While I was pregnant, I heard from multiple reliable sources that having a baby would not, in fact, ruin my body. Given my genetic predispositions, I was surprised to escape relatively unscathed in terms of stretch marks and to lose the baby weight in a few weeks. From the outside, it would appear that I “got my body back.” But below the waistband of my yoga pants is a whole different story.
Almost two years after the birth of my daughter, I am still dealing with postpartum fallout. Maladies that were supposed to go away after I had the baby are still wreaking havoc on my rear end, and I developed a mysterious vaginal infection (I’m guessing Colonel Mustard in the study with the bacteria). When it comes to my postpartum recovery, I can’t help but feel like the tragic hero in a comedy of errors.
I would be remiss to jump into my postpartum woes without mentioning the condition that got me into this mess. Ah, pregnancy. My condition was anything but delicate on my body, from nausea and vomiting to round ligament pain and heartburn. But the absolute worst were the hemorrhoids. I am talking giant, purple “piles” the size of a newborn’s fist. Mine were so big I named one. (She’s called Eloise, and she’s pleased to make your acquaintance.)
Labor and delivery aren’t exactly a picnic either, especially when you’ve just had several hemorrhoids exorcised — I mean, excised. Fortunately, you get a baby out of the deal, along with assurances that your pregnancy-related ailments are far behind you.
And then the pain meds wear off. A quick look in a hand mirror lets you know that you’re in for a gnarly recovery. I had an episiotomy, so it appeared to be a perineal Frankenstein situation down there. It took about five weeks and a lot of ice packs to heal completely. But I was through the worst of it, right?
Not so much. Within a few months, my hemorrhoids were back. I was so terribly constipated that I developed fissures. You know those jawbreakers we used to eat in the ‘90s? The kind with the white, flecked layer that cut your tongue? I’m pretty sure there was one in my colon.
I had just started to accept that this was my new reality when I developed some itchiness and dryness in my lady parts. I still refused to seek medical attention until I got up from playing with my baby on the floor and tore my labia. Yes, that’s a thing.
I marched my ass (and friends) right into my doctor’s office. I was really hoping he’d go with my “rip it all out and start all over” plan. Alas, he sent me right to the drug store. I walked out with $100 worth of treatments: Monistat 7, probiotics, baby oil, MiraLAX, Metamucil, and glycerin suppositories. But I didn’t get better.
Back at the clinic, the OB-GYN decided to test me for herpes. Basically, they take a giant Q-tip and assault your already raw, tender vagina. It’s not awesome. I know herpes can remain dormant for a long time, but I was really not looking forward to explaining to my deployed husband that I’d contracted an STD. Fortunately, the test was negative. They took another culture, and assuming this was bacterial, prescribed antibiotics.
Meanwhile at the colorectal surgeon’s office, I was preparing for an exam in the most vulnerable position you can imagine (and I’ve squeezed a tiny human out of my body). Apparently, one fissure is normal. The compass rose I had going on was not. I’m probably looking at a colonoscopy in my near future. In the meantime, I get to take a stool softener and laxative cocktail with a side of butt cream.
Apparently, this seemed like a good time for my test results to come in — staph of the hoo-ha. I didn’t even know that was possible, but apparently my panties are a petri dish. Antibiotics are the course of treatment anyway, but I guess the doc added an antifungal to, I don’t know, scare it?
No one really warns you about postpartum recovery. You can’t pick up a copy of What to Expect When You’re Done Expecting. My experience is, blessedly, not universal. As for my recovery, I’m cautiously optimistic. And even after everything, having a child was still the best thing that’s ever happened to me — even if I got a little more than I bargained for.