During pregnancy all the focus is on you. “How are you feeling?”, “Can I get anything for you?”, “I’m so excited for you.” So it comes as quite a shock when, after the painstaking process that you have to go through to bring that baby into the world, no one is focusing on you anymore. Interactions with people go more like this “Oh my goodness, look at that baby!”, “Oh, she’s beautiful”, “He’s perfect”, “Let me hold that sweet angel”.
We do it to ourselves too. Our minds are all-consumed by this tiny person that our world revolves around. The moment you have that baby, you’ll start sacrificing yourself for the sake of your baby’s comfort and happiness–and that’s motherhood.
We don’t sleep, we forget to eat, and we most often completely forget that we are going through a recovery period where we need TLC for ourselves as well.
Postpartum can be tough. There is pain, exhaustion, a flood of emotions that make you feel tremendous happiness one minute and then crippling frustration the next. We aren’t warned how hard it’s going to be, but it’s also not something we sit around dreaming about either.
As mammas, we kind of forget that we are going to have to recover and take care of ourselves after we have a baby. Believe it or not, it’s not all about the newborn.
- Related Read: 10 Things Every Parent Needs To Know About Their Newborn
There are definitely steps we need to take in order to make recovery with a newborn easier and faster. In order to prepare for how to help yourself, you need to know what to expect. Well here it is, girlfriend. Warning, it might let a little gruesome up in here, so if your squeamish or…a man…maybe this post isn’t for you.
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It is true that after the birth of your baby suddenly the excruciating pain that is labor, just stops. It’s a miracle. Thank the Lord almighty that it happens that way because sometimes, I swear, women are losing their minds during labor and birth and then they have their baby and suddenly they are the sweetest woman on the planet. I say that’s good design. 😉
But, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows because this is where your postpartum recovery starts. Warning, you’ll still experience some cramping. Your uterus, which is about the size of a pear pre-pregnancy, grew to about the size of a watermelon during pregnancy.
Since the uterus grows so large, it has to take time to go back to it’s normal size. In order to do that, you’ll feel a milder form of contractions, similar to menstrual cramps for a few days after birth. They definitely aren’t anything to be afraid of since now you’ll likely have experienced at least some real contractions and they won’t be nearly as bad.
Oh and by the way, the cramping actually get worse when you breastfeed because breastfeeding (also being a perfect design) stimulates the uterus to contract down. How convenient.
So, what’s a girl to do? You just conquered the most painful experience in your life and you’re left with more pain? Well, girl, I’ll give it to you straight.
I highly recommend taking the pain medication that you are offered post-delivery. Most of the time, if you have a vaginal delivery, you’ll be offered ibuprofen around the clock to control pain. The thought process is that you want to keep up on your pain and not let it get severe because when it get’s high up their on the pain scale, it is harder to bring it down.
2. Back Pain
You thought you were done with this didn’t you? Yes, pregnancy causes a lot of back pain, but unfortunately it doesn’t always correct itself right when the baby is born.
Back pain can happen to any woman who’s carried a child regardless of type of delivery. During pregnancy, as the baby grows, your center of gravity changes, your natural curve in your back is more pronounced, and a lot of pressure is put on your skeleton as your body changes.
I highly recommend yoga! There are literally mommy and me yoga classes that exist for brand new mommies that want to take care of their bodies while trucking around their little newborns and young children. It’s genius.
Heating pads can help a lot too. You could keep one by your bed and one on the couch and remember to use it when you need some relief. Just don’t sleep with it on and don’t lay it anywhere where it might end up touching the baby.
3. Tear or episiotomy pain
Remember when I was talking about good design? This doesn’t really fall into that category for me. Why does a watermelon sized baby have to make it’s way out of our bodies through a hole that seriously does not seem to have the capability to do that?!
If you are a first time mommy, at least a small tear somewhere in your nether regions will be a part of your postpartum recovery. Now, there are ways to better your odds, so if you’re not postpartum right now and you need a little advise on how to prevent or minimize your damage, check this out (warning: it’s a graphic description about perineal massage).
