What no one told me about post-partum life

Guest post by Princess Lasertron

I am embarrassed to say that it never occurred to me to educate myself about how life would be different — both practically and emotionally — in the weeks after Alice’s arrival. Everyone always says “your body will never be the same.” Or other parents would laugh knowingly when I said things like “I’m moving into a co-working space four weeks later” or “I’ll just bring her along to the photoshoot” or “I’ll just work while I’m nursing.”

What would have been more helpful is if people had given me specific examples of adjustments they made after giving birth. So knowing that, here are my observations as a new mom of three weeks. I can’t speak about cesarean recovery or anything other than my own experience, but here we go:

Have a dedicated postpartum wardrobe.

There are a few reasons for this! First, you will want to be able to move freely as you slump into every chair and couch in the house holding your infant, as well as be able to change quickly when your clothes get soiled. And when I say “soiled” I don’t just mean baby poop — I mean sweat (yours and baby’s), lochia, soapy water from baths, snot, tons and tons of milk (which doesn’t smell so great after a few hours), and any other body fluid you can imagine.

I recommend getting lots of pairs of XXXXXL cotton underwear, solid colored yoga-type pants (you can wear them in public), solid-colored nursing tanks (I love the ones from Target), and knit cardigans and shawl-type sweaters. Things that wash easily and can be mixed and matched. And I didn’t expect to be changing my shirt three to four times a day, so I also recommend buying more than you think you need.

Skip buying maxi pads and just get Depends

Especially for the first week after childbirth, just get these. The amount of discharge that I had was not like a “heavy period.” It was like a mass murder bloodbath. I had no concept of postpartum bleeding and I wish I had known what to expect.

The lack of sleep hasn’t been that hard to cope with.

I think mothers must get some kind of new hormone that helps them feel better with less rest. I’ve been getting sleep in four-hour blocks (except on the weekends, when Dave lets me sleep in), but I don’t feel that my energy level is diminished. I don’t know if other mothers have similar experiences though.

You might not feel clean for a while.

I never really feel clean although I shower every day (a privilege, I know). Milk dries on my skin, I sweat a lot more than normal, and the changes in my hormones have changed the balance of oils on my skin, causing acne.

Once again, I had no idea how much postpartum bleeding there would be.

Four hours can go by in a moment when I’m trying to calm the baby or do “Alice chores.” In four hours, I can answer all my e-mail or make six headbands or 20 boutonnieres or a posie bouquet, and have time to meet a friend for lunch or a client for a meeting. Or in four hours, I can feed Alice and give her a bath. Or do a load of laundry and make myself a bowl of cereal. Maybe.

Nothing I bought has been more important than washcloths.

Tons and tons of the plainest, most ordinary cheap white washcloths. They work as burp rags (we save our cloth diapers to actually use as diapers), to wipe off sweat and spit-up, and most importantly they soak up all the milk that leaks all over all day long. I was proud to buy several sets of handmade nursing pads from Etsy, but for me they work for about two minutes. Instead I put folded washcloths in my shirts and I go through about eight per day. I know there are bigger problems — I’m glad nursing is going well — but leaking is cold and wet and inconvenient.

People will judge you no matter what.

Someone will always think you’re the worst mom ever. I recommend not asking anyone for their opinion unless you really want to hear it.

Although babies sleep 16-19 hours a day, I still don’t often find more than an hour or two to get anything done.

I have mastered sewing while nursing, and being able to hold the baby in a wrap helps, but when baby naps there are so many other things to do — tidying the living room for the barrage of guests constantly arriving, keeping the dishes done so the baby can take baths in the sink at a moment’s notice, keeping breast pump/bottles washed immediately so they don’t get stinky, constantly running loads of laundry up and down the stairs and folding the laundry. Plus work.

Some days are harder than others

I have two side projects due to clients and I’ve been up for the last seven hours with my wide-awake, alert genius baby. Now it’s almost 5pm and dad will be home, so hopefully I can take that time to tackle those work projects! What a lesson in prioritizing this has been.

Comments on What no one told me about post-partum life

  1. I have to say I’ve had seven babies (all vaginal births) and cannot relate to anything you’ve said.Sweating and Depends?If it was that bad I would have stopped with 1!lol But seriously you may scare some mommies to be who will have a totally different experience.

  2. Worse part of postpartum for me, was dealing with bad advice from family, friends, and neighbors alike. Although everyone meant well with the unsolicited advice giving, it drove me absolutely crazy to tolerate listening to it while coping with all my postpartum hormonal issues. For example, I spent 12 or more hours a day breast feeding for the first months. My baby was born 5 weeks early at 4 lb 6 oz. People, including nurses from the doctor office were insisting that he was using me as a pacifier and to just let him cry whenever I tried to explain his problems. After some research motivated my my own natural gut feelings, I researched and discovered that my baby was normal for a newborn his size. His actual age should only be judged by his expected due date. After 2 months his feedings slowed down and I was able to begin developing a routine with very little resistance from him. I also discovered that his needs are equal to his wants. It is impossible to spoil a newborn baby. And newborns never cry for no reason. It turned out he was colic and experiencing severe pain, so I also researched to find out what really works to relieve such pain. For my baby, moving his legs in a bicycle motion alternating pulling them up, making a right angle with his body relieves him the most. Trust your instincts, parents. Nature put them there for a reason.

