Ten days after my second child was born, I was sure my body had just about fully healed from childbirth. I felt like I was bouncing back. Caring for two kids was going pretty well. I was even keeping up with dishes and laundry. Postpartum rest never even crossed my mind.
My husband helped with our 3-year-old but he hadn’t changed one diaper or gotten up with the baby at 3 a.m. I never asked him to because I was too proud and sure I could handle it all. Moms are supposed to do these things after all.
Early Sunday morning on postpartum day 12, I woke up feeling wet and immediately wondered if I had peed the bed in my sleep. Suddenly, I realized my pajamas and sheets were covered in blood and my underwear was full of quarter-sized blood clots.
I called my doctor’s answering service and spoke to the on-call nurse who told me blood clots were normal. She told me to clean myself up and call back if I soaked through a pad in an hour or less.
Over the next few hours, I had to change my pad often but I thought if I just waited a little longer, the bleeding would let up. I was afraid to alarm my husband. He has a history of passing out at the sight of blood, so I just kept trying to clean up and pull myself back together.
Then, the dizziness started. I felt defeated but knew it was time to go to the hospital. Thankfully, we made it there in time and neither one of us passed out.
I was shocked and scared when my doctor told me she needed to rush me to surgery. She had to remove the blood clots in my uterus and control the bleeding, and I was losing so much blood that I’d probably need a blood transfusion.
A late postpartum hemorrhage? How did this happen?
Postpartum Care? What Does That Even Mean?
Looking back now, I realize I wasn’t resting the way I should have been after having a baby. I didn’t allow my body to heal. But I didn’t know how much I needed to. We barely talk about postpartum care, after all.
Did you know that in many cultures, women spend a month at home resting in postpartum confinement after childbirth? Housework is completely off limits for an entire month. Can you imagine that?
Here in America, we tell new mothers to expect some bleeding, don’t lift anything heavy and rest your pelvis for six weeks until you see your doctor again.
But is pelvic rest and one short follow-up appointment six weeks later really all a new mother needs? It certainly wasn’t all I needed.
After nine months of thorough prenatal care, we traumatically expel a baby and are pretty much left on our own. Our society applauds those who are able to “bounce back” from having a baby in a matter of days.
We should be able to handle the sleepless nights with a fussy baby and jump right back into our household duties too. We can’t just let the dishes and laundry pile up, can we?
I Learned the Hard Way; Postpartum Care is Essential
Just because you can get up to tidy up the house for visitors three days after giving birth, doesn’t mean you should.
To be a good mother and a good wife, you need to take care of yourself first.
Please take it from my experience, mommas. I’m lucky to still be here to share my story and urge you and our society to take postpartum rest seriously.
Don’t feel ashamed for needing help. Accept all the help you can get.
And can we all please stop encouraging each other to “bounce back?”