The journey to becoming a mother is pretty insane when you think about it.
First, there’s getting pregnant which is a feat of beating crazy odds in and of itself. Apparently out of 300 million sperm that make their way into a woman, less than a handful actually break through the egg’s shell to have even a chance of being fertilized.
Then there’s pregnancy itself. Your body stretches and grows in ways you didn’t even know were humanly possible and through a series of intricately connected events, your body is literally knitting together the components of human life. Mind. Blown.
After this, you give birth to that baby and your body works with you in a beautifully symbiotic way to give you all of the things you need to get that baby into the world. The oxytocin, the epinephrine, the prolactin…the list goes on and on.
We learn about all of these things are marvel at the amazingness of the human body. Pregnancy is amazing! Birth is amazing! But what doesn’t always get discussed quite as much is that whole “after the baby comes” part known as postpartum.
Postpartum is sort of this mysterious thing we know exists, but don’t really know a ton about until we are actually experiencing it ourselves, which means it can easily take us by surprise leaving us unprepared and overwhelmed. Going into it more prepared can do wonders for your emotional well-being in the months after your baby is born.
Here are a few things nobody tells you about postpartum that you just might want to know.
1. There will be mesh.
With my first baby, I naively brought my own underwear along for the postpartum process, but quickly realized it was unnecessary. There will be these hideously unattractive mesh underwear that you will initially turn your nose up to, but will quickly come to love. With all the postpartum mess happening those mesh underwear were the best thing that ever happened to me. And did I mention they are DISPOSABLE?! Yes. I promise, you will definitely want to throw that underwear away immediately.
2. ALL THE THINGS will exit your body.
Thank goodness for those mesh undies and the giant pads you’ll be wearing, because they will “catch” all the things soon-to-be exiting your body. There will likely be a ton of blood (like, it was crime scene status for me every time I went to the bathroom that first week) and sometimes you will pass other things as well; clots, lochia, birth tissue and sometimes even pieces of retained placenta. You’ll definitely want to keep an eye on things after each visit to the bathroom.
3. It will get awkward.
With all the things existing your body and the fact that your body is pretty torn up, there will definitely be some awkward moments. Think: farting or queefing (horrifying, I know) and having absolutely no hope for holding it in, pants peeing, leaking breast milk everywhere. Just know that you birthed a human and it’s OK. Happens to the best of us.
4. That first poop tho.
I almost forgot…the first time you poop postpartum is kind of (the absolute) worst. Be prepared for some tears. It’s like giving birth 2.0. OK, not really that bad…but it sucks. Be sure to drink lots of water and get yourself a good stool softener.
5. Contractions for days. Like…literally days.
I had zero clue that contractions continued after delivering the baby, but apparently it’s a thing. The good news is that it’s your uterus, doing its job as it contracts back down to a reasonable size. The bad news is that those contractions hurt just like regular labor contractions. The first time around they only lasted a day and weren’t remarkably painful, just uncomfortable. With my second baby they got subsequently worse and with Baby #3, they were enough to leave me doubled over for days. Also, worth noting is that breastfeeding serves as a catalyst for these contractions, so they may be more intense as you feed your baby during those first days.
6. Bonding might take a bit.
I remember everyone talking about how they had a “love at first sight” experience with their babies, but that isn’t the case for everyone and it certainly wasn’t for me. Even though you will love this little person, sometimes it takes a little bit to warm up to one another. As with any new relationship, it has to be built, so don’t feel like there’s something wrong with you if you aren’t feeling it at first.
7. Your belly will look and feel SO weird.
Before having my first baby, I knew I could expect my pre-pregnancy clothes to be snug for awhile and that my belly would take a bit of time to go back to normal size, but I was caught a bit off-guard by the fact that I still looked very much like I was 6 months pregnant for a couple of weeks. Beyond just the look of my belly, it felt SO strange! Super squishy, like literal jello.
8. Hormones may do a number on you.
Hormones are crazy things that can make your body go haywire in ways you never expected. For me it meant crazy skin flare ups (patches on my face that were drier than the Sahara desert and psoriasis), sweating like crazy (I wasn’t a sweater before) and I was SO emotional. I have a friend who suddenly developed weird cravings despite never having them during pregnancy and another who developed a super intense teeth sensitivity. If any weird symptoms crop up, don’t rule out postpartum as the cause. Bodies are the craziest!
9. You might act a fool.
Along with the wild hormone fluctuations comes wild mood swings. Going from being blissfully happy to devastatingly sad will be a new thing for awhile, but should go away once things level out. I remember losing my chill over sappy commercials and literally crying over spilled milk. If things don’t settle in though, remember that postpartum depression is a very real thing and there is no shame in seeking help for it.
10. Breastfeeding will be a whole new journey.
Breastfeeding is much like pregnancy and birth in that it can also be quite unpredictable. Large breasts, small breasts…it doesn’t necessarily indicate that you’ll have an easy or difficult time. And your experience can vary greatly between each child. I struggled like crazy to make enough milk for my first and had to supplement, but my next two nursed like champs. A friend of mine thought nursing was a breeze for her first two children, and then #3 threw her for a loop and she struggled to make enough. Breastfeeding is beautiful and wonderful, but it isn’t always easy, so any prep you can do will be beneficial.
What things do you wish someone had shared with you about postpartum?