Being a first-time mum, I was understandably terrified of going into labour. I have an incredibly low pain threshold, a massive phobia of needles and, you know, I heard it was pretty painful. I spent all my time worrying about giving birth to Penny that I didn’t take into consideration how I’d feel afterwards, how long it would take me to recover and how I’d cope with those infamous ‘baby blues’.
To cut a very long and eye-watering story short, Penny was a forceps delivery and to avoid tearing I was given an episiotomy. An episiotomy is basically a surgical cut made in the perineum (the area between the vagina and anus) to help avoid tearing. It sounds painful but, at the time, I actually didn’t feel a thing (thank god for epidurals, but that’s a whole other post entirely.) After 20 agonising hours, I just wanted the baby out. I remember lying on the operating table as nurses asked me to sign a consent form, my anesthetist sprayed something cold up and down my body and several doctors gathered in between my legs to assess what the hell was going on down there; all with Mr Brightside by The Killers playing on the radio in the background.
Skip forward to the morning after, and you can find me in bed exhausted with Penny by my side, waiting patiently for a small plastic cup filled with tramadol and trying not to pull on my catheter bag. 24 hours later I was allowed to leave. Coming home with your baby is a surreal moment that I wish I could have enjoyed more. I walked slowly upstairs to bed, fearful of ripping my stitches. The thing that upset me most over the next couple of days was not being able to jump out of bed and immediately go to Penelope when she needed me. I had to take things very slowly. I’m normally very much in control around the house and I found it difficult to sit back and let others help me. All I wanted to do was settle into my role as Penny’s mum and I felt like I was already failing.
Having an episiotomy was obviously a crap thing to go through but it was necessary and definitely better than the alternative; tearing is considerably more nasty and painful. So what can you do cope with the pain? I left the hospital with two lovely bags of paracetamol and ibuprofen. It sounds obvious, but the number one thing you can do is to make sure you consistently take your painkillers at the correct dosage. Keep track of your timings and don’t be afraid to go to your midwife for advice. Apart from that here’s a few things I did to help ease the pain which might work for you too:
- Take off your knickers and expose the stitches to fresh air a couple of times a day
- Use a natural, lavender-based, perineum gel
- Sit on a blow-up or doughnut-shaped pillow
- Take regular showers to keep the area clean
- Take warm baths with a couple drops of tea tree oil in
- Drink plenty of water to dilute your pee to avoid a stinging sensation when you pee
- Use a long ‘pregnancy’ pillow to hug in between your legs to relieve pressure whilst sleeping
Apparently, you can perform a perineum massage prior to giving birth which helps to reduce the likelihood of tearing so I’d definitely recommend asking your midwife about this too. Sorry if this post has been a little cross-your-legs-eye-watering but I think it’s healthy to share your birth story and be proud of what you’ve been through.