But for the most part, if your body hasn’t done it before, your tissues might not stretch as well as you’d hope. Episiotomy or tear, you’ll have a wound stitched up with dissolvable stitches that will be completely healed by your 6 weeks postpartum checkup. Until then, I’m sure you’ve had the conversation — pelvic rest. That means nothing in the vagina for that entire time. No tampons, no fingers, no nothing. (Your husband will survive)
The good news is, there is a number of tips that I have up my sleeve to help alleviate the pain a little bit.
First things first, you don’t want to wipe with toilet paper. Get some really soft cloths to pat dry for a while because first of all, you don’t want to pull on any stitches, and second of all, you don’t want flimsy toilet paper to fall apart and leave remnants of paper in the area that’s trying to heal.
Also, every time after you pee, use a spray bottle to squirt warm water up and rinse the area, then pat dry.
If you deliver in a hospital, they might provide you with Tucks pads and Dermoplast spray. This helps a lot. What I always recommend for my moms after delivery is put some extra large pads in their postpartum underwear, line the pad completely with tucks pads, and then after washing with the Peri bottle or Mamawasher and patting dry with a soft cloth, spray with this perineal spray from Earth Mama and pull up the underwear. I know, it sounds so simple, like I’m giving instructions to a two year old. But really, it’s just my method. I feel like it really works to decrease the discomfort.
If you are still pregnant, preparing for the aftermath of childbirth, check out this post at Habibi House about how to help prevent tearing.
4. Peeing hurts
A couple of things could have happened when you gave birth that was traumatic to your urethra. If you had an epidural or a c-section, you probably had a foley catheter. You might not have felt it going in because you were fairly numb, but you’ll probably be painfully aware that it was there once you try to pee on your own again. ouch! Your urethra is just irritated and will be sensitive for a few days.
If you didn’t have catheter but peeling still hurts like a b****, you’re not alone either. Vaginal birth can cause trauma to the urethra as well, especially if your tear is anywhere around the area, which is totally possible.
It helps to use the peri bottle to rinse as you pee. Something about the warm water kind of relieves the stinging pain. That, and keep it clean. What you really, really don’t want is a urinary tract infection along with all of your postpartum problems.
5. You’re swollen
Now, forgive me if this is graphic, but the analogy that I am about to make is literally perfect. A friend of mine once told me that when she looked down at her lady bits after she delivered vaginally, her labia looked like a hot dog bun. Oh. My. Gosh. Literally, yes. I see this every day at work and never related the two things, but after she said it, I could not let it go. This is how swollen your labia can get (and be totally normal) after you deliver vaginally.
I hope you’re laughing because it’s totally true. Especially if you’re a first time mom, you pushed for hours, or even if you just labored for hours, swelling is probably going to happen. As long as your swelling is even on both sides and remains a healthy color (as opposed to blue or purple), the swelling is normal and will go down in a few days.
The best thing that you can do for yourself is keep postpartum padsicles on it.
6. You’ll think you need another epidural for the first poop
I don’t think I was afraid to poop after delivery until it was actually happening. You know what’s really great about my life that I shouldn’t tell the world but I have to for the sake of being relate-able? The first time I pooped after having my son was two days postpartum, the night that we got home from the hospital.
My very first visitor was over at the house, waiting in the living room for me to come downstairs with the precious angel baby that they have been dying to see. Of course, it wasn’t my mom or my sister who would totally get it. It was my husbands best friend and his girlfriend (who wasn’t yet a mother).
So, just picture it. My husband’s friend and girlfriend are sitting on the couch waiting, while I’m on the toilet, literally in tears from the pain, and from the thought that I might just never poop again. It takes me forever, and then I feel terrified to wipe (see number 7). So, I got in the shower to clean up. When I finally made it down stairs to greet our guests, I was a hot mess. And totally embarrassed.
Don’t let this horror story be yours. Let it die with me. Take your stool softener in the hospital and make sure you have some on hand at home too. Take it as instructed and do not wait for you to need it before you take it. Trust me, you don’t want to know what needing it feels like.
