The First Shower
This story - this is what started this blog. Telling this story to my friends who haven’t had babies. The shock, the horror, they felt it all as I told them what happened in my first shower. And I felt it all while it happened but, as with lots of these situations, it turned out it was all fine and all normal but I just hadn’t been told about it by anyone! After giving birth I, like most women I presume, lay down for quite a while. Birth is bloody exhausting. I had been warned and prepared for the obvious “discomfort” (that’s a bloody light way of putting it!) that I’d be experiencing down below but the full body aches I hadn’t been prepared for. Labour and birth is a full body experience and your body will ache afterwards in a way that reflects this. I’m not a runner, at all, but I can imagine that the aches across my body would be comparable to those of someone who has just finished running a marathon. A marathon where they also pushed a nearly 7lb baby out of their vagina. So you have a lie down afterwards. After I’d had my stitches I was wheeled into a private room. This is something we opted, and paid, for. I recognise that this was a HUGE privilege that isn’t possible for everyone, but it was something we planned and budgeted for from relatively early on in my pregnancy and, for us, it was worth the money. Well, it was worth it for sure but my god it was probably the most expensive single night away we’ve ever had and we basically didn’t sleep or relax at all so you’ve got to weigh up whether it’s worth it for you. For us we still feel it was mainly for the peace and quiet compared to the experience of being on a ward, the time we got to spend as just us new three without disturbances, the fact my husband also got a bed not just a chair and could stay for the first night, and the big fact that it had a private en-suite bathroom. This bathroom proved to be very important.
Back to the story! You’ve been lying down for a while, as you rightly should after giving birth, but before visitors start arriving you think “I should probably have a shower.” I was still covered in dried blood because there obviously hadn’t been a moment to clean myself up properly and I wanted to feel a bit fresher before seeing anyone. (Side note - only a few members of immediate family visited us in hospital and we really limited visitors in the first 2 weeks which was very important to us both but more on that another time.) So my brand new baby was in his little bedside cot and my husband started helping me to the shower. Now at this point I was naked apart from TENA pants. These are hands down the best thing for when you’ve just had a baby. And yes I mean the big incontinence pants – the adult nappies. Those ones. They’re sure as hell not sexy or glamorous but those neat little maternity pads you’ve seen in the shops WILL NOT CUT IT. Not at the beginning anyway. They have their time and their place later on, in the normally up to 4-6 weeks of postnatal bleeding, but at the beginning you need the big guns. The really big guns. So yes it’s not only your baby who leaves the hospital in a nappy.
Anyway, I digress. My husband helped me to the shower and this is the point I really realised how much everything hurt. EVERYTHING. Every part of my body hurt and ached and moving across that room felt like an absolute mission but we got there, me clinging on to my husband as he helped me hobble along. Now we’re in the bathroom. The shower had one of those little seats for it, by it and I knew I wouldn’t be able to stand up for this shower because I’d barely been able to stand to walk the couple of feet across the room, so my husband got that in the right place for me while I think I leant against the wall. In hindsight we should have sorted that first before moving but hindsight is a wonderful thing. Now we had to get the TENA pants off. Thank god they’ve got rip sides (seriously I told you not sexy or glamorous in any way shape or form) because there was no way I would have been capable of even shimming them down to the ground. So my husband, after just getting to grips with nappies for our son, also got to grips with removing a nappy off me. With it gone we both got the first look. THE first look. Everything was so swollen. Visibly so swollen. And we both saw it, looked away and both, independently, decided we weren’t going to say anything more about what we’d just seen for the time being. A wise choice on both our parts. As everything did go back down to normal but f**k me that first look was terrifying. My stomach was also so strange and squishy. Once you’ve had a baby you still look pregnant for quite some time and again, this is totally normal. The whole “bouncing back” thing is bulls**t that makes women feel worse about themselves when they’re already at their most vulnerable. So you still look pregnant but obviously there’s no longer another solid human being in there so your stomach feels so strange. Like jelly, or a balloon a couple of days after a party when it’s still floating around the corner of a room and is slightly deflated but still has some air in it. One that you can poke and it properly indents. Like that. Again, don’t worry things do go back to normal there too.
Finally I’m sitting in the shower, enjoying the feeling of the warm water. My husband has gone back to the main room to pick up our son, leaving the door to the bathroom open in case I needed anything, and I manage to stand to fully enjoy it and start cleaning myself up. Already it’s quite the blood-bath, literally, then it happened. A clot fell out of me onto the shower floor. A bloody huge blood clot. Now, now I know it was a blood clot but at the time I had no idea what it was and all I could think was “HOLY F**K WHAT IS THAT” because it was the size of a burger patty. Honestly, it was terrifying. It hit the shower floor and made such a loud slapping noise as it impacted my husband heard it from the other room and came to the door asking if everything was OK. We both stared at what had just fallen out of me in horror and my husband immediately pressed the button to call a midwife in. While we waited I didn’t know what to do, neither of us did, and we both didn’t move a muscle, frozen in fear. I was so confused about what it was and my mind started reeling – “Is it part of the placenta that didn’t fully come out earlier? Does that mean there’s more inside me that’s got to come out?” and all those kinds of thoughts. Now it was a clearly a busy day on the ward because it took some time but finally a very young looking lady came in, we told her what had happened, she looked at it, looked terrified herself and said “I’m going to get a midwife” before quickly leaving the room. As you can imagine this did wonders to calm my nerves. Thankfully then quickly a midwife came in. She walked into the bathroom looked me up and down, saw the clot and just said “Oooh that’s a big one!” before proceeding to explain what it was, why I shouldn’t worry and getting some poor member of the team to come and take it away after I’d finished my shower.
It turns out that once you’ve given birth you have what’s called lochia. This is what postpartum bleeding is called. Lochia is completely normal and, as mentioned before, can last 4-6 weeks, mine lasted 6 weeks. At the beginning it can be VERY heavy as your body sheds the uterine lining and generally rids itself of all the extra blood and tissue that's developed. Clots happen. And clots happen at the beginning particularly because your body goes through the massive ordeal of giving birth and so much obviously happens and changes internally then you lie completely still and flat for hours and everything…well everything pools. And this forms into a clot. Then you stand up and that has all got to go somewhere! Hence the big f**k off giant first clot. Totally normal, but totally terrifying because I didn’t know it was going to happen. So now I tell any women I can about it. And it’s what inspired this blog because I told my friends and they were as horrified as I was when it first happened. Now I clearly find it quite the amusing story to tell but I have to pick my audience for that story for obvious reasons!
Still on the subject of clots though be aware that in the postpartum period you might continue to pass some in your lochia particularly at the beginning. The rule of thumb I was told by a midwife was anything above the size of a 50p piece they want to hear about. Or see a photo of. Midwives love a photo. I can’t tell you how many photos I had to delete off my phone for fear of traumatising some poor dear relative who was scrolling hoping for cute pictures of my new baby. I really didn’t want them coming face to face with any pictures of the contents of mine or my son’s nappies. So don’t forget to delete those photos after a midwife has seen them. Because you will take them I promise you. You might be reading this right now thinking “That’s disgusting, I’d never photograph that”. You will. As always though, if you have any concerns during the postpartum period about anything please seek proper medical advice. I’m just one lady sharing her story on the internet and I’m not medically qualified so always speak to a midwife or your GP if you have any concerns about your postpartum recovery. But I do hope this story might have prepared you. In just one little way.