Photo courtesy of Jamie Kenney
15 Things Recovering From Childbirth Is Harder Than

On the surface, recovering from childbirth isn't all that complicated. I mean, you just sit back, rest, and wait, right? Except, do you have any idea how annoying and difficult that is under normal circumstances, let alone with a newborn in tow? So, while this is the sort of thing that isn't all that hard on paper, in practice recovering from childbirth is harder than, well, a lot of things. However, just because it's difficult doesn't mean we shouldn't give it our all.

I think it will be easier to give it our all once we acknowledge that recovery isn't a passive process. Instead, it's something we have to proactively pursue if we want to get back to our old selves as soon as possible. (Or, rather, as a close a facsimile to your old self as possible, since your new baby is going to keep you a sleep-deprived shell of your former self for a while, whether or not your body is otherwise recovered.) The postpartum recovery period (and, indeed, new parenthood in general) is often a practice in reassessing how you think of accomplishment. For the majority of our lives, we're trained to think that we should have something to show for hard work: money, an award, a promotion, social status, you name it. But when it comes to recovery your accomplishment is almost entirely internal, and no one really sees everything you are accomplishing by "just sitting there."

This, I imagine, is particularly difficult for women, since women are basically asked to justify (or apologize for) their very existence at all times. As a result, you've got a ton of new moms pushing themselves too hard, delaying their recovery, not feeling themselves for a longer period of time, and descending into a vicious cycle of self-denial. No more, I say! (And not just to other people, but to past me, because I've learned the error of my ways!)

So let's acknowledge that recovery is work, even if it doesn't always look that way. It's hard work, too. Harder than the following:

Sitting For A Tattoo

Sitting for a tattoo sucks. Yes, it's kind of fun, because you're excited and you know it's going to be a story and (hopefully) you like your artist and all, but that doesn't erase the fact that there's a needled attached to a motor repeatedly poking into your skin.

With a tattoo, however, there's only so long it can take, and you have a decent idea of how long a particular session is going to last. You can also call it quits whenever you want, technically. Recovering from childbirth? Not so much. Like getting a tattoo, it can also be painful, but you have no idea when it's going to get better, really, since the swathe of normal is so broad.

Reading The Entirety Of 'Frankenstein' And Writing An Essay On It In One Weekend

While high school me always appreciated that her teachers didn't assign reading and just let us go at our own pace, high school me also really couldn't handle such a responsibility and invariably spent more than a few weekends rushing through an entire novel and completing the paper in record time.

But, unlike recovery from childbirth, at least in this situation there's something you can do. You might be rushed and chaotic, but you're moving things along. You cannot hurry recovery along, though, and no matter how much you try. That's not how recovery works. (It's also not how making friends works, as the poor Frankenstein Monster learned only after smothering that unfortunate little boy. See? I did read the book.)

That One Yoga Class Your Very Athletic Friend Took You To That One Time

"It'll be fun!" she said. "Don't worry if you've only ever done a beginner's class. Yoga is called a 'practice' because we're all practicing."

Yeah, well, everyone in that class had obviously practiced a lot more than I had and I looked like a weak, uncoordinated dork with no balance and absolutely no chill. Sure, I had a passing familiarity with yoga before that class, but nothing could have prepared me for how engaged my core was expected to be. Recovery is like that, too. You kind of know what's going on, but you have no idea, and that lack of knowledge can overwhelm you to the point where you just want to hunker down into child's pose the whole time.

Foraging For Mushrooms

When I was a kid, the men in my family would frequently pull over at the side of the road because they'd randomly seen a clutch of edible mushrooms they wanted to walk back to pick. Wanting to imitate them (because who wouldn't want to imitate such neat naturalist/survivor skills?), I would pick random fungi I'd found in my backyard (or wherever) and proudly hand them over, at which point they would promptly toss my treasures in the garbage.

"Why don't you eat it?!" I'd pout.

"Because it's poison."

"No it's not! It looks just like the one you picked."

"Yeah, but it's not actually the same. Don't pick those again."

They'd then tell me about how it takes a lot of practice to know the distinctions between the plants. But the point is, if I studied hard enough, I'm sure I could be an expert today. I could study recovery in childbirth and still be completely helpless because there's no way to out-think this. It's the worst.

