DISCLOSURE: All the experiences I give below are mine. I didn’t exaggerate anything. Maybe I did write it too boldly and someone may get uncomfortable reading it. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to discourage you. The purpose of this article was to show the “real stuff”. However, it doesn’t mean that you will experience all of it. Your postpartum can be night and day from mine. Please, don’t write comments a la “you show postpartum recovery in dark colors” and stuff like that. That’s how it was FOR ME! And I want to remember how I felt when I have my second time around. I encourage you to share your story in comments below. Feedback is always extremely important for me and all the mommas reading my blog! Thank you for stopping by. Enjoy the reading (if you can! :))
Can I just say “Oh, boy! I wish I knew all this stuff before I gave birth to my baby”. I was SO unprepared. Physically. Mentally. In any possible way! And how could you be anyway? I guess, it’s one of the experiences you could never imagine until you fully sink into it.
I remember how proud I was when I got all the things for the baby ready to my due date. I only forgot that I should have taken care about one more thing. Myself! Looking back, I now realize why I didn’t pay attention to my needs. Simply because I didn’t understand there would be anything like this (mentioned below).
You see, when you’re pregnant with your first, you get the wrong idea that motherhood is natural, everything will come to you easily. I mean, okay, I realized postpartum would be tough, but didn’t even think close to what I would have to come through. I thought breastfeeding was the easiest natural thing every mom is capable of doing. No special preparation needed, it will all come.
Oh My GOD! How wrong I was!
And there were plenty of other things I couldn’t see coming. Even though I read plenty about postpartum in order to prepare myself (at least mentally), I have never seen anything that is relevant on the web. I guess, there’s just not enough information about postpartum experience and how brutal it actually is, because nobody talks about it.
It’s all hidden behind the closed doors or in the mind of a new mother. And this is NOT GOOD. I want you to be prepared for your postpartum. I want to share everything that I’ve learned in my postpartum recovery. So that you know what to expect after giving birth.
Here’s what you should know.
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20 THINGS POSTPARTUM YOU SHOULD BE PREPARED FOR
1. You will be extremely weak after delivery…
Da-h! Well, no surprise, you would say. Yes, I agree, weakness is the first thing you think will happen after you give birth just because the labor is hard work. I expected it, too. But I didn’t realize how EXTREMELY weak I would be and how my body wouldn’t listen to me for the first few hours after delivery.
I remember how I wanted to go to the bathroom and once I stepped on my feet I nearly fell my face down (thanks to my husband who was quick enough to catch me in the process). So don’t show heroism and ask for help if you need to go somewhere.
2. …And extremely overwhelmed from how your life changed in less than a day
Too many feelings, emotions, physical and psychological changes that make you vulnerable both physically and mentally. That may also interfere with your sleeping abilities (here comes the paradox where you’re exhausted but unable to fall asleep)
3. You may have a severe drop in blood pressure (and hemoglobin). You may faint
You will bleed after the delivery because your womb starts to contract to shut off the blood vessels where the placenta was attached. On top of that, you will feel extremely week and may have a drop of blood pressure, which can all lead to falling into a faint. Especially, if you choose to have an epidural (it tends to lower blood pressure).
I remember going to the bathroom right after delivery (with my husband holding me, of course). The next thing I know is I’m standing in front of the sink hearing my husband’s voice somewhere far way asking me if I was okay and seeing purely nothing. I could tell he freaked out. I did, too. I didn’t know what could happen and how I could help myself.
Now I know. I should have eaten something. At least a chocolate bar or anything that could raise my blood sugar and give me a go in energy levels. But I was too overwhelmed to remember I had to eat. That’s what you should teach your husband to do. Tell him to offer you some food after you give birth.
DON’T MISS THIS ARTICLE: 12 THINGS YOU CAN DO WHILE BREASTFEEDING TO PREVENT BREAST SAGGING AFTER WEANING
4. Your boobs become so heavy right before the milk comes in and start leaking when let-down
It’s a new weird feeling. Yes, there will be more to come in terms of bizarre postpartum things that happen to your body and mind. Much more. But this one you get soon after delivery. I didn’t realize my breast would leak like crazy every time I breastfed, so a good thing would be to stock up with some decent Nursing Pads.
It’s so important to pick only good-quality breast pads, like Lansinoh Nursing Pads (they are my fav) because they will save you money, clothes and sanity! Your breast won’t sweat and the overall feeling will be pretty comfortable if you are wearing these pads.
I know what I’m talking about because in the beginning I didn’t pay attention to the quality of breast pads and I ended up with the sweating, bad attachment to my bra, leakage while breastfeeding, dirty clothes all covered with milk spots and the overall feeling of absolute discomfort. I hate being wet (even when my sleeve gets a little wet while I’m washing my hands, I start to freak out and want to change my shirt immediately).
