Giving birth is a miracle, but postpartum stories are rarely shared. Our bodies don’t go back to ‘normal’ and we get hit with the cold hard truth. Let’s get real about the realities of the afterbirth period.
I don’t want to overwhelm you because being a mother is absolutely amazing, but we’re not actually always glowing. Well, sort of, but that’s because we don’t often shower.
If you just gave birth this is what I have to say to you:
“Congratulations you just gave birth!! Oh hey, you look like shit by the way. Get ready to put on some sexy panties!!!”
If you haven’t gotten there yet, I’d suggest mentally preparing. It looks a little scary but once you give birth you seriously can handle anything, I promise!
Yes ladies! You will actually like wearing these for a while and may even invest in adult diapers for a little while, I know I did.
First-time moms usually have questions like:
- how long will I bleed for after giving birth?
- what is recovery like after having a c-section?
- what will my body look and feel like after giving birth?
- what are some nursing struggles with a newborn?
These are all things I had done very little research on in advance and surprised me, particularly because I never expected to have a c-section in the first place. I can’t give you an exact answer to these questions because everyone is different but I can share my experiences with you. So here’s my reality check.
So you just did this really amazing thing of growing a child inside of you for about “9 months” and then you spend several excruciating, I mean blissful, hours getting that bowling ball out of you.
Well, after all those months of no period, now you suddenly have a heavy flow- but its not really your period!
And if you’re like me, who went through a full day of labor to end up getting surgery you definitely won’t be wearing real underwear for a while. In fact, you’ll still be hooked to the catheter til you can muster the muscles to get out of your bed.
For my first delivery I went through both spectrums of labor so my recovery period was much longer than average. I bled for probably a month and I was in my hospital bed until the last day there.
Post Cesarean Muscles & Skin Sensitivity
My husband was the one caring for our son, he would just place him on my breast for me when he needed to nurse.
I had never thought I would need a C-section, nor had I ever looked into it. It is a major surgery, where many muscles and nerves are cut to get the baby out and then put back together, with time those nerves rejoin and heal.
Its amazing we even go back to normal afterwards, well sort of normal.
They say after giving birth you should not carry anything heavier than your child. I was having trouble just sitting up on the bed to eat, let alone imagine when I needed to get out of bed. I was even terrified of pooping!
My skin was super sensitive in the surgical area too so underwear and any clothing at my waist was a no no.
I did wear the underwear mesh the hospital gave me and even took the extras home (they give you a bunch for free). Honestly it was the most comfortable thing on the waist.
I also purchased some adult diapers for myself that I used for a little while, boy was that awkward (diapering myself and my baby) but a total life saver.
On top of that, it took me about two weeks to be able to do some physical things on my own, and I’m definitely not even considering sex at this point- what is that anyway?
At the time I lived in a two story home so I had to limit my trips to 1-2 times a day, luckily I have a lot of family nearby wiling to help on a daily basis. But after a month I was doing most things normally.
This is what the hospital gave me. But upon some online shopping I found some that function the same and are a little nicer to wear with clothes.
With my second delivery things went much smoother for me.
I had a planned C-section because it had only been a year since my first and natural delivery is not recommended after surgery. We had a set time to arrive to our room, a set time for the surgery, and expected time to be back with baby in our arms.
My recovery was much quicker. That same day I was up and walking, I could slowly and carefully sit up in my bed, and I could go to the bathroom on my own.
Granted, my motions were slower and more careful due to the surgery but it was a totally different experience and it wasn’t because I had already gone through it, it was because my body didn’t go through contractions and roughly 19 hours of labor. Within a week or two I was almost back to normal.
I will tell you though, even after over a year of my last surgery, my skin is still a little sensitive around the area, some days more than others. And from my research, both online and from other people I know, these symptoms may minimize but you will never really be ‘normal’ again.
It’s very irritating the first few weeks but it gradually gets better and then becomes a new normal. That’s the hard truth but it sounds scarier than it really is, us women have been through much worse.
If you’re planning on nursing, make sure you get the nurses or the Lactation Consultants at the hospital to assist you as much as possible.
You can do all the research you want ahead of time, and you probably should because it does help, but both you and the baby have to work together to get the hang of it.
