I had just popped out a baby and was relaxing in my hospital bed talking to my parents over the phone when my mother asked me if my stomach felt like bread dough as hers had right after having children.
She was spot on. If you had touched my stomach it felt EXACTLY like warm bread dough.
PAUSE: Some women assume that after you give birth your tummy just goes back to normal but this simply isn’t true. Your internal organs have been squished and need to return to their normal places, your uterus still needs to shrink back down to normal size, your muscles and skin have been stretched out like a balloon and suddenly deflated so they need time to tighten back up. This process happens at different paces for different women and even for the same woman from pregnancy to pregnancy.
While I was talking to my parents, the food came. I don’t know about y’all but my hospital did me up right! Each meal they gave me was delicious!! Probably the best part about giving birth aside from meeting your baby! If this is not your experience you can of course have food brought to you but please do not go straight for the junk food. The hospital meals are designed to be nutritionally dense while giving you the proper caloric intake you need to help your healing process and trust me, healing takes a lot of energy. That being said I did have a “victory meal”. When I was pregnant I craved food from a particular Mexican restaurant but my husband wouldn’t allow it because it was rather unhealthy (helllllooo grease). So when a couple of his work buddies asked if they could bring us a meal he told them to get me my taquitos and horchata!
At some point a couple of new nurses came in to move us to a recovery room. The going was slow seeing as I was still hooked up to a catheter, my body hadn’t stabilized its joints yet, and sitting up hurt because it put pressure on my stitches (I had an episiotomy during delivery). By the way guys, I’ve never had stitches before in my life so my first experience with them being there to hold together my undercarriage was not the best of times. Oh yeah, and every time I shifted weight, new gushes of blood came pouring out of me and I had to hold my diaper/mesh panties in place as I moved. It was so fun. Luckily the nurses were very accommodating in letting me take my time and helping to move our bags to the new room. Once we got there I had to do another slow shuffle into bed. I couldn’t lift my hips up at the same time so all of my movements to get settled in the center of the bed were these odd rolls and scoots. But I eventually got settled and was happy that they wheeled our little one in his hospital crib in between my hospital bed and the chair that would fold out into a bed for my husband.
We were asked when the last time our baby ate was. I had no clue, I didn’t even know what time it currently was! I found the clock on the wall and realized it had been about four hours. This seemed to upset our nurses. They insisted we wake up our baby to feed him right away! I understand their concern. Newborns are tiny little creatures that have a ton of growing to do! This means they need lots of meals but they need them often because their small tummies can only fit so much food at once. So they handed me our baby. Turns out he was not at all interested in waking up. I tried talking to him, tickling his feet, rubbing his back, touching his face. Finally, thanks to a google search, I tried burping him. The action of being sat up and hit on the back repeatedly worked. He woke up long enough to let me give him some food and then he fell back asleep.
The nurses gave us a paper to track his feeding and his dirty diapers.
PAUSE: It’s imperative that babies have a bowel movement within their first 24 hours. If not, there’s usually an issue and you won’t be released from the hospital.
Luckily for us our kid pooped and peed like a champ.
PAUSE: When babies are first born they poop out what is called meconium. It’s a tar like substance (read super sticky) that your baby has been building up while hanging out in the womb.
I thought that when they said “meconium is your baby’s first poop” it literally meant just the first bowel movement. I was wrong. They poop out meconium several times and then once they’ve flushed it all out of their system they will start having normal baby poops. The thing is, wiping tar off of a tiny scrotum while trying not to get any on your hands is a struggle. Why must there be so many tiny ridges and wrinkles for the tar to get in?!
PAUSE: When babies are born their genitalia are swollen thanks to hormones from mom as they are coming out. Some female babies even have what appears to be a mini period right after birth. Don’t worry, everything will get back to normal soon.
Making matters worse is the fact that baby wipes are not solid. They are woven together fibers that have tiny holes in them allowing whatever you’re wiping up to seep through to your hands!! Since we were getting the hang of cleaning up our baby the nurses also reminded me that I needed to clean myself up.
