Help us raise awareness and reduce the stigma around maternal mental health and perinatal mood disorders. We need your help!
Climb Out of the Darkness® is the world’s largest event raising awareness of maternal mental illnesses like postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety & OCD, postpartum PTSD, postpartum psychosis, bipolar/peripartum onset, and pregnancy depression and anxiety.
Our local Team Oregon-Corvallis Climb Out of the Darkness will be gathering on June 17, 2017 from 9-11am at Walnut Barn, Martin Luther King, Jr. Park and will feature a kid-friendly, stroller-friendly, all ages and abilities "climb" up the hill behind Walnut Barn. You can find our event on Facebook here! Please share and invite your friends to come, too!
Climb Out of the Darkness® is held on or near the longest day of the year annually to help shine the most light on perinatal mood and anxiety disorders. The event features mothers and others across the globe joining together to climb mountains and hike trails to represent their symbolic rise out of the darkness of maternal mental illness and into the light of hope and recovery.
Please check out these videos from Climb Out of the Darkness from the past few years to get a feel for just how inspiring and powerful this event is.
Help us shine the light of hope with our words and our advocacy efforts so that our fellow mothers/parents will receive better information and better treatment, and their new families will get off to the healthy and strong start they deserve.
This year, 75% of the funds raised by our team will remain in our local community and will be used to fund a peer support group, led by PSI-trained facilitators.
Ways you can support and participate:
ALL DONATIONS GO TO POSTPARTUM SUPPORT INTERNATIONAL, a registered 501(c)3 non-profit organization.
To contribute in-kind donations or to become an official sponsor of our local Climb Out of the Darkness, contact Rachel Brinker at 541-714-5859 or email@example.com.
Together we can make a big difference in the lives of women and families. Will you join us?
Postpartum Support International is a registered 501(c)3 non-profit organization EIN #77-0196208
Contact PSI with questions at firstname.lastname@example.org
Postpartum Support International (PSI) 6706 SW 54th Avenue Portland OR 97219
Today we are honored to bring you a very personal story of motherhood from our very own Postpartum and Infant Care doula, Sophie Grow.
It is no secret among my friends and, honestly, lots of strangers I come across that I had a beyond normal postpartum recovery. Over the years I have seriously outed my story because it felt like such a burden to hold it in. I was so alone. You see, I had a beyond normal postpartum recovery and my baby was beyond normal.
At first, it was hard to walk into rooms with friends and acquaintances who knew my story and the story of my daughter. It felt like my heart leaping into my throat like that time in high school before I performed on stage. My head was pounding. I felt hot. I went into full body sweats. It was hard to control my facial reactions. The tension in my body increased while my trust in others wavered.
Could they still like me if they knew my story? My story is their nightmare.
At the very least I knew they would all pity me. Feel sorry for me. And you know what? They did. Sometimes it felt awful. Sometimes I would somehow end up consoling them. I wanted to be strong and look strong too. All too often I felt like a puddle though. Someone needing a shoulder or someone looking like they were trying too hard to look strong. Did they see right through me? Did they judge me? What do they say about me?
After a year of my postpartum struggles both externally and internally, I finally saw a professional counselor. I’ve seen her almost every week for nearly 5 years. With her I realized I had a gift. My worst fears robbed me of the present moments. I started to realize I had been missing out. I did all the personal work. The mental health work that so many talk about and yet have not been raised with the tools to process. I knew that for me and my baby I had to heal my heart.
You see. My story was a nasty c-word that most people have a very difficult time talking about, especially with children.
My baby was born with cancer.
This past Sunday was National Cancer Survivors Day. We celebrated with a 5k and attending a giant celebration. I asked my daughter what she remembered. She said, “Nothing. I was just a little baby.” That sentence pretty much sums up the gut punch it is to hear that an infant is diagnosed with cancer. I told her I was so glad cancer did not take her away from me. She said cheerfully, “I guess I just had a lot more living to do.”
Me too, girl. Me too.
So my baby had cancer. She sailed through surgery and was monitored closely at Doernbecher Children’s Hospital for years. She never needed chemotherapy or radiation. It was a miracle, but my invisible emotional illnesses really prevented me from celebrating for many years out of fear. I agonized over every diaper and cough. Could her cancer be back? This went on for years. It waxed and waned, never leaving.
