There are few things in this world more disillusioning than becoming a mom for the first time. I think it's that way for a very specific reason- if we knew beforehand just how difficult becoming a new parent can be, many of us would never do it. Please don’t misunderstand me, there is a beauty to becoming a mom and all that experience entails. It can be an exciting and beautiful time in the life of a woman.
However, things are often not what we expect in the early hours, days and weeks following childbirth.
Many of us have been dreaming of becoming a mommy our whole lives. And once we find out we're pregnant, we begin to anxiously anticipate the arrival of our sweet, cherub faced bundle of perfection. We have it all planned out. Perhaps a feeding schedule and/or a napping schedule. You've chosen to use only cloth diapers because they are better for the environment and baby’s bottom.
And you decided that you don’t really need much extra help; you’ve got this…right?
Then your beautiful new baby enters the world and you are overwhelmed. You're almost angry because no one told you about the flood of emotions and hormone changes that you would experience during this time. But the reason no one told you is because it's almost impossible to accurately describe to someone what you're going to feel as you reach this milestone moment in your life.
To say it's overwhelming is an understatement. It's life changing, it's heart changing and mildly terrifying. So here are “8 Things You Wish Someone Had Told You About Your Postpartum Needs”:
8 Donut Please--Not The Pastry Kind
You will wish that someone had told you how bad your “nether regions” (The correct medical term is likely not “nether regions”, but that’s the term we will use to describe this delicate part of the female anatomy) were going to hurt following childbirth. Your pain may not be immediate especially if you had an epidural during labor and delivery, but it’s there-lurking, waiting to rear its ugly head.
Depending on how much intervention your baby needed during delivery will likely dictate how extensive your postpartum pain and recovery might be. Often times there might be tearing in the vaginal area (the “nether region”) or your doctor may have made the decision to do an episiotomy to prevent tearing. In either of those cases you are sure to have some stitches in this area. That alone can cause significant discomfort.
There are many factors that contribute to the postpartum pain and discomfort that new moms experience. Not only might you have stitches. But parts of your anatomy have been stretched, pulled and had great pressure applied to them as you delivered your 6-8 pound baby that up until this point have likely suffered little to no trauma throughout their life span.
This little cushion can provide the comfort that you need right now
In addition to that, there are many muscles that are utilized during childbirth, some obvious and some not. Pelvic muscles, vaginal muscles, rectal muscles…yes, I said rectal muscles, and your abdominal muscles. And on top of all of that, maybe you have been lucky enough to have or develop hemorrhoids.
There are three wonderful post delivery “treats” you will likely be offered following the birth of your baby. Take them all, you will not be sorry.
Treat #1- Very soon after delivery your nurse will likely place a very large (ginormous) maxi pad on your “nether region”. This is likely all going on while you are looking at your new baby, the flood of emotions streaming down your flushed cheeks in awe of the fact that another person now exists because of you- but this maxi pad is a secret weapon- it has a breakable ice pack in the middle of it.
This will be one of your new favorite things! (That statement is worthy of an exclamation point). These pads will be provided to you throughout your stay and if you can get a few for the road, it is highly recommended. And these especially large maxi pads will also only properly fit into the mesh panties that you will also be given- you will discover that while very large and less than sexy, these are also a godsend.
Treat yourself to one of these pillows
Treat #2- You will also be offered a basic looking squirt bottle. Its purpose is simple- Prior to going to the bathroom, have your partner fill it with warm water and then you are going to squirt the warm water onto your “nether region” as you go pee the first few times following delivery, as they are the roughest. This may sound ridiculous- but use it anyway. You will be thankful that you did.
Treat #3- And lastly, you may be offered a smallish, inflatable ring to sit on- it is called a donut. Again, may seem ridiculous, but considering the present condition of your “nether region” you will be glad to have something to take the pressure off of your bum and nethers when you're sitting down.
7 I Don’t Want to Poop
This information is an extension of the first point. Going to the bathroom in the early hours and days following the delivery of your baby is going to be uncomfortable; there is no way around that. Things have likely been either ripped/cut, then stitched and every muscle in your “nether region” has been stretched to capacity and beyond. Things are going to be tender and sore. The first three days tend to be the worst.
So while peeing, or as the mature may refer to it as “going #1”, may bring a bit of a sting with it (this is what the aforementioned squirt bottle is for) - the first poop can be rather intimidating. Many women dread the first poop following delivery. It may take a couple of days for things to “get moving again” in that regard. But be prepared.
Eventually, it's going to happen
Constipation can also be an issue during the postpartum period as a result of the hormone fluctuations as well as iron supplements that your doctor/midwife may suggest that you take following delivery. The iron supplement may help you regain your strength and recuperate a bit more quickly from any blood loss that may have occurred during labor and delivery, as well as in the days and weeks to come.
Many doctors suggest taking a stool softener to help ease the discomfort. This is valuable advice which you should follow. This is also the time you will want to be eating a healthy diet. Fruits and vegetables are also going to aid in restoring normal digestive balance and “movement”.
6 Is it Nap Time Yet?
You will wish that someone had told you just how terrible sleep deprivation can be. Sleep deprivation can honestly be sheer misery, especially in light of the other inconveniences you may be experiencing/suffering (the aforementioned tender “nether region”). There is a reason that sleep deprivation is used as a torture tactic in hostile interrogations. It is brutal.
You may find the sleep deprivation is one of the most difficult aspects of new parenthood, and you are not alone in that. It is not uncommon for new babies to wake to be fed every 1-2 hours, especially in the early days and weeks following delivery.
