There is a lot of info out there about what to expect when you’re pregnant. We so diligently go to our frequent OB or Midwife appointments to get both ourselves and the baby checked up on.
But AFTER baby arrives? When they send us home from the hospital with a new human who doesn’t sleep and pretty much ZERO clue what we’re doing??? Yeah it doesn’t really look like all the beautiful hospital photos plastered over Instagram. You want to know the REAL SHIT?
Well, that’s what I’m here to talk about today.
For starters, I want to mention that I think it’s kind of ridiculous that we go to ONE follow up post partum appointment at 6 weeks to get a check up and then we are usually sent on our merry way to figure out shit on our own and deal. Babies get checked out SO often in the beginning and for legit reason! But why are post partum mothers so neglected in our system? We have just had a serious trauma on our bodies. A HUMAN just made an exit, one way or another…through a now gaping hole down below or via slicing our insides open. (Yep, not sugar coating this ya’ll. You deserve to know the truth!) But I think maybe checking up on the mother’s health: physically, emotionally, mentally, hormonally – ALL OF IT – needs to happen more than ONCE after having a child.
Okay, that is my rant on our current medical system…and now onto the good stuff. Here are some of the TOP things that no one tells you about the 4th trimester (the first 12 weeks of the postpartum period) and beyond:
Breastfeeding is a BITCH! – Yes, I said it. I have breastfed all three of my children, and eventually I promise, it’s beautiful, but Lord, it hasn’t been easy. For something that is supposed to be so “natural,” I’m flabbergasted at how incredibly hard and painful and time consuming it can be, especially in the beginning. Of course, you may be one of the lucky ones where everything goes smoothly from the start and never have any nursing issues. To you, I say, “Thank your lucky stars! God Bless you!” But for most of the moms I know, it hasn’t been rainbows and butterflies from the get-go. I have heard, “oh if they are doing it right, it won’t hurt.” I call BULLSHIT! It hurt every single time starting out. Not that it hurts for everyone, but I am convinced that some babies are just so tiny (and y babies were tiny) that it’s impossible for their itty bitty mouths to get around your ginormous milk filled titty. (sorry, that’s not my usual choice of word, but I’ll do anything for a good rhyme – well, not anything). Now if the pain never goes away, there could be something inherently wrong. I noticed with my 3rd babe that the pain level was BEYOND bearable. It was clear that something was truly wrong with his latch, and we ended up seeing lactation consultants, tongue tie specialists, craniosacral therapists, YOU NAME IT to help with correcting his latch. On top of the latching issues, I also had a CRAZY oversupply (which I feel like a jerk saying, because the flip side is that many mamas just cannot produce ENOUGH milk). But my oversupply and fast let down was causing baby to basically choke every time he tried to eat making things super hard for all of us. My first baby dealt with this by ripping off my nipple screaming at the top of his lungs while milk sprayed voraciously into the air. I felt so embarrassed to feed him in public, because I was already terrified of having my boob out in front of strangers (those covers are a pain in the ass), but now I’m SPRAYING and he’s drawing attention by screaming?! I had to pump for 3 months before he finally would latch and have a full meal. I walked around the house shirtless most days (because of the pain) afraid to go out by myself with the baby for the first 3 weeks. Your boobs leak milk whenever they feel like, and if they get too full you are at risk for super painful clogged ducts and even worse infections like mastitis! This shit is no joke. Even once we got into the swing of things with breastfeeding my children, you are still tethered to them if they can’t or won’t take a bottle, making it difficult for anyone else to watch them. I totally don’t judge anyone for choosing not to breastfeed if it’s not working for them. Everyone needs to make the best choice for themselves and their families. DESPITE ALL OF THIS – breastfeeding is something I was really committed to and wanted to make work. At the end of the day, I am definitely glad I did. It DOES get significantly easier typically after the first 6-8 weeks, it feels amazing to be the sole source of nutrition for your child (and kind of incredible actually), and I do feel like it’s been a nice bonding experience for me and my boys. So I don’t regret all of the hard work…but it IS hard work!
One resource that has helped me in the past during those brutal nights of late night breastfeeding was an online community hosted by Lynzy of Lynzy and Co. She created the hashtag #latenightnursingfeed for mamas to come together in the wee hours of the night (or anytime really) to talk about the ups and downs of being a new mama.
You will bleed – A LOT! – Oh, you just thought the baby comes out, and that’s IT? Ummmm no. I bled for WEEKS! And I’m talking filling up 4 humongous pads stacked together in a hospital granny panty diaper in a couple hours. During labor and delivery you may rip and need stitches which can make it really painful down there and you will be loaded up with ice packs and witch hazel in your crotch. It hurts every time you pee and you have to use a squirt bottle to rinse with warm water each time. Your body has some serious healing to do inside, and all of the afterbirth takes awhile to remove itself. Even if you’ve had a C-section you are not immune to the bleeding. It might be less, but it’s still there.