I had support from a Benton County Health Nurse who helped me with all my breastfeeding issues that meant pumping every two hours and supplementally feeding A LOT of formula for a baby that seemed to be turning all she got into her pharmacy to fight cancer. I frequently get asked if breastmilk saved my baby since she did not need chemo or radiation. Interestingly, no one asks if formula saved her life, yet it was equally important to her growth.
And after all that pumping stress I felt so inadequate. A failure. I did not feel bonded. I couldn’t love my baby fully for fear of her dying soon. I could barely function. I had a short fuse. I had anxiety attacks, though I didn’t know that’s what they were until later. I was isolated by the whole experience as I didn’t take my baby anywhere she could get sick. I hopped on down to the vaccination station because my baby was that baby that herd immunity would protect. I ate organically and fed her organic. I micromanaged everything so I could feel in control. Perfectionism and OCD stole lots of joy from that first year, but I know that my controlling nature helped me cope.
My anxiety, depression, intrusive thoughts, and OCD started to develop. I had feelings of Post Traumatic Stress Anxiety Disorder. You name it- I had it. Yet, at my counseling appointments I was in a safe place. Never labeled and always support non-judgmentally. Friends hailed me as brave for seeking mental health support. Little did they know the lifeline it was to me. I dragged my broken pieces behind me into treatment and dragged them back home again. Over time I built myself up out of kindness for myself and all my suffering. It took time and compassion (ie not perfectionism) to build myself into a stronger better version of myself. One with an attitude of gratitude and a heart with a passionate purpose for serving others.
So why share my story if it was so painful? Why dredge it up? I’ve healed. Over the years I have shared my story so much that now it doesn’t haunt me. Instead of hide, I overshared. I was raw vulnerability with my story.
The results? I made a lot of people sad at first. They squirm. They apologize. They gasp. They nod. But you know what? They always listen. And I started to notice that. Maybe I knew how to talk about cancer and could teach those that listened. People just don’t know how to talk about cancer sometimes.
I would speak plainly, while wondering if they thought I was attention seeking. But I knew better. My story is an inspiring one. One that is a parent’s nightmare that turned into a miracle. Today I shared the story of my daughter’s cancer out of celebration void of fear. I have done some healing from my fears of loss, inadequacy, and shame. I know that every person who listened helped me get to this day of true peace in myself. I’m still a work in progress but I’m stronger now.
Now it’s my turn to listen and witness stories.
Now I am a Postpartum and Infant Care Doula.
I recognize families who have beyond normal circumstances, who fear judgment, fear making mistakes, fear the unknown, and fear being a failure.
I hold their broken pieces in my hands and cradle them with support and nourishment.
I validate to them that, “HELL YES! This is so unfair. It’s so damn unfair.”
I comfort them when they wonder if they are making the right choices.
I soothe the moments of loss and suffering.
I bring them to the present to celebrate the wins, no matter how small.
I feed their bodies and provide help so they can rest their weary bodies to heal.
As a doula, I don’t fix the problem for them. I know it’s not my job to erase their experience, I cannot erase time.
Because I suffered, I am stronger, wiser, more compassionate, less judgmental, more fun-loving, more forgiving, and I am much, much kinder to myself because I suffered so.
Without saying as much, I communicate to a client that they too, with their broken pieces, can be rebuilt into the strongest version of themselves than they could dream of.
I remind parents that they are strong when they feel their weakest.
I do my job with my whole heart because I know from experience that it takes time and self compassion to heal.
I often get asked what does a doula do? Well I can tell you this:
I bear witness to the suffering and the stories people hold inside.
And I never ever judge them.
Because I am them.
I am a safe place because I too have suffered.
And all I want my clients to know is…
I see you and you are cared for.
You are beautiful and beyond normal like me.
People who choose to do work around birth are passionate. They are compassionate. They have strong values and strongly held beliefs, and as much as we ("The Birth World") get portrayed as a cohesive unit, we don't all believe, subscribe to, or aspire to the same things or the same values. People in the birth world, just like every other profession, bring to their work the privileges, biases, and prejudices they hold. Birth work is not a vacuum away from society. Rather, it is deeply embedded within the fabric of our society. How we give birth matters, who we dismiss or include in "the birth world" matters, and who we uphold as leaders matters.
