My first postpartum experience was really difficult for me. I was exhausted, achy, emotional and sleep deprived. Why didn’t anyone warn me how tough it was going to be. I’ll admit I was so excited about my new baby, that I only focused on prepping for his arrival. I had no clue that I should have been prepping for my recovery as well! I thought BAH! Have a baby and live happily ever after. Heh. There is a lot of happy, but these are things I really wished someone would have told me about.
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1. Moving can be really difficult
Being in good shape, I thought I would do really well postpartum. I had no idea that I would need constant help just to get out of bed. It wasn’t the pain that prevented me from moving, my body literally just wouldn’t. I had a big baby and a big baby belly. My abdominal muscles had stretched out so much, that sitting up was impossible, which made getting out of bed impossible.
I thought my husband could actually get some sleep at night and I would get up and tend to the baby. But I had to ask him to help push me out of bed every-single-time. The only thing that helped was my abdominal binder. Once I started to wear it all the time, I could actually sit up. It provided enough support to help me sit without help.
Action Tip: Get a good abdominal binder, oh, and “rolling” out of bed is easier, then sitting up to get up.
(I recently found out that all of my issues related to this was actually due to something called recti diastasis! It’s actually pretty common and you can read more about that here.)
2. Hormonal changes make you feel crazy, without even realizing it
I had read about postpartum depression and was pretty familiar with it. I experienced had a touch of the baby blues, but it wasn’t bad. I did find myself crying constantly though. The tears weren’t from sadness, but the realization that this new little life brought so much meaning to my world. The thought of something happening to him haunted me. Mmy life would be ruined. It made me cry ALL. THE. TIME.
Not to mention the discovery channel. NEVER watch the discovery channel postpartum. When the baby gazelle doesn’t escape the lion’s grasp, you’ll regret ever turning on the T.V. as you try not hysterically sob all over your new baby.
But nobody, NOBODY, warned me about postpartum anxiety. Holy, cow. That hit me like a sack of potatoes. I didn’t even realize it was happening. Looking back there were some obvious signs something was off, but I didn’t catch on until months after it was all over.
I didn’t sleep for weeks. I just thought it was normal for some reason. There isn’t really a good way to explain why. The thought of SIDS plagued me the most. I became obsessed. I would only let our baby sleep right next to me, while I was awake and could watch him. I only sleep if my husband was with him.
The anxiety brought constant surges of adrenaline. I would go few days with only a couple hours of sleep but feel wide awake. When I did try to sleep, I would hear voices calling my name, and it would shock me out of my near sleep. Which brings me to the next point. Sleep deprivation:
Action Tip: Protect your mental health! Get sleep, talk to your partner. If things feel like they are getting out of control talk to your care provider too! I also suggest taking postnatal DHA as it’s been shown to help prevent postpartum depression. (more info on that here.)
3. Sleep deprivation is brutal
The sleep deprivation makes everything feel weird and amplified. It’s like being in a fake world where you are watching from the outside. It goes well beyond being tired. I attribute hearing voices strictly to the sleep deprivation because once I finally got into a routine of sleeping a few hours here and there, they went away.
If I could do it all over again, I would have asked for more help simply to sleep. Getting sleep is hands down, the best thing you can do for your mental health. That whole “sleep when baby sleeps.” Yes! Do it.
Action Tip: Find a way to sleep. Sacrifice all other responsibilities. Your body needs rest. If your baby is a rough sleeper than call in help!
4. The bleeding can last so long
I bled for 6 weeks. That would have been fine, except that bleeding this long, means wearing pads for weeks at a time. This can cause severe skin excoriation due to constant moisture. When you are already trying to heal wounds, stitches and swollen tissues from birthing, then add skin excoriation on top of all that! You are going to be miserable.
If I had taken better care of myself, I think my bleeding would have ended a lot sooner. I should have stayed in bed more, and slept more. That alone would have probably shaved weeks off of my bleeding and healing time.
Action Tip: Get really goods pads. I bought the pads I would wear during a regular period, and they ended up burning my skin after several days. I would splurge during the postpartum time and get organic cotton maternity pads. The only place I could find them was Amazon. Not a single store in our area sold them.
The best ones I had, were the ones from the hospital (surprisingly) They were super soft, wicked away moisture. Such a difference! I wish I had thought to snag a bunch more! (Grab as many as you can!)
5. Breastfeeding isn’t easy
Breastfeeding is natural and should be intuitive right? Ha! I thought so too. My baby and I had a really rough start. I’m suspecting an undiagnosed tongue tie. It didn’t matter what position we tried, or what latch techniques we used. My little nurser was causing searing hot pain. I can honestly say it was worse than giving birth. (Which sounds crazy, but i stand by that statement 100%) It felt like my baby was sawing through my nipples with razor blades.
I almost gave up breastfeeding due to the pain. I was lucky though, I had a lot of support from my husband, and I attended La Leche League meetings and used these products to help survive those first few weeks of nursing.
Action Tip: Have multiple support access in case you have a hard time. Know where your local la leche league meets, have a recommended number of a lactation consultant readily available, talk to your pediatrician or midwife early if you realize you’re having problems.
A breast pump is a great way to keep your milk supply up if it’s just unbearable to breastfeed. This is the best way to ensure your supply doesn’t falter while you figure out the latch. Don’t be discouraged though. I say this only to help prepare you for possible problems. Many of my breastfeeding friends did NOT have these same problems.
Read: Breastfeeding Resources
6. Even the best relationships are tested
I have the BEST husband. We have a great relationship and were together for 5 awesome years before having a baby. But even the best relationship can be tested during a major life change, like having a baby. The exhaustion that plagued us, the lack of alone time, it just being together difficult.
It was hard to find kindness when we were both in survival mode. Over time we figured out. And the experience helped us come up with an excellent game plan for baby 2.0. We are now stronger than ever.
Action Tip: Have a pep talk with your partner. Agree to try to put yourselves in the others shoes. It’s not an easy life change for either of you. With compassion and empathy for each other you’ll have a lot easier time getting along. And resist the urge to play the “who does more” game. There are no winners in that game!
7. Stitches are a pain
I tore a lot during birth. I have a pretty high pain tolerance, but I had no idea how much stitches were going to hurt. I was so excited when they finally fell out and were done with. There are a lot of things you can do to heal better and faster. I carried around a boppy pillow those first few weeks and used it to sit on. It took the tension off of the stitched up areas and that was crucial for me to sit comfortably.
8. The emotional rollercoaster
New baby love is so different than any love. I had never felt love like that before, and it is amazing. It makes life scary and weird. I was overcome with compassion, empathy, hope, and fear. You may not feel that “instant connection” with your new little one, but it comes quickly and will overtake you. (If you find yourself having major negative feelings toward your baby, speak to someone immediately. You could be having some postpartum depression, which is a big hormonal issue and nothing to be ashamed of, but does need professional help!)
Action Tip: Keep your mental state safe! I highly HIGHLY recommend a postnatal DHA vitamin. Other than being an essential nutrient for good health, it can help greatly reduce the chance of postpartum depression and anxiety. You need an Omega 3 supplement that contains both EPA and DHA. You can read more about the science of all of it here.
I like Nordic Naturals, these ones are specifically designed for the postpartum period and the doses are high enough to help stabilize postpartum moods. (good for babies brain too!) This is actually one of my top 6 things you can do to prevent postpartum depression.