Hello! It's me, your vagina. Look, we've been together for a long time now (literally your entire life) and I'm excited that we're going to embark on the adventure of childbirth together. Of course we all know who's going to do the heavy lifting on this one, right? Yeah, you're welcome. As such, I hope you'll indulge me, because there are things your postpartum vagina wants you to know.
Here are three general things to get you started: this whole "pushing out a baby" business isn't going to be some walk in the park. Thankfully, there are people who are very familiar with me whom you can talk to if you're at all worried. Most importantly, please know that I'm going to be OK. We're going to be OK.
I'm not saying there aren't any issues that may arise. I'm not even going to say there aren't long-term risks and consequences I might encounter as a result of childbirth. But I am saying that those are generally rare and the more aware and unembarrassed of me you are throughout this process the better off we'll be to prevent those issues or at least face them should they arise.
Look, I know in some circles I'm a bit of a pariah. People don't always like to talk about me in "polite company." But you should, because I'm polite as can be! And helpful to boot. To wit, here are some things I want you to know that will make your childbirth recovery easier:
I'm Going To Bleed For Up To Six Weeks
I know, it sounds like a lot, but it's very normal for postpartum discharge (also known as "lochia") to continue to flow for six weeks. If you think about it it makes sense, since you've spent nine months accumulating various fluids and tissues. So, really, six weeks is kind of a bargain.
Talk to your care provider if you continue to see heavy and/or bright red bleeding after the first five days, if bleeding gets heavier after subsiding, if you pass large clots after the first few days, if your lochia has a foul-smelling odor (different from a usual "period smell"), or if you feel faint.
I'm Resilient AF
Even after I've torn, stretched, and accommodated the passage of a massive human baby... I'm going to be OK. I'm a warrior, mama! I'm going to make it through this! Sometimes I might need some help (stitches, padsicles, or even physical therapy) but I can bounce back.
I Need Some TLC
I'm a warrior, yes, but even warriors need some love. For a little while I'm going to be in the metaphorical field hospital, recovering. I know you're busy, but please take a little bit of time to be my Florence Nightingale: sooth me, comfort me, and give me time to relax.
Be Patient With Me
Some people think that the six-week postpartum "green light" means penetrative, vaginal sex has to happen right away and, as a result, that I can go back to my old hijinks with no problems. And that might be just fine... but more often than not I'm going to need some special treatment. I might not be ready in six weeks (and you might not be, either, mentally). Or I'll be ready but a little more delicate and sensitive. Everyone just slow your roll and ease me back into things, please.
I'll Come Again
Some people worry I won't be able to feel (or give) pleasure again, but I assure you that is just not the case. Like I said, I'm resilient. Take your time with me, treat me right, and I promise I'll make it worth your while.
I Need Lube
Lots and lots and lots of lube, especially if you're breastfeeding. However much lube you think you'll need, I'm going to need you to go ahead and double it. This probably isn't a permanent need but, for a while, let's just get in the habit of having a bottle of the stuff next to the bed.
I Want You To Talk About Me
Talk about me with your doctor/midwife, with your partner, and with your friends, both those who have experience with childbirth and those who plan to one day. Because we vaginas may be private but we shouldn't be a mystery.
I Might Change A Little
I'm resilient but childbirth is kind of a huge deal. (And did you see the size of that infant's head? Dear God.)
Childbirth has changed you, or at least changed your life, so it stands to reason that it could also change me. Well-meaning people will say that postpartum vaginas go back to "normal" and that's mostly true, but "normal" doesn't always mean "the same as it was before delivery."
Pay Attention To Me Beyond Your Six Week Postpartum Appointment
Again, six weeks is when you're mostly back to yourself, but it can take a while to feel 100 percent. Be mindful of me and don't dismiss your concerns or challenges. The more you work with me (and the earlier you do it) the more we can work together.
I May Surprise You
I'm just saying, I know a lot of postpartum vaginas who feel better after childbirth. The changes are a good shift. I'm not promising anything, but it is possible.
Don't Joke About "The Husband Stitch"
It's gross, unoriginal, dangerous, and demonstrates complete ignorance about my kind functions. Just stop.
Don't Blame Me When You Pee Your Pants A Little
Girl, talk to all your pelvic floor muscles and your urethra. I have nothing to do with pee directly. This isn't on me.