In the U.S., postpartum care for moms is generally overlooked and disregarded. You typically will get one follow-up appointment with your OB-GYN at the six week mark postpartum that is considered “standard,” and that’s it. It’s pretty consistent with the theme that society doesn’t really care about or take care of women or new parents because in general, you’re on your own if you have any problems. Before I was trying to conceive and actively discussing with friends, colleagues, and former colleagues about child birth, labor, and postpartum recovery, I had no idea what postpartum recovery looked like other than trying to rest as much as possible in between your baby needing feeds, diaper changes, and soothing. I had no idea that vaginal tearing from vaginal births was extremely common and considered “normal,” especially first and second degree tears that require stitches. Third and fourth degree tears can extend as far as your anus, which means that you will not only be in pain sitting, standing, walking, or doing pretty much anything, but your recovery period could be as long as 5-7 months long before you can walk normally and do regular, everyday activities with the ease you had before giving birth. This is why I get angry when I hear idiots say ignorant crap like “only one parent needs to stay at home” postpartum to care for the child, or that dads don’t have to recover from child birth, so why should they get paid time off, because in that case, who the hell is taking care of MOM recovering from her birth wounds??? Once again, it completely overlooks mom’s needs and recovery.
I had no idea that it would sting like crazy every time you urinate after giving birth because of the tears down there, and it’s strongly suggested you use a perineal squirt bottle with warm water to soothe your perineum each time you pee, as your urine is actually acidic, and anything acidic hitting an open wound will hurt like crazy. I didn’t know that the first time you take a poop after giving birth, if not for several weeks after, it would be a far greater terror than actually going through labor pains and contractions, as it may feel like you are about to poop out all your insides and even your uterus (which… DOES happen for some women!). This is why it’s advised to have stool softener immediately postpartum regardless of your diet because anything that will make pooping easier would be good and less traumatic for you.
So I figured that if some things could potentially help with vaginal tearing, assuming the stars are aligned and I will have a vaginal birth, that I would do whatever I could to prevent or lessen it. So I’ve started doing perineal massage at least 5 times per week for 12 minutes each evening to ‘stretch’ my vagina and prep it for opening wider to accommodate the baby. I basically get a mirror to make sure I’m getting the right area, then I massage my vaginal opening about 2 inches in moving downward towards my anus, at the 9, 12, and 3 o’clock mark. Chris makes fun of me and says I am masturbating, but I can assure anyone that this is definitely NOT masturbating. The vaginal canal actually has no nerve endings, so all I feel is stretching down there while I am doing it. I’ve also started eating a couple dates every day because dates are supposed to contain an enzyme that helps with uterine contractions and making for an easier labor. That’s actually documented quite well in of Traditional Chinese Medicine, too, as in TCM, they suggest women have date tea at about 32- to 34-weeks of pregnancy until birth to prepare for baby’s arrival. I’m hoping this will all make it easier for my little baby to come out and not completely rip up my vagina.