Imagine this hell I’ve gone through when I was sitting all wet while breastfeeding without having a chance to even move, not to mention the possibility to change my clothes because there was none! And when you’re breastfeeding a newborn, he usually starts snoozing at the breast. You don’t want to wake him (mine was a bad sleeper). So you end up sitting there where you started your breastfeeding session for quite a long time with no chance to do anything but stick into your cellphone.
5. You may suffer from plugged milk ducts when the milk comes in
In order to avoid it, you should massage your breasts with coconut oil. The ducts may get clogged because the colostrum, a pre-milk substance that is rich in vitamins, minerals, antibodies and other important agents for the baby, is rich in fat and can plug your not-quite-ready-for-the-milk-flow milk ducts. Massage and frequent nursing should help here (and don’t forget to change the breasts while breastfeeding).
YOU MIGHT WANT TO READ THIS: 8 Quick and Easy Ways to Treat Plugged (Clogged) Milk Ducts
6. Making your baby to latch in a right way is hard
It happens for a reason (actually many, but here’s a few most common ones). Newborns are sleepy, sometimes week, may be they suffered from a slight oxygen deficiency during labor or they just not quite adjusted to the new roughly changed living conditions. There might be many reasons why your baby can’t latch effectively right away. But don’t worry. It’s the one that takes time. And sometimes it’s better to call out for help of the lactation consultant.
7. Breastfeeding is painful
Holy cow! It’s painful. It’s messy. It’s a whole lot of work. You feel like your boobs are going to explode for the first couple of days. Your nipples are in shock. Your body is adjusting to the new role. And it may take a while. The key here is to stay calm, rest as much as you can, eat healthy foods and stay hydrated. The road down to the established lactation is not easy (especially if you’re a first time mom). You will get to the point of established lactation at around 8-12 weeks postpartum. Just BE PATIENT. You can do it! 🙂
8. The letdown may give you a strong tingling sensation
Either that, or you may not feel any letdown at all until you get to the point of the established lactation. As I mentioned above, it usually happens 8-12 weeks after delivery.
9. Your uterus will be contracting every time you breastfeed
It feels like you’re going in labor. ALL OVER AGAIN! No kidding. The best thing you can do is to nurse frequently so that your uterus shrinks much faster. The pain will ease off pretty quickly. By the end of second day breastfeeding I felt only slight discomfort as if I had my period. So that’s good news. There should be something good and easy for a new mom apart from constant suffering, right? 🙂
10. Your nipples may crack and be sore. Constantly (I mean it)
The nipple area of your breast is soft and sensitive. It takes time to get used to constant sucking. I didn’t take this problem seriously at first and skipped using lanolin for my nipples in the first day of breastfeeding. So I found myself having sore and cracked nipples soon after and breastfeeding was super painful.
Every time my baby latched on I felt the pain through the nerves. I started using Lansinoh 100% Natural Lanolin Nipple Cream right away before and after breastfeeding (you don’t have to wash it off before each nursing session which is great!) and my nipples showed a great difference in just a day of applying lanolin (This is a God sent, indeed!).
11. Your energy levels will be down for days (you need helpers everywhere!).
Don’t hesitate to ask for help or even better – preplan it ahead of time. Delegate. You will need help with the household chores, cooking, doing laundry, buying stuff. You will want to be cuddled and said nice words to. (Don’t forget to tell this to your husband and relatives, because they might not think how important this will be to you).
The thing is, when the baby arrives, all the fuss in usually about him. And you are the one who takes a back seat. You will want people to pay attention to YOU, not only your baby! I would even say, ESPECIALLY to you! You will want to stay in bed all day long having a stress-free recovery, where you won’t have to worry about unnecessary stuff. So you’d be glad if you managed to pre-plan every help you need and delegate it beforehand.
12. You will bleed heavily
Oh, dear! Where does all this blood come from? I mean, I get it. But, seriously…that much? For a person who has always had a poor discharge during periods, saying “surprised” is not the right word. Shocked suits better in this case. And, yes, it’s okay to bleed. It’s relatively common for women to lose between 500-1000 ml of blood after birth. What is not normal is the severe bleeding when you lose more that 1000 ml of blood and requires emergency treatment.
How can I know if I’m bleeding severely after delivery?
Severe bleeding cannot go unnoticed. These are the symptoms you may get:
- a rapid drop in blood pressure
- feeling dizziness
- a rise in your pulse rate
If you suspect to have a severe bleeding a couple of days after delivery (when you got home), call your doctor immediately. You need emergency treatment.
13. Tearing is a bitch
You may suffer from a lot of pain down there if you tore in labor (and you can’t take a painkiller, because you’re breastfeeding). You’ll never know if you tear in labor or not, so a great idea would be prepare some padsicles in advance. They will help with the pain and promote faster recovery. Read on to learn the easiest way of making them.
