New Mother Beth Rodden Is On Recovery Mode
When it comes to learning about the whole pregnancy experience, all you hear about are the months of anticipation, the growing pains you should enjoy along the way, and what to expect during the actual labor. It’s like it’s all designed to get you ready for that one great miracle moment of life. But funny enough, right after that magical moment is over, it’s like, “You’re on your own, best of luck!”
The whole recovery experience afterward is not something I was really prepared for, nor was it something I had much information about. The next morning, it was everything I could do to walk from the hospital bed to the bathroom. My pelvis hurt, my insides hurt, I was bleeding a ton and I could barely walk. But it didn’t matter—I was still in such a euphoric state and in awe of this little human being that we had created.
Yet as the days and weeks progressed, I was still all but crippled by the birth. It began to feel as if I was not like most of the women I had interviewed for this blog, who were out climbing, running, skiing, etc., within a matter weeks after birth. Instead, I was in bed with chapped, bleeding nipples and a great amount of pain and pressure in my groin. It literally felt like my insides were about to fall out of me under the pain and pressure I was experiencing. I began to wonder what was wrong with me. I am a professional athlete, after all—why wasn't I charging like everyone else?
I've had two stints of mastitis for of a number of reasons. The first time around, the lactation consultant was shocked that I endured three whole weeks of bleeding nipples, but I just figured that this was normal. Labor was painful, I thought perhaps this was supposed to be painful at first as well.
In my last blog post I mentioned that I actually do pretty good with pain, if it's supposed to be there. In labor, it's supposed to be there. However, if the pain indicates something is wrong or harmful, I've found I'm absolutely terrible with it. Pretty much the biggest pansy ever. I worry, I'm super tender with myself, and I take every setback as if it's injuring me further. So, when we found out that the pelvic pressure/pain turned out to be my loose joints/ligaments coming into play again with a slight prolapse, I tried to lay as flat as possible—sort of hard with a baby—for fear that my insides were actually going to fall out.
Jaime encouraged me to be as gentle as possible with myself, but the professional athlete side came out in me, thinking that I should be strong and fast like the other women athletes I interviewed. And I wanted to be out doing stuff with Theo, not just laying in bed. I emailed and texted around to other women in my circle. Turned out a lot of women also don't bounce back right away—their experience, it seems, is just something you don't typically hear about. I guess that makes sense. No one boasts about a slow recovery. And if there's one thing I've learned, it's that I'm a slow healer. So, for all of you out there who are pregnant, just know that a slow recovery can be totally normal. I’ve heard from lots of women who still feel the effects a year later. Don't push it. Listen to your body. If you are one of the lucky ones who's climbing in the gym with your 10-day-old baby, that's awesome! But if you are like me, and can't walk from the bathroom to the kitchen without feeling like your insides are going to fall out, just take it easy. I wish I had information on the recovery like this when I was reading about pregnancy. I wouldn't have felt so bad about my state, or so much personal pressure to be active. It took nine months to have our bodies change and create this little human, so for some, it'll take more than 10 days to get back.
In my research, I learned that in some Korean families, women stay around the house for 30 days to recover. Jaime also said she likes to see women be as gentle as possible with themselves. I was chomping at the bit to just walk around the block, but decided instead to channel my inner Korean (OK, not really) and lay low as much as I could.
By week 5 postpartum, Randy saw the look on my face and came by to console me. ”I know it's really hard not to go out and do stuff with Theo,” he said. “But think about it this way, you'll never have this intimate time where you are in bed with him most of every day. Try to enjoy it, and savor it."
It’s always so nice when your husband says exactly the right thing you need to hear! I think his comment speaks to the larger theme of my experience through this pregnancy in general: To try to enjoy each moment as much as possible. Yes, it's really easy for women, myself included, to complain about how big they are, how nauseas they feel, etc. But it's a finite time. It doesn't last forever. I remember one friend mentioning to me how much she loved not being pregnant anymore because she got her body back, and I thought to myself, "I'd kill for my pregnant body back right now, even my nine-month pregnant body. At least I could walk, be out of bed, etc."
But if there’s anything I’ve learned over the last year, it’s that all forms are always changing, evolving and growing. It’s the nature of life. Instead of fighting this reality, it’s much better to accept it, even appreciate it. I try to remind myself of this, but it's hard, and I can be quite stubborn. I know I'll be hiking and climbing with Theo before I know it, even though I often wish that time was now.
When I actually take a step back and look at this whole experience, it's freaking amazing. We created a tiny human being—literally created him! I look at him each day, squirming and squiggling, trying to figure out his body and movements, and think about our first ultrasound. When the OB said,”You see that tiny fluttering down in the corner? That's the heartbeat,” it was barley noticeable. It's hard to even comprehend how that little fluttering became this adorable little boy we're with each day now. It's pretty wild.
While I wish more than anything that I could be out and about showing him the world, the mountains, the trees, I'm trying to savor the time I spend with him right now. And for all those pregnant mamas out there, and moms who just had kiddos, remember that you can’t change change, only your perception of it. There's tons of stress, doubt, not knowing, pain and discomfort—but that's okay. Change and growth are always on the way. I need this reminder every day.