The big event is finally over and you are looking in the mirror at your no longer pregnant/still look pregnant body, bags under your eyes the size of your weekender, messy top knot, salty and sticky due to night sweats, wearing giant mesh underwear containing an offensively large pad (this, my friends, is why they are called “maxi” pads) which is hiding the horror show of what used to be your vagina and you finally realize you didn’t have a clue about postpartum.
Not a clue.
Chances are you read the books on what to expect when expecting. You knew exactly what size fruit your baby was each week, what foods and activities to avoid and you did your kegels religiously.
You bought the things you needed and even some things you didn’t need for babies arrival.
You even prepared for labour and delivery. You went to a birthing class or hired a doula. You chatted with your friends about their birth stories, you joined an online group for babies due in the same month. Your biggest concern was shitting out your mcfeast from the night before you went into labour.
You were prepared.
But were you prepared for postpartum?
Maybe there is some sort of code where people don’t talk about the realities of what postpartum can look like because it will scare pregnant women? If there is, I am about to break it. Because I wish I knew. I wish my husband knew. It would have made those first few weeks a little less terrifying.
While it looks different for everyone, these are some common themes that come up when I discussed this topic with my friends.
There will be tears. Prepare your spouse as this common side effect can scare them a little.
Breastfeeding is hard. Seriously. For many, it is not as easy as it looks. There can be a million complications: bad latch, tongue tie, lip tie, milk delayed, sleepy baby, lack of support and the list goes on and on. If you want to breastfeed be prepared to fight for it. And be prepared for bleeding, blistered nipples that feel like they are being shredded by glass every time you even think of feeding baby. Tops off parties are common in the first week; remember to put a sign on the door to warn any visitors. Or don’t, because they should have called first anyways. Add a couple local lactation consultants to your speed dial. Bonus points if they make house calls. Buy all the nipple balm.
Don’t look in the toilet after your first pee. Just don’t. Horror show.
Just kidding! You will have to because your care provider will want to hear about any clots you pass. First you birthed a baby, next a placenta, and after that you will get the privilege of birthing nearly baseball sized clots. Seriously. You will start to feel the need to push again. You might think that surely there is a twin in there that got missed on the ultrasound. Nope. This is around the time you become thankful for the disposable mesh undies.
The baby blues are real. But if they extend and they are more than just “blues,” have a system in place. Call your doctor. See her often. Talk to your partner and try to stay ahead of it.
Tearing. It’s real folks. I honestly had no idea about this. I read once episiotomies were essentially a thing of the past and I stopped reading there. Turns out this is just the “natural” episiotomy. There are different degrees and the lower your number the better. Forget the “husband stitch.” That will be your last concern when you hear they are stitching the walls between your baby bin and your hershey highway back together. You will feel the stitches inside. They will get itchy as they heal. If you are so lucky to find yourself in the 3rd or 4th degree area you may need your partner to lower you onto the toilet and into the bath, and to pick you back up after. You’ve essentially demolished your pelvic floor and your abs are lost from pregnancy. Give yourself time, accept help, and rest. And whatever you do, do not sneeze.
The above brings me to padsicles. Make them. Freeze them. Thank me later.
Within 24 hrs your nurse may come in and offer you a stool softener. If you suffer from the previously mentioned condition, especially in the 3rd and 4th degree range, please take them. Again, you can thank me later.
This one is neat… and interestingly gets worse with each consecutive baby. Your baby will latch postpartum and you will be instantly contracting like you were when you were in active labour. It hurts, and the flash backs will come. Fun right? I’m kidding Nancy, it’s not fun at all.
People will ask you when you are due. You will run into the store leaving your sleeping baby in the car while your husband does laps (with strict instructions not to turn the car off) because aforementioned husband bought you the wrong pads (what part of horror show did he not understand). Someone will ask you.
Your hair will fall out. If you have thin hair you might notice it right away. If you have lots of hair you likely won’t notice it until one day you look in the mirror and it looks like you bowl cut teeny tiny little bangs all along your face. Your husband will call them microbangs. If you are lucky like me your microbangs will be curly and look like a fuzzy halo around your head. You will cry; they may or not grow back.
You will be completely touched out. This is one I couldn’t imagine. I never thought there would be a time where I wouldn’t want to curl up in bed and have my husband cuddle me. But he has a tendency to smother cuddle and by the end of the day I wasn't having any of it. Breastfeeding 24/7 and having a toddler hanging off of me was all the touching I could handle. Thankfully this is temporary.
The first six weeks are insane. People keep telling you over and over about how crazy it is but you cannot understand it until you have lived it. The best way I describe it is that you will feel like you are living in a fog. You will finally for the first time in your life understand where the term bone tired comes from. You will be so exhausted every single piece of your body aches. Treat this time like you are on mild sedatives. Do not engage in any important conversations or dangerous activities. Oh, and do not file divorce papers during this time. Wait until the fog has lifted and reevaluate then.
You will be ridiculously in love. Or you won’t. You might stare and watch your baby because you can’t get enough. Or you might be watching its stomach rise and fall because you are anxious and need to know baby is breathing. You might be wishing baby came with a machine to monitor it at all times. You might be completely indifferent to this little baby and confused as to why you don’t feel everything you were told you would feel towards it. You might be fine, confident and happy. You might not.
Motherhood hits us all differently so try to put aside all preconceived notions and don’t compare yourself to others. Journey through your healing process, both emotional and physical, in your own time and in your own way. Give yourself grace. Good luck, you are going to need it.