Recently, something Ina May Gaskin said in Texas (starting around 46:00 in the video) brings to light some long-standing issues of racism within birth work. Rather than rephrasing what has already been said perfectly, I will direct you to listen to voices that matter the most on this topic. Please listen. Trust Black Women.
On Ina May Gaskin and Getting Called Out -- Sam Olivia
Petition to ICAN and Texas Birth Network
Erricka Sharmayne's words: "Tasha Portley's question is between the 46:00-47:00 mark for anyone who doesn't want see the entire video. Her [Ina May Gaskin's] response was very covert. Essentially she said poor people that eat well and work hard have better outcomes, then she goes on to talk about the black midwife in Alabama who was religious and her client base was religious so they had less stress.
Issues with this are that a black Woman who is a college graduate, with health insurance, active, and eats well has worse outcomes than a white woman with a hs diploma. Also, the black midwife from Alabama was a black woman. When black people get Care from a caring black person they will experience more connectedness calm through their experience, reducing their stress.
Lastly, the current research shows that health disparities between races are increasing, and that racism in the health care system is plays a part in the outcomes."
*Update*: Ina May Gaskin has issued a statement of apology for her response to Tasha Portley's question.
"It has come to my attention that my answer to a Texas Conference Q & A question has caused a great deal of hurt, and was insulting and demeaning to many, especially Women, and People, of Color. While the intent behind my answer was anything but racist or demeaning, I understand that impact is more important than intent, and I personally offer my genuine and deepest apologies. I have spent a great many years of my career shining the spotlight on the massive racial disparities in maternity care, and my comment at the conference is not a true reflection of my belief, and what I know to be true - that racism, and its denial, are the true root of the egregious inequalities in maternal and infant healthcare for people of color. I'm still learning, and still growing as a person and as a professional, and I am grateful to the many Women of Color who have offered their support, and continued education. It will not fall on deaf ears. - Ina May"
The best way to listen and grow now is to heed the demands set forth by women who have been harmed by the continued racism within the birth community, which they most recently have outlined in the petition (link above).
Changes in the current health insurance marketplace are likely coming. Here's our summary of what is currently offered under the Affordable Care Act for pregnancy and the postpartum period, and what changes will likely occur under the new administration.
Breastfeeding benefits under ObamaCare:
1. Health insurance must cover the cost of a breast pump.
2. Breastfeeding support and counseling must be covered by health insurance before and after birth, and must be covered for the duration of breastfeeding.
3. The ACA amended the Fair Labor Standards Act to protect breastfeeding moms who need to pump at work. The ACA required that employers with at least 50 employees must allow the time and a space--"other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion by coworkers and the public"--for a mother to express breast milk for the first year after the birth of her baby. The law only applies to hourly wage employees, not salaried workers.
What might change:
1. Before the current healthcare laws, pregnancy could be classified as a pre-existing condition, and therefore maternity care and childbirth coverage could be denied by insurers. Currently, maternity care and childbirth must be covered by all insurance plans, even if the pregnancy began before coverage started.
2. The birth of a baby means that you are eligible for a special enrollment period, meaning you can enroll your newborn in a health insurance plan at any time and coverage will begin from the date of birth, rather than having to wait for the open enrollment period.
3. Medicaid expanded under the Affordable Care Act, making it accessible for a broader range of incomes and circumstances. Under Medicaid, a long list of prenatal and postpartum care is available without cost to the individual, including: birth control and family planning services, screening for gestational diabetes, HIV and sexually transmitted infection screening and counseling, interpersonal violence screening, and breastfeeding support.
4. The ACA put limits on out-of-pocket expenses, meaning that high-risk pregnancies and infants who need hospitalization and intensive care are less likely to create insurmountable cost burdens for families.
5. Lower- to moderate- income families are eligible for premium tax credits if they do not qualify for Medicaid or for coverage through an employer and they have coverage under a qualified health plan. Under the ACA, if a woman becomes pregnant and is therefore eligible for Medicaid coverage, she will not lose her premium tax credit.
