The arrival of your baby is a magical moment. It's the ultimate payoff after 40 (more or less) weeks of hard work. You'll want to savor every second. Unfortunately, post-delivery is also a whirlwind of activity. Add your overall deliriousness (whether from a medicated birth, exhaustion, or a drop in adrenaline), and you have a recipe for an overwhelmed new mama. That's why it can help to know exactly what happens right after your baby is born.
When my newborn daughter was placed on my chest, I felt unprepared to handle how quickly my love for her would completely overtake everything. All I wanted to do was hold her and stare into her perfect little face. However, there was still a lot that had to be done, and our hospital room was a flurry of busy medical staff going to and fro. They had work to do, and so did I.
As you approach your due date, take it from me and renew your intention to be in the moment when your baby makes their debut. Take the time to find out what happens to your baby right after delivery. This will save you from some surprises and allow you to focus on what's really important: your precious little one.
You Get To Hold Your Baby
If everything goes well, you should be able to hold your baby right away. I delivered at a "baby-friendly" hospital, and immediate skin-to-skin contact was standard practice. Kangaroo care has many benefits: stabilizing baby's heart rate and body temperature, encouraging breastfeeding, and kickstarting that all-important bonding.
Even if you have a c-section, skin-to-skin may still be an option, so speak up. My friend held her baby up by her shoulders after her scheduled c-section. Your partner can also do it if you're out of commission.
Holding your baby after birth, in my opinion, is the best reward you could ask for. It is absolutely magical to hold in your arms the child you have carried in your belly. My daughter was this perfect little bundle, and I was immediately smitten.
You'll Deliver The Placenta (If You Had A Vaginal Birth)
Hold up. I just pushed a baby out of my vagina and you want me to push out something else? Yep. It's really not so bad, though. Delivering the afterbirth usually only takes around 20 minutes or so (sometimes significantly less). You might have some contractions and you may need to push, but I didn't have either. The OB-GYN gently pulled on the umbilical cord, and out the placenta came. Then I was free to enjoy my baby for awhile.
The Doctor Will Sew You Up
If you've unfortunately been torn asunder down under, if you will, you'll have to submit to a repair. My daughter had to be vacuumed out, and I needed an episiotomy to help (she had compound presentation — her sweet little hand was next to her face when she was born). The doctor sewed me up in no time, and since I had a medicated birth, I didn't feel a thing. (If you go unmedicated, you can have a local anesthetic.) Something that really caught me off guard? She stitched me up before I delivered the placenta. It was no big deal, but it seemed counterintuitive to me.
If you had a c-section, obviously they're going to close you up before you leave the surgical room. Be prepared, however, as the "sewing up" portion of the c-section will probably take much longer than the delivery portion.
The Umbilical Cord Will Be Cut
There's quite a debate over cord-cutting, and you'll find that different practitioners have different policies. If you want to delay cord-cutting, make sure it's part of your birth plan and talk to your doctor beforehand. I didn't have a strong opinion either way, so I just went along with what my care providers suggested.
Honestly, I don't remember making a decision about it. I know that I held my baby for several minutes and then the midwife invited my husband to cut the cord. (I recommend having your partner decide if they want to do this well before you head to the hospital). He said it was a pretty cool experience, and for me, it was symbolic of a new beginning.
You'll Experience A Ton Of Emotions
Giving birth will give you all the feels, and all those feelings are normal. Some moms immediately feel connected to their babies. I was so completely in love the second I saw my little girl that I began to weep. I also felt a tremendous sense of relief that it was all over.
Other moms may feel resentful if they had a particularly difficult labor and/or delivery, or may feel detached from the strange little alien they've just expelled from their bodies. It doesn't make you a bad mom, and there's nothing wrong with you. Your post-birth response is fine, no matter what it is, because you will come to love that little one more deeply than you could ever imagine. Promise.
Measurements Will Be Taken
Usually, your baby will get an Apgar score one to five minutes after they're born. They'll get a rating for breathing effort, heart rate, muscle tone, reflexes, and skin color. A score of 7, 8, or 9 is considered normal. I don't remember my baby's actual score, just that she was fine. I really appreciated that they did the whole test while she was on my chest.
They did have to take her away briefly to get her weight, length, and head circumference. That was OK because I was excited to know. When she came out, the nurse had exclaimed, "Where were you hiding that giant baby?!" so I was anxious to find out just how big she was.
Your Baby Will Get Shots
There's no getting around it. Shots are sad. Your baby is going to cry, and it will hurt your mama heart. However, it's important to remember that it's what's best for your child. If you follow the American Academy of Pediatrics and Center for Disease Control recommendations, your newborn will get a Vitamin K shot to help their blood clot and a Hepatitis B vaccine. Fortunately, this doesn't have to happen right away, but do make sure it gets done before you leave the hospital.
You'll Attempt A First Feeding
Whether you've decided to formula feed or breastfeed, you'll get your chance very soon. For nursing mamas, that initial feed is very important to establishing breastfeeding. Plus, babies are usually pretty alert right after they're born (entering the world is pretty exciting, after all!).
My first attempt was a pretty big failure. My baby had trouble latching, so I was given a nipple shield. My milk hadn't come in, so my nurse squeezed the sh*t out of my nipples to get a tiny bit of colostrum, which she then spoon-fed to my daughter. Don't freak out if you have trouble like I did. I was able to successfully breastfeed (eventually). Do ask for support (there should be a lactation consultant on duty).
You'll Have To Deal With Well-Wishers
There's nothing like a new baby to bring friends and family out of the woodwork! In my experience, it's good to be prepared. Know exactly who you want in the delivery room. I am Type A to the hilt, so I had lists of who would get a text with my hospital room number and who would just get a picture and vital statistics.
We ended up with a surprise visitor. My husband's stepdad just happened to be in town for work, so he showed up at the hospital and was the first family member to meet our newest addition. My family, on the other hand, was MIA. They'd left at midnight because I was still in labor, and I actually had to call them to get their asses to the hospital to meet the baby!
There Will Be Paperwork
Paperwork? For my new little human? Yeah, you read that right. OK, so technically they won't make you fill out forms right after you've delivered, but it's coming, sister. The hospital will provide you with most of this, specifically their birth certificate and Social Security applications. So you might want to get that pesky middle name decided sooner rather than later.
I actually had to have my midwife sign a form for my employer certifying that I had indeed given birth in order to activate my sick leave. You better believe I seriously considered just sending them a pic of the blasted hellscape of my nether regions as "proof." My husband was almost immediately on the phone putting baby on our insurance as well.
There's a lot going on, sure, but you'll navigate it just fine. After labor and delivery, this is cake.