Use Your Words: I Made a Kid. He's Pretty Cool, but 'Everything Hurts, and I'm Dying' | Kids VT | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Use Your Words: I Made a Kid. He's Pretty Cool, but 'Everything Hurts, and I'm Dying'

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Corey Barrows and her newborn son - DEREK BARROWS
  • Derek Barrows
  • Corey Barrows and her newborn son

When my son was born, he was what the doctor called "sunny-side up:" He came out headfirst, but instead of facing my rear, he was facing my front. It's less common for babies to emerge this way, and it made for a complicated delivery. Because of the angle and size of his head, my little guy got stuck.

After I'd spent two hours pushing, his heart rate started to drop, so my doctor decided to move him along by using a vacuum. I was so focused on labor that I wasn't watching what was going on down there.

"Open your eyes; the baby is coming out," she said. When I did, I saw her pulling my son out of me with the vacuum cup attached to his head.

Fortunately, he emerged unscathed. Sadly, I can't say the same about my vagina.

After the delivery, I was so exhausted and out of it that I had no idea what was going on or who was talking to me. I had visits from the anesthesia department, pediatrics, my doctor and various nurses. I'm pretty sure a couple nursing students from the University of Vermont looked at my downstairs situation. Disclaimer: They did ask if it was OK first, and I said yes. Because at that point, I felt like my body had been donated to science and all of Chittenden County had taken a good look — except me.

When I finally had enough strength to get up, I waddled to the hospital bathroom and looked at myself in the mirror. I laughed in disbelief and called to my husband: "Derek, get in here — you have to see this!"

My perineum was so swollen that it looked like I had a $5 foot-long sub hanging between my thighs. My entire right buttock was black and blue. I had stitches from a second-degree tear and — to top it off — four hemorrhoids. Add a dash of crazy hormones and a newborn into the mix, and you've got a 100 percent certified hot mess.

Finally seeing the full picture helped me piece together everything in my mind. I now understood why it was so painful to sit down, why I could barely walk and why sudden movements caused a sharp, stinging sensation. I was also terrified to poop. From that moment on, I asked the nurses for "Corey Cocktails," an exotic blend of cran-apple juice and stool softener served in a sippy cup with a straw: 10 out of 10 would recommend.

I'm not sure why I was so surprised by what delivering a baby did to my body. It makes a lot of sense when you break it down. I had an 8-pound, 22-inch-long human with a huge head ramming against my insides for two hours before he was Hoovered out. Of course that's going to do some damage. I guess I was so focused on labor and the baby that I never took the time to think about the aftermath.

As the first of my friends to have a child, I didn't have anyone to compare notes with or warn me about the "after times," as I have dubbed them. Prior to delivery, everyone talked about how my body would change during pregnancy, how painful delivery would be and how sleep-deprived I would feel once the baby arrived.

It seemed that everyone just skipped over the healing part. Maybe they didn't want to scare me? Or could it be that everyone's delivery is totally unique and all of the above didn't happen to them?

After two days at the hospital, we were allowed to go home. It felt good to be back in my own space, but my pain level made it really hard to move around, let alone care for our new baby.

Thankfully, my husband took care of everything those first three weeks as I did my best to sit still. As a very active person, I found this to be an incredibly hard task. It forced me to sit alone with my thoughts, which intensified my anxiety.

I felt trapped in the house, disconnected from my body and my normal routines. And though I loved my son, I didn't feel a strong connection to him at first, which made me feel like a bad mom. I became jealous and resentful that my husband got to go grocery shopping, see a friend or take a walk with our dog on his "off-duty time," while I spent mine taking Epsom salt baths or lying down with an ice pack in my pants.

My feelings were valid but unfair. Derek was doing everything. He deserved a break, too. It just felt like every day was Groundhog Day.

Luckily, things got better.

Three weeks postpartum is when I started to feel "normal." I could walk without pain, I wasn't sweating profusely at night and I was able to interact with my baby in ways that I hadn't previously. And once I started getting to know him, our bond started to strengthen.

If you met a stranger on the street, would you expect to hit it off right away? Or would it take time for your relationship to develop? When I've asked other moms about this, most say, "Oh yeah, I didn't feel an instant connection right away." Cool! Why don't parents say this out loud? Why do people have a baby and then post a photo online and say, "Happiest day of my life" or "I've never known a love like this"?

Why doesn't anyone say, I made a kid. He's pretty cool. But "everything hurts, and I'm dying," as Leslie Knope from "Parks and Recreation," who happens to be my television twin, would say? I think it's because it feels like TMI or that you're complaining. In fact, I thought both of those things as I wrote this essay. Do people really want to know about this? They might not, but at least if they read it, they'll know what to expect and know they're not alone.

And even though those first three weeks were rough, I would 100 percent do it again. Watching a baby that I created grow and learn is unbelievably rewarding and fills me with so much joy and love — now that I've recovered enough to feel it. 

Fixing your pelvic floor

For a few weeks after I had my baby, whenever I stood up or walked for an extended period of time, I would feel a very intense downward pressure. It was so painful that I would need to run upstairs and lie down with an ice pack. I later learned from my physical therapist that this pressure is called "prolapse," and it has to do with my pelvic floor, aka the muscles between my tailbone and pubic bone, that I'd strengthened by doing Kegel exercises.

During pregnancy, my pelvic floor muscles weakened from the weight of my babe. These muscles keep organs like your bladder, uterus and vagina where they're supposed to be anatomically. When the muscles weaken, the organs can shift. In my case, my bladder is now resting on top of my vagina. Isn't that fun? That's why I felt heaviness — there's an organ where it shouldn't be. Naughty!

I've been going to see a pelvic floor physical therapist to help rebuild these muscles. My pain level has definitely decreased, but certain movements and activities make it flare up. I have to constantly listen to my body and make adjustments. If my best friend, who's a labor and delivery nurse, hadn't told me to go see a physical therapist after delivery, I wouldn't have learned any of the above. I'm so glad I did.

This article was originally published in Seven Days' monthly parenting magazine, Kids VT.