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When you are pregnant for the first time, there is a train of information coming at you all about your baby. How to prepare for the delivery, what to take to the hospital, the essentials that you need when baby comes home, and lots and lots and lots of gear to choose from. Something that’s not really talked about too much? You, in all your postpartum glory. I don’t know if veteran moms are worried that we might scare our childless friends out of wanting children should they hear of the things you go through in the weeks following childbirth or if they’re simply too embarrassed to talk about it, but I am here to let it all out.
I am an open book to most people I meet. If you have a question, I will answer it with no reserve and definitely not sugar coated. I’ve been told by a few of my friends who are contemplating having children that they appreciate my transparency and honesty because they feel they are informed and ready to tackle parenthood and pregnancy when it happens. Why do I do this? Because in my first pregnancy and into postpartum, I would go through something crazy or confusing and mention it to a friend with kids or my mom and get “Oh yeah, I totally went through that. It sucked.” Which is great to hear (Yay! I’m not the only one!) but for me it’s frustrating because I’m a planner. I like to know everything that COULD happen and be prepared. That way I don’t think I’m dying when I have a giant ball of bloody tissue in the toilet after having a baby.
I’m here today to get real about postpartum and all the magical changes you will go through. Today is strictly about YOU. We’re not talking about the baby or any of that. Just. You.
Let’s just get this one out of the way. Before I had kids I didn’t know that you bleed so much for so long, and I’ve come to find out after working with moms for a while now that a lot of first time moms don’t know this! Think about it though. You’ve gone 10 months with no period. It’s all going to come out after the baby. Now, the amount and length of time will be different for each and every one of us, but we will all bleed after the baby comes out-no matter if you had a vaginal birth or a c-section. The average is about 6 weeks long. Some women will bleed for a few days, and the moms like me who bleed for over 8 weeks hate those moms. (I’m kidding…we’re just super jealous!) Each of my pregnancies yielded different outcomes when it came to the amount of bleeding, but on average you’ll have A LOT for the first 1-2 weeks and then it will taper off after that. Clots can happen (bloody balls of tissue) but as long as they aren’t bigger than the size of a walnut then you’re ok!
Prepare yourself and those around you. It’s gonna get a little emotional. Pregnancy is a hormone crap storm, and it continues on into postpartum in it’s own fun way. I would be crying with joy one second, then crying in sadness over something different the next, only to turn to my husband and yell at him about something completely different! Understand that your body is going through crazy changes and it takes time for those pregnancy hormone levels to balance back out to your normal levels. If at anytime you feel like they are out of control though, make sure to call your OB to talk about it. It happens to a lot of moms in those postpartum months and the Dr can help you through it!
This is a touchy subject for some, but when I was pregnant with my first I had to look at myself in the mirror and take a deep breath and “Let it Go”. Let what go? The worry of what my post-baby body would be like. You won’t know until you go through it, and there isn’t enough stretch mark cream or waist trainers in the world to fix some problems. The postpartum period of time is NOT the time to worry about getting back to pre-baby weight (although some women do naturally, and that’s ok!) or toning up your tummy. You will look about 5 months pregnant when you leave the hospital, and the belly tends to stay around for a few weeks. It took your uterus 10 months to grow that big, it takes it a little time to go back to it’s original size. Swelling can also take time to go down. Leftover swelling from pregnancy can continue on after baby but you can also get new swelling as well. It can last a little bit, so don’t get disappointed like I did when your rings don’t fit right away and you still need to wear flip flops.
Follow Dr orders when it comes to diet and exercise restrictions though because you CAN overdo it and end up in the hospital or endangering your baby.
This one’s a little touchy for me right now because I’m going through my postpartum hair issues as we speak. I had Charlie 5 months ago now, and like my other two pregnancies, I started losing my hair at about 4 months postpartum. It’s normal to lose more hair postpartum than usual. During pregnancy, your hair tends to fall out less which is why so many pregnant women have fuller beautiful hair. Once baby comes, all bets are off. I’ve been pulling whole hand fulls of hair out each and every time I run my hand through my hair. You don’t even want to know my shower drain situation. It’s awful. I have bald spots across my entire head and I know that in about a month it will all start growing back with a vengeance. I’ll have a head full of spikey hair mixed into my long locks for about 6 months. It is what it is.
ALL THINGS DOWN THERE
First off. Don’t look. No mirrors, don’t get curious or get your partner to look at it. Trust me. I did it with my first and still regret it to this day. It will haunt you. Just ignore your desire to know what’s up for a few weeks. It’s swollen, possibly scarred, there may be some hemorrhoids or funky colors you didn’t think were natural, but I promise you don’t need to see it. Just assume you have all of the above. After a few weeks, the swelling from childbirth goes down, you won’t feel like you need to find pillows to sit on everywhere you go, and you can venture down there with a mirror if you would like. Hemorrhoids are normal and easy to treat but super uncomfortable. I got my first ever hemorrhoid 2 weeks after childbirth. It was no fun. Buy the cream, the wipes, ice it whatever it takes. In fact, just sit on ice as much as you like. That crap feels great.
I know I touched on hormones up there already, but they still need more recognition. They’re the worst, aren’t they? Having a baby will send them into the outer realms of crazy town and it takes some time to regulate. One of the things hormones can do postpartum is give you hot flashes. I had heard older women speak of them before and always thought how silly it was to complain…until I had my first one. Oh. My. GAWSH. Hot flashes are just plain awful. I can’t take my clothing off fast enough. I shed any layers I have on and find a fan. On the other end of things, a few minutes later I would be shivering from being so cold. Prepare with blankets nearby and fans around the house. Layer up!
I was not prepared for the hunger that hit me after having a baby, and it lasts a while. I breastfeed, so I can’t speak for formula feeding moms (and chime in if you are one! we would love the insight!) but MAN ALIVE am I hungry all the time for about 6-10 months after baby is born. I eat a ton to keep up with feeding another human and I still feel hungry. Seriously. I eat more than my husband at every meal, and sometimes it’s almost double what he eats. Don’t hurt yourself eating too much, but make sure to listen to your body. Make the food count though! Healthy snacks throughout the day and plenty of water will help to feed that hunger in a healthy way.
Postpartum isn’t exactly the easiest thing, but what part of having a child is? Like every other part of pregnancy and childbirth, postpartum is different from one woman to the next. You may not go through what your friends or family have been through. That’s ok! If ever in doubt, call your OB. They are there to answer all our crazy questions-that’s why they make the big bucks, right? Stay tuned for my next article about all my postpartum MUST HAVE products for new moms!