Courtesy of Lateefah Torrence
Lateefah holds her daughter Dalia.
Ice in my panties and lipstick on the mirror.
This is a lyric from the song of my life right now — and moms of the future, there are some things you need to know. Maybe I missed this during all of my baby prep, but I'm pretty sure I would have paid attention if SOMEONE had mentioned how much care my genitals would need after childbirth.
Yes, I had read raves about the miraculous mesh panties hospitals provide, and I knew there would be a perineal cleansing bottle ("peri" bottle) and perhaps even a sitz bath in my future. However, at 2 a.m., after nearly 38 hours of labor, it was not the best time to find out that I had no idea how to use the alleged essentials of my new life.
Perhaps my memory is flawed (note previously mentioned exhaustion), but what I recall is the recovery nurse handing me a tub filled with mysterious accoutrement, telling me to rinse with the peri bottle, dab dry and put three maxi pads in my mesh panties while she stood outside the door in case I passed out.
This was not helpful. So let me break down what I wish I had known before my vaginal birth:
7. Know that going to the bathroom will be a time-consuming process.
6. Before your baby's birth, buy and freeze a bunch of gel packs that you can put in your panties or between your legs while you sit. I'm currently using a long rectangular pack designed for knees. It is The Best Thing Ever.
5. If you think a sitz bath may be your thing, buy your own. The one the hospital gives you may not fit in your toilet.
4. Witch hazel pads may soothe your vulva pain or they may irritate the hell out of you. Have back-up relief options.
3. The same can be said of Dermoplast or other anesthetic sprays.
2. The peri bottle is to be used while you urinate to alleviate stinging, not just for rinsing.
Lateefah Torrence, 38, is a writer who lives in New York, N.Y. She and her husband, Frank, welcomed Dalia Joule on July 17.
And the No. 1 thing I wish I had known: You can "leap-frog" your pain meds. For example, I was directed to take 600 mg of ibuprofen every six hours. But sometimes I have break-through pain. I can also take acetaminophen every six hours, but not at the same time as the ibuprofen. So let's say I take my ibuprofen at noon. I can then take acetaminophen at 3 p.m., ibuprofen at 6 p.m. and acetaminophen again at 9 p.m. Brilliant! (Obviously, consult your doctor and do not exceed recommended doses.)
"But Lateefah," you say, "how the hell am I supposed to keep track of all of my meds when I don't even know what day it is?" Ah, that is where the lipstick on the mirror comes in.
For the first few days at home, I tried moving my pain relievers from room to room with me as I never knew where I was going to be when it was time to take them. This simply led to me never being able to find them. Nor could I keep track of the slip of paper I was using to note when I had taken my doses. In a moment of desperation, I picked up a lip pencil and wrote which pain reliever I had taken and when on the bathroom mirror. (OK, it wasn't lipstick, but lip pencil on the mirror isn't catchy at all.) After a bit of rest, I remembered that I am married to a teacher and switched to using a dry erase marker. It is the Second Best Thing Ever.
Not only can I easily see and remember what I've taken and when, after a day or so, I was able to see Dalia's schedule of sleeping and eating reflected in when I was awake and able to take my pain relievers. I almost jumped up and down when I saw that the three-hour stretches were turning into four-hour stretches.
While writing this post, I have broken the No. 1 Rule of New Motherhood: Sleep While the Baby Sleeps. But if my sacrifice saves one woman out there from Angry Vulva Syndrome, it will be well worth it.