Let me start by saying: Do not read this if you want to continue thinking you’ll pop that baby out, be sore for a couple of days, and then magically return to your glorious self cartwheeling through Target in your braless sports tank & cute shorts.
While introducing your bundle of joy to the world IS glorious – the things the doctors and friends “forget” to tell you during pregnancy about what to expect AFTER expecting is a bit of a shocker. So, in my attempt to help other expectant mothers I have collected some memories from fellow mamas on those postpartum surprises so that YOU know that you are NOT weird, crazy, an emotional wreck (well maybe, but its normal), or a medical anomaly. Turns out… this stuff happens to 99% of mothers – but nobody talks about it until you get the balls to ask.
Keep in mind, you may not experience all of these things. But, you may. So … here goes!
The bleeding. We’re starting here. Get your granniest-panties and get comfortable in them. Not only do your insides appear to just pour out of your body when you get up to use the bathroom for the first time but it just doesn’t seem to stop. You’re going to be wearing some sweet heavy-flow maxi pads for a few weeks so – hit up Target or Walmart and get some cozy undies to hold that thing in place. (No, you’re not going to want to be putting any tampons up there. I’m pretty sure I laughed when my doctor told me that. It was 1,000% the LAST THING ON EARTH that I felt like doing). You’re likely going to wonder if you need to call your doctor about this at times… it’s likely its normal. But, go ahead and call anyway if you need to be reminded. Just know… it DOES stop eventually. And if you’re breastfeeding, you likely don’t need to worry about bleeding again for a long time! #silverlining
Hemorrhoids. There’s nothing much to say here. Just know…. people don’t talk about it but… they had them too. Get some prescription foam from your doctor and you’ll no longer laugh when people joke about hemorrhoids. It’s all too real now.
Breastfeeding. This shit is HARD (And multifaceted for the purpose of this segment) Everyone’s like “oohhh it’s so wonderful for the baby” (which it is) but nobody says “It’s wonderful for the baby but its one of the hardest things you’ll ever do in your life”… because apparently that would be too honest.
At the hospital, it’s fairly likely that your breast milk won’t come in by the time you leave the hospital. So, you’ll worry that your new baby isn’t getting enough food. The nurses will tell you he/she is – but you won’t believe them. And you’ll cry. They won’t want to give you formula because they know best, and you’ll cry because you know best. And the baby will cry. And everyone is crying, except the nurses. And you’ll worry that you look like a lunatic. But you’re not. It’s normal. And unfortunately, sore, cracked, and bleeding nipples are normal. But the lactation specialists will likely discourage you from using a nipple shield. In my opinion – use them anyway (Ps. Did I mention I am not a licensed professional? Just a mom, sharing my experience).
Then you’ll go home and your milk will come in, hooray! But the pain of breastfeeding doesn’t go away for weeks. So you’ll cringe every time the baby is hungry. And you’ll probably cry… a lot. You’ll use cold patches & nipple cream and despite your best efforts to soothe, it will still hurt. But you’ll keep going because its good for the baby, and the pride and connection to your new bundle will keep you going as long as you can. And if thats 1 week, or 1 year – that’s O-KAY. You’ll probably encounter some judgment if you decide to stop breastfeeding. Just do you. Everything WILL be ok.
Do yourself a favor. If you’re breastfeeding, stock up on cloth nursing pads. If you’re one of those lucky ladies that don’t leak – I envy you. Also, consider getting something called “lacti-cups” or something similar. Here’s what I know – you’ll feed on one side & equally expel as much milk from the other side. Unless you have twins, this milk is going one of two places – in your bra or into a nursing cup. So if its into your bra, you better have a nursing pad in there and a fresh one ready to swap out. And guess what – you don’t need to be feeding to leak. Your wardrobe will be immediately downsized to include only clothes that if you should leak in public, it won’t be completely obvious (i.e. dark colors, multi layers, back up shirts in your car). Just remember “this too shall pass”.
Night-sweats – Even if your baby is born in the dead of winter – you will eventually start waking up in the middle of the night SOAKING wet – and it isn’t just because you are sleeping in a puddle of breast milk. No matter what you wear or how many fans are going, you’ll wake up looking like you just completed a 45 minute cardio session. #hormonesarecrazy So, you’ll either wash your sheets constantly or start sleeping on a towel. So yes, your crazy night sweats are also normal, and extremely annoying considering you’ll remember to shower once every 48 hours.
