In the age of social media and influencers who share their every move with the world, it’s so easy for first-time mums to compare their postpartum reality with that of a stranger’s.
Perhaps it’s even your mum, relatives or friends that have glossed over their own postnatal experience – it’s easy to forget that this can be both a wonderful and overwhelming time for many new mums and sometimes we just don’t talk about it.
Every mum and every birth are different. No one can tell you exactly how you will feel in the days and weeks that follow childbirth. However, I hope that by sharing the following more common experiences, it may help prepare you for how you might feel.
Here are three things that, in my opinion, people don’t talk about enough when it comes to the postpartum period:
Your body will feel different
My colleague Jess admitted to me that when she first went to the bathroom in hospital after having her baby, she actually thought that there was a stranger standing in the toilet with her!
“Then I realised that was me! I did not recognise myself staring back in the mirror. I was white as a ghost, with this odd wobbly belly and my boobs were ginormous. It took a few moments to realise what was going on. It’s funny now, but it was a total spin out at the time.”
It’s actually not uncommon to feel completely disconnected from your own body after childbirth.
Your body has just grown and birthed, whether vaginally or by caesarean, another human. This is a wonderful, miraculous, giant undertaking that should be marvelled at! However, there is no denying that your postpartum body will look and feel different.
Your boobs will become even bigger than they did during pregnancy, and once that milk comes in – quite hard and sore.
Your abdominal area may feel a weird emptiness like something is missing (the baby of course!) but also as though you have no muscles left. Even simply sitting up in bed may feel impossible. You’re likely still going to look like you’re pregnant too… and this is completely normal.
Your pelvic floor muscles might also feel like they’re missing in action, so when you need to go – ah, you really need to go!
All of these changes may make you feel overwhelmed or sad… you may be left wondering if you’ll ever feel normal again.
Just because you’re feeling uncomfortable or self-conscious or unsure of yourself at this time, it does not mean that you’re not grateful for your baby. Your feelings are real and valid. Not to mention, hormones are playing a huge role in heightened emotions at this time… in the days post-childbirth, women experience the largest sudden hormone change that any human will experience in their lifetime!
Take it easy on yourself and your body. Try as best you can to replenish your body with lots of nutrient-dense, whole foods. Rest wherever possible. Drink loads of water. Be patient and kind to your body… it will heal, recover and slowly get back to a new normal. Every mum is different in her postpartum body experience but just be mindful that those celebrity ‘bounce-back’ photos and stories are anything but realistic.
It can be kind of messy
While no one really loves talking about it – much like childbirth, postpartum recovery can be a little messy. The more we talk about it, the less it will come as shock to new mums.
If you’ve completed our Birth Beat childbirth course, you’ll know that one of the things I recommend you pack in your hospital bag is a multipack of big, black, comfy undies. Think the classic granny, high-cut knickers.
Despite knowing that there will be blood loss after birth, I’ve seen so many new mums underestimate just how much there can be.
Be prepared with more-than-you’ll-think-you’ll-need amounts of maternity pads. Yep – those super-duper surfboard style ones.
You won’t want your nicest pair of white-lace undies or even bikini-cut ones for that matter. You’ll want big, over the pelvic bone, black granny undies that are comfy and big enough to accommodate your oversized pads. Not so glamorous, but very practical.
Then… there are the leaky boobs. First off, your boobs will likely feel rock hard and huuuuge when your milk comes in. Then, they’ll probably leak. Breastmilk is kind of sticky and you will probably feel a tingling sort of sensation when your breasts are leaking.
Best to feel prepared by getting breast-pads ahead of time. It’ll save an uncomfortable wet feeling and milk patches on your top.
Other messy moments in those early post-partum days and weeks…. Milky baby spew in your hair, on the carpet, down your top – you name it, you’ll probably end with baby vomit in more places that you can imagine. Same goes for baby wee and poo – it sounds kind of obvious, but some new parents are shocked at how much mess one tiny human can make!
You’re more than likely going to be sleep deprived
Hopefully, you’ve got some sleep and settling tricks up your sleeve. It’s important to know some basics when it comes to getting Newborns off to sleep and hopefully staying that way for a few hours – which is why I’ve included a whole module devoted to it in the Birth Beat course.
However, regardless of what books you’ve read or that plan to get your baby in a good routine… it’s more than likely that’s going to go out the window in those first few days and weeks.
And that’s OK!
This is all new for you and your bub. It’s going to take some time to fall into a routine that suits you both. Try not to put enormous pressure on yourself to have it all mastered straightaway.
For this reason, it is SO common for new mums to be sleep deprived. You’re keeping a tiny human alive which is a 24/7 job… it’s tiring in itself, compounded by a lack of sleep, and those first few days and weeks can feel like a total blur.
My advice? Go easy on yourself and don’t beat yourself up when your routine or lack thereof isn’t following the ‘rule book’. Like learning anything new, it takes time. Just take it day by day, and don’t put any expectations on yourself to do anything other than looking after yourself and your bub. The house, visitors and everything else can wait.
Here are my tips to help get you through that initial sleep deprivation:
- Limit the stimulation your baby receives in the form of bright lights, loud noises and cuddles from anyone aside from yourself and your partner. It’s a big, bright and overwhelming world for that little cherub that has been blissfully unaware that anything outside of your womb exists for 40 weeks – being overwhelmed is not conducive to restful sleep.
- Sooo cliché but so true – try and rest when the baby sleeps. There is some scientific evidence to suggest that you can sleep-bank to a degree to help limit the impact of broken sleep of a night. Try and remove as many obligations and day-to-day tasks from your to-do list as possible. Ask for help, lower your standards. Right now, the most important thing is getting rest whenever you can.
- It’s so hard when you’re in the thick of it and every long night feels like a year, but this too shall pass. I think the quote by Gretchen Rubin “the days are long but the years are short” sums it up beautifully. You will get through it Mumma, just take it one day at a time.
While nothing can fully prepare you for what your postpartum experience will be like, I think it’s important to be aware of what it may look and feel like. Just like childbirth education, arming yourself with knowledge about the postpartum phase can help remove the fear of the unknown and hopefully better prepare you to embrace your start to motherhood.