The Realness of Giving Birth + Things They Don’t Tell You re: Postpartum

I’ve been quiet on the blog the last few weeks, and yup, I have a good reason! We had our baby girl (whose name and photo I won’t be posting on the blog for privacy purposes, save the back of her head in this photo) a few days early.

Five weeks ago, I was at 39 weeks on the nose, and my midwife had me go in for an ultrasound because I was measuring consistently small. At the ultrasound, the tech was having a hard time getting baby’s size right. At the end of her scan, she and the radiologist left us for a solid 20 minutes in the room before they came back and told us we had to meet my midwife at the hospital, and that I’d be checked out by an obstetrician for fetal growth restriction (aka, baby’s better off growing outside rather than in). At the hospital, they asked us to agree to an induction (we did), they transferred my care from the midwife to an obstetrician for the labour and birth. The hospital was slammed Wednesday through Friday. Friday night I was finally induced and in labour. Baby was born Saturday morning at a tiny 5 lbs 7 oz (I’ve lifted weights heavier than her!).

Labour was the most excruciating pain I’ve ever felt in my life (inductions do that from what I understand), and I pounced on the epidural when it was offered to me, had a nice nap, then woke up to push (surprisingly, the pushing didn’t hurt much…maybe because I was partially frozen from the epidural and my adrenaline was pumped up?) I might sound like a sicko, but pushing was really a neat experience. Primal, even, but in an oddly satisfying way.

And oh: after childbirth, all of your modesty will go out the window. I had 7 people watching my crotch (two nurses, a nursing student, my midwife, husband and two doctors) when the baby was making her way into the world. Later on, everyone will see you breastfeed if you’re breastfeeding. They’ll see all of you. Like all of it. Whipping out a boob in front of my friends to feed my kid now isn’t weird to me at all anymore.

So from that day on, there are several things they don’t tell you about what your body does postpartum, or how you should manage them. I’ve compiled an extensive list here 😉

  1. You’ll feel like you’ve been hit by a truck for a little while. TAKE IT EASY! I’m sure this varies for everyone, but for me, it was the first 48 hours. You just pushed out a human, after all. Makes sense. You’ve got at least 6 weeks of recovery. Goodbye sex (for a little while)…you won’t really miss it for a while anyway…
  2. You will be so sweaty. Post-partum makes you a sweaty person: your body is trying to excrete all those extra fluids you retained for months. And you probably shouldn’t wear scented deodorant, so just be okay with unscented, or being stinky. Upside: you’ll be bathing your nether regions a few times a day anyway, so you can just rinse off the stink afterward. Or you might do like me and just stick tissue under your pits.
  3. Maxi pads are your new friends. Buy lots of them (I’ve gone through 50+ in the last few days). You probably don’t need the Depends except for the first two days, but you’ll need some heavy duty pads, and then some lighter ones (panty liners). You’ll be changing them often (I do every 3-4 hours). Personally, I like the cotton-y feeling panty liners (Kotex brand) vs. the plastic-y ones (Always brand).
  4. You’ll also find a new use for your blow dryer. Crotch dryer! Yeah, things need to air out down there. You’ll feel better once you do after you soak. My midwife told me some warm air can help everything heal a little quicker in the crotch department. She was right.
  5. Your hips will start moving back to their old position. It will hurt or feel uncomfortable. Line up the chiro and massage appointments!
  6. Your boobs will feel like mini watermelons. Or grapefruit, depending on the size they were before and how much you exploded…I mean expanded. The first 5 days of breastfeeding are assssssss, and your breasts can quadruple in size. But you can do it if that’s what you choose! I highly recommend getting a breast pump for the days where your cracked nipples are killing you. And don’t feel ashamed of airing out your boobs when your nipples are sore. It’s only now that I’m seeing my breasts start to shrink down to their pre-pregnancy size.
  7. Lanolin will change your life. It’s for your nipples, but if you’re like me, you’ll start using it as a lip balm because it’s what’s close by, haha. Lanolin on everything!
  8. 3-4 Nursing bras are a must (especially if you’re busty, finding the right size is a huge deal). And you’ll be so sweaty trying to get out all that water weight, you’ll want to wash them often. I found a few great ones from Royce, the prices were reasonable and the shipping took less than 10 full days from the date I ordered them. I wear the 32 HH/J/JJ in Blossom, and 32 HH in Luna. It’s super comfortable, and it expands and can be retracted with a small string (not sure if that’s the right word for it) when your breasts enlarge. If you can go braless, you’re hella lucky. Bustier ladies that want more support: don’t touch your underwire bras for a few months, as the restrictiveness of the underwire can increase instances of mastitis (according to the lady at the bra store with whom I spoke).
  9. “Nap when the baby naps”. Well let’s be realistic: you can only do this so often, but try to squeeze in a nap or two a day if you can, or extend your mornings. And take it easy! But definitely, have snacks lined up (granola bars and bananas have been my go tos) so you can shove something in your mouth before you nurse.
  10. Walking across the house will be tough. So will bending over. I was also told to keep my legs together as much as I possibly can. Which means no sitting cross-legged! Your stitches will thank you. Don’t rush your recovery, either. At up to four weeks in my bleeding would come back for a short while if I didn’t take it easier earlier in the day.
  11. Boobs again: you can get a yeast infection on your nipples called thrush. Get your doctor or midwife to get you a prescription for APNO (all purpose nipple ointment). It does have to be compounded, so not every pharmacy will make it up for you. If you do get thrush, make sure you wash your nipples after every feed, apply APNO, and switch out disposable nipple pads. So far, my thrush is clearing up nicely. Baby got it on her butt, sadly, and gets a generous helping of Sudocrem on her behind. Thankfully, the thrush bypassed her mouth and she didn’t get it orally. You can also use Sudocrem to prevent chafing when you’re outside with short shorts or a dress! It’s lavender-scented.
  12. Ask for help, but don’t have visitors for a couple of weeks if you can help it. Really, you’ll want time as a family unit. If you do get help outside of your partner, consider a having a friend or family member that won’t stay at your house overnight. Your job is to take care of the baby, and others are supposed to help you out and not just hold your baby to fulfill their desire for baby cuddles. For me, I felt like it took a while to get the hang of breastfeeding. Luckily, I traded services with postpartum doulas, and they provided me with a lot of emotional support as I’ve been transitioning into parenthood, and a lot of resources for breastfeeding and improving my breastfeeding experience.

Happy parenting! It’s a lot, but you can do it!

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