When I was pregnant, I did all of the things. I read all the books, took all the classes, and researched what to expect when expecting to the point that I expected it to be easy once the baby came. No matter what I did, there was no way I was prepared for what came after the birth of my daughter, mostly because no one talks about these things. It’s appalling that there’s so little information about what moms need after childbirth, especially considering how much information there is about baby’s after birth care.
Here are a few things that surprised me:
1. You are not done giving birth after the baby comes.
If you thought you can just celebrate and cuddle with your newborn immediately following birth, forget it. That’s right; the hardest part is over, but you still aren’t done. After the baby leaves your body, there is still afterbirth (the placenta and a bunch of other stuff) that has to leave your body too or you risk infection. I didn’t have an epidural, so this was a double whammy for me — more tiring labor to work through and more pain.
2. You will basically be creating a CSI crime scene for a few days.
What does not immediately come out after giving birth will still be making its way out of our body. Like it or not, you will basically have what looks like a murder scene in your bathroom every time you make a pit stop. Just think of the worst period you have ever had and know it is worse than that. So far, the entire medial community in the 21st century has come up with only mesh underwear and giant diaper-like pads, so at least we have that.
When the nurse on the mother/baby floor of the hospital told me I need to take a “sitz bath” once I returned home, I calmly asked her, “Where do I buy the sitz?” A sitz bath is actually something you sit in, usually with Epsom salt. It cleanses and relieves some pain. You can sit in your bathtub or a plastic contraption that goes over your toilet.
4. Visitors mean the best, but they are the worst.
You are completely exhausted, in pain, and look and feel a mess, and yet everyone wants to stop by and see your new bundle of joy. Just know that it is ok to say no to visitors, and even to set up a rule (like no one gets to visit the first week) so that you can get some rest and spend time with your new baby.
5. Breastfeeding is really hard. It like really, really hard.
In my opinion, it is harder than giving birth! Don’t think that the baby will automatically latch on and it will be an easy process. Breastfeeding on average takes about 40 hours a week, even if you pump, so just get ready for that second full-time job you didn’t even know you applied for.
I didn’t suffer from postpartum depression, so I didn’t list much about it here, but it is still a topic that you should look into if you feel sad, lonely, depressed, or just a little “off” once you bring baby home. These feelings are normal for some new mothers, so don’t feel strange if you have feelings that make you feel the need to ask for help.