I had given birth to my first son Henry at 20.51 on 23rd September 2017. After having a bath (you will recall I describe it as looking like something out of a horror film) and being observed for a short while on the labour ward, I was transferred later that night to the post natal ward.
My husband was absolutely exhausted because he had returned early the previous morning after working a night shift to discover me in labour at home. Therefore, he had got only limited sleep after that. We all agreed that it would be best for him to head home and try and get a proper night’s sleep before I (hopefully) came home the next day. As a result, my mum stayed with me at the hospital. I was very grateful to have a companion as I felt pretty overwhelmed by what had just happened (not to mention extremely terrified by the baby that was now sleeping beside me).
The first time I tried to drift off to sleep, I was woken in somewhat of a panic by a gurgling sound coming from the vicinity of Henry’s crib. I then discovered he had been sick, so I freaked out and called the healthcare assistant. She told me not to worry, this was quite normal, and probably the result of some of the gunk he had swallowed during labour. She also said that babies are able to turn their heads and clear away any sick or phlegm that comes up. Still, I was rather unsuccessful in relaxing. Although I felt exhausted, I found myself wide awake, staring at the ceiling, still almost unable to believe I was actually someone’s mother now.
I must have managed to drift off at some point because I woke, conveniently, when someone came round and offered me a cup of tea. Now inevitably, after drinking said tea, the time soon came when I realised I would have to attempt to go to the toilet and pee. I dragged myself there, and was utterly horrified by what I discovered.
I was bleeding as expected, but things didn’t feel quite right down there and so I chanced a look. When I saw what was going on, I felt mildly horrified. To cut a long story short, it looked as though some part of my inner genital tract had prolapsed to become external. Panicked, I asked the midwife to come and inspect the area and I anxiously told her what I thought had occurred. I think she knew that I was a doctor and so she probably thought (wrongly) that I had got the diagnosis correct. Anyway, she was probably amused and somewhat relieved to inform me that what I was seeing was no more than swelling! I was glad to hear this, and grateful that it wasn’t a prolapse! I also laughed to myself when I realised that even after six years of medical school, a medical degree and several years of post graduate experience, I had absolutely no idea that a vagina could swell up that much.
I spent the majority of the rest of the day sleeping due to exhaustion and then stayed a further night in hospital to establish breastfeeding (Henry’s latch hadn’t been quite right so I thought best to ensure it was ok before leaving). The following morning I was pleased to hear that I could go home. In between receiving the all clear and waiting for my husband to arrive, I had a chat with one of the midwives who ran through a few things such as what is normal and what is not so normal in the post partum period. She told me the community midwife would come to visit shortly after discharge and then advised me to speak with the GP about contraception as “you would be surprised by how many women we see with less than a year’s gap between two children.” I jokingly told her I was never having sex again, and then thanked everyone for their help. My husband and mum arrived and we took Henry in his car seat and headed home.
It wasn’t until we pulled up on the drive and I started to get out of the car that I suddenly realised that I could barely move. My privates were swollen and sore, resulting in a gait similar to that of John Wayne (probably after he’d also shat himself) and every muscle in my body was extremely stiff. This was probably due to having used a lot of muscles during labour (which I suppose is like running a marathon you’ve done no training for) and then having been lying in a hospital bed for the best part of two days.
When we got home, I declared the need for an urgent bath. My husband agreed to watch Henry whilst I did that. My mum came and sat in the bathroom with me and we had a glass of champagne to celebrate Henry’s arrival. This glass of fizz tasted excellent after a nine month alcohol hiatus. After we had chatted for a while, I decided it was time to get out. This is where I made a cardinal error.
I drained the water from the bath and made an attempt to stand up and climb out. My body was so stiff and painful, and my crotch area so puffy and sore that I simply couldn’t do it. I was writhing around in the drained tub for several minutes before I resigned myself to the fact that I was going to be incapable of standing up without assistance. Defeated, I shouted for help and my mum and husband arrived looking concerned (I think they thought I was feeling unwell or something). When they realised what my real issue was, my mum dissolved into uncontrollable hysterics. After several minutes, she managed to explain “you look like bloody Smeagol” (aka Gollum in The Lord of the Rings). I think she must have been referring to the scene in which he is slipping around trying to catch a fish. I have to say, the analogy made me laugh as well and the three of us were unable to move for ages because we were so amused. Eventually, we pulled ourselves together enough for my husband and mum to haul me out by gripping me under the arms.
Needless to say, I took showers from then on until my vagina had healed.