The postpartum kit.
September 18, 2012

*** I know that talking about postpartum is not everybody’s cup of tea, so here!  Look!  Gratuitous picture of a cute kid in the laundry basket!

During my first pregnancy, everybody imparted parenting opinions and regaled me with birth stories, but nobody told me about the postpartum recovery to come.  Nobody told me that my back would ache or that my vulva would be swollen and sore.  Nobody told me to expect migraines or prepared me for the reality of how TERRIFYING I would find the prospect of sex.  Nobody told me that it would take only one person’s ignorant assholery to devastate my postpartum moods for the next several months.  Nobody told me that I would feel the stitches being woven across my tears (twelve stitches in all).

And nobody, not even in the hospital, told me how to take care of my postpartum body.  There was no discussion of nutrition to meet my body’s breastfeeding and recovery needs, no discussion of foods that might speed along healing or reduce swelling, no discussion of what a normal versus abnormal amount of bleeding was, no discussion of peri-bottles and where to find witch hazel pads and how long to expect the bleeding to continue and when, exactly, I might poop again.

Night after night, I swore to Donald that I was never going to forget this.  THIS is what we lost when our society turned away from communal living: we lost the passage of knowledge from one generation to another, the support new mothers crave, the passive learning a woman would do about birth and recovery and postpartum from simply being surrounded by those realities.  When my sisters have babies, I told him, I am going to buy them books about postpartum recovery and talk to them about the realities.  And if they want to breastfeed, I’m going to pop a kid on my breast and physically SHOW THEM different latches and holds and how to take care of their nipples.  They can have someone else arrange that baby shower nonsense; I’m going to hook them up with a support train or a meal train instead.  And when that baby is born, I’m skipping the onesie and coming over with frozen witch-hazel pads (alcohol-free!), a peri-bottle, and a tube of lanolin.

Luckily, my sisters are pretty accustomed to me by now and probably expect no less.  I’d bet my last dollar that they’re rolling their eyes as they read this muttering under their breaths about what a freaking weirdo I am.

At any rate, it probably comes as no surprise that preparing for the postpartum recovery this time around has been a mild obsession.  And finally, finally, I am almost ready.

Someday I know that I will look back on this and think WOW, PSYCHO MUCH? but right now, I feel an immense sense of peace knowing that the postpartum kit is nearly finished and that the “mobilization of the troops” so to speak (that is, the organization of our community resources to ease the burden of things like preparing meals and managing preschool drop-off and pick-up) is well underway.

It’s the little things that make this momma’s pregnant heart sing.

(A few people have asked me about this via e-mail, so for those who are interested, I have compiled specific information about my postpartum kit at this link.  The post includes photographs and links.  The only reason I’m not putting it on the main page is because my father’s eyeballs would fall out if he read it and my daughter insists that he needs those eyeballs to play catch with her.)

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  1. By on September 18, 2012

    This is great, Sarah. By being so prepared you will get to enjoy the first year of motherhood even more. I admire your thoughtful preparation!

  2. By Heather on September 18, 2012

    I’m in love with this post. Mainly because I think I will never forget the HORROR of those days, feeling my stitches (I think I had like 57 or something atrocious). Oh, and my first tinkle, the nurse just handed me a peri bottle like I knew what to do with it (she also LEFT me and I FELL on my ass, stupid B). Anyways, I relate to all the horrors and I wish someone had been there to tell me these things in the full graphic detail I require of everything else in life. Oh, Sarah, where were you after I spit my baby out??

  3. By on September 18, 2012

    You are SOOO RIGHT! NOBODY!! talked about what happened AFTER the baby came. They gross stuff that your body is still going through. Its like we as a society just swept it under a rug. Thank you for this post.

  4. By on September 18, 2012


    Yeay! I’ve been waiting for this! I’m 14 weeks along now and I’ve already taken notes on your postpartum post from a few weeks ago——-you know, the one with the awesome comments/suggestions like freezing condoms.

    Thank you so much for this, and thank you for creating such an awesome community where these things can be discussed.