The enemy in your bed. Yea, your spouse. The one who gets to sleep through the night because they don’t hear the baby or the monitor (because its next to you) – or the one who doesn’t have lactating nipples to feed the baby so they are rendered useless at midnight, 1am, 3am, 3:30, and so on. I’m going to go out and say that its pretty normal to resent your husband during the first few months of motherhood. That baby has become a 5th limb to your body and everything you do depends on the baby’s needs. But your husband (as helpful as he is) will still seem to get the good end of the deal here. And when they do help, it’s likely you’ll feel as though you can do it better. So the job becomes yours again, unintentionally. Do yourself a favor, and let go of the CONTROL FREAK inside of you. It will free up that 3 minute diaper change and maybe you can go wash your face for once. But you will get through it, and it will get easier. Just breathe & be grateful each day for your partner’s emotional support. You’ll need it!
I suppose this is a good spot to talk about intercourse. Your partner will be ready the day after the baby arrives (surprise!) You on the other hand will get the approval from your doctor about 6 weeks postpartum, but newsflash; your body and your mind will likely not be ready. (Are you really surprised here?!) Only you can understand what it’s like to have significant trauma to your lady parts & leaky boobs. So, no excuses ladies! This time, there’s a pretty damn good reason for the comfy pajamas. Own it.
The CRYING. Hormones take over your body and you’re going to cry more than you have cried in your entire life. You’ll cry because you’re exhausted, you’ll cry because your baby is screaming, you’ll cry because you don’t know how to “fix it”, you’ll cry out of uncertainty, you’ll cry because you want a margarita (or 3) but you’re breastfeeding, you’ll cry because someone says hello to you the wrong way, you’ll cry when your family asks how you’re doing. Then, you’ll eventually laugh when you cry because you realize theres no reason to be crying. So plop the tissue boxes around the house and just accept that you’re an emotional mess – and so is every other new mother. They just don’t talk about it. (Important to note: Postpartum depression is another story and incredibly serious. If you’re feeling depressed & lonely it’s important to talk to your doctor about it)
Kegels. Say goodbye to your pelvic floor muscles for a while. When my doctor checked the strength of these muscles after delivery I think it took everything inside of her not to laugh. They were non-existent. And you know what these muscles are good for? Holding in PEE. So, remember when you used to go to a football game or a country concert and wait until the very last minute to go wait in line. Yea, not-no-mo’. You better be proactive here because when you’ve gotta go – you’ve gotta go NOW and theres no promise of holding that in. And when you sneeze really hard or laugh uncontrollably – don’t be surprised if you are running to the bathroom to make sure you don’t have a wet spot on your pants. #Honestyisthebestpolicy
According to my OB – it would take over 200+ kegels per day to start strengthening those muscles again. So, you best believe I’m doing them as I write this blog.
And finally – but certainly not all inclusive of everything you never knew about life after baby…
MOMBRAIN. Did you know that when you baby was developing he/she actually TOOK a chunk of your brain to form his/her own? Yea, the part that helps you remember words, where you put things, what you did the previous day, the sentence you were just in the middle of… that part. It was apparently given to the baby. (If you’re not in tune to sarcasm: No, I am not serious). But you’re going to find that some of the simplest things become impossible to make sense of – and you’re going to want to write EVERYTHING down to compensate for your new-mom memory loss. Luckily for us “mom-brain” is a pretty socially acceptable & universally understood excuse for the behavior.
And you know what’s crazy. We survive it all. Not only do we survive it, but many go on to do it again, and again, and again! Because it’s true – although ALL of these things are included in the unpleasantries after childbirth (and I didn’t even discuss cesarean birth) they only last a few weeks, or a few months, or you begin to compensate for them and forget that they were ever really a big issue. And that beautiful baby you have – makes everything just a little easier each day. So perhaps the reason nobody tells us about these things is because they truly forget. They forget about the tough stuff – because in the grand scheme of it all, it was a fleeting moment … and one worth every second of it.
I love connecting with and hearing from new moms, so be sure to leave a comment here to share your experiences! I’m sure there are plenty more “tips” from the mamas out there who have this experience fresh in their minds.
Thanks for joining the conversation – keep rockin’ strong-mamas! You’re all superheroes <3
Annalisa Hurley is the author of this article. She is not a licensed medical professional for postpartum care or recovery but instead a relatively new mother sharing her experiences. Any medical questions should be directed to the reader’s OB-GYN for consultation.