Wednesday, March 5, 2014
Things I did not expect about the postpartum period:
1) Temperature regulation problems: During and immediately after surgery, I shivered and shook like a leaf. In the four days of recovery in the hospital, I roasted and could rarely stand to have more than a sheet on me. Once settled for further recovery at my mother's, I alternated between hot flashes, suddenly ripping off whatever clothing or blankets I could, and chills, literally chattering my teeth and huddling under 3 or 4 blankets. It was BIZARRE.
2) Swelling: Everyone knows pregnant women swell during pregnancy, particularly their ankles, feet, and hands. But I had NO IDEA that the swelling gets substantially worse AFTER you deliver, for about two weeks. I was looking forward to wearing real shoes home from the hospital. Instead, there were times when the back of my legs all the way up to my mid thigh was so swollen, I couldn't bend at the knee.
3. Pain: Yes, recovery from major surgery was bound to be rough, but HOLY MOLY did I have a hard time with the pain. I have a few theories of why I had such an unexpectedly hard time coping (maybe my body had more to recover from after multiples pregnancy, maybe I was not clotting appropriately due to my low platelet count, maybe because I was not allowed anti-inflammatories for that same low platelet count, maybe I'm actually a total wimp, etc), but one things is for sure: my first shuffle to the bathroom and back was far and away the most physically difficult moment of my life. I nearly vomited and blacked out from the blinding pain.
4. Weight loss: I was sure that I was going to be one of those women who looks about 6 weeks pregnant for the next two years. I was fully prepared to wear the majority of my maternity wardrobe throughout the next season. I was shocked when 50 pounds just fell off in the first two weeks. I'm not trying to brag; I have no idea how/why other than breastfeeding twins, and I still have some baby chub around the lower half of my body. But hot damn, it's good to see my waist again! The female body is kind of amazing.
5. The baby blues: Everyone has heard of post-partum depression. Brooke Shields wrote a book about her experiences with it. It makes the news every time some poor woman without the proper treatment does something horrible to her child. It's terrifying and extreme, but I was fully prepared to struggle with it to some degree, seeing as how I have a history of garden variety clinical depression, for which I am normally medicated. I figured there was no way I was going to lose two placentas (and all their mood boosting hormones) at one time and be able to quickly find hormonal/emotional equilibrium. What most people don't know or talk about enough are the "baby blues." It's estimated that as many as 80% of mothers experience the baby blues (though my OB said it's more like every mother, and the other 20% are "full of shit"), which is a milder form of PPD that only lasts the first two weeks of postpartum. It does not feel anything like classic depression to me. I did not feel listless or uninterested in things or extra sensitive to hardship. I just felt like I was made of glass and the whole world was upside down. I felt off kilter, disoriented, and most of all, unable to stop crying. I cried for no reason from sun up to sun down. It was truly wild to just weep and weep and not be able to say why. So far, I think I have avoided true PPD, for which I am deeply grateful.
6. My incision: They don't use stitches for c-section scars, they use STAPLES. It makes your belly look like Frankenstein's monster for a few days (my husband likened it to the spine of a spiral notebook), but when they remove them (which I was nervous about but didn't hurt one tiny bit), the remaining incision line is SO subtle and thin. I was truly impressed with the medical technology. Now, if only they had thrown in a tummy tuck for my stretched out skin! On the downside, I still have nerve damage in that area, so even 3 months later, it feels like I've been shot with novacaine all along the scar.