Yep, you read that correctly. I am going to do a little more (over)sharing of the baby birth variety. As if my last post wasn’t enough here I am to divulge even more.
After having my children I was beyond blindsided with things that no one told me would be happening to my body. I guess we are all so focused on preparing for labor and birth that people forget to share the insane things that come just after. I am here to make you more aware so that you aren’t surprised and confused or lack-of anything you may need but didn’t know to prepare for.
Alright ladies, here it is. You have been blessed by not having your period for 9 months and you need to prepare yourself. Yep, you are about to have the longest menstrual cycle of your life. Not a normal one either. A really really reeeeally heavy and uncomfortable one. Make sure that you have pads at home before you go to the hospital. You don’t want to send your husband to the store to pick out the wrong kind of super extra jumbo pads your first day back home. Who am I kidding, you won’t be picky about the type of pads, you will be too busy searching for old ugly granny panties so that you don’t ruin any of your nice ones. Not that those fit anyway, since, another fun unexpected surprise, you are entering the awkward “none of my clothes fit and I still look pregnant but in a weird droopy belly not cute kinda way”. I hope your stretchy pajama pants aren’t stored up in the attic because it’s time to bust those suckers out, and you are in no condition to be climbing stairs.
Did you know that after you have your baby you can actually request for them to leave the baby with you and hold off on all the checklists, pricks, prods, and paperwork!? Who knew, right. They don’t have to get your babies APGAR score in the first few minutes. Those moments are far too precious to have your baby crying across the room while a stranger checks their measurements. Ladies, you just had a baby. The child you have been dreaming of holding for the past 9 months. The one you picked a name for and spent time decorating a room. Unless there is something wrong with your sweet newborn, don’t let them steal those first moments from you. You will never get those first seconds, minutes, or hours again. Don’t ask or request that they can leave the baby with you, you are the patient YOU make the decision to keep, hold, and stare at your baby. Let your eyes be the first they stare into. Not just for 90 seconds, but for as long as they will allow. The nurse gave us over an hour of alone time after I had Elanor. It was just me, Stephen and our new baby in the room. Hospitals have routines but you aren’t going to break any laws by requesting to keep your baby. Be the first to witness your babies first blinks, cries, coos, and finger squeezes. You will never forget those first moments, and if it takes you demanding they wait, then do that. You don’t want to have regrets about this.
Ladies, I’m gonna be blunt with you (as if that’s new). You can not even prepare yourself for the crazy hormonal imbalances after baby is born. I’m only going to lightly touch this topic, because it honestly deserves an entire post all of its own. After little one arrives your body starts a rapid decrease in hormone production. The amount and intensity varies for everyone, but it is a serious, confusing, overwhelming, and for some medication needed experience. Think of a time you cried about something really upsetting. Now ADD together all the other times you’ve cried in your life on top of that and multiply it by ten. I’m not even kidding. Have some tissue boxes on hand bc hormones + sleep deprivation is gonna make you a crying red-eyed mess. Driving in the car and you start crying for NO reason, normal. Husband offers to go buy you dinner and you feel a rush of pressure in your head as you hold back tears. Done it. Baby wakes up crying and you want to run away. Seriously and totally been there. Expect the unexpected because some crazy lady is gonna take over your body and brain for a few weeks. Don’t worry too much, you will return back to a normal person. To top it off you won’t even remember much about it a few weeks or months later, but your husband probably will ; )
Now for a seriously important topic that I never thought would be an issue but it turns out is the toughest part after having a baby. Breastfeeding. No, I’m not kidding. I am 100% positive that those first few minutes after having our second baby are what made me feel so instantly connected to her. My breastfeeding experiences with our two daughters are like night and day. I believe one of the reasons that is is because I was able to nurse Elanor just minutes after birth. She latched on like a pro. She was a great nurser from that point forward. Our first daughter was completely different. Due to a combination of being immobile from my epidural, lying on my back while being stitched by the on-call doctor, and receiving medication that made me vomit and dizzy, I wasn’t able to try and nurse Sarah for over 2 hours after birth. After that she did latch but she wouldn’t eat because she instantly fell asleep since it was past that first “alert” time they have an hour or so after birth. While she was a confusing and trying nurser, I stuck with it (using a nipple shield) and did not give up. I was rewarded for my efforts when on the day she turned 4 months old she latched on me directly and nursed perfectly from that point on until she weaned at 1 years old.
