Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Bleeding in the Background

A year ago, I was still bleeding lochia. Margaret was 9 weeks old. The bleeding for me didn't stop until 10 weeks.

This was very hard for me. I knew I would struggle- and after giving birth after 44 hours of labor, I thought I had fulfilled that struggle. Unfortunately, I was wrong. I bled for 10 weeks post partum.

That's a lot, I know. I have a lot of feelings about that, and they are very emotional and don't flow logically and are laden with postpartum hormones, but I'll put them here:

I didn't want to tell people at all. I didn't want to write this post, but I felt it would be good for those of you who dealt with these same feelings. I didn't want to tell people because I was afraid they would blame the UP or UC (and at least one person I've told has blamed the UC- and it hurt and makes me less inclined to confide in them).

I knew I didn't have any retained placenta, so there wasn't really anything I could do about it. There were times when I thought the lochia bleeding had ended- nothing for three days! Then I would go out for a walk, or go to the store, or drive the car, and then it would return. I was simply over-doing it. The wound in my uterus was just taking its time to heal.

I had considered seeing a gynecologist, but I didn't want to be lectured to about UP/UC and I didn't think they would have any real suggestions besides a D&C which I knew was unnecessary. I happen to own a whole and complete placenta. I did pass a few clots within 24 hours of the birth, but after that, nothing. Do you think a GYN would have been willing to look at a thawed placenta for proof? Probably not. And it wasn't the sort of heavy bleeding that would indicate a problem. It was just always there... bleeding in the background.

I received a couple of priesthood blessings about it- each time I was told to be patient and promised that I would recover completely and be whole. You know what was frustrating about this? I felt inadequate. And I had the Internet which gave me plenty to worry about. I got to read stories about women who were done with lochia bleeding at 10 days post partum! And there I was 10 weeks postpartum. Also, the Internet kept saying things like, "It's supposed to be over by 6 weeks." You know what, Internet? My pregnancy was supposed to be over by 42 weeks, so stuff it!

You know what was really disheartening? The pressure to go back to church quickly. This was hard for me; I felt, especially at church, that my absence would be taken to mean, "Look! Birthing at home is too hard on you." It wasn't my birth- had I been in a birth center or hospital I would have bled for just as long. See, I'm really insecure. After 4 weeks of not going to church, the RS presidency sent someone to go check on me. They were only here for 5 minutes.

Ok. I don't really know why they came over. They called and wanted to come over so I let them and then some niceties were said and they left. Maybe it was coincidence that it occured after 4 weeks of not going to church: they didn't really tell me why they were visiting. Maybe they were visiting everybody? I did go back to church 5 weeks post partum. I didn't go back the next week. I didn't want to be reminded about my failure to heal.

Part of my struggle was that I wanted to be out. I really did want to go to church. I felt great and it was warming up and green again outside. I wasn't invalid- I felt up to it, I did. It wasn't that I couldn't handle it- it was that my uterus couldn't. McKay was really good at reminding me to slow down. I think he knew how in adequate I felt and just wanted me to heal so I wasn't so down about it. So he would go to church and I would stay home. Every week, I would tell McKay how good I felt (and I did feel good) but he would ask, "Are you still bleeding?" "Yes." And I would stay home.

Eventually, my desire to get better had to be greater than my desire to go outside. And I took it easy and it stopped. I have healed, I passed no other clots, I have a wonderful, satisfying sex life (just in case you were wondering).

But you know what I've decided? I don't care if my bleeding finishes at 2 days post partum next time, I'm not going out for 6 weeks. I'm not going to give into the pressure again. You're supposed to relax and enjoy those early weeks when your baby is small. You shouldn't be pressured into worrying about getting everything together or even looking "together."

So there you go. Now I have to click "publish." Let's see if I can.


  1. Oh wow, how I know where you're coming from.
    For me it wasn't lochia (I was done in about a week... sorry :) ), but mind-numbing PPD. Crazy how you always think these things happen to someone else...

    I especially like you last paragraph: "But you know what I've decided? I don't care if my bleeding finishes at 2 days post partum next time, I'm not going out for 6 weeks. I'm not going to give into the pressure again.". Amen. I think one of my big "mistake", if we can kind of call them that, was letting everyone in too quickly. My mom was there for the birth, which I was really grateful for, but then she stayed for 2 weeks, which I did ask her to do, but the problem was that I didn't get any time to get to know my baby - I was entertain family, in a way. Not that she expected much at all, but it's still visitors in your house. It also felt as if I had to do stuff - doesn't look very good to just sit around all day nursing your baby and napping. Not that Ariana nursed well at all anyway, or slept for that matter :) But I really think I would have dealt with the Bfind issues and the colics a lot better without anyone looking on, offering advices every second, and having magic arms that would calm her, and make feel, as you said, inadequate. And totally disarrayed when she left and I had to calm my baby, alone. (well, ok, with my DH! Who felt just as disarrayed!)

