I will be the first to admit that I struggled with the decision of whether or not to put this post up. I find myself in the middle of a conundrum where I would loathe to offend anyone by brazenly discussing delicate issues without regard, while on the other hand I admit that there’s very little being said about this important topic to warrant the need for more advocacy and raising awareness.
So please do bear with me; I will do my best to be tactful and tasteful. From my own experience, and perusing what has been said by some online resources I’ve found helpful in the past, it would seem that my feeling on this matter is justified - there is currently not enough awareness, especially for first time mothers, on the practicalities of postpartum recovery and what they can do to better prepare for this part of the fourth trimester.
I personally did a lot of preparation during my pregnancy. A fair bit of this went into getting ready for the baby, logistically speaking. The other part went into thinking about the birth options and forming an opinion about what a “safe birth” meant for me and how that translated to the care I wished for during my child’s birth. I also dabbled a little bit with meal-prepping, something all the blogs I read seemed to suggest a good idea as you’ll be too short on time to manage to cook. They were not wrong.
Somehow, in all that flurry of preparation, I overlooked one simple thing that should have been clear as day. Bringing a baby into the world is no small feat - and I will need to physically recover from it. Looking back now it seems silly that I should not have considered this of course, but as a first time mother I simply had no concept of postpartum recovery. Even the most straightforward of births require recovery; there needn’t be a c-section or birth complications involved. Your body has done a tremendous job, but it was a big toll, and it will need time to recover.
Needless to say when the time came for my recovery I was woefully underprepared. This left me struggling, overwhelmed and utterly shocked at what I felt was an incredibly horrid time. The problem of course, was that I hadn’t expected to need this time to heal. I just imagined that I’d throw myself headfirst into looking after my newborn. Naturally when I found myself with a second-degree tear to recover from, and the practical struggles that came along with it, I felt short-changed. I was somewhat prepared to be delirious from lack of sleep while tending to a newborn 24/7; I wasn’t expecting to do it while myself needing help to get by.
I appreciate that seasoned mothers will very well know these things. So this one is for the first time mother, because sometimes you just don’t know what questions you need to ask to better prepare. And with that I’ll share what I feel would have been the most helpful things for me to have on hand before I needed them, and not have to go out and get them as the need arose.
1. Disposable maternity briefs
These are good to have, though not a must, to help keep things fitted snugly and in place. Your usual underwear, which you maybe very well wish to keep pristine, may not be suitable for the bulkier maternity pads.
These ones from Jojo Maman Bébé look fairly priced.
2. Robust maternity pads
This may come down to personal preference, but I personally found the maternity pads to be perfectly adequate for my needs. I do think it is a little extreme to suggest adult nappies for dealing with lochia; excessive bleeding beyond that may very well be a sign that something is wrong and needs looking into. To that end, I found the Natracare pads to be very good.
3. Soothing spray for the perineal area
I found the Expert Midwife’s Spritz for Bits to be an absolute lifesaver. Spray it on the maternity pads or delicate area for instant relief.
4. Portable bidet
A little bit of running warm water does wonders for removing the sting from peeing. I’m a little jealous that portable bidets are a standard offer at American hospitals as part of the discharge from care. While we may not be that lucky this side of the pond, there’s some good options on Amazon. I quite like the size of the one I’ve linked here, and you can always fill up both just in case you need them.
5. The Wonder Weeks App
As a baby’s sole mode of communication to alert you of all of their needs is crying, it can often be bewildering in the early days to know why your baby is crying, and what you need to do to soothe them. My doula, who was present for my son’s home birth, was also available to me via the phone in the days after the birth. This was incredibly helpful as she was there to tell me what to expect over some crucial days, like the cluster feeding spurts that came as a shock despite her forewarnings. What I did also find useful was the Wonder Weeks App, which allowed me to see beforehand when my son would be going through a developmental leap that I would need to support him through.
These are some of the helpful things I wish I had a handle on beforehand, just to make things a little bit easier for me as I recovered. In the second instalment, I will share thoughts specifically around breastfeeding, and how you can prepare for that journey if that is your choice.