Oh, in case you hadn't caught on already, I'm going to be talking about vulvas and vaginas and other private parts for the next several paragraphs.
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I am a big advocate of perineal massage. Even if it doesn't reduce the likelihood that you'll tear during delivery, touching an area of your body that a.) probably doesn't get a lot of touch to begin with, b.) holds a lot of tension in general but especially while you're pregnant, and c.) sees a bunch of action when there's a baby emerging from you is great childbirth preparation. In fact, the sensation of the baby crowning was the ONE aspect of birth that I felt genuinely prepared for.
Unfortunately, I did tear a little with Westley's birth. Fortunately, it wasn't the scary downward, vagina-to-rectum tear I had worried about. It was more like I skinned my vulva's left knee. My midwife offered to stitch it "for cosmetic reasons"—my left inner labia tore in half—but I was high on oxytocin and all, "Nah, whatever, an asymmetrical pussy never hurt anyone."
Except it totally hurt. For little a while. That part I was not prepared for. I naively thought that once the baby was out, the pain went away.
This time I know better, and I'm researching my postpartum perineal care options. I see lots of birthy people advocating frozen pads. And with all due respect to ice and its healing properties, oh, hellllll no. My physical therapist was always trying to get me to put cold packs on my lower back for swelling, and that seemed too uncomfortable. So a padsicle between my legs after birth? Never going to happen.
Instead, here's what I have lined up for my down south.
Peri Bottle Herb Tea
I've mentioned my love the peri bottle before. The first time, I just filled it with warm water and sprayed myself down every time I used the toilet. It was the only way I could get comfortable enough to pee. This time, I'm planning to make a big batch of chamomile-comfrey "tea" to use as a perineal rinse. I'm thinking about a handful each of comfrey leaves and calendula flowers steeped in half a gallon or so of water (maybe as a labor project).
I didn't do these after Westley's birth because we didn't have a tub. I know you can buy those little portable sitz bath seats that go over the toilet, but that kind of speciality medical gear makes me feel very...I don't know, injured? Which I guess I was after forcefully pushing out an almost eight-pound baby.
Anyway, there are dozens of recipes for herbal postpartum sitz baths, all slightly different. (But only slightly.) The one I plan to use is similar to a prepared mixture recommended by my midwives.
1/2 cup comfrey leaves
1/4 cup uvi ursi leaves
1/4 cup shepherd’s purse
1/4 cup calendula flowers
1/2 cup sea salt
1/4 cup lavender flowers
1/8 cup myrrh
1/2 gallon water
Mix herbs and salt together in a heat-proof jar. Bring water to a boil and pour over mixture. Cover and let steep at least 30 minutes, or up to two hours. Strain the resulting tea and refrigerate (if preparing ahead of time). Pour 2 cups into a shallow bath or portable sitz bath. Store unused portion in the refrigerator.
Arnica Montana 200C
I love arnica for overworked muscles, and it's great for swelling and bruising too. Done.
Oh yes we did.
To be fair, switching over to cloth toilet "paper" has been a gradual process. When Westley potty-trained himself, I moved the stash of cloth diaper wipes to the bathroom. Cloth, especially when slightly damp, got him cleaner faster. Once cloth was convenient, I found myself using it too, off and on.
Cloth wipes (sprayed with a combination of witch hazel and lavender essential oil, if you're feeling sassy) might just be a postpartum care secret weapon. Show your perineum some love!