your padscicles! Postpartum bowel movements are sometimes very painful, so ask your doctor for stool softener pills – if you don’t want to feel like you are trying to poop out your traumatized uterus. (sorry). Otherwise, a diet rich in fiber might be sufficient to alleviate that charming sensation. And while you’re out buying all the embarrassing stuff, grab some Preparation H cream – which has maximum pain relief for hemorrhoids. My biggest pain relief advice for pain down there is – if you gotta go, just go!!! Holding poo and pee only makes the problem worse with potential UTI’s and constipation, so, literally…just do it!
During the first few weeks, I always pay extra-close attention to my diet to establish a good milk supply, keep my energy levels up, and to make sure baby isn’t fussy after every feed. I always have one box of PregnaPlan vitamins which include Omega 3 & 6, folic acid and 10 vitamins and minerals. For hunger attacks between meals I have several Morning Berry or Coconut Cocoa TREK protein bars in the basket . What I like about these bars is that they taste good, are packed with 10 g of protein, and they are diary, gluten, and wheat free! I also always have an assortment of nursing teas, with my favorite being Mother’s Milk Tea. If you’re a DIY mama, here’s an awesome recipe.
And last but not least… I’m sure you’ll get sick of hearing this postpartum recovery advice, but “try to nap when your little one naps during those first weeks of recovery, rather than being on your phone or doing housework”. There, I said it!
If you have any additional tips please do share them with us in the comment section below.
Sudanese-American working mom of three. Free Spirit. Idea Curator. Her brain moves faster than her body can go. A laid back chic who walks around with that stereotypical hippie vibe. She is never afraid to give you her unsolicited opinion about gentle parenting. Esraa has been actively over-sharing her motherhood and parenting stories on social media since 2008.
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