My pregnancy was relatively uneventful. With the exception of killer heartburn that left me in tears some nights, and a very sore back, I can’t complain about much. It was far from magical, and I didn’t feel like a goddess or in touch with my ancestors via the life inside of me, but there are worse ways to spend 40 weeks and three days.
Recovery from Harper’s birth, on the other hand, was less than thrilling. My plans for a drug-free birth were thwarted by a strongly encouraged induction, which led to a caesarean section. For those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of a c-section, I’ll summarise: I wasn’t able to walk up stairs or lift anything heavier than my daughter for six weeks, spent three weeks unable to sit down or stand up without assistance, became very familiar with a plethora of pain relief tablets, have semi-permanent nerve damage in my bottom, and am have yet to regain total feeling between my bellybutton and pubic bone. Without the grace of God, assistance from my husband, and a two week stay from my mother and aunt, I would have been a hot mess. Thankfully, we all lived.
So! In the vein of my “baby must have” list, I thought I’d share some of my favourite products and tips for surviving pregnancy, and a postpartum/c-section recovery. As before, I’ve included links where possible.
- Get lots of it. During the last trimester, sleep is especially precious due to the physical discomfort (ex: sore back, round ligament pain, insomnia,) that can accompany the process of gestating a human being. If you have the thought that you’ll sleep better once your baby arrives, because you’ll be able to sleep on your stomach and your husband will do some of the nighttime wake-ups, toss it out like a grocery store bag. I’m not saying that life with a newborn has to be horrible, sleep-wise, but bear in mind that labor, delivery, and recovery take a ton of energy, and you’ll likely be shocked at just how knackered you are once bub arrives. It took me roughly eight weeks to start feeling like myself, and at 12 weeks postpartum I still need some days.
- MIESSENCE BELLY AND BREAST BALM (cost varies depending on membership)
- Be sure to moisturize your bump, and the rest of your pregnant self. The Belly and Breast Balm from Miessence is a guilt-free option, and is still my full body moisturizer of choice. It’s thick, nourishing, absorbs nicely, and is made from certified organic ingredients. I’m a big fan of Miessence products, and can vouch for the sustainability, ethos, and quality of the company’s leadership and practices.
- I was 36 weeks pregnant before I discovered that Zantac is not only available in Australia (US brands of medication are rare here- there be no Tylenol…), it’s safe to use while pregnant. In an effort to avoid hyperbole, I’ll say this: it made a world of difference for me, especially in those last few weeks when sleep was elusive (see above). I’m allergic to mint, therefore wasn’t able to take any of the chewable or liquid antacids found in supermarkets, so the only relief I’d had prior to being prescribed Zantac were gulps of almond milk. You’ll obviously need to confer with your midwife, OB, or whomever is overseeing your pregnancy, prior to taking it, but don’t hesitate to ask for something stronger than Gaviscon if needed.
- By “rest,” I mean more than sleep. Following a c-section, you’ll be swept up with all the things that come with a new baby, and may forget that you’ve just had major surgery. The midwives will tell you to get as much rest as you can, to sleep when your child sleeps, and to not do a long list of things that you’ll want/need to do (ex: walking up and down stairs, vacuuming, mopping, lifting anything heavier than your child, bending down to do laundry). Try to take their advice. Lay down, take a nap, read a book, watch a BBC period drama, just relax. The dishes can wait, and you won’t die of shame if your mother in-law sees your dirty floors.
- The softer, the better. Mine were from Target. No matter the type of delivery you’ve had, be kind to your belly, and don’t try to fasten jeans around it. If you can’t bear the idea of being seen in leggings, then buy a couple of long tops, and suck it up, Buttercup. Kidding aside, don’t put too much pressure on yourself (figuratively and literally) to “bounce back” to pre-pregnancy shape. If you’re dealing with a c-section scar, be especially attentive to fabrics that rub or feel tight around your lower belly.
- HUGE UNDERWEAR
- Inside your soft leggings are your Granny panties. Don’t be ashamed- they’re stupidly comfortable, and are the only real option for housing those gigantic maternity pads that you’ll use for weeks after your little darling arrives. Yay! Again, buy the Target brand to avoid feeling guilty if you need to toss them later. There will be plenty of time for pretty underwear, later.
- BATISTE DRY SHAMPOO (cost varies, usually cheapest at Priceline)
- There will come a moment, probably at 2pm on a Thursday, when you realise that you haven’t showered since Tuesday, and you’ve already walked up and down the stairs more than the doctor said you could, so you can’t take one until tomorrow morning. What’s more, the topknot you’re rocking suddenly feels like a greasy mess, which makes you feel like a greasy mess, and wonder if you’ll ever feel like “you” again. Fear not, dry shampoo is here to get you through. A couple of sprays, a quick brush, and you’ll feel just human enough to fold the laundry, wipe down the kitchen benches before they begin sprouting, or just make it until bedtime. Batiste has the nicest scents, and comes in a few sizes, so it gets my vote. I use the “Wild” fragrance, because I do. Quick note: I’ve used the tinted “Brunette” formula in the past, and ended up with colour all over my hands, scalp, and neck. I might just be incredibly inept, but I’d recommend sticking with the non-tinted versions of the product.
- Following a c-section, you’ll likely leave the hospital with a prescription for Endone (oxycodone,) and the advice to alternate taking Panadol (paracetamol) and Nurofen (ibuprofen) as needed. If at all possible, don’t fill the script, and instead grab a box of Nuromol, which combines Panadol and Nurofen and is a decent pain reliever, even in the early days when your incision is most tender. Once I began to regain sensation below my bellybutton, there were moments when I was certain that my scar had burst. Thankfully, I was just being dramatic. BUT! I unashamedly took Nuromol as often as I was allowed, even setting reminders for the next dose in my phone for roughly three weeks.
- HIGH FIBER DIET
- This one is simple: don’t eat junk after giving birth, and you won’t feel like death. Avoid simple carbs, or anything that gives you a massive sugar rush, and load up on beans and fresh veggies. Need a snack? Have some air-popped popcorn. Fiber fills you up, sustains healthy blood sugar levels, and helps relieve constipation. Don’t be ashamed- everyone poops, and you’ll need to following surgery.
- ALL THE SUPPLEMENTS
- Iron, and Vitamin C, and Magnesium- oh my! In addition to a healthier diet, I took an iron supplement for several weeks following Harper’s birth to help with some moderate anemia. I added vitamin C because it increases iron absorption, and most people are magnesium deficient an could use an extra dose each day. I can’t offer specific brand recommendations, just the general advice to pay attention to what your body is lacking and take whatever steps you feel necessary to make it right.
So, there you have it: my novice recommendations. I hope they’re helpful!