Side-note: don’t let a lactation consultant be so busy they don’t give you the time of day and stick you with a nipple shield. Unless you want to hate nursing and have to pump EVERY time your baby eats. While the shield is a great blessing for women who need it because of actual nipple-related reasons, if your baby can properly latch then there is no reason you should need it.
The topic of breastfeeding has so much information that never seems to be discussed… Did you know that your milk doesn’t come in for a few days until after you’ve had your baby?! I didn’t know that. I also didn’t know of a thing called engorgement. Yep, it is exactly what it sounds like. Imagine your boobs being as hard as a rock, and then add in that they are so full that your skin feels like it’s going to stretch apart. Okay, now that I’ve scared you to death you will be relieved when it’s bad – but not THAT bad! You’re welcome. But in all seriousness, engorgement is painful and it will benefit you to invest in some heating pads if you don’t have any on hand. That, or just get a hot shower or bath and let the steam do some of the work.
I feel like the first 6 weeks are make or break for breastfeeding. If you can push through the pain and exhaustion in the beginning you can make it as long as you previously dreamed. I was a little aware of this next discovery, but not fully. For the first few days/week or two after delivery you experience contractions while breastfeeding. It’s great for your body because the contractions are your bodies way of shrinking your uterus back down to it’s original size, but that doesn’t mean they don’t hurt like they did in childbirth. Not as bad as just before pushing baby out contractions, but definitely between the 4-7cm variety. Because engorgement, sore nipples, and healing down below isn’t enough to experience, the body decides to throw some more contractions into the picture. Thankfully extra strength tylenol is safe to take and it can really help take the edge off.
Sitz bath. Ever heard of it? I hadn’t either. What’s worst is when the doctor told me to take a sitz bath 2-3 times a day I felt so dumb not knowing what “sitz” were that I didn’t ask. Because of that I didn’t take a single bath until my mom explained it to me a week or two later. Turns out a sitz bath is just a weird confusing spelling and pronunciation to just go and SIT in a BATH. I don’t know why the “Z” is added on the end, but now you know. SIT(z) in a bath with just enough water to cover your legs and let the warm water help heal and relax your lower half. Not only is it good for your body, it’s also good for your brain. Having a few moments to just sit by yourself can be sanity saving when you and your food-producing-boobs are on call 24/7. Sitz = Sit. Stupid z. If you don’t know what something is when instructed by your doctor just ask. Don’t let pride and dumbfounded’ness get in the way.
While packing for your hospital stay one of the most useful things you can throw in there is a trunk load of snacks. Yes, I’m totally serious. I went through an entire bag of family sized trail mix in 2 days, not to mention the 2 subway sandwiches, chips and cookies I chowed down on between hospital meals. Birthing a child is the longest workout you’ll ever have, and it makes perfect sense that you become ravenous. I had a friend that was a delivery nurse in the hospital we went to and she let me know that they had sandwiches and crackers stored in the fridge when the kitchen is closed. This is an additional tidbit for you, be nice to your nurses! Definitely can’t go wrong by rubbing elbows with the people that are in charge of your chart and controlling your food/medicine.
Poop. Yes, of the bowel movement variety. I’m totally going down this road with you. No reason to overshare on this topic, but just be aware that constipation can be at it’s highest after birth and investing in some stool softeners wouldn’t be a bad idea. Actually it’s a good idea, so just trust me and get a small bottle to help things along during the first few weeks after baby arrives. Things are extra sensitive down there and if you can make things easier on yourself than there’s no reason not to.
I am not writing this to scare any of you. If anything I am wanting to encourage you. I just know that I found it VERY helpful to know what to expect during my second pregnancy and delivery. All of which was NOT mentioned in that “What to Expect” book. It might be stuff you already knew, or maybe you weren’t aware of one or two things I listed, but I have to honestly admit that everything I shared above were things I did not know about until after having our first daughter and experiencing them first hand. I felt completely blindsided. Hopefully this information can be useful to someone. Even if it helps prepare just one person it was worth putting all these details out there.
Well that is all that I can think of to pass on from my experiences. If anyone else has some thoughts or insights please share. I’d love to hear other peoples stories and tips.