I had to be shown how to change my diaper. The diaper isn’t there to catch your pee (although it can because many women are incontinent after giving birth) but it’s there to catch your blood because even your typical ultra absorbent maxi pad won’t cut it when it comes to holding in the bloody aftermath of child birth. I very slowly got out of bed with more rolling and scooting and held my soggy diaper up as I waddled to the bathroom. Guys, I grew up being a swimmer and have always used tampons so this whole sitting in your own squishy expulsions thing was uncomfortably new to me. I don’t know how people wear pads on the regular. Like, why? Anyways, I make it to the bathroom and the nurse holds the door open while I dropped my multilayered blood soaked adult diaper. Guess what, there’s a smell. I don’t know how to describe it but something about the smell of a healing wound that’s on the inside oozing its way out of you is in fact, not pleasant. So after removing the diaper the nurse hands me a peri bottle filled with warm water.
PAUSE: A peri bottle is basically a soft plastic bottle that has a few holes in the lid and is designed to squirt water in a gentle way onto your perineum (the anatomical term for that space between your vagina/scrotum and anus).
She instructs me to point it at myself and squeeze the bottle while moving it back and forth to clean the area before patting dry with toilet paper. At first the thought of rushing water coming at a healing wound (remember those stitches) didn’t sound great but in all honesty the temperature was soothing to the area and I had no need to be concerned. I put on a new diaper and struggled to get the mesh panties on over the catheter attachment stuck to my leg. For a few moments as I shuffled back to bed I felt relatively clean and normal…and then I tried to get back into bed and was reminded that I had an intense pain in my lower back, my abdominals were totally useless, my butt hurt, I was bleeding, I had a tube shoved up in me, and my clothing currently consisted of a diaper and a gown with holes in the front of it. What a time to be alive!
The night passed with changes of nursing staff, more lovely fundal massages, pain medication, feeding my baby and changing diapers. My poor husband was absolutely freezing in the room and had only had a couple hours of sleep the night before so I always felt bad waking him up to hand me our baby. Unfortunately I couldn’t reach into his crib on my own as it was slightly out of reach from my place in bed and to move was agony. They kept the room lights down low and it was actually very peaceful despite the total lack of sleep.
The next morning we had people who wanted to come visit us and to be honest I wanted as many visitors in the hospital as I could because I knew it would keep the visits short and I wouldn’t have to worry about cleaning the house. First up were some friends of ours who just happened to be in town for a wedding. We had a lovely visit and they went on their way. I had totally forgotten that the emptying container for my catheter was still hanging on the side of my bed for all to see. Oops. Sorry you guys had to see my pee.
After our first visitors left I was also told that they were going to unhook my IV but leave the lead in my arm and they would take out my catheter. I had to pee a decent amount on my own twice, or they were going to hook me back up to the IV. I was given three hours too pee once or they would stick the IV back in. And if things really didn’t go well, they would be putting the catheter back in. You would not believe how much water I drank! The hospital had given me a large 32oz water container and I was downing those things with gusto. I did not want anything going back in me, thank you very much.
The hours passed and more visitors came, this time it was my husband’s brother and his wife along with some friends from church. The church visitors took pictures and held our sweet baby before heading out. Then my husband decided to leave with his brother to go get some things from our home while his wife stayed at the hospital with me. I kinda felt like going to the bathroom at some point but I needed to feed my baby and change his diaper. About halfway through his feeding I REALLY needed to use the restroom. I watched the minutes tick by sure that my bladder was just going to explode inside me if I didn’t do something soon. A few minutes more and my baby finally showed signs of being done. I whisked that kid away into the arms of my brother-in-law’s wife and hauled it to the bathroom. And by that I mean I very slowly scooted my way over as I held my nightgown together and my diaper in place. And of course I couldn’t just plop down on the toilet. Remember that peri bottle? I had to run the water in the sink for a few minutes to be just the right temperature while I did the postpartum peepee dance before filling up my bottle and making my way to the toilet. Sweet relief! You guys, I nearly overflowed the little plastic bowl they had set in there to measure the volume of my pee. Proud of myself for peeing so much I returned to my bed victorious and called the nurse to come check how well I had done. By then my hubby and brother-in-law had returned and had taken care of the baby’s diaper for me. The nurse came in, checked my bowl, and removed the IV lead. I questioned her about this because I had been told I would need to pee well twice before it would be removed. Apparently my bladder’s capability was so impressive the first time around that they didn’t need a second one.