I thought I knew what I was doing after the first few tries, but after I saw blood coming out my baby’s mouth I realized the pain I was feeling was definitely not normal.
Getting the hang of it is a huge struggle. I thought I had to stop nursing because of the blood, but turns out my baby was still getting milk.
I had to use nipple cream, keep my nipple on certain fabrics and use a nipple shield or else they would dry up, get stuck to the fabric and the healing skin would peel off only to bleed all over again- this was very painful.
But I got past it and my nipples healed.
A lot of women go through this, and in some cases it makes nursing impossible. Just know that whether you nurse or don’t, it’s going to be okay. Despite any studies of brain development on babies that are nursed versus formula-fed, formula doesn’t really make a child any different.
Engorgement is another painful one too.
Once your milk comes in your breasts will increase big time, and you will feel full and have the dying urge to relieve that heavy feeling- that probably means its time to nurse again. That’s your natural clock.
There are many tricks to relieving this pain, like warm water and pumping.
I once went almost a full day without nursing because I went to a wedding without my kids or a pump. Once I loosened my dress and removed my strapless bra I realized just how much pain I was in, it was kept so tight that I didn’t realize as the hours were passing.
When I came home I went straight for the pump. I was lucky I didn’t need medical attention.
The pump helped but only in certain sections, my baby was the real deal and she was happy to help. I pumped for over an hour back and forth and was dying for my baby to relieve the pain, I overfed my child for my own sake and was prepared for the spit up returned to me.
You can check out more about Nursing on my Nursing/BF Essentials Post.
Oh and if you thought you would suddenly lose that giant belly because it is no longer full, guess again!
I probably gained more weight my first few days at the hospital from all the fluids and lack of movement. I had to eat specific things to reduce the swelling in my feet and keep them up when possible.
I don’t even remember clearly from all the newborn exhaustion and body changes. Between the 2-3 hours of nursing I had to find time to burp baby, eat, shower, nap, change my pad, change baby, hold baby, and then when I looked at my feet I was shocked “why the hell is my foot the size of a bowling ball !?” and “where the heck did my toes go!?”
After a few weeks though I did recover from the swelling and my belly went down a tiny bit.
But if you’re worried about that belly or lower back pain, here’s the downright truth: It took your body all those months to go through those changes, it needs time to revert back.
Studies have even shown that it takes a few months for your body to recognize that it is no longer pregnant, although that doesn’t prevent you from getting pregnant again ladies and gentleman!
If you’re concerned about losing the baby weight, some of it will go naturally with a little time. Some of it takes diet and proper exercise, and if you’re nursing, then that is a natural way to loose as well.
With the exception of my pooch, which I have due to the cesareans and because I have not properly exercised or dieted for, I naturally lost all my weight by now from two kids.
My weight gains and losses have been a little different for each pregnancy and and each postpartum.
I had my kids back to back with only 15 months in between, meaning about 7 months postpartum the first round. I was still in my postpartum body when I got pregnant again but after having my second I managed to lose more quickly without a ton of effort, and honestly I was very lucky.
This was partially because of my body type, partially because I was nursing a lot more frequently than with my first and for a longer period of time, and partially because I tried going back to Zumba classes to lose a little body fat and tone some muscles.
But I think most of my weight loss came from taking care of my kids and doing house chores. I’m constantly walking back and forth and bending down- that would make a funny mommy/housewife workout video!
I am exposing to you some very private photos that sometimes I even have trouble looking at. You can clearly see my still “pregnant” belly even though I have my first born in my arms attempting to nurse.
Proof that on our way out of the hospital, I was swollen from toe to my cheeks- and dying to take off those pants from my incision (I should’ve packed a dress). I even have a closeup of how swollen my feet got.
If you just had your baby, take care of yourself but don’t worry too much about the way you look for a while. Focus on the baby bliss and enjoy yourself, things will fall into place.
What were your After Birth STruggles?
What Helped you?
My name is Paula and I’m a mom of two scrumptious cuties. Thanks Mommy Blog became a project for me to help guide other new moms and current moms through any of my own personal experiences and struggles. My hobbies include singing, doing jigsaw puzzles, baking, designing and trying to stay creative.