What might change:
1. All qualified health plans must include family planning and contraceptive care at no cost to the individual.
What might change:
Other benefits specific to women that might change:
1. Well-woman check-ups, and preventative screenings for breast cancer and cervical cancer must be covered with no cost-sharing (no deductible, co-pay, etc.)
2. "Gender rating" (charging women higher premiums than men for their health insurance) is prohibited under the ACA.
3. Mental health benefits, including treatment of postpartum mood disorders such as postpartum depression and anxiety, postpartum OCD, and PTSD, are included in "essential health benefits" and must be covered by qualified health plans. Previous mental health issues cannot be grounds for denying coverage, and for most plans there can be no caps on the number of covered visits for psychotherapy.
Maternal health matters to us all. Let us hope that the majority of American women have access to quality affordable healthcare, including maternity care, childbirth coverage, routine preventative screenings, and mental healthcare in the future.
--written by Rachel Brinker
One of the wondrous--and sometimes terrifying--things about birth is that so much of it is completely out of our control.
Sometimes a birth goes exactly how the parents wish for it to go, and sometimes it doesn't. One of the most common struggles we hear as postpartum doulas is that of women who wanted a natural birth but ended up with interventions, medication, or a cesarean. Because they didn't have the "natural" birth they wanted, they feel like they failed somehow. Friends and family will often say, "Well, you and the baby are healthy, that's all that matters."
It's not all that matters. How you feel about your birth has huge impacts on your identity as a mother, and going through a traumatic birth experiences puts you at greater risk for postpartum mood issues.
This failure felt by some women who wanted a "natural" birth but missed out on that experience is something that sometimes gets dismissed and brushed aside in the homebirth and natural birth communities. In order to be seen as legitimate, the focus has been on the benefits of "physiologic" birth (birth without medication or interventions), on the beautiful potential of such a birth, and on the dangers associated with medical interventions. Too often, there has been a one-sided message from the natural birth community, and an us vs. them mentality. When there are just two teams, the Uses and the Thems, there are lots of postpartum women stuck somewhere in the middle--supporting the choice to have a natural birth or a homebirth, but having had some interventions in their own birth--not knowing why they feel like they've suddenly been kicked off the team.
The message that one kind of birth is better than another kind of birth is hurting women.
Many women are left feeling like they failed if their birth didn't match the "natural birth" ideal they were hoping for. This podcast episode from The Longest Shortest Time includes an interview on this very issue with the matriarch of the natural birth movement herself, Ina May Gaskin.
Ina says, "You're not alone if you experienced a lot of pain and you felt like you failed. I mean, there's so many women that feel that way. Maybe it was because of expectations that were on the unrealistic side...That it [a natural birth] would be possible because you did everything right, everything the book told you, and then you still had pain, and you feel like you weren't correctly advised, you know, you were misled somehow."
It impacts women's postpartum experience when they receive the message that if a certain outcome--like an induction, a homebirth transfer, cesarean, use of an epidural, a perineal tear, interventions for your baby, etc.--happens, then they have somehow failed at birth. Ina May herself admits that the messaging of the natural birth community may be contributing to this common feeling of failure. We hope this message shifts and opens up space for ALL women to celebrate their birth experience rather than judge it as a good/natural birth or a failed/medical birth.
No matter what happens during your pregnancy, labor, and postpartum period, here's the bottom line:
Birth is a process, something you move through, largely without control, not something you attain. Birth is not something that you can fail. Your birth was its own process, unique to you and your circumstances.
You were strong. You were amazing. You had reasons for making the decisions you did.
If you hoped for a birth free from all interventions but ended up with, say, an epidural and a cesarean birth, it's ok to feel conflicting emotions about that. It's ok to be disappointed, it's ok to ask questions and process your feelings about what happened. You may also feel relieved, overjoyed, and frankly just tired and glad it's over. All of it is ok and valid.
You were brave. You were beautiful. You were powerful.
You gave birth!