    And there's also like you said the social pressure to be a savvy mom, up and about the day after birth, or else you're defective.

    So, anyway - thanks for sharing :)

  2. P.S. And I DON'T blame UC. I think you're a brave and courageous woman to have done what you did!!

    I strongly share your beliefs - but I'm also a very nervous person, so I would, for me, at least need the reassurance that a midwife is attending, for the just in case.

    But I do care, a lot, about *natural* births (notwithstanding any actual medical issues - technology and interventions available today for those actual emergencies are great, but just way overused), which I did get to have, yay :)
    (if you don't count the IV for Strep B, but I figured this was MY needle, no manipulation on her, and it could lower the baby's risk, so I did it - it's minimal, imo anyway. Undecided as to whether I'd do it again or not. Hey... never said I was perfect :P)

  3. Mine lasted for 6 weeks. I thought I was abnormal too. Why did I feel like I had to be supermum first time around? I've made the same mental note as you - next time I'm sitting down for 6 weeks postpartum.

  4. My feelings on the whole "unclean" thing in the OT, where the women where segregated from the rest of the congregation while bleeding, etc, changed once I had a baby and needed that sort of rest -- maybe the women of the OT *welcomed* the respite.

  5. Joe- I'm sorry you dealt with PPD. That was one thing I didn't have, though I thought I would because anxiety/depression is in the family.

    Jane of SF- I actually looked up how long I'd have been "unclean" post partum. If you have a boy, it's 40 days- which is comparable to our 6 weeks (42 days). With a girl, though it's 80 days, which is slightly more than 11 weeks. I had a girl and bled for 10 weeks, so I guess I've got the Isrealites beat!

  6. Cave Mother- oh yes- at least 6 weeks! Part of me is thinking of giving myself 3 months!

  7. I also bled for a long time after. I think I got "diaper rash" from all those pads. I'm so glad I have cloth pads now! They are the best!

    The thing is, I was having HORRIBLE cramps after and was bleeding a ton (it seemed to me), so a week after delivery, I went back to L & D. They said I was just pushing myself too much (perhaps true, but I did have 3 adults in the house to help with everything, so I didn't think I was doing much except bfeeding!).

    The next day I filled a pad in an hour again and went to the doctor again. They did an u/s and turns out, I had retained a small part of my placenta. The doctor kept apologizing and said it hadn't happened to him in years.

    They did a D and look see (not a complete C) the next day. I still bled for at least a month after that (so at least five weeks). I can't believe anyone bleds for only 2 days! Wow!

    Next one, however, I will rest for a good month.

    I will NOT let them tug on my placenta again either. I tore badly (8 inches total-seriously, it's ALL over my records!), so I want to have a midwife with pushing experience help me and not a male doctor who has no idea what it's like to push a baby! I would hope a midwife would be less likely to pull on the placenta.

  8. Book a day, I had retained placenta because of cord traction AND had a midwife, so it is no guarantee unfortunately. I even wrote in my birth plan, "absolutely NO cord traction" oh well.

    I am sorry Heather! I too felt unclean but I felt the pressure to go out sooner than I was ready from my DH of all people. I think he thought that I was going inactive, but the bishop told him to let me be. What a great bishop!

  9. I really enjoyed this post. I *did*feel pressured to be up and around a lot last time, even after a CS (!!), and felt like people didn't really understand why I didn't want to be at church/out and about. This time I am going to quarantine the house for at least 3 days post birth for myself, my husband, my DD and my new baby. No visitors. I don't know quite how we're going to keep the grandparents out, but I'll figure it out. Maybe just let them have the one visit... and 6-8 weeks babymoon sounds excellent to me. In fact that's exactly what I've been planning on telling my RS President, so there's no confusion. Ha.

  10. I have been reading your blog for awhile, and I love how you discuss issues and relate them to being LDS (especially nursing in public, modesty, etc.). I just had to tell you that I bled for 9 weeks (and delivered in a hospital), and no one else I knew bled for nearly that long. Thanks for sharing!

  11. I just wanted to mention that our ward sends someone to visit all new mothers, preferably in the 1st month. It's especially hard since it's so transient and 1 visit is hardly time to share you life story with a stranger, but it wasn't just lip-service. People really did care and wanted to make sure you were ok. I figured after reading your birth story that you just needed time to recover.

    And I would steer clear of not giving into pressure just for the sake of not giving in. That's what rebel teenagers do. Instead, do what you need to do without feeling guilty or worrying that others are judging you. I look at it like "I'm not judging others, why should they judge me? They're the ones breaking commandments if they do." I'm glad I know you because I have learned that knowledge is power, and learning about different ways of doing things helps me be more open to something that could be right for me. So thanks.

