Raise your hand if you spent three hours in a class learning what birth would be like — including the drugs you could take to ensure you hardly experienced it at all — but only three minutes learning what a train wreck your body would be postpartum. Ladies, this is ridiculous. We need to stop worrying about being embarrassed and get real with each other. Do you think men would be ashamed to discuss their first postpartum poop if they were the ones giving birth? I can just imagine the glee with which they would inform each other, “I’m still using the cooling spray the hospital gave me. Why didn’t I think of blasting my bits with a soothing mist BEFORE this?”
Seriously though, we need to talk about this because I was legitimately terrified by things that were apparently totally normal. I buzzed my nurse — this lovely British lady who endeared herself to me by complimenting my pajamas — because the bathroom in my room didn’t seem to want to flush after my first solo pee. So Nurse Marry Poppins bee-bops on over and is like, “What can I do for you? Would you like some more water?” And I have to be like, “No, the toilet won’t flush and it looks like the final scene from Scarface in there.” Sidebar: Anyone else feel like Michelle Pfeiffer is the star of that movie? Her portrayal of Elvira Hancock is so riveting, I cannot be alone in this.
Anyway, Nurse Poppins assures me this is totally fine and not to worry unless I “pass something bigger than tennis ball”. Wait a second, back up, you mean to tell me that’s why my belly still looks jollier than that of Santa Claus?
Before that moment, I was actually pretty grateful I was still swollen. I figured this was God’s way of holding me back if I got curious about what things looked like down there. Traditional wisdom for folks afraid of heights is: Don’t look down. Makes sense in both situations. No need to scare yourself unnecessarily — especially when there could be something THE SIZE OF A TENNIS BALL just chillin’ inside of you — waiting to bust out and horrify you the next time you dare to take a pee break.
Gentle readers, I hate to inform you, but it can be WORSE than that.
The second night I was home from the hospital something came out of me that was BIGGER than a tennis ball. It was more like TWO tennis balls. I am incredibly fortunate that Father-in-Law is a doctor who noted my symptoms and told me what precautions to take because otherwise I would have been hyperventilating all the way to the emergency room.
For those of you that would have been using your keyboard to dial Dr. Google at that moment, let me give you some solid advice: Don’t. Call your doctor and if you cannot reach them, call the hospital. The internet cannot assess your symptoms and WebMD is just as likely to tell you you’re dying when you’re fine or you’re fine when you’re dying. Without any official diagnosis, I’ve deduced that I passed a piece of my placenta.
Is this normal? Does it happen all of the time? I have no idea! I told you, no one talked to me about this recovery business!
In conclusion, I hope the literal spilling of my guts has inspired some of you to be more open with your recoveries after birth. Not to be ungrateful, but it’s not helpful to simply tell other women “it’s bad” or “you’ll need lots of help”. Tell us what happens. Don’t leave us in the dark. Let’s celebrate all of the crazy, miraculous things our bodies can do instead of bemoaning how gross they are. Really, if you think about it, birth isn’t gross — it’s beautiful because it’s how all of us began. Women who haven’t experienced it can be truly afraid of it just because it’s a mystery. Because honestly, nothing is scarier than the unknown, not even something the size of two tennis balls plopping out of your body.