Postpartum Life: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

You know what’s a little nuts?

Having a 3 day old infant sleeping away in the bed at 3 AM while you, on the other hand, cannot sleep.

Yes, kids, I have postpartum insomnia. I’m not surprised, since I’ve had it after all of my births.

Postpartum life is a little crazy, no?

The Good

The good news is, Victoria is doing wonderfully. She is content, she is happy… and judging by the fact that a) I hear gulps and swallows b) my breasts feel like they’re full of grape clusters and c) at only 2 1/2 days postpartum, her poops have already changed from meconium to mustard, the Milk Fairy has arrived. She had her Pediatrician appointment yesterday and everything checked out. She’s perfect. It’s now official.

Her first car ride: Other than looking mildly contemptuous of mom, she did great.

Emotionally I’m doing well. Knowing what to expect during this time helps a lot. I don’t get sad or weepy during the postpartum period and for that I’m very thankful. The big kids are adjusting fine. Other than a little fatigue induced fussiness, Ruby is doing well. She is totally enamored with her little sister and so far is very gentle with her, smothering her with pats and kisses.

So that’s good.

The Bad

The bad news is, even though my active labor was only a couple of hours long, I feel like I’ve been in a car accident. Things that didn’t even bother me while I was pregnant are now screaming at me.

For example, I had no back pain this pregnancy. None. (Mostly thanks to following Katy Bowman’s recommendations and stretching exercises, mentioned here.) My swelling was minimal. Other than nausea, I was really quite comfortable up until those last few days.

But now, now that the baby is out and I’m eager to feel like my old self again, now I feel as if I had an unfortunate run-in with Tyler Durden and his Fight Club.

My back hurts. What is UP with my knees? They’re killing me. (Apparently I have relaxin to thank for this.) My wrists and forearms are throbbing. My neck and chest muscles and throat hurt and even my voice is hoarse. My ankles are sore. My abs ache. (Small favors: my girlie bits feel just fine. No tearing.) I am gassy and burping.

The Ugly

Nobody tells you that after your beautiful new baby is born, you’ll look like one of those tabloid pics of a freshly post-op facelift patient.

I remember looking at pictures of myself after having my first couple of babies and thinking, “Who IS that strange looking person?!” Followed by: “Mental note. Do not allow anyone to snap my photo again in the first week postpartum.”

My face does not look like my face. When I was pregnant I had very little swelling, but now? My eyelids are so swollen at the moment that my eyes resemble slits. I cannot locate my cheekbones and even my lips look weird. I know Lipton makes a family size tea bag, but do they have one big enough to cover my entire face? It might help with the swelling.

Oh, well.

Insomnia does have its perks: it gives me plenty of time for middle of the night Google searches. Here are some things I’ve learned and are doing to manage the discomforts:

  • Hot showers. Tub baths are off limits until the lochia stops. I wish they weren’t, because I can’t imagine anything more pleasurable at the moment on my achy body! Until then, hot showers feel amazing. (Just don’t stay in too long as you might get dizzy.) Update: My midwives told me yesterday after their follow-up visit that tub baths are OK. Guess what I’ll be doing later?! Hell-o, Epsom salts!
  • Heating pad. You? Meet heating pad, your new best friend. Use it when you lie down for your aching back and belly.
  • Ibuprofen. Those wicked afterbirth pains I anticipated aren’t quite as bad this time. My midwife recommended 800 milligrams of ibuprofen every 6 hours. I started this dose as soon as I remembered after baby’s birth, and kept it up the first 24 hours. Now I’m tapering off to about 2 a day and the cramps are super mild. Yay! It seems the key is to medicate before the cramps kick in.
  • Massage. Rubbing my knees with essential oils is helping them feel better. My wedding anniversary is coming up in a couple of weeks, and I asked hubby to put other gift plans aside and buy me a massage. He gratefully agreed to the plan. I can’t wait!
  • Arnica. Taking homepathic arnica helps with that overall bruised feeling, and you can use the cream to rub into achy places.
  • B vitamins. The owner of my local health food grocery recommended this, and it does seem to be helping with overall wellbeing.
  • Calcium/Magnesium. This helps make that first poop soft and easy. And calcium and magnesium help with pain too.
  • Stretch. Aches and pains are part of the postpartum experience because of the hard work you did during labor and also because your body is adjusting to new posture. Without the baby bump, you feel like a Jenga game… pieces are suddenly missing and you have to figure out how to walk, sit, stand, breathe, sleep again. You’re unstable especially due to high levels of Relaxin hormone. This is why knee pain is common now… Stretching helps realign things nicely. Doing the calf stretches that Katy Bowman recommends (part of a workout you can find here) help release stuck fluid in your feet and ankles and just generally feel awesome. When you sit, make sure your pelvis isn’t tucked under. Bad posture is really a problem when you’re first beginning breastfeeding so be sure to prop baby well with pillows so you’re not slouching.
  • Walk. A lot of the achy pains postpartum women experience are due to the body attempting to get rid of excess fluids. The swelling from extra fluid causes pinched nerves in the wrists, for instance. Walking helps move edema out of the body. The day after Victoria was born I walked a mile and it felt amazing. I did the same the next day and plan on keeping this up. I walked every day during my pregnancy and it went a long way towards making me more comfortable and avoiding problems, and it feels great to walk now too.

