Recovering after your baby's birth - if you're in pain, this might just help!
April 4, 2014
TMI Warning: This post talks about stitches, tears, soreness, perineums (perinea? - that sounds like a shrub...) and bums!
Given the absurd amount of paraphernalia you find yourself carting around along with your tiny new baby, it would seem unlikely that many people would want to add a large, plastic covered inflatable square to the list. However, after the birth of my first son, Noah, this is exactly what I did, taking my trusty Valley Cushion around the house, out to see friends, in the car and even as far as New Orleans… but why?
For many women, the first days following the birth involve not only looking after a brand new baby but also dealing with stitches from tears or episiotomy, and/or piles, both of which can be extremely uncomfortable. I escaped all of the above and was feeling very pleased with myself when, a few days into breastfeeding, constipation contributed to an anal fissure. Feeding a baby requires a lot of sitting down and this was absolute agony. Driving for any length of time was difficult, as the pain of sitting was interfering with my concentration (which was already dodgy due to sleep deprivation). I found that the discomfort I was experiencing was becoming the main feature of my day, and I wasn’t able to enjoy time with Noah. Breastfeeding, which I was finding harder than I had expected anyway, was becoming a dreaded event as I would have to sit down for half an hour or more. Luckily, when my mum saw me in tears during a feed, bouncing from cheek to cheek in an effort to reduce the pain, she suggested I try a Valley Cushion.
My Valley Cushion was reminiscent of a large, navy blue bottom, with two inflatable ‘cheeks’ and a cleavage (the eponymous valley) down the middle. It was inflated with a small bulb-style pump, like a blood pressure gauge, and the level of inflation, and hence the firmness, could be altered for each side independently. It came with a breathable disposable cover for hygiene purposes and I was relieved to discover that this was quite soft and didn’t rustle when sat upon. Although it doesn’t completely stop the discomfort, it goes a long way towards relieving it and makes it much easier to concentrate on enjoying your baby. It made long car journeys bearable again – important with in-laws in Newcastle – and I wouldn’t have contemplated a transatlantic flight without it. From experience I can say that it works brilliantly for bottom problems but it’s designed to relieve pressure on the whole of the perineum and therefore it’s also helpful to those dealing with stitches, tears or just general soreness post-birth.
Valley Cushions are available for hire from a network of volunteer agents recruited through NCT (phone the helpline to find your nearest person) – locally it's me, because I found it was such a help I wanted to be sure other people could access them, and most agents do it because they believe it's something that can make a huge difference to those early postnatal days. You can hire them for a few days or weeks until your bits begin to feel like your own again! They cost £15 for 5 days, and £2 a day thereafter and discounts are available to families on low incomes. I’m a firm believer that anything that makes life a bit easier during those strange few weeks after the arrival of a baby is worth doing: for me, getting hold of a Valley Cushion was definitely one of those things.