Everyone has advice for how to deal with the rollercoaster ride that is pregnancy; but what about afterwards? New moms can be left to deal with a hurricane of emotions – everything from joy to sadness, worry and frustration. Plenty of new moms find themselves crying at the drop of a hat. Does it mean they aren’t a good mom or that they love their baby any less than they should? No. Crying is perfectly normal after having a baby – whether it’s over something as small as changing a diaper or something as overwhelming as how quickly the baby grows and changes.
It’s common to be easily agitated and even to have the baby blues for awhile after the baby is born, too. With the baby blues, many moms find that they are extremely sensitive and intermittently sad and weepy. Many moms struggle with feelings of worry, anxiety, and doubt, especially when they’ve just had their first baby. In addition to being mentally and physically exhausted after pregnancy, labor, and delivery, there’s still a lot to learn! A lot of people talk about mothers’ intuition, but for some women, that feeling may take awhile to kick in with some confidence.
All of these feelings are normal, but they shouldn’t be confused with postpartum mood and anxiety disorders. Severe mood or anxiety symptoms in combination with other problems such as trouble sleeping, disturbing thoughts, feelings of hopelessness, and thoughts of baby or self-harm should be discussed with your family and your doctor right away. Here are some of the most common feelings women will experience after having their baby.
16 Pain (Literally!)
Whether you had a vaginal delivery, or a C-section, went all natural or had pain meds, you’re going to be in some discomfort after you give birth. With a vaginal delivery, there’s a chance that your skin may tear during delivery. Or you may require an episiotomy. If you have stitches, those might be painful at first, and then itchy, as they start to reabsorb. A C-section is no walk in the park, either. If you have a C-section, your abdomen will be cut open, your uterus will be cut open, the baby will be retrieved, and then you’ll be stitched back up. Obviously, you’ll be in some pain immediately after birth, but the recovery period after a C-section lasts for several weeks. And, depending on how long you pushed, (even if your start out trying for a vaginal delivery and end up having a C-section for some reason) your labia may be swollen and bruised. Talk with your nurses about tips and tricks to ease the pain!
This one shouldn’t come as any surprise to you. You’re going to be tired. Whether you push all day and night or even if you have a quick and easy labor, it’s still hard work. (That’s why it’s called labor. Duh!) Not to mention, if you were getting up every night to go to the bathroom when you were pregnant, you probably haven’t slept peacefully in weeks. You might not even remember the last time you slept through the night, and, uh, you probably already know this, but that might not get better for awhile. Although you might love having the baby right there in the room with you, if it’s an option at your hospital, you may want to consider checking to see if the hospital nursery will take the baby for a few hours to let you get some much-needed shuteye. Some savvy nurses may also schedule the baby’s exams, vaccines, and bath time all together so that they can whisk the baby away and do what they need you to do – giving you a little time to rest.
Wow. Holy cow. I did it. Those are just some of the things you’ll be thinking to yourself as you look down at the new little one swaddled in your arms. And when you look at that angelic face, you’ll also be amazed at how small your baby is. Tiny little fingers, tiny little toes. An itty bitty mouth and a tiny button nose. You will marvel every time he opens his eyes and at every sound he makes, because just a short amount of time ago, that little person was inside of you… and now he’s here! Crazy, right?! What your body goes through, what you go through mentally, as you prepare to have your baby, is an experience unlike any other. And it’s really hard to explain it, and the experience is different for everyone. However, for as painful as it sounds, and as difficult as it might be, it ends up being the most amazing, awesome, beautiful event of your life.
You can breathe a sigh of relief now. It’s over! Well, the labor and delivery part is, anyway. Even though your recovery process is just beginning, and you will likely be tired and sore, there is some sense of relief in knowing that the hardest part is now behind you. Many women are scared, even terrified, of giving birth, and if you are, that’s totally okay! You’re not alone. But the thing is… no matter how scared you are, or how worried you are about the pain, that baby has got to come out somehow! So when all is said and done, it’s understandable if you feel relief. You’ll also be relieved to know that everything went okay. Your doctors and nurses will do everything they can to ensure that you and your baby will have a smooth, easy childbirth, and that your baby will be born healthy and strong!
