If I can be honest, I’ve braced myself for the worst of postpartum when the surprise pregnancy arrived on my pee stick exactly a year ago.
Perhaps because I’ve heard mostly horror stories of how hard pregnancy can be on a woman’s body. But that all started to shift when I found my pregnancy to be incredibly enjoyable, and sealed with a kind and quick labor and delivery experience. In 3 hours after arriving at the hospital, Maise arrived at 6:30am! Since the hospital did not have a nursery so the baby has to room with us round the clock anyway, I actually felt well enough to be discharged on the same day.
The hospital however insisted to keep us for two days to monitor Maise, who needed antibiotics for her duplex kidneys. But our stay turned out to be quite the ordeal on top of having a baby who wanted to cluster feed = no recovery rest after delivery, it was straight to “work”. We couldn’t wait to be discharged — as much as many would say the first days home from the hospital are the hardest — it was the opposite for us as things picked up right away once we were home.
So I do want to document my first postpartum journey that by His good grace enabled me to get back to pre-pregnancy form and energy in no time. I was pretty much up and running within 2-3 weeks after pushing a 7-pound baby out. Much of my postpartum was also hit by the Covid19 lockdown, so the recovery prep we had felt like a kiss from Heaven when external resources or help were totally inaccessible.
The other reality, as I wrote in my previous post “The curious case of the fourth trimester”, is that the world’s narrative on the postpartum period has long been focused on the newborn’s needs than the mom’s recovery and well-being. Having experienced it all now, this truly puzzles me because babies are so resilient and pretty much grow up on their own while moms do face a whole host of physical, emotional and mental adjustments!
So I hope this postpartum wellness series will be helpful to other first time moms navigating it all on their own too. I also hope it inspires an ‘unconventional’ baby shower registry that is mom-focused than all-about-the-baby (PSA: Babies really do not need that many (new) things!)
The Vagina Monologues?
Let’s begin with the V word.
If vaginas can talk, I am sure they’d have a lot to say about postpartum.
Whatever had caused this TV commercial on the realities of postpartum recovery to be banned is likely the same reason why the V word remains rather “unspeakable” in our societies today. Becoming a first-time mom in my thirties, I’d thought I have heard it all by now considering most women in my social circles are at least one if not five kids in. But it did take chancing upon Frida Mom while browsing for maternity pads to open up this “Pandora’s box” quite literally for me. Their signature box of postpartum recovery essentials formally introduced me to the bloody, messy world of postpartum vaginas.
This Frida Mom box would turn out to be a huge blessing in giving me the confidence that my V or perineal area is healed and healthy. As due to the Covid19 lockdown, I was not able to have any postpartum follow-up at the hospital to check its recovery status until four months later.
As you open up the box, you will first be greeted by this card that would immediately make your postpartum self feel seen :
SO WHAT’S IN THE BOX?
I. Postpartum Disposable Underwear: I wasn’t thrilled about the ones provided by the hospital (similar to what’s seen in Frida Mom’s banned TV ad), they are so unflattering and therefore unhelpful for a postpartum mom’s self-esteem! The quality of Frida Mom’s ones are a little better too, but mostly I like that they are in a cool grey color = immediately stylish! (I mean, you could be living out of your underwear a lot for convenience sake in the first 1-2 months, so whatever it takes to feel good living in them.)
After a vaginal delivery, you could be bleeding a fair bit (I bled for the entire fourth trimester due to breastfeeding apparently, though not as full-on heavy as a period). Or if you do tear during a vaginal birth, you may experience incontinence for a bit as your V or perineal area repairs. So I find disposable underwear helpful in this messy time, as they are designed to be able to fit the big maternity pads and ice packs.
Although Frida Mom didn’t recommend maternity pads with their V recovery regime, I would. Since Frida Mom’s disposable underwear is of better quality than hospital’s, you could add a maternity pad as the sticky tape won’t destroy the underwear when you change out. I used Abena Premium Maternity Pads, which I’d recommend too.
ii. Ice Maxi Packs: I had no idea these things exist! What a wonderful invention? The hospital where I delivered Maise provided the Medline deluxe ones, which is a more affordable alternative especially if you need more than 4 from this Frida Mom’s box. What it does is it reliefs the soreness at your V or perineal area if you have a vaginal birth. Think of it like a spa session for your V! So you’d basically just place one on your maternity pad each time, and you’d be like sitting on ice to relief your sore V, and then throw it out once the pack is melted down. However if you prefer reusable ones, then check out Gentlepack’s.
iii. Witch Hazel Cooling Liners + Perineal Healing Foam: So I didn’t think you need to use both, I alternated them depending on how I felt each day. They are most helpful if you had a tear. I had a second degree tear (i.e. slight muscle tear) so stitching was required, and in turn it’s imperative to heal and prevent infections. I’ve braced myself for the worst as well for my “first major bowel movement” in postpartum, but was pleasantly surprised that it did not hurt at all. I do believe it’s because of how quickly I had healed due to applying these. They mostly work the same way as Tucks Cooling Pads — which your hospital may provide to clean down the V, rather than to line your pad.
WHAT’S NOT INCLUDED?
iv. Peri Bottle: I was initially skeptical, and believe the hospital should usually provide this. But I now find the peri bottle very useful in squirting water to keep things clean down there. Especially if you do tear, then you wouldn’t want to be wiping down your V or perineal area until it fully heals. Frida Mom’s has theirs with the L-shape sprout (a la upside down bottle), I can see why it’s the most efficient in cleaning but I’m not sure about the steep price point of $16 (!) as the hospital’s peri bottles cost just $1.
Most of Frida Moms products are for regular vaginal deliveries with tearing anticipated most of the time. If you have a C-sect, or manage to not tear at all during a vaginal delivery, my guess is you probably will not bleed as much or need as elaborate a recovery regime for your V. (I’ll update this if I ever have a C-sect in future!)
v. Always Discreet Incontinence Underwear: I find this incontinence underwear line by P&G’s always is an excellent alternative to usual postpartum underwear. Especially if bleeding is not at all heavy for you, you probably won’t need the big hefty maternity pads (hooray!), then check out these always underwear. Their regular ones already look stylish enough — essential for a postpartum mom’s self-esteem, more on this in the coming posts! — but check out also their boutique line for an even classier style. I used them once my bleeding subsided along with The Honey Pot’s postpartum herbal-infused pads — I was mostly curious when I first learned about them but yes – you can indeed feel the “herbal infusion” sensation at your V or perineal area when you use them! It’s like, afternoon tea for your V.
If anything, I love its founder’s story, which I only learned of after I used them in February before that Target ad aired in March. It’s almost too uncanny for the drama they faced to come at the back of Frida Mom’s controversial ad in February (literally on the day I gave birth to Maise!) It almost feels like a big conspiracy against the V and the postpartum wellness women can have — but still we can always count on these momtreprenurs who’d bother to do something to benefit other women!
And most of all, I hope by putting together this little V cheat sheet moves things forward in dissolving stigmas and advancing public narratives surrounding many women’s postpartum recovery journey in the rawest, realest form.
Read more stories from the supernatural pregnancy four-part series here!