I spent a lot of time preparing for birth. During my pregnancy I put my nose to the grindstone and soaked up any and all information about labor and delivery that I possibly could. I read every birth story under the sun and any study I could get my hands on.
When the time came to have my baby, I was able to have the birth I had hoped for — all-natural in water and it was beautiful. I felt like a warrior. So empowered and ready to take on the world. Then I got a crash course in postpartum 101.
Long story short: Postpartum sucks and it totally kicked my butt. I went in completely unprepared for what was about to hit me and it was rough. I did have a couple of friends who let me in on some insider secrets about postpartum, but I still felt like I was flying blind for the most part.
I don’t want other women to have the same experience I did. So, in the interest of helping you make your postpartum experience a little less crappy and overwhelming than mine was, I’m sharing all the gory details with you. Blood, poop and everything. It’s not going to be pretty friends, but I want you to be informed.
Please feel free to stop reading if you are squeamish. This is postpartum for real. I feel like the intro to MTV’s True Life right now … “You think you know … but you have no idea.” Seriously though.
Here are 20 things I wish someone had told me about postpartum.
1. You will be humbled
I knew that birth would probably be pretty humbling. I knew there would probably be poop and awkward moaning and all or that, but I figured that would be the end of it. I’d pop out a baby and go back to doing my thing. Yeah … not so much. Those first days postpartum were an exercise in humility. I was ridiculously swollen and “tore up from the floor up,” so needless to say I wasn’t getting anywhere quickly. I cried multiple times over mortifying situations I had to have my husband assist me with, but he was seriously a champ. You don’t know true love until you know the lengths someone will go to in order to care for you postpartum my friends. It’s not a pretty sight.
2. Pooping sucks
You just had a baby, which is pretty much (a lot) like taking the biggest poop of your life. I know it’s not a very magical description, but it’s surprisingly accurate. Now imagine having to poop after that. Not the most fun of your life. My only advice is to drink lots of water and cry it out. Godspeed my friend.
3. Hemorrhoids. Enough said.
I never got hemorrhoids when I was pregnant, so I figured I was in the clear. Not so. Hemorrhoids can come whenever they damn well please. Some women don’t get them and technically I never got them either, but I did have a lot of other cuts and tears that were equally horrific. Hemorrhoids are not a respecter of persons so they still might come after you … “Hide yo kids, hide yo wife.” But seriously … if they happen, talk to your doctor. No need to live in misery.
4. Don’t snub the mesh underwear
I stocked up on a ton of XL underwear for postpartum, but in the end all I wanted to wear were those heinous mesh underwear. Don’t knock ’em ’til you try ’em. They’re totally hideous, but so much more comfortable … not to mention DISPOSABLE. I promise, you will NOT want to keep those underwear. Just embrace the mesh and cut your losses.
5. Stock up on the granniest pads you can find
…or maybe even Depends. Seriously. I laughed (more like laugh/cried) the first time I tried out one of the normal size pads I’d stocked up on pre-birth. While it’s true that some women don’t bleed much, I was definitely not one of them. It was like full blown Niagra Falls coming out of my lady bits. I know it’s gross, but this is real-life people. I had no idea. So basically just stock up on whichever pads are closest to the size of your sofa cushions and you should be golden.
6. There will be more contractions
What the…?! Seriously? I just went through labor and pushed a human out of my vageen and now you tell me I’m still going to have MORE contractions?! Your uterus will be off doing its thing, contracting to shrink itself back down to a normal size, thus you’ll experience more contractions. It’s like a bonus! … or wait … more like the opposite of a bonus. What do you call that? (*P.S. Other moms have told me that these postpartum contractions get worse/longer with each subsequent pregnancy, so I’m totally looking forward to that.)
7. You will still look pregnant
This might sound completely stupid, like “Duh Lauren! How did you not know this?” But really I’d just never thought about it. I mean I didn’t think I’d be entering any swimsuit competitions or anything, but I also didn’t really expect to still look six months pregnant. Once again … blame your uterus. It did a great job of housing a baby, but it will also do a great job of continuing to make you look like you’re housing a baby for a little while. Don’t worry though … it’ll get better eventually. At least kind of.
8. You’ll probably cry. A lot.
I was pretty even keel during most of my pregnancy and had never dealt with depression, so I figured postpartum wouldn’t really bring any surprises. Wrong. I was an emotional wreck. I cried like it was my job — over stupid and not-stupid things with equal vigor. Eventually the veil will lift and you’ll feel a little less crazy. If not, then you may be suffering from postpartum depression and you should definitely seek help from a medical professional. There’s absolutely no shame in it — it happens to plenty of women. I swear, you are completely normal!