--Written by Rachael Sudhalter
I talked it over with my husband, and we took the leap...we did it. Our first one! There were bumps and bruises, things didn't always go as planned. We went along, making it up as we went, consulting those who had gone before us. It seemed to make our life more seamless, Our new addition fit in perfectly.
Then we had the talk--should we have a second one? Would it work? Could we handle it? We talked it over again with our son. Our family and friends encouraged us and supported us along the way. It would be double the pressure, double the noise, double the work. Could a second one blend into our already busy family? Would it simplify things or make it harder?
We decided. Yes, we want another one.
Our second one came. We now had two! Twice the pressure! Twice the fun! I don't know how we lived so long with just one.
One was great, two was FANTASTIC!
It's been two months now, and I can't imagine my life without them. They fit so nicely in our family.
My husband, son, and I are in love!
Yes, we are the proud owners of TWO Instant Pots.
If you haven't heard of them, check them out. It makes meal preparation with a family SO much easier. Hardboiled eggs in 12 min total. Frozen chicken on your plate in an hour. Rice, 15 min. I heard you can do cheesecake in it, too.
And the BEST part is you don't have to stand there and watch the stove. It is a pressure cooker and crockpot all in one. Dump in ingredients, turn on the right setting, and walk away.
Family life is busy and there is not always time to cook a wholesome meal. The Instant Pot has made it more feasible for my family to eat nutritiously. Having a baby can create some big changes in the way you plan and prepare your meals. As your postpartum doula, I can show you many tips and tricks if you are floundering with meal planning. And if you are an Instant Pot owner, I'll make my favorite recipe for you!
(There are no affiliate links in this post--I just love the Instant Pot!)
Are you a birth professional of excellence?
We are now accepting Letters of Intent to join our team in 2017.
Proud Mama Support Services is growing into a full-service doula agency! We are looking for compassionate and professional birth doulas, postpartum doulas, newborn care specialists, lactation professionals, childbirth and parenting educators, and placenta services specialists to join the Proud Mama Support Services team. We are committed to providing communities in the Willamette Valley with top-quality perinatal support, and elevating the role of doulas and other birth support professionals in the eyes of the public, medical professionals, and doulas themselves. We are looking for the right doulas and birth support professionals who share this vision to join our team.
What we offer birth services professionals:
What we are looking for:
Download the Call for Letters of Intent below for complete details of how to apply.
The deadline to apply is February 1, 2017. Offers will be made by February 20, 2017. Questions can be directed to email@example.com
Sacrifice. Disappointment. Joy. Excitement. Frustration. Despair. Loneliness. Humor. Motherhood is not all cuddles and giggles. Read on for some refreshing truth bombs about how to survive life with a baby.
The following is written by Emily Grow, one of our clients, and is shared with permission. Thanks, Emily, for sharing your truth and making space for other moms to speak their truth about motherhood!
When I found out I was pregnant I had such a surge of mixed emotions.
I was almost done with my yoga teacher training. I was in the best physical fitness I have ever been in. I had also just been laid off from my job. I saw that as a sign I was going to be focusing on my goals and accomplishments. While it was painful to move on from my job because I was going to miss the family I'd become a part of so much, I was embracing my new focus. My redirected pursuits seemed to come to a crashing halt when I saw the words "pregnant 2-3 weeks" on the clear blue test. In that moment my heart jumped and dropped all at once. After years of sacrificing my dreams to focus on caring for my son, I was stepping into a new world of my own, only to once again embrace the all consuming experience of bringing new life into this world.
My focus had to shift to not just something else, but someone else. It's the most humbling and selfless act of my life, to Mother children. I packed away my favorite skinniest me clothes and watched my body expand for 10 months. As someone who experiences hard pregnancies, it was hard not to be bitter. It was so necessary to go through those changes, though. It was like Watching my hard work slough away with every pound I gained turned my focus inward to the growing life inside of me. My focus had to change from me to someone else.
All of this to say, I've learned a lot in seven short years of mothering.
1. You are going to change. Your feelings are going to change, your
mind is going to change, and the way you experience life is going to change. Embrace your authentic self, and the changes will feel more natural.
2. Apologies are unnecessary, but are a kind gesture. As a parent to a new person, you are not entitled, inclined or tempted to, you are Obligated to focus first on your child, then those around you. Your child is helpless and you are their lifeline. Care for them before others without guilt and with pride.