Getting Two Sides Of A Rubik's Cube

Not harder than actually completing a Rubik's Cube, however. Recovery is tough, but it's not Rubrik's Cube tough. That sh*t is frustrating AF, and while I eventually recovered from childbirth I've still never completed a Rubik's Cube. I suspect (barring cheating) I never will. This isn't defeatist or anything, I just have a realistic assessment of the limitations of my spatial reasoning.


Like Crossfit, recovery from childbirth is a physical ordeal that, in the end, can inspire you and makes you stronger. Both are difficult, but at least at Crossfit you have a ton of people literally cheering you on. Recovery from birth provides you with a small infant to poop on you at inconvenient times. It's like the opposite of Crossfit in many ways.

Recovering From Moderate Sunburn

Via DNA testing, I recently discovered that I am a solid 1/3 Irish, which explains the hellacious sunburns I've received every summer since puberty. Here's how that usually happens: I don't reapply as faithfully as I should early in the season and say, like an effing idiot, "Oh, I'll be fine. I might get a little red, but it will turn to tan." Then this happens:

Photo courtesy of Jamie Kenney

The colors in this photo have not been altered in any way. That's how red I was. Childbirth recovery was even harder to bounce back from than that. Because I was over my sunburn, for all intents and purposes, in a few days. Recovery from a c-section delivery takes weeks. Recovery from a vaginal delivery takes less time than a c-section recovery, but still more time than a sunburn and, moreover, feels like you have a super bad sunburn inside your vagina. Ouch.

Learning French

I mean, French babies do it all the time, so how hard could it be? Pas très difficile, je pense.

Writing All The Thank You Notes For Gifts You Received At Your Baby Shower

At the time it seems so overwhelming and impossible. Then you're confronted by the physical challenges of recovery and it's like, "Ugh. Why did I ever think this was hard? This is a cake walk! If only I could heal my second degree tears as quickly."

The good news? Sitting quietly and writing those damn thank you cards while your baby naps (instead of, say, trying to vacuum or do dishes or run errands) is a great way to help yourself recover while simultaneously feeling like "you're doing something" (as though recovering weren't task enough).

Performing A One-Woman Show

A one-woman show puts a lot of pressure on a single person to do pretty much everything on stage. Recovery from childbirth is, in a way, it's own one-woman show. Only, in addition to focusing on the whole recovery aspect, you have to put in just as much time and effort into caring for your new baby. So it's kind of like starring in a one-woman show while running the lights, soundboard, curtains, and concession stand.

Being Able to Do All Daveed Diggs' Parts From 'Hamilton'

Dude is fast (not, like Busta, Tech N9ne, or Eminem fast, but respectably fast) and he's got a lot of really intricate wordplay going on. However, you can work on making your lips and tongue move faster to get all those alliterative phrases flow out of you at machine gun speed. There's no way to make your body heal faster. You can, however, slow down your recovery by trying to do too much at once, so keep that in mind.

Folding Laundry The Same Day You Do It

If you really set your mind to it, and you have a little bit of magic on your side, such a feat can be accomplished. Recovery is like that, too, but it takes longer, and is therefore harder.

On a related note, I believe I had a laundry basket full of unfolded laundry that I just kind of picked through on the floor of my bedroom for the duration of my recovery from my second birth. Sometimes it's just about knowing what's most important.

Finding A Pair Of Jeans You Really Love

I have to believe that if I allocated the same amount of time my body has dedicated to healing from childbirth (literally months) to looking for the perfect pair of jeans, I would finally find them. But I do not have this luxury and, at this point, finding a truly remarkable pair of jeans feels like an Indiana Jones level quest. "OK, we found the Ark of the Covenant, the Sankara Stones, and the Holy Grail. Now for the hard part: the perfect pair of jeans."

This is really just an open call to any readers who want to fill me in on where a woman with thick thighs, slim hips, and average height can get a good pair of jeans. Tweet me!

Using A Menstrual Cup

No, really, I promise. It's not as hard as you think it will be. I joined Menstrual Cup Club a couple years ago and the first rule of Menstrual Cup Club is that you always talk about Menstrual Cup Club. (Yeah: it's sort of a cult, but a nice one with lots of feminist affirmations and hair braiding.)

I'm not gonna lie to you, there's a learning curve, but it's certainly a lot easier than recovering from childbirth. However, it is worth mentioning that, in the beginning, it might be just as messy. (Just use some back-up for the first couple periods and after that you'll be set and never look back!)

Choosing A Baby Name

Actually, you know what? Scratch that. I don't know too many recoveries that turned into blood feuds, and the same cannot be said of naming a baby.