The other day I was texting with a brand-new mother friend and she told me “This is hard. I’m pretty freaked out.”
Most pregnant women spend months reading about childbirth: what it feels like, how to deal with the pain, how long it might take, and everything in between. What the recovery is like post-partum is often treated like an afterthought; they treat the childbirth experience like the war when in fact, it’s only just the opening salvo. Childbirth lasts at most a day or two, but the most difficult of the post-partum recovery time lasts days and weeks.
These are the top ten things nobody tells you about your recovery after you have a baby.
1. Breast-feeding isn’t easy at first, and it certainly isn’t magical.
If you stick with it, breast feeding is the ideal way to feed your child in almost all circumstances: it’s free, readily available, nutritious and as an added bonus, nursing helps speed along weight loss. Unfortunately, the majority of women give up within a few weeks, and for good reason. It’s hard. I gave birth naturally, and despite that I have to say that the first two weeks of breast feeding were more painful than childbirth. I screamed, I cried, I dreaded nursing.
Unfortunately, I was doing so up to every other hour, so I dreaded basically every waking moment until I called a lactation consultant to help deal with the pain that I was experiencing every time I nursed. My number one piece of advice since that experience that I give to expecting mothers is to pick out a lactation consultant before you give birth and before you may need her services. You don’t want to be Googling on your phone after five days of no sleep through your and your baby’s tears.
2. You Will Bleed. A lot. For a long time.
The hospital sends you home with pads so thick you may as well be wearing adult diapers. You will take more than you think you need and then end up buying more when that hospital stockpile runs out. You will find yourself on Google searching “hemorrhage post-partum” and “how long will I bleed after childbirth?” several dozen times.
You will call your doctor or midwife and insist that this isn’t normal, that there must be something wrong. In all likelihood there isn’t (that shouldn’t stop you from calling, though), you just really weren’t expecting to lose what feels like all of the blood in your body in the weeks after giving birth.
3. You Will Still Look Really Pregnant
I’ve got to give it up to Princess Kate for helping dispel the notion that you stop looking pregnant once you stop being pregnant. The day after giving birth to her first son Prince George Kate bravely stepped out, not in a moomoo like her late mother-in-law, in a form-fitting dress that showed off the fact that even after you have a baby, you still sport a baby bump.
Why do you still look so big? Your uterus is still the size of a basketball, even if there’s no person inside of it anymore. It takes time for it to shrink back to normal size, and be warned, that shrinking process isn’t painless. (Sensing a theme yet?)
4. You’re Still Really Emotional
My husband and I still joke about the moments where, despite my normally stoic attitude, I lost it while pregnant. His favorite occasion was probably in the middle of a Bar Rescue marathon where I suddenly started crying “Oh my G-d! He could lose the bar and his entire life savings! He’s in so much debt!” To which my very confused husband responded, “Uh, Bethany, that’s every episode of Bar Rescue ever. This guy isn’t even that likable!”
What I wasn’t expecting was the emotional wreck that I would be after having my daughter. Several friends warned me in the days after she was born I might get a little weepy. What nobody warned me about was the fact that I would be crying that my daughter will be using sippy cups one day three months after giving birth.
5. You Still Pee Your Pants Sometimes
Those adult diapers I mentioned earlier come in handy for more than one reason. Just like you may have lost control over your bladder while you were pregnant, you will not regain that control immediately post-partum. So you should still be afraid to laugh, sneeze and cough the first few weeks after you have a baby too.
Nobody warned you having a kid was this glamorous, right?
6. You Will Fear Going to the Bathroom More Than You Ever Feared Childbirth
When my midwife told me it was time to start pushing I was thrilled, much to my surprise. When she told me a few hours later that I had to go to the bathroom before I could be moved to my recovery room I was petrified. I was more afraid of the toilet than I was about anything in the middle of childbirth. As it turned out, I was scared for good reason. All of the tips the nurses had for going to the bathroom, something I’ve been doing since the day I was born were useful, but man, nothing prepared me for how much that would hurt, and for how long (you’ve got to be sensing the theme by now).
7. Phantom Kicking – It’s Real and Really Freaky
The whole time I was in the hospital recovering from childbirth (which was only about 24 hours) I kept telling the nurses on staff that there was still a baby inside of me. I was pregnant with twins and I had only delivered one. How did I know that? I still felt someone, something, kicking inside of me, even after I gave birth. It went away pretty quickly, thankfully, but the phantom kicking I experienced was the least expected, and most freaky, part of my recovery.
8. You Will Leak Milk Over Everything You Own
No matter what you do, everything you own will get covered in bodily fluid, and not just your baby’s either. One girlfriend told me that despite lining a sports bra with towels, a burp cloth and a receiving blanket, she still soaked her sheets, blankets, and mattress pad in breast milk. You will get engorged, it will hurt (ah, the theme) and then you will wake up swimming in your own milk. Accept it and embrace it. It’s unavoidable but thankfully short-lived.
9. Your Husband Will See Many Sides of You, But Mostly Your Backside
No matter what kind of birth you have, vaginal or a c-section, your husband will become an indispensable person in your life for the first few days and perhaps even weeks. He will help you go to the bathroom, shower, stand and walk, he will be your personal chef and chauffeur. If you didn’t have a close relationship before, you sure as heck will soon.
10. Everything I Just Mentioned Is Worth It
The person you made and just suffered through hell and back for is awesome and makes all of the crap I just mentioned worth it. Your friends and family will go above and beyond to help you through this process and soon, you’ll be talking with your spouse about when you might want to do it all over again. Sorry to be sappy, but it’s true. If it wasn’t, there would be a lot more only children and the human race would always be on the brink of collapse.