3. Love yourself like a newborn. Care tenderly for yourself and allow others to do the same for you. You are vulnerable and compromised and need nurturing to nurture. Be kind and loving to yourself in all areas of your life, not only for your sake but the sake of your new little baby.
4. Learn to recognize when you are lonely and do something about it. Call a friend or a family member. Meet someone for a walk or coffee. Invite someone over. Do anything you can to reach out to others. Lonely parents are sad parents. Growing children need to learn what it takes to be happy from you. So show them!
5. Don't make it any harder than it has to be, and don't judge yourself for giving yourself a break.
6. There's lots of books with lots of parenting advice and that's nice, but even Baskin Robbins has 31 flavors. Be a coldstone and mix in what works for you and leave out what doesn't.
7. Be honest. Don't lie when people ask if you are doing okay and you are not. Just come out and say "well, Betty, if I can be frank, I'm fuckin falling apart over here." It doesn't do us or other people any favors if we hold back the truth about our state of mind and body.
8. Know that some people, no matter what it's about, are going to judge the shit out of you. It's not your problem. It's their problem. They can keep it, so just mind your own business and don't worry about what they think. Because it's none of your business anyways.
9. It's okay if you eat the same meal 3 times in one day. Whatever. Just roll with it. Maybe there will be variety tomorrow. At least you have something to look forward to.
10. Don't stress the small stuff. It will all pan out to pure gold one day. And you'll be back in your skinny girl jeans before you know it.
So learn to love your fat ass and be happy in your skin. It's beautiful and life giving and you are a badass because raising babies is fucking hard work.
Which of these truth bombs is your favorite?
Now we want to hear from you!
Share with us your own truth bombs about motherhood by using the hashtag #localmomtruthbomb and tag us on social media! FB: @proudmamaservices IG: @proudmamasupportservices
July was a record-breaking month all over the world. The hottest month EVER, actually. Here in the Willamette Valley, we're bracing for high temperatures over the next few days.
How do you keep your baby happy and safe when it's so hot? Do they need to drink water, in addition to milk, to stay hydrated?
The short answer is no. Infants younger than six months of age do not need any additional water, even when it's in the 100s outside. In most cases (unless otherwise directed by your healthcare provider) this is true regardless of whether your baby is fed formula or breast milk. In fact, giving infants water can cause more harm than good, especially in the first month of life.
Check out this helpful article from KellyMom.com for more information.
Breastfeeding parents, however, should remember to drink plenty of water, especially in hot weather. Breast milk is 88% water, so keep a water bottle with you always, and take frequent sips.
Here are some more helpful tips for how to thrive in hot weather with young babies:
Try to stay indoors in a cool place, especially during the hottest time of the day between 10am and 2pm. Most babies nap during this time, anyway, so save outings for a cooler time of day. Take it easy, and enjoy a popsicle. If your baby is older than six months, they can have a taste, too. For babies younger than six months who are interested in food and love putting things in their mouth, you can make breast milk or formula popsicles for them. Of course, only offer them this frozen treat with direct supervision, and prepare to have a sticky but happy baby!
Follow us on social media for more tips!
--by Rachel Brinker
I am so sorry this happened to you.
I am so sorry you have to deal with this.
Fourth degree tears are rare, but I am in this club with you. In 2013 I birthed a ten-pound baby and ended up with a deep fourth degree tear. I also lost a lot of blood and blacked out. I had a blood transfusion and didn't get to hold my baby until seven hours after the birth. It was scary.
But I'm ok now.
Recovering from a fourth degree tear is not fun, but it's different for every person. May your recovery be speedy and complete. May you have the support you need so that you are able to rest fully in the first weeks postpartum and allow your body the space and time to do the healing it needs to.
In hopes that you will be comforted in knowing that there are other women out there who have gone through this, I offer some observations from my own experience:
It WILL NOT feel like this forever, but you really do need to rest and let yourself heal. The pelvic floor is so important for your continued lifelong health and wellbeing--don't overdo it right now. There will be time to "get back to normal." Really limiting your movement and activity is the right thing to do for now.
