As a first-time pregnant woman I assumed my time after giving birth would be spent lovingly cuddling my baby. Instead, a delivery nurse continuously bugged me about peeing. I had no idea this would happen, and I certainly had no idea what peeing postpartum would be like. It's not like moms describe their first postpartum pee during casual conversation, people. This common bodily function was suddenly a terrifying mystery to me. That's not exactly the "life-changing" parenting experience I envisioned having.
My nurse handed me a can of numbing spray, a pair of mesh panties, a diaper, a squeeze bottle, and told me to go do some work. Immediately I knew that anything that required that many accessories and that much preparation was going to suck. And it did. I cried as the molten hot burning magma-like urine dribbled out of me, burning my sensitive crotch with a fiery heat that's rather difficult to describe. I stopped the flow, pushed the call button, and weakly whispered, "I can't. I can't."
The nurse came in and calmly coached me through my postpartum pee —like only a labor and delivery nurse could — telling me to fill the bottle with warm water, spray the numbing spray on my vulva, and then squirt my nether region with warm water while I relaxed enough to pee. It worked. I will never forget her support that day, and I share her wisdom with other parents-to-be whenever I can.
When I've talked with other people who've birthed babies, I've learned I'm not alone in my postpartum peeing misery. From burning vulvas and stinging stitches, to urinary incontinence and having to be catheterized to empty their bladders, almost every new mom I know has their own tale of pain and agony. Here are just a few:
"I still couldn't feel my feet completely but I felt myself pee. Sitting on the toilet was the first mistake, I felt like I was being torn again. Urinating was like holding a lit candle right up to my vagina and urethra. Burning. And the warm water didn't help at all."
"The nurse removed my catheter and gave me a bed pan and said 'go ahead. We're going to let everyone in the room.' Everyone meaning my father and the grandparents from the other side. So I felt pressured to go and go quickly. It took a lot of concentration. I couldn't really tell when I started and stopped. Enough of the epidural lasted so that it didn't hurt. It was weird."
"The nurse helped me onto the toilet and then used the glorious squirt bottle with warm water to rinse off. I had some stitches and was bleeding a lot. I thought it would be awkward with her in there doing that, but afterward I was convinced she's a saint. I really needed the help. After the epidural wore off, I was so sore."
"I had a catheter for my C-section. After a while of just sitting there, the nurse had to coach me through my first pee, and I had to blow through a straw into a cup of water to get things going."
"I had a pretty hard birth. I pushed for four hours, puking the whole time, and then the doctor had to go in with forceps to get my baby out. My pelvic floor was not in good shape after that. The first time they let me get out of bed to pee, I stood up and immediately urinated all over the floor. I had no control whatsoever. It was like the pee just fell out of me. They had to come in and mop the floor."
"I had to have the catheter. I really needed to pee. I could feel my bladder filling up quickly, but no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't pee. It didn't help that a nurse was there watching me. The catheter hurt like hell. It hurt worse than the stitches, if I'm to be perfectly honest. Do not recommend. My first pee in the toilet felt like I was being torn again. It hurt worse than the first poo for me. And blood. So much blood."
"The nurse stood outside the bathroom, in case I needed help. I must have been taking forever, because she came in, turned the tap on, and went back to waiting. I didn't even know it was physically possible to have that much pee come out. It was like my water breaking all over again."
"I peed myself, and the bed, after they pulled the catheter out. I was humiliated and I cried a lot. I had sciatic nerve damage and foot drop from giving birth, so I couldn’t get out of bed on my own."
"I had a C-section two years ago. The first pee was challenging. Imagine the reluctance and fear of taking a poop when you had the worst imaginable constipation. Now imagine that fear and reluctance, but redirected towards your lady bits."
"Like actual fire was shooting from my urethra."
"I sat on the toilet for what felt like forever as my body began to shake, my legs got all numb, and I started to freak out that I would never pee again and that the catheter had done something bad."
"My first postpartum pee was basically a horror scene. I couldn't hold it in long enough to sit down on the toilet and it was mixed with blood. I don't remember how it felt because everything down there was already so sore."
"With my first I had some stitches right near my urethra. My first pee was burning. So much burning. I learned very quickly what the peri bottle was for."
"It was more blood than urine, and I missed the toilet hat that they wanted to collect it in so I had try for another sample my next pee. That first pee felt like it took forever, though, because I couldn't tell if I was finished. My pelvic floor is no longer the same."
"I had an epidural so my nurse had to help me to the bathroom. One leg off the bed, second leg off the bed, and plop, a big ole blood clot splatted on the floor. She knelt between my legs and showed me how to use the squirt bottle, explained how to navigate the stitches, and was pretty much the kindest, most honest person I've ever dealt with.
I didn't feel embarrassed like you'd think you'd be in this sort of situation. I was grateful for her help."
"It was scary. I had this fear of pushing again and expected burning. The nurse was so kind and helpful. She used the peri bottle while I peed so it wouldn't burn. She cleaned me up and set up a pad and underwear for me. She even pulled the underwear up for me. I was so grateful for her. I was feeling very weak and unsteady, and she really stepped up to help me.