Another good trick is to get a squatty-potty. If you’re terrified of straining after you’ve pushed a baby out (or had major abdominal surgery, aka a c-section) then it’s for good reason. The last thing you want to do is strain to poop and the squatty-potty helps you get into just the right position for your body to do the biz without you putting in much effort.
Hemorrhoids can develop from constipation during pregnancy, if you pushed for a long time, or even just from labor itself. However you get them, they are no fun.
On a personal note, this was THE WORST PART of my postpartum recovery. I would have done anything to make this part of recovery to just not exist.
Well, it existed no matter how hard I wished otherwise. But this is what I did to help it not be so miserable.
If you’ve never hear of a Sitz bath, you are going to be kissing the ground I walk on in about a minute. A Sitz bath is God’s gift to postpartum mommies and I don’t think I would have made it out of the postpartum period alive without it.
You buy a Sitz bath at your local pharmacy or on amazon, as I did. Fill it with very warm water (not hot enough to burn you, obviously), put it in your toilet seat, add some healing magic (listed below), and then sit on it for 15 minutes 3 times a day.
Warm water on “the area” encourages more blood flow which results in faster healing and relief from discomfort.
You have options regarding the healing magic I am referring to. I tried all of these and I enjoyed all of them.
8. You bleed a lot
I think this one is pretty expected. Yep, it happens. And it happens for what seems like for-e-ver. When I had my baby it kind of felt like I was just going to have to wear a pad for the rest of my life. I started to think that bloody discharge from my hoo-ha was it’s new normal.
STOCK UP ON PADS. Is it true that every good husband-turned daddy on the planet has at some point or another ran to the store to grab extra long pads because mama ran out? I think this is true. It happens to everyone. Maybe it’s because we really can’t fathom that we could possibly run through two and half giant bags of mega pads in a month and a half. But we can. Amazing right?
So, you will bleed like a very heavy period for 1-2 weeks and then it will slowly but surely decrease. But don’t get too excited because you probably won’t be able to go panty liner-free for about 6 weeks.
During this time, my advice to you is to wear full coverage postpartum panties and change your pad every single time you go to the bathroom. Even if your pad isn’t full. Bacteria breeds in warm, moist environments and getting an infection in your tear or episiotomy site sounds awful. So just make it a habit. Keep pads in every bathroom and make sure that you are cleaning yourself properly with your peri bottle and changing your pad every single time to keep infection out.
Oh, P.S. If you have a C-section, the same goes for you. Just because the baby didn’t come out “that way”, doesn’t mean your body doesn’t need to shed all of the rest of the stuff “that way”. It’s the only option you have. Sorry ’bout it.
- Related Read: 8 Things Your Labor and Delivery Nurse Wishes You Knew
9. Your nipples and breasts are sore
I know that you’ve heard that if breastfeeding hurts then you’re doing it wrong. But that’s only partly true. Yes, if you have a bad latch, breastfeeding will feel like torture. But even with a good latch, your nipples are going through something that isn’t super familiar to them…and your doing it constantly. Do you really think they wont be sore? You’ve got another thing coming.
- Related Read: Breastfeeding 101: How To Feed Your Newborn
Think about it this way. You know when you stretch or work out your muscles, they say that it shouldn’t hurt? That’s totally true! Working out and stretching shouldn’t cause pain. But when you first start out, you get SO SORE afterwards don’t you? Same sitch.
So, accept that it’s going to happen at some point or another (probably sooner rather than later) and stock up on some really good nipple cream. I liked Lansinoh. There are plenty of good brands out there, but this was my go-to. It’s nice to have on hand in the beginning (for what we just talked about )but also for later when your nips get a little chapped or sore from cluster feeding, growth spurts, starting to pump.
Also, something that I didn’t get use out of but I kind of wish that I did, was breast therapy pads. Seriously, someone gave these to me as a gift and I never opened them! When I look back now, I can’t help but kick myself. I would not have used them cold, because that only discourages breast milk, but I think I would have benefited from using them warmed up. Try it, and let me know what you think.
