You did it. You took all the prenatal courses, you read all the posts, and you had your baby. You left your birthing suite sore but floating on cloud nine thinking the hard part is over.
Photo: Kelly Sikkema
Then, somewhere between going bald, finding the perfect adjustment for your super thick diaper pad, and sleepwalking you realized pregnancy wasn’t the hard part.
Most disheartening is no one bothered to tell you how hard postpartum life could be.
This could be your story but it won’t be because I’ve got your back.
Before you think this is an article complaining about birth and postpartum life – it’s not. I’d happily go through every challenge again to have my daughter and I’m sure millions of other moms feel the same.
The purpose of this piece is to share the things about postpartum life that no one bothered to share with me before I gave birth.
It’s the things I want you, all your relatives, and every future mom-to-be to know about postpartum life and postpartum recovery. I’m sharing what I have dubbed the 5 B’s of postpartum life.
The 5 B’s of Postpartum Life
I thought about saving the blood section for last but then decided that it’s too important to leave for last.
After having a baby you will bleed. It’s not just period blood – you’ll wish it was. It’ll seem like Niagara Falls flowing from your nether regions but if this is your first birth it’s just an amount of blood that you’ve never experienced and it can be uncomfortable.
This is true whether you had a vaginal birth or a c-section because the uterine lining and extra blood that your body and your baby no longer needs get an eviction notice. The medical term for this process is lochia and the bleeding and small clots you may notice are normal*.
*There are times when the amount of blood during postpartum bleeding is not normal and if you ever suspect this to be the case (in hospital, birthing center, or at home) PLEASE CONTACT YOUR MEDICAL PROVIDER ASAP! It could be postpartum hemorrhage or another serious condition.
Postpartum hemorrhage is excessive bleeding after giving birth and it is believed to impact approximately 5 % of childbearing women. The condition is more common in women who have a cesarean birth but can affect any woman. If left untreated the organs in the body can go into shock, from low blood pressure and organs not receiving enough blood; the condition can be fatal.
The family in the video below experienced a heart-breaking loss due to childbirth-related bleeding in a hospital setting.
I don’t share this video to scare you. I’m just thankful this family is using their experience to educate future moms and families. I hope it provides you with valuable information that you can use to advocate for yourself or a loved one if necessary.
After watching, I’m more informed and appalled by the statistics as they relate to the disproportionate quality of care for black women during labor and delivery.
Awareness is key.
Many first-time moms assume that once the baby comes out the baby belly disappears. I once believed this myself. Now, I know the truth.
During pregnancy, our uterus stretches to accommodate our developing babies. After pregnancy, it takes time for the uterus to contract and shrink back down and therefore you are unlikely to leave your hospital or birthing center with a flat belly.
It could take several weeks or months to feel like your normal self.
For health reasons, many health professionals discourage strenuous activity in the weeks following birth. Often, there is a six-week period in which prenatal care providers like for you to take time and rest.
I’d listen to their advice because your body has just undergone an impressive transformation and to expect it to do another one overnight is being unfair to yourself.
Love the jiggle in your wiggle.
3. Birth Pains
The pains of pregnancy and birth can follow you home.
Does that shock you?
Well, it’s common for women to continue experiencing some swelling, lower back and body aches, and even contractions after giving birth.
As mentioned above, your uterus has to shrink back down and this process involves contractions commonly referred to as afterpains.
After doing some research I learned that the afterpains are less intense after the first pregnancy than they are in subsequent deliveries.
I didn’t experience horrible afterpains after my first delivery but pain tolerance is different from woman to woman.
May the odds be in your favor.
I shouldn’t call postpartum hair loss balding, but that’s what it feels like.
I thought I had escaped this symptom of postpartum life until one day, a few months after giving birth, I was brushing my hair and thick clumps were in my brush and no longer attached to my head (Yikes!!).
After that, for weeks I couldn’t touch my hair without losing strands and it was scary. I knew for sure I was going bald.
I didn’t lose all my hair and I’m betting you won’t either. It’s just nerving-wrecking going from enjoying the thick and lovely tresses we are blessed with during pregnancy to dealing with what seems to be never-ending hair fall.
Some things that helped me was low maintenance hairstyles, weekly conditioning, eating high-quality whole plant foods, and drinking water. I also continued to take my prenatal supplement until the bottle was empty.
Even if you go bald, you’ll still be gorgeous!!
Big or small, your breasts will transform during your postpartum days.
For years, I proudly carried pride in my AAA cups. No back pains, no trouble running, no issues sleeping on my tummy.
Having a baby changed all of that.
I never got the engorgement of milk that many women get in the days following childbirth, but when my milk came in, it was painful. My A cup was easily a C cup thanks to the milk.
- If you don’t plan to breastfeed you will likely be advised to not express your milk. This is because the more you express, the more milk you’ll make. Cold compresses will be your friend.
- If you plan to breastfeed take a breastfeeding class like this one. I thought that because breastfeeding was natural that it would be easy and that couldn’t be further from the truth.
My lack of knowledge caused me weeks of frustrations that could have been avoided. Learn what you can before giving birth and don’t be afraid to reach out to a lactation consultant after giving birth.
Your breasts will be mighty!
BONUS POSTPARTUM LIFE ‘B’:
One day, as you are basking in the glow of caring for your new baby, you walk to the mailbox and BOOM there it is… the first of ten bills that remind you that healthcare in the USA is freaking expensive.
If you want to know how much I paid to have my baby, peep this post.
You could stress over it – but it wouldn’t do you any good.
If you took the time to financially prepare for your baby, put that plan in action. If not, reach out to your service provider, there may be payment plan options that could work for your specific situation.
When I had my baby, I spent months out on UNPAID maternity leave and it was manageable only because we had a two income household.
I know not everyone has that second income and I pray for the day when women and families aren’t burdened with financial insecurity during a time when they need stability most. But as of the day that I’m writing this – that isn’t the case.
Do what you can and move forward.
Photo: Shanique Wright
There are people in your life who can’t share these truths with you because they don’t know and others who just choose not to. The latter give a knowing smile and leave all the valuable details of postpartum life for you to figure out on your own.
I’m not going to do that to you.
After reading this post, you should be aware of…
- The bleeding that follows the birth
- The postpartum belly
- Birth pains and contractions that can continue after birth
- Postpartum hair loss
- The value of taking a breastfeeding class before giving birth
- The stack of bills that will follow delivery that aren’t worth stressing over
And, it’ll be OK because the most precious gift will be your baby and because of this information you’ll have prepared (as much as possible).
There are other postpartum life challenges (postpartum anxiety and postpartum depression) but I think these deserve their own post.
Are you a new mom? Have you experienced any of these postpartum life situations? How did you handle it? Were you warned ahead of time?
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