Congratulations, you did it! After hours of labor, you managed to push out your precious little baby. It’s time to relax and bond with the baby…right? WRONG. It’s funny how everybody talks about what happens before and during childbirth, but nobody really talks about what happens after the baby arrives. Thanks for the warning, people! I mean, the moms in movies always cry tears of joy, get handed their beautiful newborns, and they get to enjoy some quality alone time with the husband and the baby. End scene. Who knew that reality plays out a lot differently than what you see on the big screen?
Even after taking childbirth classes, I was still surprised by everything that went on after birth. I think I just didn’t pay attention in class after we learned about the birth of the baby. Stupid me. It’s like focusing on rock climbing up the mountain and ignoring the fact that I still need strength to climb down the mountain after reaching insurmountable heights. The “after” is part of the beautiful journey, and I want to prepare soon-to-be moms with everything that I DIDN’T expect after I gave birth.
Attack of the giant octopus!
You would think you are done and able to relax after pushing out a baby, but NOOO…you have to deliver the placenta, the organ that housed your baby during your pregnancy. Now that the baby is out, there is no need for the placenta anymore, so you need it out of your body. Believe it or not, your uterus will continue to contract to push the placenta out. Your doctor may help push on your abdomen to help the placenta along, and after what your body had just been through, it is not pleasant to have someone putting pressure on your belly. And I will always remember the feeling of the placenta coming out of my body – it felt like I just pushed out a giant octopus, all slimy and with its tentacles still attached (well, some are missing). Yuck. I remember a nurse even asked if I wanted to see it. Uh, no thank you, I will stick with staring at my baby instead.
Repairing the damage.
Argh, I hate to think about what it looked like “down there” immediately after I gave birth. I remember trying to decipher the midwife’s expressions as she poked around assessing the damage. After the nurse placed my baby on my chest, the midwife continued to stitch me up for what felt like forever. Do you know how distracting it is to have a needle going in and out of your vagina while you are trying to bond with a baby?
Let’s pop the baby on!
I prepared for breastfeeding my baby by taking classes and even practicing different positions with a doll. I was completely and utterly determined to breastfeed. But right after birth? Come on, I just spent hours in pain, can’t I get some time to take a breather? NOPE. After a few minutes of making sure the baby is doing okay, the nurse will ask you if you would like to try and nurse the baby. And if you have babies who are milk monsters like mine, they pretty much do the work of finding the nipple and clamp on as long as their mouths are in the vicinity. Believe you me, it was a magical moment when my baby latched on and I think I will always remember that moment, but I was certainly not prepared to breastfeed for the first time while my legs were still in the stirrups and my vagina exposed for all to see.
Oh, the blood…so much blood.
You know the prom scene in the movie Carrie where the mean high school kid dumped a bucket of pig’s blood on her? Yeah…that’s nothing compared to the amount of blood you will see in the days following delivery. And what makes it more fun is the gigantic boat of a maxi pad that the hospital provides to help with the mess. At least you get to wear super flattering disposable underwear with the maxi pads!
Pee for me!
Arriving at the postpartum room, one of the first things your nurse will ask you to do is pee for her into this huge measuring cup that hangs off the toilet. Your vagina probably feels like it just went through a fight club scene and is still swollen and painful down there, and you are probably so sore that you can’t even feel your bladder, but the nurse will not stop asking you to pee until you do it. I remember telling the nurse that I do not need to go, and she told me to look down and I could see my full bladder protruding out of my belly. Craziness! So just go to the bathroom and try…but make sure you use the squirt bottle the hospital provides and fill it with cool water to help with the pain as you pee. I even took the bottle home after I was discharged from the hospital because it really helps with the pain, especially if you had to have stitches down there.
Belly, belly go away.
Unfortunately, your pregnant belly doesn’t go away completely immediately after birth. I remember being so disappointed that I still looked 5 months pregnant after I gave birth to both the baby and the placenta. There is still a whole slew of things in there that needs to come out. Plus, your skin has been stretched to its limit (and beyond) for months, so it needs time to recover and shrink back.
The massage from hell.
It felt like every 5 minutes a nurse would bust into the room to check on me. The worst part is the fundal massage, where the nurse pushes on your belly to help the uterus contract back to its original size. I had to hold back the urge to punch one of the nurses…I know the massages are good for you, but boy do they hurt! I remember gripping to the bed rails and gritting my teeth every time they pushed on my belly. And what makes the massage worse is that every time they push down, I can feel a ton of blood gushing out. As if I wasn’t feeling icky enough already.
Night of the living dead.
You probably already skipped one night of sleep due to contractions and spent almost a whole day going through labor and delivery. You probably feel like closing your eyes and sleeping for days. Well, guess what? All these stories you hear about how parents do not sleep? It starts right at birth! My babies have never been great sleepers, and both of them insisted on me holding and nursing them the entire night after I gave birth. Even if I managed to nod off for a few minutes, usually a nurse would come in to check on the baby or me and wake me up from my precious slumber. And guess who was sleeping soundly in the bed next to mine? My wonderful husband who was exhausted from helping me during child birth. Really dude?
You will feel hot.
No, not sexy mama kind of hot (refer to #6), but the sweaty fat man sitting in a sauna kind of hot. Your estrogen plunges after you give birth, and the change in hormones totally messes up your body’s temperature regulation, so you get a nice preview of what hot flashes are all about during menopause. I was sweating so much after delivery that I just took off everything except my bra and my oh-so-attractive disposable underwear in order to cool down. On top of that, I was breastfeeding my baby pretty much all the time, and sleepy little newborns are like mini-ovens. So yup, you will feel pretty hot.
Giving birth again.
Pooping doesn’t sound so horrible, does it? Well, remember all the pain and pushing you had to do not that long ago to deliver your precious baby? Pushing out poop after giving birth might just be worse than that. Your organs are all rearranged due to pregnancy, and you might have hemorrhoids – swollen veins in the anus or lower rectum – from childbirth. So, your body is literally trying to learn how to eliminate waste again from scratch. Without getting too graphic, let’s just say that after you manage to finally push one out, you might be as proud of this accomplishment as giving birth to your baby. I even gave mine a name. No, just kidding, I am not that weird.