10. Your boobs will leak
When you’re still in the hospital, you might notice that you are only getting drops of breast milk (colostrum) at time. You might even worry that you aren’t making enough milk.
And then you get home. Three to five days after the birth of your baby the milk comes in full force, especially if you were breastfeeding on demand those first few days.
Your body is trying to regulate how much milk to make for this new baby. Unfortunately it doesn’t get it perfectly right for quite some time. You are going to leak for months if you choose to breastfeed.
I tried SO MANY different nursing pads. I tried reusable ones, disposable ones, brand name stuff, cheap stuff. None of them really stood out to me. I got so much advice but I never did find a perfect breast pad. Let me know if you find one.
So, truly, what I would say about breast pads is that you need a million of them, so buy the biggest box you can get your hands on, and just go with that.
Nonetheless, you need them unless you want to soak through all of your bras and shirts constantly.
11. You (might) still look pregnant
Remember earlier when we talked about the uterus trying to shrink down to it’s original size? Yes, well, this is the result of it not being instant. When you leave the hospital, you will more than likely still have a belly that makes you look five or six months pregnant. Lucky us.
It’s fine, it will go down.
But in the mean time, to help yourself out a little bit, make sure you get a Belly Bandit ASAP and even bring it in your hospital bag if you’re lucky enough to be reading this before you actually delivered. Start wearing it right away. Like, I mean, as soon as your labor and delivery nurse get’s your butt in the wheel chair and moves you over to postpartum, whip it out of your bag and put that bad boy to use.
In my opinion it is very comfortable to wear. It makes you feel like you’re being held in (which is especially helpful when you suddenly feel like everything is going to fall out) and it helps your uterus shrink down as it should.
I used mine for a couple of months after I had my baby and I never regretted it.
12. You still can’t get comfortable
When I was pregnant with my son, I was desperate for some good sleep because my big ol’ belly was getting in the way no matter what position I tried to sleep in. I dreamt about sleeping on my belly again or even all-the-way on my side. I thought that it would be easier postpartum. Little did I know, my boobs would be in the way instead of my belly!
They get so full and sometimes engorged over night and it becomes so painful that you can’t lay on them! So be prepared to continue to use your pregnancy pillow postpartum to get into a comfortable place to sleep.
Not to mention, I co-slept most of the time during the fourth trimester, so sleeping was scarce to begin with, but when it came, one arm was above my head, the other arm awkwardly placed as to not interfere with the baby’s space, the blankets couldn’t cover me, and my boobs were always out.
Comfort wont be easy, but it is important. Do your best to find things that work for you in your sleeping and nursing situations. These are some good ones that I would look into.
- Related Read: How To Make Life With A Baby E.A.S.Y
The title does say good, bad and ugly, doesn’t it? Did you think I forgot about the good? There’s plenty of good, trust me. The bad and ugly just kind of stare you right in the face and demand attention. But truly, your body is the most incredible as it will ever be in this postpartum period.
You MADE a baby, you BIRTHED a baby, and now you can FEED a baby all with this one body. Yet, you all too often pick at and criticize it. Look in the mirror a little differently today, mama, because through all the tough stuff and after enduring all of the ugly stuff, you have created TWO new, perfectly beautiful bodies. Good job, mama. You are incredible and you will make it out of this postpartum period a better woman. And most importantly, a freaking awesome mother.
Now that you’ve read it all, put it into action and make a promise to yourself that you are going to take care of YOURSELF. Prepare ahead of time if you can and stock up one everything you need to make your postpartum recovery easier. Shop all of the items in this post plus some fun extras in my Postpartum Recovery Checklist. Download it for Free Here.
Now that you are prepped and ready for the postpartum period, don’t forget to prepare for life with a new baby! Read this post to get a completely comprehensive list of things you need for your new baby so that you don’t have to search for what works. I’ve done the research for you. Plus, there is a free checklist attached. Don’t miss out!
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