You will still look like you’re pregnant – Once the baby comes out, your baby bump doesn’t just magically go away! You still look like you’re pregnant for awhile. Instead of being a hard bump, it’s just all gooey and squishy instead. I wore pregnancy jeans for weeks after having my babies, even once I got back into exercise. This is totally normal, so please be KIND to your body. For some reason, society places so much pressure on us to “bounce back,” not just physically but in many different aspects…but this post partum time is not about bouncing back. It’s about rest and recovery which is SO important. Again, your body just went through something MAJOR. It took 9 months to grow a human and your body will take time to adjust and heal. Trust me…when you’re ready, I’m your GIRL, and I have a health + fitness challenge support group with your name on it. I’ve GOT you. 😉 It’s definitely possible to feel confident and comfortable in your body again. But don’t feel that you need to rush into “getting your body back” right away.
You will be STARVING! – I mean ravenous. You will eat a crazy large meal, and then want another one hours later. You just did WORK pushing out that baby! Your body is in overdrive making milk for a tiny human and replenishing constantly. This is totally normal to last a couple weeks or months if you continue to breastfeed.
You may not INSTANTLY bond with your baby – I remember thinking that my first baby would pop out and it would be love at first sight! There was some element to “wow, I created this human, and I love him” but I didn’t feel that overwhelming GUSH of obsessive love that I thought I would right away. I knew that I would do anything for him and would take care of him with all my heart, but it took TIME and getting to know him and his personality and quiet moments together for that love to grow and grow and grow.
You may CRY for NO REASON – Your hormones are going super crazy right after birth. You have a new human who can’t talk, can only cry to communicate, and no idea what you’re doing. You also aren’t sleeping. You’re incredibly exhausted around the clock with 24/7 duties (remember the breastfeeding?) so it’s SUPER normal to just cry and be extra emotional.
Postpartum anxiety and postpartum depression can happen to anyone – This is one of the most important things to check in with yourself after having a baby and know that it’s COMMON and happens to MANY women. It also doesn’t have to happen right away. I was never diagnosed with PPA or PPD, but I was right on the borderline, especially with Baby #3 this time around. They give you those dumb questionaires to fill out where you know the answers that are going to diagnose you or not, so most people don’t fill them out truthfully or maybe they aren’t even sure WHAT they are feeling with all the craziness going on. I’m not sure if I answered in full truth with the first two kids…I honestly don’t remember, but this time around…I tried to do my best to answer as truthfully as possible. And I hit right below the line of diagnosis on the scale…but here’s what I experienced. The sadness came more frequently than what I had remembered in the past. I was in a foggy state some days. Things that would typically make me happy, didn’t neccesarily make me unhappy, but I was kinda just going through the motions. Remember, I was walking around shirtless and in pain while nursing, recovering in between nursing sessions, and going to multiple appointments to check up on the baby and fix his latch. Lots of tears. Typically when I’m stressed and tired and overwhelmed I tend to snap at people I love (something I’m not proud of and working on)…but I felt I didn’t even have the motivation to snap. Plus trying to give attention and love to two other children. It was a lot. EVERY day and every moment wasn’t sad. I was happy many days and moments also, but for a person who sees the bright side of most things and likes to stay positive, it was a weird feeling for me to be upset a heck of a lot more then normal. I thought about going to therapy, even if I didn’t have a real diagnosis, but I ultimately never went. It likely could have helped, but it felt daunting to add yet another thing to my schedule. It helped a lot to start exercising again, which is a great stress reliever for me, and as time went on and breastfeeding got easier, sleep got better, things got a little better. But I won’t lie…sometimes all of these things are still hard and I still have tough days that pop up unexpectedly and catch me by surprise even 8 months later. I talk a lot about it with the hubby and he has been super supportive. I think getting some alone time has been one of the best things that has helped. Being a stay at home working mom is amazing and a blessing, but it’s also tough to get a break. So hiring a babysitter for some mornings to work my business or run an errand, finding time to recharge and do something that feels like ME. Then I’m usually a much better to come home and be a better mom. I do think it’s also easier for me once they get a little older. There are different challenges, of course, but the baby stages with lots of crying are hard for me. Postpartum anxiety or depression is not something to be ashamed of though, and if you are feeling any of these symptoms, don’t be afraid to talk to a doctor or a loved one and get help.
Here is a resource called Post Partum Support International which is an online community of mamas along with helpline for support.
Your hair will clog up the drain like WHOA – Oh holy hair loss! When you are pregnant, your hair is thick and luscious and you don’t lose the normal daily amount. But post partum? Oh LAWD! For me this didn’t happen right away, but a few months post partum (maybe 4-5), and my hair just started coming out in CLUMPS, especially in the shower. It happened every day for a few months and just tons of it was coming out, I couldn’t believe I still had hair left on my head! I have two spots on the side of my hairline where it’s most obvious, and then it all takes forever to grow back in and looks crazy. But it does usually get back to normal over time.
Poopin’ ain’t easy – Hey, I warned you in the beginning, I was gonna keep it real here ladies. For whatever reason, after having a baby, it’s incredibly difficult to poop. I guess all of that going on down there and body parts shifting around makes things go outta whack. Usually it resolves after a few days, but I swear the 3rd time around going to the bathroom didn’t feel completely normal for over a month. Colace will be your best friend.