Bearing weight with a compromised pelvic floor is not a good idea. Try to limit this as much as possible for the first forty days or so. I made the mistake of being too active too early (going to the Farmer's Market at three weeks postpartum and walking around for more than an hour, and carrying my baby in his car seat just two weeks postpartum--too much weight! I also felt a compulsion to vacuum sometime in those first few weeks--even that was too much.) I would think that I could do something, but then it only took a few minutes for painful pressure to build up, my body's cue to back off from doing so much.
My doctor advised me to hold off from doing Kegels for six weeks. They also mentioned to not sit cross legged for a few weeks. But there are some simple and gentle movements that will be really helpful for your core/pelvic floor stability and reconnecting with your body "down there." Sliding one heel as a time away from you while you are in bed while focusing on keeping your pelvis stable is a great place to start. Go slow.
There are people who specialize in pelvic floor physical therapy, which can greatly improve your healing and your pelvic floor health. If I were going to recommend just one thing to you, it would be to get a referral to a pelvic floor or women's health physical therapist and begin seeing them as soon as your provider recommends (usually six weeks postpartum). You may also be at an increased risk for developing pelvic organ prolapse issues, so if you are dealing with any kind of incontinence or pelvic pain/pressure after six to twelve weeks, please seek help. You do not need to suffer with pelvic pain.
Itching will be a normal part of healing and the stitches dissolving. Bothersome, but normal.
Did you have a lot of blood loss from the birth? If you feel like it might be a factor for you, ask your doctor about having your iron levels checked, whether or not you had a blood transfusion. Low iron levels can contribute to fatigue, slows your body's ability to heal, and leaves you with less reserves, mentally and physically. You have a lot of healing to do, plus you have a little baby to take care of, so make sure your healthcare provider is looking carefully at any nutritional deficiencies you might have.
The first poop. It sucks. You will get through it and it will get better. Make sure that your doctor/provider talked to you about whether or not taking stool softeners are right for you. If you have to take iron supplements, make sure you maintain your stool softener use. and ask your provider if you need to increase your dose when taking iron, because iron can contribute to constipation and harder stools--something you definitely want to avoid.
Because you have such a major injury to deal with on top of everything else that comes with new motherhood and childbirth recovery, doing everything you can to care for your mental health is a good idea. Anything that can reduce inflammation in your body will also help with both mental health and healing your injury. Mood issues don't just end at feeling "depressed" after birth. There are many other mental health struggles that new moms commonly deal with, and are treatable. Having a traumatic experience as part of your birth experience can increase your risk for mental health issues. These are conditions just like breaking your arm, in that it is not your fault, it has nothing to do with you being a good mom/good person, and you deserve proper medical treatment. Check in with your provider if you are having trouble sleeping, eating, feeling really irritable, or having scary or intrusive thoughts.
And check out these great online resources:
New Mom Mental Health Checklist
Postpartum Progress International
Postpartum Support International
Have you found a comfortable nursing/feeding position? I found a side-lying position to be the most comfortable, and when sitting up, I found I needed to sit on the side of my hips with me legs curled up under one side as it was too much pressure to sit directly on my perineum. Nursing takes up a lot of hours, and just the act of sitting puts a lot of pressure your injury. Prop yourself and the baby in whatever position is most comfortable for you. Ask for help with this. Gentle stretching of your shoulders and upper spine can help ease the tension you'll likely develop from "holding" yourself up away from your perineum when you're sitting and nursing. Another thing that will help ease the pressure is trying to breathe with your ribcage as much as possible, rather than doing big belly breaths (belly breathing pulls your diaphragm way down into your abdominal cavity and puts extra pressure on your perineum. Side stretches can help get more space between each rib-- this will make breathing easier. Think about inhaling into your middle back and into your side-ribs, rather than into your belly.
Again, I am so sorry to hear that this happened to you. Every woman's experience is different, but I do understand some of what you are going through. If your experiences from birth feel traumatic, find someone you can talk to about it, either in person or online. There are so many things about postpartum recovery that our culture doesn't talk about, but I firmly believe that talking and sharing our experiences is powerful and healing. Don't hesitate to reach out. :)
All the best,