  12. I really can't remember how long I bled after the birth, but I know it felt like forever. The amount of blood surprised me, too. After the birth feeling so ecstatic, I was surprised how emotionally and physically tender I was in that area. By emotionally, I mean...I couldn't look down there to see how things were healing. I didn't want to touch it to find out. I didn't want to accidentally brush the stitches. I just felt squeamish about it all. I took a lot of herbal baths and hoped for the best. It really surprised me, after having felt so free before and during the birth.

    And it all reminded me of my previous miscarriage, which I had naturally and unassisted, I guess I could say. I bled for five months, five months, on and off. "Background bleeding" is just right. Some days there, some days not. Most days there, but not heavily. And then I passed some tissue, and it was finally, finally over. Go figure. But there was no infection, no real problem — my body knew what to do, and it did it, without a D&C or any intervention. I had really bad health insurance, but mostly it was just my choice to wait it out and trust my body.

    But I could definitely see other people telling me, "See, you should have seen a doctor after all," even though it was all just fine and on the spectrum of "normal." We just like to narrow our spectrum nowadays and use medical interventions to keep people from ever reaching the extremes (like pregnancies that go longer than 40 weeks or labors that go longer than 24 hours).

    Anyway, I'm glad you recovered on your own terms and hope you can rest more during your babymoon next time. I like that idea, too.

  13. Crystal- I didn't know they did that for all new moms. They just called and said they wanted to visit without saying why. I figured they'd explain at the visit, but when the visit lasted 5 minutes and they barely got inside, I didn't know what to think. They didn't mention helping or the baby at all, so I was less inclined to think it had to do with that.

    Also, it's the things like, "I figured after reading your birth story that you just needed time to recover," that I was very sensitive to. Why is my birth story so different that I get special treatment that I'm allowed "time to recover?" I think all moms deserve a few weeks to themselves and none should be expected to do anything for a while, and yet I've heard stories of moms being expected at church- one even (not in our ward) was told, "You don't get maternity leave from your calling." Um, yes, you do. You get whatever maternity leave you like!

  14. Also, I really do like our Relief Society. When I was writing this, all those post partum feelings came back (amazing how that works!). I was really sensitive to different things at the time and this was one of them. I didn't mean to sound like I was dissing on them- it's just how I felt at the time.

  15. You touch topics that are near to my heart. I recently had my "PPD sisters" article posted on the Mormon Mommy Blogs. Sounds like you've had a bit of that, too. Not fun. But also please know, you're not alone.

    Resting up well after a baby is born (aka: Baby moons) is a great idea. Maybe with your next birth/baby, start advertising your plan to have a big fat baby moon (eg: stay at home and bond with baby for however long you need it)...and everyone else can stuff it. :)

    Focusing on your new little one and healing is more important than running out to R.S. or church, unless you're up to it, especially those first few weeks (and months) after a baby is born. It's so hard to find a good balance, keep your sanity, tend to other children, household, put on the "happy face," etc...

    I stayed in bed for almost 2 weeks after my twins were born (home birthed, too). And my bleeding stopped around day 7, I think. But I was being waited on, and only got up to use the bathroom and change or shower, brush teeth, and then got right back into bed. It was a little extreme, but it worked for me. Luckily, my toddler (age 22 months at the time) was being cared for by my angel nieces.

    My sister bleeds heavily after her babies (she just had baby #5 today, in fact!)...and would totally understand you on this -- she bleeds for months. M o n t h s. But she's an up-and-at-'em type of mama and that's just her body's way of saying "slow down, chica."

    You are awesome. I'm a home birther, too, and feel like we're kindred spirits of sorts (and just posted a home birth article on my blog)...

  16. First off great name, I'm also a Margaret. Second, my sister told me she was still bleeding at 8-10 weeks with each birth (#5 arrived in April this year) and that I should be prepared for that no matter what the books say about days to weeks. (My baby is due mid August)... And third, my thoughts and opinions on the going back out, even just to church after the birth is to take your time and go when you feel ready. I know it is something that I have been struggling and debating for a while, especially seeing a baby that was born in November be passed around all sorts of people when she was just a few weeks old. Maybe it's me, maybe I'm paranoid, but until I feel like my baby will not break or get sick from so many people and germs all at once, I'm going to take my time and relax and enjoy her. If church people want to meet her, then they can feel free to come by and visit, but no massive group passing around for me thanks!

    And thanks for the follow of Creative Madness, I hope I can be entertaining and provide some good suggestions for books and products in the future for you. :)

  17. What I meant about your birth story is that your labor was long. Not long bad long, but longer than doctors "let" women labor. I don't know how that affects recovery other than sheer exhaustion and needing to rest. Mine was 15 hours start to finish with pitocin and an epidural and I was exhausted. I figured since you had actually "labored" through the entire labor, you needed the time to recover. I wasn't trying to say that shows your choice was disagreeable, but in my mind the longer and more strenuous the labor is the longer recovery time needed. Kind of like the difference between running a 5K and a marathon. (Interestingly, running a marathon also takes more thought and preparation, just like a natural, at home labor.) I was in no way intending to be critical. Just trying to show that most people weren't judging your absense from church.