You’re not a playa, you just SWEAT a lot – This actually happened to me more in the months leading up to birth while pregnant and during labor and delivery than I really remember postpartum, but this is another thing that can happen. I remember kicking off all the covers every night because I was SOOOOOO hot and wanting to constantly sit by the air conditioner (granted it was a summer pregnancy!), but as a person who dislikes the cold and prefers warm weather, this was weird for me! I don’t sweat a lot typically, but hormones are crazy and it’s pretty normal to sweat it out during this time.
Bringin’ Sexy Back ain’t really that sexy the 1st time back – Yeahhhhhh, so after pushing a human outside of you and everything shifting around in there, hormones raging…doc gives the green light but whaaaaaaa? I was definitely not ready for that after my 6 week appointment!!! Haha! But when I finally felt comfortable again, it did NOT feel like normal! It felt painful, super dry, your boobs are probably leaking and you definitely don’t want them touched now that baby is touching them, and you may not feel like that sexy lady you once did because your libido is LOW. It took a few times (and a LOT of LUBE) to get to feeling back to normal again, but it does typically go back to feeling good again! If it doesn’t, there could be some underlying pelvic floor issues, and a pelvic floor therapist could be really helpful!
You’re only cool if you pee your pants – No, no, that’s not true. That was just in the movies. But you MIGHT pee your pants. Speaking of pelvic floor therapy, this might be a really good option if you can no longer control your bladder. Jumping, sneezing, coughing, and laughing just aren’t the same anymore after having a baby. It’s super important to strengthen those muscles if you want to get it as close to normal as you can. Kegels may help, but pelvic floor therapy could be a good option. Also aside from your bladder, if you are feeling any pain down below (regardless of whether or not it’s during sexy time), a pelvic floor therapist may be able to help.
Your abs might separate – Yes, your abdominal muscles might actually SPLIT apart from each other. Crazy right? I think having a strong core in advance can be helpful with this, but even still it can happen. You will know if there is more than a finger space between the right and left abdominal muscles when you are in the process of sitting up, but you can also check with your doctor. If this happens to you, I would be very careful when jumping back into exercise. Skip the crunches, sit ups and similar exercises or else you can actually make it worse. I had slight ab separation after Baby #2 and over time it eventually closed up. If the separation is drastic, then there are also physical therapists you can see to help with this as well.
Your will never sleep the same again – Of course we all know that there is little sleep in the beginning. And it DOES get easier…but you still won’t sleep the same. That passed out cold, nothing can wake you up sleep? Yeah, no. As a mom, you are on constant alert and you hear EVERYTHING. And when you don’t hear ANYTHING? Then you’re awake, because you’re afraid something’s wrong LOL. Welcome to mom sleep.
You will feel like a ROCKSTAR when you put on real clothes – What used to be an every day occurence…getting showered and dressed…will now feel like an ultimate luxury!!! You will feel like a total rockstar…even when you are still wearing maternity jeans.
Someone will tell you that you need to enjoy every moment and you will want to slap them – Hah. Kidding. Not kidding. So many people will tell you that you are so lucky and blessed (AND YOU ARE), and that your children will “never be this small again” so you just have to “ENJOY EVERY MOMENT.” Well, in that moment when you are exhausted, in pain, stressed out, the baby is screaming, you’re in a fog, and you can’t hear yourself think…it’s HARD to appreciate that moment, and you may just want to tell someone to eff off haha. Instead, just BREATHE. This moment was hard. You don’t have to enjoy this one. But you WILL get through this moment. And you can enjoy a different one later.
Alright, now that I’ve shared all the craziness and behind-the-scenes of the 4th trimester and probably scared you all off from having any future children… 😉
I DO want to acknowledge that while the 4th trimester and the early days of mommin’ are HARD…it IS also very beautiful. You DO have many wonderful moments as well. Seriously, nothing can compare to a newborn snuggle sesh. There is something so precious about holding that tiny human in your arms and knowing they are fully dependent on you and they trust you, regardless of whether or not you have all the answers. Watching your partner hold your child and seeing them as a parent will send a beautiful wave of love and emotion over you for them that you have never truly felt before in that way. As a mom of three, watching your children bond with their new sibling for the first time will bring happy tears to your eyes.
Yes, mommin’ is the hardest job I have ever done. But it’s also the most special. Things DO get easier as they grow and you start to figure them out and their unique personalities. Try to remember to have GRACE with yourself. You are also human and figuring things out. Life is forever changed and it’s a brand new adjustment for you and your family. You have a new needy little roommate and need to figure out how to live together.
So it’s OKAY if you don’t have all your shit together. It’s OKAY if you no longer have control of everything. It’s OKAY to not totally feel like yourself right now. It’s OKAY that you don’t recognize your body. This is all a normal part of what we moms go through. Have patience and know that this stage is a SEASON and it won’t last forever. Take things one day at a time. And my best advice is to find a mom group of support. Local is even better. That TRULY helped SO much during my experience as a new mom.