by Ann Waterman
Before I had children, a friend who’d recently had her first baby confided in me that, while she had prepared for the pain of childbirth, she had not been prepared for the pain — especially the pain down there — that comes after childbirth. She couldn’t help but feel a little blindsided and wished someone had clued her in to the potential difficulties of recovery from a vaginal delivery — hence, her girlfriend-to-girlfriend talk with me.
I escaped that kind of pain with my first when I ended up having an unexpected c-section. Of course, I had a lot of pain in other places, but remaining intact down there was one of the few silver linings to what was otherwise a miserable experience. When I had my VBAC with my second child, everything was better about my labor and delivery experience. I did incur a second-degree tear, but thanks to my friend’s forewarning, I was more prepared to handle it.
One thing my friend warned me about were the frequent (and frequently painful) bathroom trips. Since these became more than just a quick stop, thanks to all the care involved in cleaning and tending the lady parts, I put together a portable kit with all the paraphernalia I needed to complete the task. For me, it was a real lifesaver to have everything close at hand, especially since our home has four bathrooms on three different floors; it saved me from getting stranded or having to yell for my husband to bring such-and-such an item. For further convenience, I also added some nursing supplies and medications to create a total postpartum care kit and used an old diaper caddy that had lots of compartments to keep things neat and organized.
Here’s what my caddy contains (along with a few helpful tips I’ve learned along the way) — though depending on your own postpartum needs, your kit may look slightly different:
- Sanitary pads. This goes without saying. I keep an assortment of pads for both lighter and heavier flow.
- Perineal bottle. This is the little plastic spray bottle they give you at the hospital to clean your lady parts with water whenever you use the bathroom; it helps avoid infection and irritation from toilet paper. If you tear, the affected area can also burn when you pee, so a stream of water sprayed as you urinate can greatly reduce the pain. (Warm water is best.) Another tip: Drink lots of water! At one point, peeing hurt so badly that I avoided drinking too much water to reduce my number of potty trips. That only made things worse, though, since it made my pee more concentrated, which stung more. (Re-purposing note: These bottles make great bath toys for the kids after you’re done with them!)
- Hemorrhoid cream. As much as you hope they won’t happen to you, they probably will.
- Witch hazel pads. These help cool and soothe the perineal area and hemorrhoids.
- Arnica. A friend introduced me to this homeopathic remedy that’s supposed to help reduce bruising, swelling, and soreness — all things you’ll definitely experience in childbirth.
- Stool softener. Only if you need it; otherwise, just make sure you keep up on your fiber intake.
- Tylenol or other pain meds. Don’t be a hero: Take the dose recommended by your doctor until you no longer need it.
- Prenatal vitamins. Babies can really deplete your vitamin stores, especially if you’re nursing, so be sure to continue taking these.
- Nursing pads. Lansinoh are my favorite disposables; if you’re looking for cloth, Homestead Emporium makes some great ones.
- Lanolin. Perfect for protecting nipples from the rigors of breastfeeding.
- Hand-operated breast pump. This is helpful for pumping off a bit of milk to soften nipples when your milk comes in and you’re engorged, so baby can latch more easily.
- Hair bands or ties. Keeps your hair our of your face when you’re nursing.
- Lip balm. What can I say? It just makes me feel a little more human, especially when I haven’t had a chance to shower.
- Kindle reader. At this point, you may not have any room in your care kit, but if you do, it’s nice to have during those late-night nursing marathons!
Experienced mamas, is there anything you’d add to this list? What made your postpartum recoveries smoother?
Image: Ann Waterman