I personally didn’t tear myself in labor, mostly, I think because I was taking Evening Primrose Oil for getting more elasticity of vagina muscles and tissues (a great advice from my midwife. This brand is the one she personally recommended for me to buy because she saw the difference with it).
My friend, on the contrary, tore herself pretty roughly and since we gave birth one day apart, I personally saw her suffering. So tearing is no cool. Try your best to prevent it. The best advice from my midwife was taking Evening Primrose Oil and massaging myself down there with the Motherlove Birth Oil in labor.
14. Stitches are a pain in the ass (Literally!)
Again, the experience is not mine, but my friend’s. Seeing it is nothing around having. I know. But here’s what I figured out. If you have stitches:
- You can’t sit down for a week or so
- You have to take care about them
- They are a whole lot of pain
- It’s painful to pee
- It’s scary and painful to poop
To put it in other words, the stitches add quite a lot of stress, pain and discomfort to postpartum recovery. What can you do to relieve pain and help yourself recover faster? Here’s a great trick you can use. Try making padsicles. You wanna make them 2-3 weeks before your due date and store them in your freezer until you get back home with the newborn. Things you will need for making padsicles:
- Overnight pads
- Aloe Vera Gel
- Witch Hazel
Making these padsicles is as simple as that:
- Take an overnight pad, unwrap and unfold it (keeping the stickers at place)
- Add aloe vera gel to the whole area of the pad (be generous with that)
- Add a couple of table spoons of witch hazel on top of that and jam it all with the spoon
- You can also add 5-10 drops of lavender, rosemary and geranium essential oils.
- Fold the pad back and put it into the package.
- Put several ready-made pads in a freezer bag and out them in your freezer.
And you’re done!
15. You will have a weird feeling in your guts
First thing you get, your tummy feels so empty inside after you give birth. No wonder, right? But this feeling is far beyond physical. It has psychological roots. You feel empty, lonely, unnecessary, unimportant, even used (but that’s only me. The funny thing with psychological stuff is that every person has his own unique feelings and emotions on the same problem, based on his own psychic background and traumatic childhood experience. Yes, it all comes from childhood. Most of it.)
Then you get the feeling that your intestines start to move. And that is exactly what is happening, because all your organs want to get back to where they were pre-pregnancy. Let me just tell you, never ever in my life have I felt so gassy, bloated and uncomfortable. It was one of the most embracing postpartum experience. But you can’t get away from it. The best thing you can do is eat a healthy diet, stay hydrated and wait for the gassiness to pass. It took me almost a month! God. That was long.
16. Sleep-deprivation is no joke
It’s brutal. It interferes with you mood. It may trigger postpartum depression. It makes you angry. Like, REALLY ANGRY! I remember this feeling. It was so strong and so unfamiliar. I’ve never experienced such severe negative emotions before. I was scared of them. How can you help yourself in this situations? (When you feel like negative emotions start taking over)
- Sleep! Forget about everything (expect caring for the baby, of course) and get some sleep as soon as your baby’s snoozing! Learn to take short naps. You will feel such a difference! I mean it.
- Speak your mind! Tell it all to your husband, or your mom. If you’re afraid of judgement (which you shouldn’t, of course), schedule an appointment to a psychologist. Don’t be afraid to express your feelings. You need to get them off your chest.
- Sob it out! It’s okay to cry. Actually, sobbing was the first thing I remember to be doing postpartum. I was crying heavily. I went through a lot mentally. All these pregnancy and delivery stuff is nothing like getting through an emotional rollercoaster first couple of weeks (or even months!) postpartum. You can’t be prepared for it. You just have to embrace the fact you’ll be really vulnerable.
- Have time for yourself. Go for a walk or head to the cafe and drink a cup of tea and read your favorite book. Go get your nails done, or change your hairstyle. Do everything that makes you happy. Allow some time for yourself. No, it’s NOT selfish! It’s healthy. For you. Period.
- Stay out of drama. I know there are a lot of hormonal changes involved in your constant mood swings and sometimes it’s so easy to give way to negative thinking. But it’s the road to ruin! Each time you catch yourself at negative thinking, change your physical activity and give yourself three positive affirmations. For example, go wash your face (change of physical activity), look into the mirror and say “I can handle all the difficulties. They will pass. I am grateful for my new role in life as a mother”.
17. You will be starving and thirsty like never before
Thanks to breastfeeding, which burns 500 extra calories a day. And since breast milk consists 80% from water, and you will be making 1-1.5 liters a day, should I tell you anything about how thirsty breastfeeding makes you feel? A Water bottle will be your favorite accessorize while breastfeeding, so make sure you a get a good one and take it with you everywhere (in the house included).
