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 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.
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 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.
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.
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?