    • My daughter also had colic, I really feel for you. My little girl did the same with her legs too, and screamed from 2pm till 10pm every day for months. In the end we took her to a chiropractor and I stopped eating dairy products. She practically recovered from 1 week to the next. After a while of not putting on weight I had to give her prescription formula and breast milk, I pumped like a lunatic and fed her as well, but after 3 months with both(till 7 months exactly), she then pointblank refused the breast, so now at 16 months she still happily guzzling the formula as well as normal food, not an easy thing to get her to eat, but thats another story.

    • Absolutely this: A baby’s wants are equal to his/her needs. Realizing that made things so much less stressful. Baby wants to nurse every hour, baby wants to be carried around, baby needs cuddles… I will happily do whatever she needs at the moment because I know she’s not trying to ‘manipulate’ me (as people seriously suggested).

  3. I “borrowed” 2 button down nighties from the hospital, they were enormous, but i could open them to feed, they were ugly but soft, and boilable(I did try to buy something like that but couldn’t find anything like that). I also had to change often because or leaky boobs. There was also a lot of blood, and forget buying uncomfortable paper knickers or granny pants, the hospital where I gave birth have the top part or tights, especially made for women who need towels for bleeding, either after surgery or after birth. They were great, nothing to dig in, they didn’t feel like they were about to fall down, and it was easy to put a towel in in the right place. They took seconds to rinse out. deffo wish I known about them before forking out for paper knickers. I had one stitch, and for a long time it was really painful, and my girls bits certainly didn’t feel the same for a long time, and yes, although I didnt say anything to my hubby, I was scared to have the first time. It went ok, but it was both a physical and mental hurdle. Changing the subject, hair loss! OMG! every day Id loose handfuls and handfuls of hair, I literally thought Id go bald! Until when in the hairdressers for the first time after the birth my wonderful hairdresser said he`d cut it a little differently to show it off the best, and that I didnt have to loose the length, seeing as it was at waist level I was keen not to. My hairdresser said that as soon as a hair strand fell out a new one began to grow, what a relief that was. So if you are pregnant with your first, don’t worry about your locks. I know I worried, it was a LOT of hair each day. The health professionals also say they the pain of breast feeding will pass after you count to 10, it doesn’t, but its worth every second of pain to know you are feeding your baby and he or she is content, sleepy with a full belly and that you did it.
    Another Mum gave a good bit of advise, “don’t save your baby`s clothes till they fit, you`ll have a LOT of unused clothes that way. When they are small they grow so fast, so two weeks not wearing a thing can mean that when you do finally get it on that its beginning to get a bit tight, so put them into circulation straight away. The other thing is that your little one will go through 2 to 3 outfits a say anyway due to accidents, from you or from his or her one end or the other. Just don’t worry about the blaaa that is going on with your own body, just spend time to gaze at your baby. <3

    • Yes! The baby clothes. I had no idea my baby was going to grow that quickly. At 3,5 months she’s 62 cm long and already almost doubled her birth weight. So whenever I buy new clothes for her, I get them one or two sizes bigger. She can still wear them (with rolled-up sleeves) and will hopefully wear them for more than just a few weeks.

  4. if you have an episiotomy or tear…tucks pads. seriously. they actually gave me a jar of them before i left the hospital and i was sooooo grateful for them. lay one or two over your pad (or depends) so they’ll sit against your stitches and it’ll help ease the inflammation. you could probably use them even if you don’t have stitches…i’m not sure how much of my inflammation was regular-ol’ birth stuff and how much was the result of the episiotomy and 2nd degree tear i had, but those things felt wonderful.

  5. This is gross in a different way, but I wish someone had warned me about how much I was going to resent my husband. Maybe this is me-specific, but I doubt it: it seems like, no matter how much you love anyone co-parenting with you, there will come a point where you just loathe everyone but your baby, and any other co-parents most of all.

    I just HATED my husband for a few weeks after the baby was born. We had a relatively easy delivery with only a little tearing and I appeared to recover pretty easily. He started a new job a couple weeks later, and THEN WE MOVED (because we’re dumb, dumb people). And it was AWFUL.

    He couldn’t understand how I was struggling to take care of the baby and the dogs and unpack and perform basic (but necessary) tasks like call the insurance company. I couldn’t stand him because he went away to work all day, leaving me with everything and then came home to spend an hour with the baby before bed. We just couldn’t seem to get it together for several weeks and fought all the time – so NOT the way I wanted our son’s first weeks to go! And it only got worse when I went back to work at six weeks.

    We’re at four months now and things have mostly normalized, but it’s been a struggle I never expected to get here.

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