More visitors came and went throughout the day and it was interesting to watch how each person acted in that environment. You could tell who was comfortable in hospitals and who was not as well as who was overflowing with excitement to hold our baby and those who looked terrified of a human so small.
We were told that I could leave that day or that I could stay one more day. Our insurance is pretty bomb and I was in no hurry to get home so I was totally down with staying that extra day. In that time our baby was given a first round of shots and had blood drawn for a PKU test, both of these things are normal and medically advised.
PAUSE: A PKU test checks for a condition in which your child is lacking an enzyme that converts phenylalanine into an amino acid their body can use. If they dont have the enzyme but eat normal foods it can lead to things like brain damage and seizures. While seeing blood being taken from a heel prick while your baby cries can be hard to watch it is imparitive to your child’s health to know if they have this condition
Our little one also had his hearing checked. He failed two times so we had to schedule a retest for a month down the road (he passed that one and his hearing is fine. The first failed tests were due to leftover amniotic fluid in his ear that needed to dry out). A pediatrician came in to do an assessment, said everything checked out and then left. A few minutes later a technician comes in rolling a machine and asks for our name. We give it to her as a doctor walks in behind her and explains that he’s a cardiologist there to see what’s wrong with our baby. He asks us what the pediatrician said because she was the one who told them our baby had a problem and that they needed to come see him. Um, no? We explained that the doctor said absolutely nothing to us about there being a problem so they said they’d start by doing an ultrasound doppler on his heart. Turns out he has a little hole in his heart which was causing a murmur. This is SUPER common and not at all a reason to worry. These holes will almost always close up on their own but we had to schedule another ultrasound with them for three months down the road (at that check-up he still had the hole and we will go back again in a year).
PAUSE: It is pretty common for infants to have a hole in their heart right when they are born because when they are in the womb they need to have holes in them to allow for proper fetal circulation. When the baby is born and they have to do all of their own circulation, instead of depending on mom and the placenta, these holes close up.
A word of caution: babies come preloaded with little tiny horribly damaging dagger claws. Their limbs aren’t very coordinated but they love to touch so watch out for those suckers flying by your face, grabbing at your chest, and digging into their own small faces. I asked the hospital if they had baby nail clippers to which I was met with a horrified look and told that baby nail clippers are dangerous! I was told that if it was bothering me (which it was) I needed to bite them off. Say what now? Apparently this is pretty common practice in some cultures but I had never heard of it and was shocked. I thought it was very odd but after the first day I couldn’t take it anymore and obliged. Later on I read an article from a reputable source about how terrible it was to bite off baby’s finger nails and that nail clippers or files should always be used. Go figure.
Leaving the Hospital
Once our time was up at the hospital we had to go through a check out process which included paying for our stay, packing up our things, getting our little nugget into his own clothes and strapping him into his car seat for the first time. My husband did all of this as I gathered my things and got dressed.
PAUSE: When leaving the hospital you get to take extra diapers (yours and the baby’s), mesh underwear, the peri bottle, and whatever other healing treatments they have for you. Mine included witch hazel pads, ice packs, and dermaplast spray.
You are then escorted down to your car by a staff member. This is to make sure you get off okay and to insure that you have the proper car seat set up in your car.
Again my husband ran to the car and pulled it around before helping load our son and then myself into the car. I opted to sit in the back so I could see our baby on the ride back home.
If I thought getting to the hospital was painful, coming home was even worse. This was the first time I was in a fully upright seated position since giving birth and man could I feel the pressure on my episiotomy stitches! Bracing my knees against the seat in front of me helped but the car ride still required controlled breathing to prevent crying out in pain.
Once more over those darned train tracks that we had gone over while I was in labor and we had arrived.
*After the Storm Part 2 coming soon*