  18. I hate all the time limits everyone and all the experts give. Everyone is different and it puts so much pressure on us if we don't have the exact same experience as everyone else. I'm encountering this currently with my 2 year old who still wants to nurse. I practically have to be a closet nurser because everyone tells me that she's too old. She gets comfort from nursing and it isn't bothering me so why should anyone care? About going back to church quickly after baby, I personally like to take a big long break, not just for myself, but to keep my little baby from being exposed unnecessarily.

  19. I'm glad you posted this. I am sure it was very cathartic for you!

  20. I'm not sure of my 'stats' for kids 2 & 3, but I distinctly remember bleeding for at least 8 weeks with my first. I had him and was back at school one week later, so I knew exactly why it was going on for so long. I didn't really have the option of slowing down, so I didn't worry about it. It wasn't like I was gushing blood though -- it was very minor.

    After my second, I didn't have any obligations, but I didn't really take it easy. For example, we went to the park for FHE the day after he was born. I don't remember how long my bleeding lasted. After my 3rd baby I was back at work full time within 3 weeks and I don't remember how long my bleeding lasted that time either.

    I like the idea of taking it easy for several weeks, but on the other hand, I like the idea of just continuing life as usual. That's more of the approach I have taken. Who's to say what the future will hold though! A babymoon sounds romantic, but with 3 active boys, I think the reality would be just going on as usual. The only thing that kept me from church after my babies was my husband's concern about disease. I considered church to be far more relaxing than being at home, so I never thought not to go in order to rest.

  21. Hi...I wanted to drop in for a visit again...

    This post was so touching. I bled for a long time, too, but I didn't give it much thought, other than it was annoying. I didn't realize it could be so emotional. Though I am with Hobo Mama--I couldn't look down there for a long time. I just didn't want to know...

    It's been 11.5 months since my son was born, and I am having a very unusual period (I started my menstrual cycle the month after I stopped bleeding, which is so unfair!). But this one is unusual because it's so much lighter than all the other ones...now I am wondering what that means???

    Anyway, I wish that our culture could adopt a special postpartum period where the mother doesn't have to do anything except care for her baby and rest. We should be looking after each other.

    Thank you for sharing.

  22. So it's only my 2nd week postpartum now, and I am already feeling the pressure (self induced I'm sure) to be at church. I think the only thing holding me back is not wanting to expose my not-quite-3-week-old to who knows what germs (why can't ppl just stay home when they're sick?) and the fact that I knew how much I struggled to sit for 3 hours when I was pregnant and with a 2yo, let alone when BFing and with a 2yo.

    I feel like I am slacking. Yes, I have read half of this months Ensign and the RS lesson, but still... and I miss my sisters.

    I really appreciated this post, which is why I'm back checking it out again. And, yes, I am still bleeding.

  23. I did want to say I don't think I had PPD. I never wanted to hurt myself, my baby or anyone. I never felt nonchalantly about my baby. The time I had the most anxiety was about a month after the birth when another blogger posted about how I handled the birth and was sending negative traffic and I got lots of mean emails and comments that I didn't publish. That was really the hardest part- and I know during the months after that I was probably defensive and curt about the whole thing. After dealing with that judgmental blog post and its aftermath for over a month, I was feeling quite judged and undermined and I still had no answer as to why I was still bleeding. Had that not happened, it probably would have been an ideal entry into motherhood and I might not have felt so upset about the bleeding nor as defensive about being with people right away.

    It's just a really sensitive time.

  24. Hey TopHat, just reading this post again after your recent reference to it, and I meant to post after I had my baby... Postpartum healing is so variable I have been really unimpressed with some of the literature and resources available out there. Just for a reassuring "shout-out" I stopped bleeding between 9-10 weeks postpartum with my natural childbirth, and I KNOW all the placenta came out... I checked that puppy and it was whole :) I never saw fluctuations like what you described with increased activity and such, just constant, annoying bleeding. I became concerned too, wondering if I was normal or in some sort of medical danger... then I remembered that like every woman's pregnancy is different, my birth and healing would be different too and who was to tell me what to expect?? no one. Thank goodness our bodies are AMAZING things made to build and support babies... mine was just making good and sure I was ready for round 2 of baby-making (whenever that comes!). Interesting to hear how our new experiences make us hyper-aware of what is "normal" or expected. I just wanted to make sure I was healthy! But then I remembered your post and felt better... isn't that what mothering blogs are all about?! You are an inspiration to me, and you always have been. Thanks for all the good you do and represent for mothers! ;)


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