There is so much information and prep for the pregnancy and birth of your baby, but after my first child was born I struggled with the postpartum experience. Nobody had told me what to expect, and experiencing it made me feel utterly alone and helpless… I was so unprepared!
It’s been 3 weeks since I gave birth to my second baby*, and reliving all the postpartum joy has sparked me to write about the things they don’t tell you about…
1 – Contractions
What? You’ve given birth and you’re sill experiencing contractions? What type of witchcraft is this, you may ask? Yip – your uterus will continue to contract after you’ve given birth. This is a good thing though, as the more it contractions the quicker your uterus will return to ‘normal’ size, and the quicker your belly will shrink too. Still, this doesn’t take away from the pain you experience as your pelvis lights on fire and you double over in agony… oh, and if you’re breastfeeding HAHAHA good luck to you.
2 – Breastfeeding
Might as well tackle this one while we are at it… the first two or so weeks of breastfeeding can be uncomfortable. My nipples felt like razor blades were attacking them each time my babies latched. Your nipples are wonderful peaks of soft tissue, and this little human is tugging at them for milk. Until your nipples ‘toughen up’, the pain is inevitable. When my milk came in, I experienced more pain than when I gave breech birth (no word of lie) and nobody prepares you to handle it. Your poor boobies become rock hard and agonisingly swollen. With a screaming baby you need to feed, crying nipples and a wooden breast, you almost welcome the pain of the contractions it causes in your belly. Almost.
3 – Bleeding
So this wasn’t much of a surprise. There’s a reason the maternity pads are the size of surfboards. What I wasn’t prepared for was the gush of blood with each post-partum contraction, or the trigger of bleeding when breastfeeding. I was also unprepared for the randomised pattern of bleeding. You bleed, it stops. You think you’re in the clear, it starts again. It trickles, it runs. You think it’s all over – boom – it starts again. Joy.
4 – Baby Blues
I’m convinced every new mom experiences this – not the clinically defined ‘postpartum depression’, but the baby blues of day 3/4 after birth. Particularly when you’re home, alone, and left to fend for yourself with this new little human. After the drop in hormones that were previously coating your pregnant self, you find yourself feeling super emotional and ready to cry at a drop of a hat. With my first pregnancy I lay crying in the bath tub and lamenting about how sorry I was for causing my parents grief in my teenage years, and with my second I sat crying over my baby’s tiny sock.
5 – Dehydration
I don’t know if this is exactly a ‘postpartum thing’, but I found myself becoming exceptionally thirsty for a good few days after giving birth, and my skin and lips were very dry. I still find myself reaching for a glass of water where previously I didn’t, and applying lip balm to very dry, cracked lips.
6 – Salt baths
Or better known as ‘Sitz baths’. Nobody, and I mean nobody, told me about this. My grandmother was the one who asked me after my first birth if I had sea salt at home for ‘salt baths’. I had no clue what she was talking about, but after instructing my husband to buy a bunch of sea salt, I figured out why it was needed. With vaginal birth, your perineum will need some extra TLC after birth, and a sitz bath (sea salt in warm water – just enough for you to literally sit in) will help with the healing process. It protects against infection if you had stitches, speeds up recovery, and just feels good. Please use coarse salt although – NOT table salt.
7 – Sleep Deprivation
Of course you’re warned about this, but you never truly know what it’s like until you experience it. Even if your baby is a super good baby who sleeps well, you as a mother will never sleep the same again. From worrying about things like suffocation and SIDS, to checking the baby’s nappy and feeding every 3-4 hours, you’re lucky if you get a full 2 hours of sleep between all the new routines and 3am baby rocking. Oh, and sleeping when the baby sleeps? Yeah, that never happens. I don’t wish I could sleep like my baby, I wish I could sleep like my husband.
8 – Back pain
I’m terming this as back pain, but really it’s a full body ache that shifts from day to day. Lower back pain from the change of gravity after baby is out, upper back pain from breastfeeding, shoulder and neck pain from carrying baby, leg pain from who knows what, ankle pain from (I’m guessing) walking and sitting with baby, arm pain from rocking baby… basically pain all-round. It’s like you’ve run a marathon and your body is paying for it each and every day.
9 – Your first poop
This topic cannot be avoided. The first time you go to the loo to make a … poo… you are shitting yourself (metaphorically speaking). Your muscles are completely fatigued, and that includes those in your rectum. It feels weird. You think it will be painful so you’re half scared, half wishing it to be over before it starts. My advice – make that first poop as soon as you can. Don’t become constipated, and take a sitz bath afterwards. It’s not that bad, I promise. It’s just a super, super weird feeling.
10 – Goodbye, sweet self
One thing you need to discover on your own is that the old you is gone to hibernate for a very long time. Your baby becomes your life, and you place yourself second. Thought about reading that book while on maternity leave? Forget it. Craved to go for a spa day? Laughable. Wanting to eat your breakfast like usual? Nope – ain’t gonna happen. Everything you enjoyed doing before baby takes a backseat, and you rarely get the opportunity to do much as YOU anymore. Be aware that you’ll have to plan simple things like going shopping for groceries in advance, and yet also prepare for last minute changes. You’re on baby’s clock now. Bid goodbye to your sweet self and your sweet self-lifestyle, because postpartum, it will be a very weak shadow of is former state.
All in all, your postpartum journey will be yours to discovery… both good and bad.
Pray & Slay.