Jul 8, 2013
What Happens After Childbirth: 10 Things No One Tells You About Postpartum
1. After you give birth you will bleed for at least a month. I never knew about this postpartum period with my first, and it is quite a flow. Another reason to . . .
2. Avoid sharing a room at all costs. If your hospital doesn’t offer private rooms, consider switching hospitals. If they charge extra for a single, PAY IT. I lucked out both times but let me tell you, if I would have had to share a room I would have begged to recover in a broom closet. Apart from the hygienic nightmare of sharing a bathroom after that physical trauma, I can’t even imagine having to listen to someone else’s baby cry on top of mine, visitors, cell phone calls, dueling TVs – plus your partner couldn’t stay over in the room! Should be illegal in my opinion, and fortunately for local friends, Pennsylvania Hospital will be all single rooms by next year. I got to stay during the construction period while they just drilled into my ceiling all day. Still better than having shared a room though.
3. Even if you are the most stable person in the world, you will very likely experience some level of temporary postpartum anxiety/depression/insomnia or just plain emotional insanity. Your hormones take a massive drop, you are seriously sleep-deprived, you’re in several kinds of physical pain and you are suddenly responsible for another human life. Some people develop longer-term or later-onset PPD. Some people just have a mild case of the baby blues. But don’t be alarmed if you don’t feel immediate baby bliss. Talk about it with your support system and get professional help if needed. I promise anyone who has ever become a mother can relate.
4. When you first try to breastfeed it will hurt like hell and you will think there is no way you can do this. When babies first latch, they usually just hang on to the tip of your nipple until it bleeds. This is not permanent! Have the hospital’s lactation expert help you as often as you need to get the correct latch. Even when you get the right latch it will still hurt for a while because of the initial damage. But give it a week and it will start to feel much better! And in the meantime, after you get through the first few seconds it will stop hurting so much. Eventually you will be a pro and it will feel like nothing. Oh, and if you have to supplement (or only use) formula for any reason (I do to get some sleep when I don’t have enough pumped milk), do NOT feel guilty!
5. You may not be able to pick your baby out of a nursery lineup. My son, a genetic anomaly, has white hair and bright blue eyes so I can spot him in a crowd of a thousand children. However, my daughter has brown hair and eyes – beautiful for sure, but not initially distinctive in the first couple weeks of life. In fact, when there were several white babies with brown hair lined up in the nursery and someone asked which was mine, I was not sure. You are not a bad mother if you can not recognize your baby right away. They really do all look pretty much the same.
6. You will still look six months pregnant when you leave the hospital. Accept it. By a week in you will see a big difference, but you will still have an overhanging belly. Time and exercise cures all.
7. Don’t pack a fancy maternity gown – or any other clothes, for that matter – apart from something to wear home from the hospital. You will bleed on everything. Just wear the hospital gowns. Do you really need to bring home more laundry?
8. When you are ready to have sex you probably don’t have to worry about that “hot dog down a hallway” thing. Everyone I know got sewn up tighter than a city parking space on a Saturday night. If anything, sex will be painful for about a year. But your partner will be thrilled.
9. Steal as many hospital pads, witch hazel pads and ice packs as you can before you leave the hospital. Hell, take the disposable diapers even if you are using cloth at home! The only thing I left was that scary freezing chemical spray meant to numb stitches and the Johnson & Johnson body wash.
10. At all costs, do not look at your vagina with a hand mirror until after your six-week OB checkup.
Paige Wolf is a Philadelphia mom and author of Spit That Out! The Overly Informed Parent’s Guide to Raising Children in the Age of Environmental Guilt. This post is adapted from her blog, Spit That Out!