After giving birth to my first baby, there were things I experienced that I simply wasn’t prepared for.
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Following a 46-hour labor, I was overwhelmed and dreadfully exhausted. But above all that I wondered why no one told me that giving birth wasn’t the end. That there were more unpleasant things to come.
The postpartum period a woman endures after giving birth is still a rather taboo topic. I honestly don’t remember hearing these things from my mom friends, mother, and even the endless books and articles I read while pregnant.
That’s why I’m writing this post… so you’ll be ready. And you won’t have to feel mad at all your other mom friends who didn’t have the heart to tell you.
Let me warn you if you’re squeamish – prepare yourself now. Childbirth isn’t pretty. I mean, the circle of life part is beautiful but everything else is messy, to say the least.
Surprising Things That Happen After
I’m going to go down the list of what’s most likely or could happen to you in the order that it’s most likely to happen.
Every woman’s body is different and every birth experience is unique. All three of my labors were very, very different.
The best thing you can do as an expecting mother is to educate yourself and try as best you can to prepare yourself. This way you’ll feel less overwhelmed and more confident to advocate for yourself as you need to.
1 – You Give Birth…Again!
If you have a vaginal delivery, after you finally push that giant (no matter their actual size!) baby out of you – you’ll quickly realize that your labor experience isn’t over.
While your new baby is still snuggling your chest and you’re thanking God it’s all over – you’re suddenly told it’s time to deliver the placenta. The what now?
Many women I’ve talked to didn’t know this was a part of the labor process. I know I was shocked and honestly felt a little dumb that I didn’t know this.
The process usually requires a few small pushes to help deliver the placenta.
Once it’s delivered the doctor will fully examine it (I recommend you go back to staring at your baby now) to be sure it’s completely
If the placenta isn’t delivered intact there’s a small chance that the mom could be in danger of hemorrhage or infection. So this step is extremely important.
2 – It’s Time for the Stitches
Most women who deliver their babies vaginally will need stitches to repair any tearing of their perineum while pushing. Ouch! I know, the thought makes you cringe.
I didn’t earn my batch of honor for not tearing in childbirth and have to say it is not the worst part of giving birth. Especially, if you had an epidural which should still be effective.
Getting stitched up is par for the course and I don’t remember any pain during the procedure. If you’d like to minimize your chances of tearing read this for some great tips.
3 – The Bleeding, Oh the Bleeding
I never, ever imagined how much blood would be coming out of my body right away and in the days after giving birth. As a woman who experienced heavy periods every month for years, I assumed it would be a similar experience.
I had no idea I was going to be bleeding like the heaviest period of my life! I had to wear these giant hospital-issued mesh panties because I had no idea what was coming. You’ll love to use these ones instead!
You may feel the constant fear of hemorrhaging all the time. Because hemorrhaging is a real danger, here are some signs you might be hemorrhaging after birth.
In a normal postpartum experience, the bleeding is very heavy at first and will taper off each day until you are discharged.
The full course of the bleeding will most likely continue up to a few weeks. If your bleeding suddenly becomes much heavier or bright red, seek medical attention right away.
It’s also normal to experience bleeding following a cesarian birth, especially if it’s due to an emergency. But the same rules of possible hemorrhage still apply.
4 – It’s Time for the Massage Nobody Wants
A relaxing massage after giving birth sounds like a great idea, but that’s not the kind of massage you’ll get!
A nurse will, soon after giving birth, will come in your room to give you a fundal massage.
The process involves pushing on your uterus to encourage the natural process of it contracting back into its pre-baby size. That’s not a bad thing at all!
It also helps to reduce excessive blood loss too. And as we said, you’re already losing enough! The only drawback here it that you’re contracting… as in contractions. It doesn’t feel great, but you get the gist.
5 – Your Baby Needs to Eat Too
After giving birth, your baby will need to eat! That means while you’re knee-deep in all this birth chaos, you have a hungry baby to feed. Breastfeeding your new baby can be challenging for most new moms. I know it was for me!
Some moms decide to do the breast crawl. While others want to breastfeed their baby right away. And many moms are comfortable waiting until after the baby’s bath.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to feeding newborns. The most important thing is that your new baby gets the nourishment they need – no matter what that looks like.
My biggest tip is to ask for help from the resident lactation consultant. They are usually so helpful and can get you and your new baby off to a great start with breastfeeding. Do NOT suffer alone if you are having problems.
It’s also important to note that your breastmilk doesn’t come in right away. What your baby will be drinking following birth is actually colostrum.
This is a thicker and nutrient-dense milk that your baby needs to help them grow strong and healthy. Your breastmilk will actually come in after a few days postpartum.
6 – The Cramps, Oh the Cramps
Not only are you bleeding like you’re on the biggest period of your life, but you’ll also be cramping like it too!
Just like with your period, the cramps will ease as the bleeding does so you have to let it run its course.
Cuddling that sweet baby does seem to work like a natural pain reliever though! Or at least that’s how I remember it.
Along with the cramps, mothers who have a c-section may feel excruciating pain from trapped gas that can happen from surgery.
7 – You’ll be Waiting for Feeling to Return
While the cramps are non-stop, you may be waiting for sensation to return to other parts of your body.
If you had an epidural, it can take some time before your legs feel like yours again. On occasion, you can get too much anesthesia and feel like your legs aren’t a part of your body. This was my experience.
You can also experience numbness in your pelvic region following a c-section. In both cases, normal sensations should return in a few hours.
8 – It’s Like Potty Training All Over Again
After giving birth you become terrified of your first time using the bathroom postpartum.
As a result of fearing to pee, many new moms reduce their water intake. Do NOT do this! It makes your pee more concentrated causing it to sting more. It can also cause constipation which you do not want right now!!
Using a peri-bottle to spray warm water down there as you pee is very, very helpful. This peri-bottle is way better than the one they give you at the hospital!
As for having your first postpartum BM, you’ll need to do it as your golden ticket to going home. Make sure to take your stool softener as directed by your doctor which sure helps things along.
The key is to reduce your anxiety and take it slow…very slow.
If you’ve developed hemorrhoids from pushing, you can use a topical cream like this one. It helps to reduce the swelling and pain from that area and make it easier for you to go.
9 – Get Ready to Sweat
During pregnancy, your body retains so much fluid that needs to be released after birth. And since you won’t lose it all during childbirth, much of that fluid will come out in night sweats.
I remember waking up that first night in a soaking wet gown. I didn’t understand what was happening at the time, but now I know it’s all part of the magic of birth.
It can take up to 8 weeks for your body’s fluid levels to get back to normal.
10 – Belly Be NOT Gone!
One of the most surprising things I experienced my first go around was the fact that when I left the hospital, I still looked pregnant! Seriously?
I was very thin my first pregnancy and no one told me that I’d walk out of the hospital looking like I did when I came in.
This didn’t work out well with my super cute going-home outfit that didn’t fit at all. I even split a hole in my pants putting them on! Talk about emotional scarring.
My best advice is to bring clothes that
The postpartum period is very painful, stressful, and exhausting for mothers. Don’t try to go faster than your body will allow.
Take it slow and give yourself the grace and time to recover completely.
And allow yourself to focus on adjusting to motherhood and loving that precious new baby!