I was prepared (as much as you can be) for the pain and craziness of labor. I was not prepared for the impact it would have on my body in the days and months following the delivery of my sweet little boy. In the wake of the trauma to my body I went through a slowww and humbling process of healing and realized, first-hand the treasure it is to have a husband that steps up.
Although my post-partum pain was rough, let me lay something out at the start. I obviously prefer that my son was healthy and hitting milestones and doing everything a chunky little babe should be doing. And am so thankful that it was me and not him in pain. I knew I would heal eventually. But boy did he do a number on my body when I pushed/he was pulled out of me with a vacuum sucked on his poor little noggin.
Here’s the scene - after I delivered Brecken, my son, I held him and cried uncontrollably, it was the most exhausting, but completely amazing feeling. Hard to put into words. Then Brian, my husband, followed the nurses with Brecken to a nearby station to do measuring things while I started to calm down and the doctor began stitching me up. And then I heard these words from my doctor to the nurses, “I need more light in here, this is the deepest tear I have ever seen.” Just the words every new mom hopes to hear...
So with those words, and a few other signs like the nurse trying to kindly convince me that Percocet really was a good life decision I should have had all of the evidence needed to realize the pain wasn’t over yet. But I did not know that then, and thought I was superwoman since I was still functioning on leftover epidural meds and adrenaline.
And then this happened- a few hours later, with my husband sleeping in a recliner next to me and Brecken sleeping in the plastic tub I tried to get up to go to the bathroom all by myself. I was barely able to get out of bed and as I took slow inching shuffles to the bathroom my bladder just started releasing itself all over my legs and onto the floor. I literally had no control of it. This is when it started to become real, my recovery was not going to be easy. And then the fear set in, how am I going to be able to care for my son if I can’t function myself?
After my husband and nurses helped clean me and the room up I laid down and tried to rest, feeling embarrassed and defeated. But then the sweetest thing happened. I woke to see my husband reclining in his chair with Brecken laying on his chest and just tearing continuously. I looked over at him and he said to me, “Have you ever seen anything more perfect?” I thought this was just a moment of emotion from him, but in fact, for the entire rest of the day Brian was either bringing Brecken for me to nurse or laying on the chair with Brecken on his chest crying those surreal, joyful tears. I was able to relax and realized – this is how I’m going to get through this. I’m going to make it and my son will be cared for because my husband will be by my side.
In the months to follow I was in a lot of pain daily. Standing made me wince, especially if I was holding Brecken. Walking made me feel like my insides might fall out of me. I kept trying to go off Percocet, but could not handle the pain when the last dose would wear off. After the first month it felt as though I might be on the mend, but then I hit a wall of pain again. For my six week appointment, my doctor discovered some enflamed scar tissue around the site of my (very, very deep) tear and I had to have surgery to remove it (not the news my husband was hoping to hear for my six month appointment…).
Through this whole process, Brian was there every step of the way. He let me mother, but would step in if I needed him. In the beginning I needed him to do so much – even making me ice diapers (the most amazing gift to a healing crotch… that and Epsom salt baths). Slowly I needed him less for my care, and more for Brecken’s. He did everything he could, but tried not to step on my toes. He even started drinking coffee for the first time in his life so he could be more attentive after getting few hours of sleep.
Before we had Brecken, Brian went to a daddy class and they talked about the concept of “baby blocking”- a convenient trick mothers do to keep control and keep daddies from messing things up. Hint: it’s not beneficial for the family. We had talked about this quite a bit before Brecken, and I was committed to avoid baby blocking and let Brian help (even if I thought I could do it better). In the end, I learned to resist baby blocking because I really had no other choice. I was forced to give over control those first few months. But in that I learned that letting Brian help was best for Brecken, for Brian and certainly for me.
After my surgery, I started to finally feel much, much better. I didn’t have to take another Percocet and I was starting to be able to stand and walk without pain. It took a few more months for me to feel completely back to myself again, but in the meantime I kept up my commitment to embrace Brian’s help.
Although the pain and healing was really tough, I’m thankful that at first I didn’t even have the option to do it on my own and block out well-intentioned help, that way Brian got the chance to excel at husbanding and fathering and I was given the space to recover.
Here are two things I’ve learned going through this:
1.) Give yourself grace – I had a dear friend call me during the first month of Brecken’s life and end the call with these words – “Cassie, give yourself grace and time to heal. And when you think you’ve given yourself enough grace, give yourself some more.” You will heal, you may never be the same, but you will heal. Don’t rush it and be kind to yourself in the process.
2.) Don’t do it alone – I recently read a Southwest article about millennial parents. The article reported that, “According to a 2015 report from Pew Research Center, 57 percent of papas consider fatherhood as key to their identity, with 54 percent saying they find the job rewarding at all times and 46 percent claiming it’s enjoyable all the time.” Fused parenting is a thing and the guys (well half of them) are enjoying it. I may think I know Brecken’s “ways” better and be able to change his dirty diaper with less wipes, but if I want my son to see an example of who I’d like him to become, I need to let his dad have an involved role in his life, starting the first hours after birth. This is important not just for my son, or for our marriage (although true) but also for me. For me to heal I needed breaks and support and the space to recover, while knowing my son was well cared for. If you have a different situation and your someone is not your husband, let it be someone else (enticing others with baby snuggles often leads to free help.)
When I first started writing this I thought “Filling in the Gaps” would be a cool title. You know, like, when I was healing my husband could fill in my gaps so our son was cared for. But as I think about it more, the premise is a simpler concept, one we’ll soon be teaching our son – sharing. It’s not just filling in for me when I’m not at my strongest, its sharing the responsibility of raising our son, sharing the burdens and joys of parenting every step of the way- so that I can be my best self as a mom and we can thrive as a family.
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The information contained in this article is provided for informational purposes only, and should not be used as a substitute for the advice of your physician or licensed health care provider. You should consult your physician or licensed health care provider before engaging in any exercise activity described in this article to determine if it is right for your needs.