When you are finally able, it is so exciting to share the news of your baby’s arrival with the world. However you choose to do it, whether you and your partner make a ton of phone calls, post updates on your social media networks, or have a whole hospital waiting room full of friends and relatives who are dying to meet the newest member of your family, there is nothing like the joy of announcing your baby’s birth to your loved ones. It’s also quite a thrill to see your family members get all worked up when they finally get to meet the baby. There’s nothing like watching your partner with the baby for the first time, or seeing the pride on your parents’ faces as they hold their grandchild in their arms. And it doesn’t matter if it’s the first grandchild or the fifth – each grandbaby is a... bundle of joy!
11 Contractions (Again?!)
You could be in labor for WHO KNOWS HOW MANY HOURS, but no… you won’t exactly be done with contractions just yet. These contractions, which are also known as after pains, occur after delivery as your uterus begins to retract to its original size and shape in a process called involution. If you’re breastfeeding, you may also notice these contractions while you are nursing. This is because the hormone oxytocin is being released while you are breastfeeding. This hormone triggers the contractions, which help reduce postpartum blood loss. The cramps and contractions may be the most severe the first day or two after childbirth, but will ease up gradually over the next few days. However, it can take up to six weeks for your uterus to return to its pre-pregnancy size and shape. Some nurses may “massage” your uterus to help kickstart the shrinkage process. Don’t let the term fool you; the belly massage isn’t exactly as pleasant as it sounds.
Although some doctors and hospitals are easing up on the “no food” rule, many physicians still require women in labor to stop eating. Some doctors believe that food in your digestive system may need to be aspirated (sucked out) in the event that you need emergency anesthesia. However, studies have shown that it’s probably very unlikely that you’ll need anesthesia, and the chance that you would need to be aspirated is unlikely as well. Other doctors may say fluids and snacks are okay during labor, as long as you’re not eating anything heavy. Research has shown that labor can be shortened if a woman is allowed to eat. All that hard work does require some fuel, after all! Here’s a tip… When you feel like those contractions are starting and think it’s time to call the doctor, make sure you get something to eat before you leave for the hospital, just in case. You don’t want to be stuck for hours without something in your stomach!
With the arrival of your child will come the feeling of being overwhelmed. All of a sudden, you’ve got a lot to deal with. Chances are, you probably made a lot of decisions about how you and your partner will take care of your baby. Will you breastfeed or bottle-feed? Will you circumcise or not? Will you vaccinate or not? Will you use disposable diapers or cloth? Will you let the baby sleep in the room with you or will the baby sleep in his own room? But you’ll have a lot of other experiences before you even leave the hospital that will leave you feeling overwhelmed. You may have lots of friends and family stopping by to visit and meet your bundle of joy. Your baby will likely be taken out of the room for several routine tests and examinations. And you’ll have lots of visitors from the hospital checking on you, too – nurses, doctors, patient/customer care representatives, lactation consultants… the hospital may even have a newborn photographer who makes the rounds!
As ready and prepared as you thought you were before the baby arrived, that can all change once you’re finally holding him in your arms. You may have lots on your mind once the baby gets here, and if you do, it’s important to talk about the things that are bothering you. Chances are, one of your biggest worries right away will be: Am I doing this right??? Some women take immediately to motherhood and seem to be naturals at it holding, breastfeeding, and diapering their newborns. Other women may take awhile to feel completely comfortable with handling such a tiny human being. While you’re still in the hospital, don’t be afraid to ask the smallest questions, even if they sound silly to you. Ask the nurses to show you again how to swaddle the baby, ask someone to watch you while you nurse to see if they can give you any pointers.
Sometimes, all of this worrying can give way to fear. The biggest fear a lot of women probably have is that they may somehow inadvertently harm the baby. After all, babies are small and delicate. They have zero neck control for the first few months of their life so they can’t even hold their head up. What’s more, they can’t come right out and tell you if something is bothering them. So you may be thinking: What if something happens to him? What if he gets sick or hurt? What if something is wrong? You’ll probably be on high alert when the baby is with you, and you might still be overly cautious when you finally get home, but try to relax. Babies are pretty resilient. They’re also pretty good about letting you know if something’s wrong. Babies will usually cry if they are hungry, tired, or need to be changed, and luckily, it’s pretty easy to figure out which one it is.