9. You might not like your baby right away
You know those women who talk about how they fell in love with their babies the instant they first laid eyes on them? Yeah … that’s not how it works for everyone. I was super stoked to finally be meeting my daughter when she popped out, but the fact remained that she was still just a tiny, little stranger … and a very needy stranger at that. If I can be totally honest, I even experienced some feelings of resentment toward my baby for treating me like a 24-hour a day human vending machine. It felt like all she ever wanted was milk. I felt depleted and overwhelmed. But over time we figured it out and I fell in love with her, slowly but surely.
10. Breastfeeding is “natural,” but not really
Breastfeeding seems like it should be the most natural thing on the planet, but for some women it just isn’t. I gave birth in a tub, surrounded by candles, with zero pain meds so I figured if I could give birth naturally, breastfeeding should be a walk in the park. It didn’t work out that way though. My daughter struggled with her latch and tongue tie and I struggled with low milk supply. Breastfeeding was honestly the most difficult thing I have ever done in my entire life, and it totally didn’t feel “natural” until about four months in. Some women get it right away and that’s great! But don’t feel like a failure if you’re not one of them. Find a good lactation consultant and keep at it.
11. Nipple cream is the coolest
Your boobs will be more sore than you ever thought was humanly possible. Make good friends with your nipple cream … and some ice packs while you’re at it.
12. That line on your belly might linger for a LONG while
Not all women experience the dark line that runs down their bellies during pregnancy (also known as “linea nigra”), but for those that do, you might be interested to know that it could stick around for awhile (a LONG while). I kind of just assumed mine would go away within the first couple of weeks postpartum, but it actually stuck around until my daughter was about 18 months old!
13. Hormones can make you smell weird
I never really sweat much before I had a baby and I never had to wear deodorant. Post baby? I totally stunk! Thanks hormones. Oh — another thing that can make you smell weird? Fenugreek. Many women (myself included) take it to boost milk supply, and it totally made me smell like maple syrup was oozing out of my pores when I would sweat. So weird.
14. Not cooking is the (second) best part of having a baby
Aside from the actual baby part of having a baby, the second best part is the fact that everyone wants to bring you meals. No cooking? Yes please! Embrace it while it lasts.
15. You might pee your pants
I never peed my pants during pregnancy. After pregnancy? Well, let’s just say that was an entirely different story for a good long while.
16. Back and hip pain like whoa
You just birthed a baby and your hips and back will be feeling it. I just thought this was a new normal for awhile, but eventually I went to a chiropractor and a masseuse. Best decision ever.
17. Your hair and skin might change
Most women know that their hair will probably fall out in clumps postpartum, but what you might not know is that even the texture can change. My hair used to be much curlier before having my daughter. Afterward it became much straighter. Also … your skin might totally change. I had the worst dry skin of my life for a solid month after giving birth. It felt like I had leprosy on my face. Not awesome. Thankfully it went away eventually after my hormones settled down, because even the most intense moisturizers were no match for that dryness.
18. Your marriage isn’t ruined
Having a baby (especially a first baby) can be pretty rough on a marriage. It’s a huge transition to go from a life where it’s just the two of you to a life where you’re both caring for a helpless little being. I’m not gonna mince words: It might be rough. In fact, I would say the majority of the first year of our daughter’s life was probably the most challenging of our entire marriage. But, it doesn’t mean your marriage is ruined. You will feel like everyone else has awesome marriages, but please believe you are not alone in your struggle. With daily effort it can get better, so don’t give up. You’ll both figure out how to balance this parenting thing with your relationship and then it will be wonderful. And if it’s any consolation, my husband and I both agree that the second year of our daughter’s life was definitely the best year of our marriage so far.
19. Asking for help does not a failure make
There’s this misconception among new mothers that they have something to prove and they don’t want to ask for help because they can figure it out on their own. This is how I felt — even if only subconsciously. It’s exhausting. Don’t do it! Ask for help and accept it gladly when it’s offered. It won’t make you a failure, just a smart mama.
20. It gets better
Postpartum kind of sucks. It just does. But it does get better. Your baby will sleep eventually. Your boobs will go back to normal (mostly). You’ll have sex again. Life will go on and you’ll figure it out. The haze will lift and you will love motherhood. This time feels endless, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel.