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Postpartum is no joke. Your life has completely changed, you just went through something fairly traumatic to your body, and you aren’t allowed to sleep on top of it. But there is surprisingly little information there about postpartum. There are baby books and pregnancy books galore, that touch a little on lochia and needing rest. But everything I know about postpartum came from insight from experienced moms and my own experience.
And I really wish someone had told me about these things. It wasn’t until I was out of the trenches that I learned most of this is normal. Many women go through this. So do yourself a favor and prepare by reading this. Things may go differently for you, but at least if you experience even one of these things, you won’t sit there, exhausted, confused, and crying, and wonder what is wrong.
10 Things No One Told Me About Postpartum
1. Everything Hurts – There are certain things you expect. Your uterus going through the hardest workout of its life, your pelvic floor having something come through it several times too large. You expect your abdomen and pelvic region to hurt after pushing a baby out. But what I literally never read anywhere in preparing for birth? Your whole body will hurt! I could barely get out of bed the next day for a variety of reasons, but one of them was that my arms and legs were killing me. When I stood up, my heart raced and I felt lightheaded. It was like I had run a few marathons the day before. Which I guess I did. But yeah, turns out my pushing position was working my arms and legs. I didn’t feel it at all at the time, but it was there the next day.
2. Milk Everywhere – It took 4 days for my milk to come in, but once I did, it was everywhere. All over my son and myself and my clothes and the couch and everything. I even developed a rash from having wet fabric against my skin for so much of the day. Ironically, the only thing that made the rash go away was rubbing breast milk into it and letting it dry. The good news is that it does let up eventually and you stop smelling it.
3. You can’t cough, sneeze, or laugh – I literally didn’t sneeze for a week after my son was born. I think my body was protecting itself, because I regretted it whenever I coughed or laughed. Poor pelvic floor. It heals eventually.
4. You will cry constantly – Between hormones, exhaustion, and having no idea what you are doing when they send you home with a baby 36 hours after basically killing yourself to get it out, there are a lot of tears. By the end of his 3rd day alive, I looked like I was having an allergic reaction because my eyes were so swollen. And that’s normal! Baby blues lasts about 2 weeks. After 2 weeks of crying, my husband and I went for a walk to talk about whether we needed to call my midwife to get screened for postpartum depression. Within two days, it was like a light switch. I felt so much better. If you have any of the symptoms of postpartum depression, please call your doctor right away. But I wish I had known that it was normal to feel that way for 2-3 weeks after giving birth.
5. You can’t sit up or stand – Yay for destroying your pelvic floor and then stitching it back up. If I stood for too long, it would feel like my pelvic floor would just fall out. The act of sitting up was excruciatingly painful. I was living with my mom, who has a power recline couch. I lived and slept on that for 4 weeks because I couldn’t get in and out of bed (or even sit up) to feed my son. I honestly don’t know what I would have done if I only had my bed.
6. You aren’t healed after 6 weeks – They always make it sounds like that, don’t they? At 6 weeks your have your appointment and you are magically good to go, provided you haven’t had major abdominal surgery. Some people feel almost back to normal after just a few weeks. But me? It hurt to stand for months. I had a hemorrhoid that didn’t fully heal for 4 months. Sex is still horribly painful along my scar. 4 1/2 months postpartum and while I am almost back to my normal activities, it was 4 months before I felt reasonably healed and I am still not 100%. Even though I was told everything looked great at 6 weeks. I even went into my midwife just short of 4 months to make sure everything was okay. Not only was it fine, but she said I looked great and in some ways was doing better than average. I spent so much time worrying something was wrong, when in fact healing from birth is a very slow process.
7. Everything will make you doubt yourself – When your baby isn’t the textbook baby. When you aren’t the textbook mother. When you compare yourself to other new moms and your baby to other new babies. When your baby cries and you don’t know why. When things don’t go the way you thought they would. There will be something, maybe a lot of things, that make you question your ability as a mother. The hardest for me was when my milk took 4 days to come in. My baby was crying and wasn’t peeing and the nurse that called to check on me started talking formula. I felt like a failure. Thankfully the nurse that came the next day, the pediatrician I saw the day after, and the 2nd pediatrician I saw at 6 days old, all were very supportive. Combined with plenty of milk, weight gain, and output starting on day 4, my confidence began to rise. There have been plenty more examples, but this was the first and the worst.
8. You can’t feel your bladder – This was a surprise! For the first few days, I used the clock to know when to go to the bathroom. The nurses had to remind me the first few times (which was fine, because I needed help to get to the bathroom for the first 24 hours), and every time I was surprised to find my bladder was full. I had no sensation of that!
9. Postpartum BO – I don’t know if this was worse than the pregnancy stank, or if I was just washing my armpits less, or that’s just what BO combined with sour milk smells like. But it was bad! Thankfully it cleared up by 3 or 4 months.
10. Breastfeeding isn’t supposed to hurt – See, they aren’t all bad! I had amazing support for breastfeeding. At the hospital, every time I fed my son, there was a nurse there making sure his latch was good. Within 24 hours, a lactation consultant came in to check him for lip and tongue ties, as well as check his latch. He was not a natural breastfeeder, and his bad latch hurt. But we fixed it by the time we left the hospital, and he has a picture perfect latch now. By the time he was one week old, I had no pain with breastfeeding. I never had cracked or bleeding nipples. I didn’t have to put coconut oil on them after day 3 or 4. Now at 4 months postpartum, I don’t even feel him feeding, even though my breasts are very sensitive to any other contact (like him raking his nails over them while eating). I thought I was just lucky, but at a breastfeeding support group, the lactation consultant told me that that is in fact how it is supposed to be.
Bonus –> 11. You will be amazed at how you could possibly love someone so much – Your constant crying won’t just be from bad things. You’ll look at the face of your sweet sleeping baby and cry because you love him so much. Amongst the frustration and exhaustion, he will bring you so much joy.
What is something you wish you had been told about the postpartum period?
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