After an explosive birth, I found relief in the weirdest place

Overwhelmed doesn’t begin to describe how I felt during those first few weeks as a new mom. My iPhone’s autocorrect was oddly comforting.

Photo: Lynn Vanasse

In the weeks after my son exploded out of me like a cannonball, it was truly the little things that kept me going: a steaming cup of coffee, a hot shower, the fact that my iPhone autocorrected “tear” to “twat” every single time I typed it. And I typed it a lot given that I had a third-degree tear and friends who wanted to know about the birth.

“Labour went quickly, but I have a pretty impressive twat.”

I’d been warned that the first few weeks postpartum are overwhelming, terrifying and exhausting. Maybe it was the fact that my son was born one month early, after a fast induction because my water broke out of nowhere and the doctors wanted him out. (Afterwards, I kept muttering “One minute, I was having a nap; the next minute, I was having a baby.”). Or maybe it was the fact that I had torn from end to end and felt like my vagina had self-immolated in protest. But whatever the cause, I was a hot mess. Overwhelmed doesn’t begin to describe how I felt during those first few weeks as a new mom.

“The doctor told me I have a third-degree twat!”

Most nights, I held my son from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. because I was afraid to let him sleep anywhere but my arms. I cried, gulped down glasses of water and was constantly drenched with sweat as my hormones crashed.

In an attempt to soothe the roaring fire in my perineum, I kept my freezer stocked with aloe-dipped menstrual pads called “pad-sicles.” I was worried that my husband might accidentally eat one in a moment of sleep-deprived psychosis. (You’ll find recipes for pad-sicles on Pinterest if you search under “Worst nightmare realized.”)

During those endless nights spent holding my son, willing myself to stay awake and steeping in my own sweat, breast milk and urine (bladder control wasn’t my strong suit), I’d message my friends to tell them my birth story. In hindsight, I’m not even sure if they asked about my labour or if I was just spamming them with unsolicited, graphic texts.

“I’m doing OK, but my twat really hurts.”

It was always at my breaking point that my iPhone came through for me with a much-needed laugh. Seeing what I’d just typed never failed to make me smile in otherwise-bleak moments. Like at 4 a.m., when I would nurse my son with one arm and try to reach for the cookie I’d left out for myself with the other arm, I’d accidentally knock my snack to the floor and watch helplessly as my bastard cat ran over and licked it with the thoroughness of a mother cleaning its young. Or at 1 a.m., when I’d insist that my husband get some sleep despite his protests about leaving me. He would head for the stairs and give me one last, pleading look and I’d assure him that “I was fine.” Then the bedroom door would click shut and I’d burst into tears, thinking “Oh my God, he abandoned me again” and picturing what life would be like as a single mother.

Why “twat” was my phone’s autocorrect for “tear” is still a mystery to me. Had I really typed “twat” so many times in the past that my phone made this assumption? I’m not even British!

“I don’t think my twat is healing very well.”

When I was in the throes of labour, I remember thinking that it wasn’t that big of a deal. Later, I’d discover that pesky beeping sound was me, unknowingly increasing my epidural dose as the button the anaesthetist had given me lay wedged somewhere under my left flank.

I was only worried that my eyeballs might burst from the pressure of pushing, blissfully unaware that it was my perineum that was literally bursting at the seams. “I can’t tell my friends with kids about this,” I thought after delivering my baby just a few hours after being induced. “They’ll hate me.”

Soon I was holding my newborn for the first time, his warm body wriggling on my chest as I stroked his back. He looked at me warily through squinted eyes and I smiled.

My son. My beautiful son.

That’s when the doctor looked up from where he was, still wrist deep in my lady parts, shook his head solemnly and said, “I’m really sorry this happened to you.”

“I thought I had rocked labour. Turns out, I had a massive twat.”

Read more:
Your postpartum body—what to expect
What causes preterm labour?
Are women pushing too hard, and too soon, during labour?

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