What are your best tips for dealing with postpartum aches and pains?


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10 Responses to Postpartum Life: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

  1. Misty says:

    Congratulations on the new baby!!! She is adorable. I’m sure you’re happy that the waiting is over and now you can get down to some serious cuddle action. Its the best part!

  2. For my own postpartum care, first of all, I had an awesome doula. She really coached me well and nurtured me when she was around. I loved it.
    Arnica pellets were my saving grace, I had no need for pain medication such as Tylenol beyond that.
    For the afterbirth pains, I used breathing, relaxation and a heating pad to get through them.
    I did 2-3 sitz baths per day, even though I had no tearing, it was so soothing.
    What I did have were hemorrhoids, OUCH! For those we used both Tucks pads and tucked them in between the cheeks (sorry, TMI), and also cotton pads soaked in witch hazel to calm the irritation.
    To sooth the swollen tissue from pushing out big babies, I used herbal packs that were in the freezer so they kept the swelling and discomfort at bay as well.

  3. Emily says:

    Congrats, Carrie! Love the name, Victoria!

    I’m sure the pain and discomfort will ease up in a few days. Probably inflammation due to your body’s reacting to the sudden and intense hard work.

  4. Christina says:

    Congrats Carrie! She’s beautiful! My son is 7 weeks and all went well! I wish I had remembered Arnica! The only complaint I have is I started my period!!! I went for my checkup at 4 weeks and what I thought was spotting turned into two weeks of bleeding!!! Did not expect that!!

  5. carrie says:

    Hey Christina… wow I can’t believe you got your period that fast. I usually get mine fast too, around 4 months which is early considering I practice ecological breastfeeding.
    Are you sure it was a period and not just you doing too much postpartum? I tend to want to jump back into life too quick and my bleeding will pick up as a warning signal to slow down! :-)

  6. carrie says:

    @Emily – inflammation… hmm, I had been thinking along those lines too. Last night I was reading up on “precipitous labor” and found it quite comforting that many women, doulas and midwives describe it as being more difficult to recover from, not less. I was hoping I would feel better by now, but I need to be gentle with myself.

  7. carrie says:

    @Nichi ah yes the cold witch hazel feels great! Fortunately my bottom is picture perfect, it feels like nothing ever happened down there, which is more than I can say for the rest of me!

  8. carrie says:

    @Misty – indeed :-)

  9. Karin says:


    Those 2 hour births sure are a bear! They have to be. You are doing the work of what might normally be a 10 – 24 hour job in just 2 hours. The blessing is that they are over with quick, but most Mom’s I know who have been through that kind of a precipitous labor, would have just a soon had the contractions be spaced out a bit and less intense and have it take a little longer in the end. (I used to be a midwife, so I’m very familiar with what you are describing.) I will be looking forward to your birth story. Sometimes it helps to talk about it because the labor was so fast and furious that you have difficulty processing it in your mind at the end.

    I wish you the best during your “baby moon” time now.

    Take care,
    ~Karin – a subscriber.

  10. Carrie says:

    Hi Karin,

    The day I received this email was a bad day for me. I was still feeling like a train wreck and wondering what was wrong with me! Your email brought tears to my eyes. Thanks for that bit of comfort :-)

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