At some point, you’re probably going to be pretty tired of being in the hospital, especially as your time for discharge nears. You will probably so excited to get out of there and get home! Everything is better at home! Your bed will be so much more comfortable. Your shower will feel so much better. Don’t push it… Yes, it will be good to get home. Yes, you might feel like you have a million things to do and tons of people to call. Yes, you want to show your baby off to the world, but remember… Your body has been through a lot. You need to take it easy and rest as much as possible. That may be easier said than done, but it can take your body up to six weeks to fully heal from delivery, maybe even longer if you have a C-section. So, like everybody else will be telling you, try to sleep when the baby sleeps!
With this impatience may come some level of annoyance. You might be annoyed at the nurses coming in to check on you or give you medication at different times of the night, after you’ve finally managed to doze off and get some sleep. You might be annoyed that your phone won’t stop ringing because everyone keeps calling to congratulate you. You might be annoyed that you have to deal with insurance and paperwork when you have many other important things going on – like cuddling and bonding with your baby! While your baby will be your main focus, you might notice that you don’t quite feel as happy as you think you should. In fact, you might even feel moody or agitated. It’s perfectly normal. Your hormone levels will fluctuate wildly after you give birth, which can cause mood swings – as well as hot flashes, night sweats, and those postpartum cramps and contractions we mentioned earlier.
While having a baby is one of the most natural things a woman can do, there can be a lot of trial and error involved. For example, it was one thing to put a diaper on the baby doll in your childbirth/childcare class, but putting it on a real live, squirming, fragile baby is another thing altogether. Swaddling is another one of those things that may seem easy when you’re burrito-ing up a motionless doll, but when those little arms and legs start moving, they can be kind of hard to contain. And why is it when the nurses do it, it’s perfect, but when you do it, the baby pops out of the swaddle in two seconds like Houdini? And breastfeeding… How do you know if the baby’s getting enough milk? How do you know if you’re even making milk? There are a lot of unknowns when it comes to getting to know your baby. It all just takes time to learn his cues and, when it comes to diapers and swaddling… practice, practice, practice – of which you’ll be getting plenty!
YES! Finally! It’s time to wheel on out of here! It’s so exciting to finally be able to take your baby home. This is what you’ve been waiting nine months for. You’ll strap him into his car seat and a nurse will wheel you out of the hospital in a wheelchair. Once the car seat is loaded in the car, you’re on your way! Here are some tips to make heading home a little easier:
- Be sure to have the car seat properly installed and inspected. Practice putting the car seat in and taking it out a few times so that you’re a little more comfortable with doing it before it’s time to do it with the baby in there.
- Send home extra stuff the day before. If you received a lot of gifts or brought a ton of stuff with you to the hospital, have your partner load the car the night before, or even take a bunch of stuff home so that neither one of you has to deal with it when you first get home – and that way you can all enjoy your homecoming together.
- Make sure your partner can bring the car as close as possible to you so you don’t have far to walk. Wear comfortable clothes and proper shoes, and don’t worry about carrying anything else except for the baby!
Somewhere during the middle of all of this, once your little one here, safe and sound, you’ll realize how lucky you are that your delivery went well. But you didn’t make it through childbirth all on your own; you had a team of people coaching you and supporting you the whole way. You’ll be feeling thankful to your partner, for helping you get through it all. You’ll be thankful for your friends and family for visiting. (And if you’re lucky, for bringing you food and perhaps offering to clean your house or do your grocery shopping so you can get some rest when you get home!) You’ll be grateful to the doctor and nurses who delivered your baby. You may be really grateful that you had an epidural, or that your doctor was quick to suggest a C-section when something seemed problematic. You’ll be happy and grateful to be on your way home. The point is… You have a lot to be thankful for.
There is no greater act of love than bringing a baby into the world. And although you may have love for your family, and you may love your partner with all your heart… nothing compares to the love you will have for your child. Some parents may bond with their baby within the first few days (or even within minutes!) of birth. For other parents, it may take awhile. You have to get to know each other. To encourage the bond between you and your baby, it’s important to have lots of skin to skin contact. Cuddle your baby and hold him often. Breastfeeding can also help with the bond between a mother and child; the hormones that are released during breastfeeding promote attachment and feelings of relaxation. Spend lots of time making eye-to-eye contact with your baby when you hold him, and be sure to talk to him and sing to him as well!