  5. By on September 18, 2012

    I was the same way when I was getting ready for #2. But I didn’t and you probably won’t need any of that stuff this time around. Even if you tore the first time (I had a second degree tear the first time) you probably won’t the second time. The bleeding probably won’t be as bad. I didn’t end up needing the witch hazel pads or the dermoplast this time like I did last time. I know everyone is different and it is awesome that you are so prepared, but I am hoping and believing that it won’t be as bad this time around. Also, did you go to childbirth classes with Charlotte? They discussed what to expect with our bodies, nutrition and healing at the childbirth classes put on by my hospital. Complete with showing us the huge pads, peri freeze packs, dermoplast, with hazel pads, etc. They went over nutrition and how long it was going to take most people to heal after a vaginal birth. She even went as far as to show why people should not opt for an optional c section with a body dummy and showing the layers they would have to cut through and how it is major surgery and how lots of people get them done out of convenience and it shouldn’t be like that. I was extremely surprised when she told us not to let the baby to the nursery and keep them with us and just everything we needed to know supporting attachment parenting (it was a complete surprise). I am grateful for the place I delivered, it is a great hospital. But I got a little off topic sorry! I think it will be much better this time though!

  6. By on September 18, 2012

    Thank you for this!  I have midwives and a doula for the upcoming birth of my first so a lot of this information is available to me, but the more information the better as knowledge is power!

  7. By Sarah Christensen on September 18, 2012

    Denise - I’m hoping it isn’t as bad with the second one too =)  So far, people I know are about 50/50 - some say their recoveries with subsequent children were worse and some say they were better.

    When I delivered Charlotte, the hospital we were involved with was under construction so they were not offering childbirth classes.  Honestly, it was just as well because we really couldn’t afford the expense when we looked at other hospitals’ birthing classes.  It sounds like your class was incredible, though.  I wish that I had had a resource like that available to me the first time around (or even known where to go to find one!)...

  8. By on September 18, 2012

    OH MY GOSH—I knew a lot about the postpartum period watching my mom have 4 kids, but NO ONE told me that I would FEEL them put the stitches in!  I heard the “oh you might feel a little pulling, and you’ll be holding that baby and won’t even notice”  UM NO it hurt like an MFER, and if I HAD been holding my baby she probably would have gotten tossed over my shoulder.  I was given the numbing shots, actually over the max dose and I still felt it. Apparently I am in the minority of people who the numbing shots don’t work for.

    I’m pregnant with my second (finally, yay!) and my biggest fear is tearing up again and the stitches up there.  The 2nd degree perineal tear was no biggie, the tiny tear around my urethra and clit was hell.  Hoping like you that the second time is better :)

    By the way, I loved my experience at a birth center and I hope you are able to have an awesome experience as well :)

  9. By on September 18, 2012

    I’m with Denise - I prepared big time for recovery with number 2 and found that I didn’t need a lot of the stuff that I thought I would. But, it certainly soothed my pregnant mind to know that it was there! I found my recovery was about twice as fast and ten times more easy .... not sure if this was because it was a second birth, or because I had a water birth? Possibly a bit of both. So go you for preparing big time, and let’s hope that things are lots easier this time around. I remember the total shock after baby #1 “WHY DIDN’T THEY TELL ME ......“

  10. By on September 19, 2012

    Thanks for the info Sarah; I’ll need it in 26-ish weeks!

  11. By Sarah Christensen on September 19, 2012

    Ooh, congratulations, Megan!! =)

  12. By elizabeth Mackey on September 19, 2012

    I felt a hundred percent better after baby number two. I had more energy, and was driving my husband to work by day three. BUT…there were some not so great things too, like hideous gigantic blood clots that no one told me about. I swear one of them looked like a piece of calves liver!! YUCK. I was terrified, until I talked to a friend who had a nurse for a mom. The only thing she said was, better out that in!!!
    You are totally right though,they seem to drop you with the info after the baby is born. I was in the dark the first time around! The other thing I noticed on baby number two, was when the baby latched on, the cramping of the uterus was ten times worse!!! I had to brace myself each time.  I remember telling my little sister all of this when she was pregnant, and not to long ago, she told me it was the best gift. To know what could or could not happen both times around.
    This is great that you are doing a detailed post on this!
    Oh, and isn’t having a bowel movement for the first time, like giving birth all over again?!!!

    I hope you have minimal problems Sarah.

  13. By on September 21, 2012

    Based on your story and kit, seems like we had very similar postpartum recoveries with our firsts. Just had my second (almost a pound heavier) two weeks ago, NO STITCHES, and woah Wowee woah, what a difference. I have my fingers crossed for a smooth delivery and healing period for you! Like night and day!!





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