1. Hierarchy of pain
The old joke of stomping on your left foot so you forget the pain in your right foot holds true. I could only recognize one area of pain at a time, which I suppose could be considered a blessing in disguise. As the epidural wore off, the spot on my back where the needle went in felt like a punching bag. I couldn't believe how sore my back was! I made Mark look at it, sure there was a pancake-sized bruise. There was no bruise, which felt slightly invalidating.
This pain went away by the day after birth, which is when the pain of vaginal childbirth really started to register. The best part of my time in the hospital was when the nurse came in with the Ibuprofen and Tylenol! Once that pain started to subside (each day brought an exponential improvement), I started to realize that now the muscles of my pelvic floor were sore. I think they were sore all along, but since the pain was lesser it didn't register.
Bottom line: the female body takes a beating in childbirth. We're awesome.
2. Feeling ready doesn't mean you are
Every time I thought I was ready to push myself, I was wrong. I thought I was ready for a trip to Target and the grocery store with my mom the second week after birth; I ended up crying in the Target parking lot from the pain of walking and we didn't make it to the grocery store at all (this is where I learned that you must keep on top of the painkillers, even if they are just Ibuprofen and Tylenol).
Six weeks after birth, which is usually when the doctors give you the green light to start working out again, I felt like my regular self. And my regular self wanted to take my jogging stroller out for a spin with Brendan! So off I went, baby in tow. I made it four blocks before it became embarrassingly apparent that my bladder (pelvic floor muscles) couldn't handle this extra effort. Talk about demoralizing! I headed home to change (it was that bad) and we went out for an hour-long walk instead. I went on my first solo run at seven and a half weeks and had no problems. That extra week and a half made a big difference. However, I tried another stroller run just this week (nine weeks postpartum) and ran into similar bladder issues so there must be something with the effort of pushing the stroller that sends me over the edge. Yay, childbirth. Everything's just loosey goosey in there!
3. Night sweats are real. Real gross.
I had to sleep with a towel next to the bed so I could mop myself up before Brendan could eat. My condolences to anyone who has to deal with night sweats on a regular basis! They went away by the third week but those three weeks were sure disgusting. Hormones. They'll get ya.
4. Take advantage of hospital resources
I thought breastfeeding was going fine. Until it wasn't. I ended up with a breast infection after the first time we gave Brendan a bottle (so I missed a feeding) and I haven't been that sick in a long time. I had put Brendan down for a nap in his crib upstairs and then gone downstairs to pack for our weekend trip to Portland. I felt like I was freezing (an infection gives you flu-like symptoms) so I huddled on the floor in front of our space heater and prayed that Brendan wasn't crying because I had no energy to pick my achy self up off the floor. It was bad. Several doses of Tylenol and plenty of fluids later, the infection seemed to be subsiding but the breast pain was just beginning. That Monday I called the hospital's lactation services in tears because the pain was so great. With their advice we made some progress in improving Brendan's latch but it wasn't until I met with a lactation specialist that we really had a breakthrough. Finally, breastfeeding isn't something I dread. It isn't all ponies and rainbows either but things are so much better, even though it took six weeks! If you have a concern, don't wait until you're ready to give up. Use every resource you have! Every nurse and professional I spoke with were incredibly eager to help.
5. It really does get better
The improvements in pain and mobility that I experienced every day after birth were staggering to me. I couldn't believe how fast my body bounced back. I was indeed tired from taking care of a newborn but that tiredness wasn't bad compared to how poorly I felt during the last couple weeks of pregnancy. Your body even gets used to the sleep deprivation. Right now I don't get a stretch of sleep longer than three hours but since that's become my new normal, I feel fine (Brendan sleeps longer than that but I get up in the middle of the night to pump to keep my milk supply up). You adapt because you have to.
Then they start smiling!