This water bottle is great because it can keep you beverage hot (as well as cold) for up to 12 hours, which is great in terms of inducing a let down while breastfeeding. When you’re drinking hot fluids 15 minutes before or during a nursing session, it helps you to get more let downs. So keep this bottle full and at your breastfeeding station (or just around yourself). Aim to drink half of your body weight in oz. and plan a nutritious extra snack a day (to get this extra calories you need for making milk!)
18. Your libido will retire (for a long-long time!)
Seriously. Don’t give yourself false expectations that your desire will revive soon after delivery. It’s just not gonna happen. You are not going to want your husband. Not-a-chance! The basic instincts are to blame here. Your mind switches to a different role – taking care of your newborn. It’s new, it’s stressful and exhausting. And that is not a bad thing, actually. You just MADE a new person!
Give yourself some grace. When you become a mother, everything else fades into insignificance, including both your husband’s needs and your libido. You can wave them goodbye, since your main agenda is the grunting little human you made and brought to this world. Desires are so not important. Not until you get used to the new role and learn to relax.
19. Sex will hurt like hell for the first couple of times (or months as it was in my case)
First of all, the six week recovery might not happen for you, so having sex is absolutely out of the question until your doctor gives you a green light for that. Secondly, even if you do fully recover, here’s what you get:
- you don’t WANT to have sex (because of numerous reasons: you’re exhausted, too emotional, you don’t have time for yourself, you don’t think you deserve having pleasure at the moment, you’re too alert for the baby cries, you’re nervous, sleepy, hungry, angry, tired, just not in the mood – the list is endless. The truth is, sex is going to be way back in your agenda (not in your husband’s, though)
- eventually, you’ll feel guilty because your husband is unfairly forgotten, and you’ll go for having your first postnatal sex
- and it will hurt. A LOT!
Why does the pain happen?
- If you tore yourself inside the vagina, and you haven’t quite recovered yet down there
- If you’re breastfeeding, you will experience vaginal dryness. It happens due to high levels of prolactin that support lactation. While prolactin is up high, estrogen, on the contrary, is down low. It’s the latter that makes you feel pleasure during sex because it helps to lubricate the vagina. Otherwise, it feels like you are riding a wooden steak (yep, it’s as bad as that!)
- The weakened tonus of vagina’s muscles and its expansion can leave its imprint on the sensations during the first sexual intercourse. However, this phenomenon is temporary, and the problem will be resolved by itself within a few months postpartum.
What can you do about it?
- Check with your doctor if the stitches are fully recovered. Otherwise, it’s better to postpone having sex until you feel completely healthy down there.
- Try using a lubricant. After delivery, most women experience a sharp decline in the level of female sex hormones, estrogens. As a result, the amount of natural vaginal lubricant production is dramatically reduced. For this reason, sexual intercourse can be uncomfortable and even painful for a woman. In this case, you might want to stock up a special lubricant.
- Do Kegel exercise. It’s great in terms of a rapid recovery after delivery. Aim to do the exercise every hour for 3 weeks. The technique is very simple:
- you need to strain the muscles of the perineum and anus (as if you really want to go to the toilet) within 5 seconds
- hold them for 5 seconds in the state of maximum tension
- then gradually relax them for another 5 seconds.
- Have a 5-second rest, and repeat the exercise.
- 30 reps is way to go – it only takes a few minutes.
20. You will be VERY EMOTIONAL
I have already mentioned it. You will feel like riding and emotional roller-coaster every single day. It’s exhausting. But you will have to adjust. Try to explain to your husband that postpartum is a hard period with many bumps on the way (you usually have no idea of until you bump into them!).
There were days when I cried my eyes out and I first couldn’t explain why. What was the trigger of all that emotions coming out of me? But then my really good friend gave me this book as a present (which I now consider the BEST present a friend could ever give to a first-time mom) because she knew what I was going through, that I couldn’t explain or share it and I needed a stable ground not to go crazy with all these emotions and to know that IT WAS NORMAL TO FEEL THEM.
“Mama, Bare: The Birth Of Mother” was my stable ground. I read all those stories of mothers postpartum. What they felt, what they were going through physically, emotionally, and mentally. I had NO IDEA every women had, to some extent, the emotions and thoughts I was experiencing at that moment.
I felt taken care of while reading this book. I felt understood. It made me cry. It made me feel different. It made me accept my new body and soul of a mother. It made me reborn and become who I am right now.
And, God, how am I grateful to this amazingly talented woman, Kristen Gale Hedges, who gathered all these stories into one piece of a very emotional reading every mother needs so much to touch upon.
I would like to say one BIG Thank You from the bottom of my heart to you, Kristen! Because your book showed all I was going through was NORMAL. Because it made me feel so fragile, yet so strong inside. Because it made me accept my new life and role of a mother.
What about you?
Hey, mama! Share your postpartum experience, too. Don’t hesitate to leave a comment and provide feedback for many other mommas reading this blog.
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