When you imagine the birth of your baby, we know that you have good intentions. You envision that magical moment when you gently rouse your partner from sleep. "It's time," you whisper — except in your fantasy, you look like Jennifer Aniston did when her character went to have her baby on the season finale of Friends. And you still look like Jennifer Aniston at the end of your fantasy, when you grip your partner's hand, smile at the doctors and nurses in the sterile room, and push your baby out into the world. The fantasy probably ends there.
We think that's sweet.
We also think you might benefit from a small taste of reality, and since we have had a few children already, here we offer some practical postpartum advice that eventually you will appreciate.
One hour after baby's birth
An hour after you give birth, you'll probably be ready to take your first postpartum trip to the potty. (Yes, you now have to call it a "potty" until your baby turns 27.) The fear you will feel at this moment will make your labor anxiety seem positively trivial. You may even beg the nurses to please let you just keep the catheter forever.
But eventually, what goes in must come out — and you are going to have to haul your floppy body off the bed and into the bathroom. There you will be given a small plastic bottle. Quite possibly, no one will explain what this mysterious bottle is for, because that would indicate a level of caring and helpfulness that people will seldom show you, now that you are a mom and no longer a pregnant person.
Well, we're here to tell you it's actually a "peri bottle," and you are supposed to fill it with warm water and spray it on your nether regions while and after you pee.
Do not stop reading.
This is so important, regardless of how ridiculous you think it sounds. If you try to pee without doing this, you will wish you were dead. And if you think you are going to actually wipe yourself after you pee, then you are a sick, sick woman, and we do not want to be friends with you anymore.
Be sure to take your peri bottle home from the hospital with you. You'll need it for about a week. Maybe more.
Also, dispense with any preconceptions you may have about peeing in the shower; it's not a bad way to go, at least for the very first time you go. And while you're at it, you may as well go ahead and drop all your other preconceptions about People Who Do Things Differently, because, my little chickadee, you are about to learn the great lesson of If It Works and No One Dies, It's OK.
One day after baby's birth
So now some time has passed. You're still in pain and you want it to stop. You've probably been cut off from your drug supply by now, and you're not happy about that.
A sitz bath might help you. You get in a tub with a few inches of the hottest water you can stand. If this sounds appealing, go for it. Another suggestion: Dip a washcloth in witch hazel and just stick it, ah, wherever it hurts. For the sake of aesthetics, we recommend a dark-colored washcloth, and probably a cheap one that you won't mind throwing away afterwards. But that's your decision.
We have also heard that keeping the witch-hazel-immersed cloth in the fridge can make the whole experience so pleasurable that it borders on illegal activity; however, we did not actually try this. Our friend did, though, and we trust her — but don't blame us if you do not find Nirvana in your washcloth.
Two days after baby's birth
By now, you can no longer avoid The Big Potty Trip: the one during which you — how can we say this delicately? — do number two. You can cry all you want, but eventually, you are going to have to face that porcelain torture chamber, and you may as well get it over with so that your stomach will uncramp. Make sure you are well hydrated. Eat a lot of raisins, maybe some cole slaw (it's the raw cabbage you want). Ask your doc or midwife about a stool softener. A little prune juice isn't such a bad idea, either, and lay off the bananas after you give birth. No sense in making things any tougher (or firmer) than they have to be.
Put on a plate about five of the soft wipes you use on your precious baby's bottom and microwave them for about 10 seconds. They will be hot, and they'll have time to cool before you need them, but be careful. Take them into the bathroom with you. Lock the door, and tell your significant other or whatever Good Person Who Is Watching the Baby that you are Busy and Cannot Be Disturbed for the next little while. (If you are still in the hospital and cannot convince the nurses to microwave your wipes, simply run them under very hot water before you start.)
Now, here's a fact you'll just have to take on faith. (Remember that we have never lied to you about anything, and we are not going to start now.) You will not rip yourself apart when you go to the bathroom. You will not rip your stitches out, if you have stitches. You will not tear open a large, gaping hole in your body and bleed to death in the toilet. You may feel some discomfort (by which we mean pain), but you will not die in the bathroom.
Do what you need to do, then take your warm wipes and gently, gently dab. Do not tug or pull, unless you are feeling particularly sadistic. Use your peri bottle generously, then dab again with a fresh wipe. (By the way — don't flush the wipes unless you're so bored that you need the diversion of a hopelessly blocked toilet.)
You did it! You are very brave, and we are very proud of you.
Three days after baby's birth
By now, you are probably at home, and you are possibly beginning to feel like maybe you will live, and maybe you will even figure this mom thing out sometime in the next 27 years or so. Now's a good time for us to point out that, if you are still hurting a lot, and your healthcare professional says you're doing well, you may want to ask if a small glass of wine is OK. (We did not say you should get yourself snookered, and we do not recommend this as a daily remedy. Ibuprofen or acetaminophen might be a helpful alternative, but it could be said that neither one of these two is quite as much fun.)
It gets better every day
We don't expect you to memorize — or even believe — everything we tell you, but we hope you will at least save this article and refer to it when you need it. And remember: we are always here for you, and frankly, we are glad that you don't look like Jennifer Aniston.
We think you are even prettier.