When you're pregnant, preparing for labor and delivery is akin to having a full-time job. You study for the inevitable like one prepares for a high level meeting: taking courses and reading books and writing plans and learning pain management techniques and asking for help from anyone and everyone. But what about after labor and delivery is over? Everyone is quick to tell you what to expect when you're pushing or having a baby cut from your body, but there are so many things no one says about your body after childbirth. (Spoiler: a lot of it is downright shocking.)
This was definitely the case for me. I guess I really didn't inquire or research or read enough about how hard labor can be on your body. I mean, we all get that it's a big deal, but when people say that, you don't necessarily attach the reality of your inevitable situation with the fact that big deals take some time to recover from. It's like if you fall off your bike, or get in a minor car accident. You walk away from it and think, "No big deal," but you feel the effects for days, if not weeks, afterward. Trauma is trauma, whether it's giving birth or getting in an accident.
And so, after giving birth, you have this fallout that your body goes through. Yes, labor and delivery is painful, but only in the contraction and ring-of-fire kind-of-way. There are a dozen other ways the actual (usually extremely long) act of birth is physically taxing, that you don't fully realize until after the fact, when your adrenaline drops and you begin to really feel what your body just went through. It's no picnic, to be sure, but it doesn't last too long either.
So, in an attempt to educate the pregnant masses as efficiently and effectively as possible, here are 12 things no one talks about when they talk about your body after childbirth:
Your Body Might Go Into Shock
Giving birth is actually a pretty traumatic thing for the body to go through. I remember, both times after pushing my babies (and afterbirth) from my body, I looked down at my legs and noticed they were shaking uncontrollably. Like, it looked strange and scary and I couldn't stop them. It's called shock, and it will subside in an hour (or more, or less).
You Will Look Almost As Pregnant As You Did Right Before Your Baby Arrived
It's so unfair, right? Thankfully, there are moms out there who are sharing honest photographs of what women look like in the hours, days, and weeks after giving birth, so no one is as shocked as they used to be to not immediately fit in their old skinny jeans.
Going To The Bathroom Can Be HELL
Seriously. Do not underestimate how much stinging will happen when you pee postpartum. Remember the peri-bottle they gave you? Use it. It will make peeing tolerable while your labia, urethra and vulva all return to normal.
You Will Be Exhausted, But You May Be Too Keyed Up To Actually Sleep When You Can
This truly sucks, and the longer it's been since you were able to sleep, the worse it is. But oh my god you have an actual human baby now! It's the type of excitement and adrenaline rush that can ruin any chance you had of falling asleep in those first blissful hours when the baby doesn't need you all that much. It will (for sure) catch up with you in 12 hours or so, when your new baby is up all night screaming for milk and you realize you haven't slept since forever.
If You Get Stitches, They Will Become Itchy At Some Point
And oh my word, what you wouldn't do to scratch! But, of course, you'll afraid you'll cause another tear and you'll hurt all over again but oh my god it's so damn itchy! So, if you're like me, you scratch anyway and come across a stitch and suddenly you are totally grossed out by yourself. Isn't this just, like, the most fun?
You Will Be Afraid To Look At Your Vagina For A LONG Time
Either that, or you'll find that your curiosity outweighs the potential gross factor, so you grab a mirror, and never want to look in that mirror again.
So Much Blood. So Many Clots.
Those first few days are like your worst period ever, times 100. Clots the size of a mandarin orange are considered "normal." There is nothing normal about a clot that large coming out of me in my opinion so what are you talking about, science?!
All That Blood Will Be Coming Out Whether You Had A Vaginal Birth, Or A C-Section
No one is safe. Remember that. No. One.
Your Inner Thighs Will Probably Be Sore
This never occurred to me and then, after it did, it just made the most sense. Unless you do some ridiculously wide, low squats pretty much every single day of your life (and if you had a vaginal birth), you are probably going to be pretty sore from pushing. Your knees end up somewhere close to your ears, because people are pushing your feet toward your armpits, and your legs are spread way the hell out. In fact, I was pretty stiff for weeks.
You're Going To Hate Sitting For A While
Do not, I repeat, do not spend any time sitting on wooden or plastic chairs. It sucks, it's painful, and it's not worth it, no matter where you are. Buy a donut to sit on or stay reclined as much as possible. Trust.
You Will Not Recognize Yourself
You will have a weird flabby tummy and you kind of can't feel the skin on your stomach and you just don't feel like yourself. Nothing will fit right, you're neither pregnant, nor back to yourself, and you're just in this weird state of flux that can feel super strange. Don't worry. You will find yourself again, I promise.
You Will Have Lost Virtually No Weight
I remember going to the scale the day after giving birth, not because I expected to be skinny all over again, but because I knew I'd given birth to a big baby (9lbs, 3oz for the record) plus a giant placenta and umbilical cord. I was curious as to just how much weight had come off, so I stepped on the scale. Five. Freaking. Pounds. That's how much I'd lost. It made absolutely zero sense to me, but it isn't unusual.