Before having your first child, what what were your greatest fears? I can remember mine—clear as day. I wasn’t scared of the pain. I wasn’t scared of my body changing. I wasn’t scared of stretch marks or breastfeeding or explosive poop.
There was one terrifying part of childbirth that haunted me, kept me up at night, and led me to make many Google searches I later regretted (for obvious reasons). That fear? Vaginal tearing and/or an episiotomy—both were equally unnerving in my mind. Basically the thought of THAT getting ripped open, whether via my baby’s head or my OB’s scissors—was enough to make me throw up a little in my mouth.
Well, it happened. Baby #1 was a whopping 9 lbs 1 oz. Without providing all the gory details…yeah. That one did some damage. And little brother and sister were also over 9 lbs. My lady bits took a hammering three times in 5 years (and not in a good way), so I can attest first-hand to how necessary it is that women have time to properly recover after birth.
It sounds like a shit-ton of women agree with me too, which is why this Facebook photo shared by Steffanie Christi’an has gone viral. Because every woman who’s pushed out a writhing, slimy human baby knows what that last circle—the biggest circle—feels like. And she’s absolutely right. We deserve ALL THE FUCKING THINGS.
Listen, I’m not necessarily saying a Kardashian-esque push present when I say “all the things.” (However, if you scored a fat-ass diamond or a Louis Vuitton bag afterwards, good for you. Enjoy.) For me, here’s what I wanted after pushing out three 9-lb cantaloupes:
– A nap.
– Someone to take the toddler(s) so I could lie on the couch with my newborn and do nothing.
– Whatever food I wanted.
That was pretty much the list, and thankfully, many people who love me (one of whom saw the carnage first-hand… thanks husband!) delivered on these requests. Because recovery, especially after my first, was a bitch. I did not have a C-section, but I still had to heal.
When I look back on the entire process leading up to that 10-cm dilation, where I remained, pushing for NINETY MINUTES, I think to myself, of course I needed time to recover. Prior to delivery, I had carried another human inside my body for 10 months (it’s not 9 months, as every mom knows, especially when you poop your kids out late like I did). Then, I spent over 24 hours laboring, breathing through contractions, walking the halls of the hospital, getting in the tub, getting out of the tub, sitting on the yoga ball, getting back into bed, yelling at my husband, yelling at my nurses, and crying in pain. And throughout those 24 hours, I was gifted the glorious nourishment of ice chips. That’s it.
Finally, my last ounce of energy pushed my child out into the world, and he was placed onto my bare chest as my OBGYN “did some repairs.” That’s right, folks! For many of us, our brand-spanking-new baby is already clamoring for the nipple, ready to take over yet another part of our body while doctors are still fixing up the one they just destroyed. We are dripping with sweat, just catching our breath after the unimaginable feat we just accomplished, and we are already on to the next one—feeding baby.
And then they send you home! You’re still wearing ice diapers, you’re still bleeding profusely, and you likely haven’t pooped yet. And the nurses are like, “You look great! Bye!”
A full week after becoming a mom for the first time, my bathroom at home finally stopped looking like a CSI episode. And I was finally able to gingerly sit down without wincing to breastfeed. I recall that I was exactly seven days postpartum and desperate to leave the house. My mom was visiting and suggested a quick trip to the mall. Sure, I thought. It will feel good to walk around. It will feel good to go out into the world. We’ll be gone an hour. The baby will be fine without me and my leaky boobs. What a great idea!
It was a full week later, and I was able to walk through the mall for about 20 minutes before the pain became unbearable and I had to rest.
And when I look at this viral image, of just how big 10 cm is, it makes sense. Why do we expect ourselves to do all the things so quickly after birth? Why doesn’t society recognize what just happened and how much our bodies have been through? Why don’t we recognize it?
I will admit that my recovery periods after babies #2 and #3 were far shorter, and running around after my toddlers actually wasn’t too bad. But that first one—that first 10-cm wide head to emerge from my body—that one felt like it was going to kill me.
So my fears about tearing and episiotomies weren’t unfounded. But what I hadn’t anticipated was all of the other parts of postpartum recovery. The soreness. The bleeding. The messiness and exhaustion of it all, mentally and physically.
I’m grateful for all of the help I had, especially with my first baby. My nurses were angels who descended down from heaven. They never made me feel weak, but rather supported me from beginning to end as I did something I never imagined my body could do. My husband and mother and mother-in-law were amazing and surrounded me with all the love and encouragement I needed. It was because of all of them that I believed I could do this incredibly difficult thing. And I did.
But holy shit is 10 cm a lot of centimeters.