You will hear non-stop crying at the hospital
You will want to take every opportunity to rest/nap particularly in the early days following your delivery. Once you have “adjusted” a bit more to your new normal, then when baby sleeps you can use that time for other things- chores, chatting, a fresh cup of coffee- but in the beginning rest as often as you are able.
5 Why Am I Still Fat?!
You will wish that someone had told you how long it might take to get back into your pre-pregnancy clothes. In the early days of your baby bump you are overflowing with excitement and you have no trouble leaving behind your skinny jeans and heels. There was a miracle growing inside of you and your “bump” was visible proof to others of your impending motherhood.
But by the end of your third trimester, you are exhausted and might feel like a whale, and honestly you are done being pregnant and are ready to be a mommy- a hot one at that. Expecting to deliver your baby and get right back into your cute pre-pregnancy clothes is a very unrealistic expectation.
Sorry, but the baby fat will take time to work off
The bottom line is that it will take time to feel good about your body again. Things are puffy and it takes time for your belly to “go down”, as it takes time for the uterus to return to its pre-pregnancy state. So for the first few weeks, continue to wear maternity clothes. They will offer the most comfort and this will alleviate putting pressure on yourself.
You have enough to think about in the postpartum phase of becoming a first time parent, don’t place unnecessary stress/ pressure on yourself. Relax, you are beautiful! You are the reason there is another person in your family. And for those women you’ve heard saying that they were back in their “regular” clothes in a week are either lying or they are not human- so, relax and enjoy your new baby.
4 Oh No, What Have I Done?
You will wish that someone had told you that you might not immediately fall in love with your baby. Wow- that’s a biggie. But let’s be honest, those early days and weeks are rough. You are adjusting to life as a parent, your hormones are likely in overdrive, you are learning to function on little to no sleep and you are now responsible for this wonderful little baby who is also the reason that you aren’t sleeping and can barely speak in complete sentences.
You love your baby more than you could imagine loving another human on the planet, it is an intense love that, if this is your first baby, you are experiencing for the first time. But this is also a very overwhelming time. You are learning to start a load of laundry either holding/wearing your baby, preparing meals holding/wearing your baby and the list goes on and on. It is intense.
There is a light at the end of the tunnel, and you're almost there
But you may not immediately be completely gaga over your baby. There is a lot of crying, peeing, pooping, burping and your baby needs you 24/7. So, it’s ok that you might cry while you rock him/her, not because you’re happy and so in love with your new baby, but because you just need him/her to sleep for more than forty-five minutes at a time.
With all of this being said, if you need help ask for it. That doesn’t make you a failure- it’s make you a human, an exhausted one.
3 Bring It On!
Most women like to think of themselves as superheroes being able to do everything. This is one time that you will want to put the cape away and allow others to help you, to pamper you and to care for you and your new family.
When your friends and family offer to start a meal train for you (this is when they all graciously take turns bringing in hot meals for your family or having take-out delivered at no hassle to you)- let them do it! If you have family or girlfriends that offer to come and sit with your baby for a bit to allow you to rest, graciously accept, and then rest.
There's no medal coming to you because you could, "Do it all."
Trying to do everything on your own during the early days and weeks following the delivery of your baby will only lead to further exhaustion and frustration. You need time to adjust and your body needs time to heal. You have the rest of your life and your baby’s life to proudly wear your cape and be supermom.
2 I Quit!
Breastfeeding is difficult. For those who choose this method of feeding their new baby, they will learn that it can be quite a challenge, particularly in the beginning. In the early days following delivery you will only have colostrum (which is very healthy for your baby) as you wait for your breast milk to “come in”. During these days and nights your baby may want to nurse often. It is vital to remember in these early days that you are both still just learning.
Breastfeeding will take an enormous amount of patience, dedication and commitment. And sometime around the time that your nipples (sorry, no way around having to say “nipples”) start to blister from the incessant suckling and you are so exhausted you can barely function you will want to quit.
You may beg your partner to run to the nearest store and buy a healthy supply of bottles and a can of formula- but try to remember that breastfeeding isn’t always as hellish as it is in the beginning. The blisters will heal and your milk will “come in” and soon there will be some semblance of a schedule with your baby.
It's natural to feel like it's never going to work out, but it will
With that being said, if there are reasons that you can no longer breast feed or you just realize breastfeeding really isn’t going to work for you- that is ok. You are not a failure.
But most new moms who struggle in the early days and weeks would tell you that this stage of difficulty does pass and breastfeeding not only offers your baby’s immune system a jump start, it is also convenient and far more cost effective than formula feeding- so, if you think you can dig deep and find your second wind, so to speak, it will be worth it. So hang in there, momma!
1 I’m So Sad…
You will wish that someone had told you just how sad you might feel if you experience the “baby blues”. Some women experience the “baby blues” and some women don’t. A woman’s body goes through a myriad of changes when she becomes pregnant and then she must experience (some might say suffer) another myriad of changes following the delivery of her baby.
Hormone changes or imbalances can wreak havoc on a new momma who is already exhausted and overwhelmed. For some women the “baby blues” becomes postpartum depression.
Do not retreat when the darkness of postpartum depression blankets you and weighs you down. That will be your instinct, to stay in bed and hide from the world. You may find yourself so sad and overwhelmed that you begin to lose interest in your baby. This is the time to talk to someone.
When you feel depressed, that's when you need help the most
Talk to your partner and share your struggle, invite a close friend over for coffee or tea and if you can’t seem to get past these feelings, it might be a good idea to speak to your doctor about how you are feeling.
Experiencing postpartum depression doesn’t mean you are failing, it simply means you are facing a challenge in a very exhausting time in your life. So hang in there, the joys of mommyhood are not far behind.