The first three months of my children's lives feel like they occupy a solid quarter of the time I've spent with them. Obviously, considering they're 4 and 6, this is nowhere near true, but it feels true because the initial period after birth is so intense and all-consuming. In the throes of all this work and emotion, there are things I wish I'd known about my first three postpartum months. Knowledge is power and, when you feel as if you know nothing, a tremendous comfort.
All things considered, I had a pretty unremarkable first three months after my two children... but that doesn't mean they weren't difficult AF. People often use the term "newborn haze" and with good reason: it's seriously the best word to convey what's going on with your life and how you move through it. Of course not everyone will experience this time exactly the same way, and my immediate postpartum period might look different from yours. But the general consensus, I've found and from talking to hundreds of moms both personally and professionally, is that this time in a new moms life is difficult. Very, very difficult. It's a lot, people.
So here are some things I wish I'd known before I made my way through those first three postpartum months. And maybe, just maybe, knowing a thing or two beforehand can help you, too. (And if you've been there perhaps we can share a knowing chuckle together.)
All Recoveries Take Time
Whether you have a C-section or a vaginal delivery (and I've had both), it's going to take time (the better portion of those first three months, in fact) and dedicated effort to heal. You need to take it easy, slow down, and rest. It will feel like you're not doing anything, and since women are basically told they have to constantly justify their existence, this may feel awkward and "lazy," but it's real, necessary work.
Breastfeeding Would Happen
I was fortunate in that I caught on to breastfeeding pretty quickly (within a few weeks) but even in those first few days and weeks it was extremely stressful. Had I known ahead of time that my efforts would pay off it would have made everything much easier. Validation and encouragement was in short supply in that early postpartum period, so I would've taken it in any form I could have gotten it.
The Baby Will Eventually Smile
So my second-born smiled almost as soon as she popped out of me. Granted, they weren't "social smiles" — they were just something her face did, usually when she had gas or was trying to poop. My oldest, on the other hand, didn't smile at all until he was more than 2-months-old. Not so much as an upward twitch... and this concerned me. Granted, I was a hormonal, first-time parent, but I was deeply troubled that his lack of any kind of smile meant that he was depressed and unhappy.
He wasn't. He was just a baby. Sometimes they don't smile at first, but they will (and, in retrospect, pretty early).
Sleep Patterns Are Not Yet Set, For Better & For Worse
The first couple of months I was up constantly to nurse my children. It was terrible and exhausting. Then, around the three month mark they both started sleeping more and I thought, "Oh wow! This is amazing! Things are going to be OK"!"
Then came the four month sleep regression and I spiraled into a whirlpool of despair.
Your mileage may vary on this one, but I found that my kids really didn't find their stride when it came to a regular sleep schedule until they were about 1, or older. This would have been useful information to have ASAP.
The Bleeding Will Eventually Stop
Because postpartum bleeding feels like it lasts forever. It's the period that never ends and, in my case, there can be so many fake outs, too. One minute I'd be like, "Oh, it's been a while since you had anything more than some discharge, it might be... HA! Just kidding! Here's some more brown goopy blood!"
But it stops... in time.
Literally Anything Substantive About Postpartum Sex
You never know exactly how postpartum sex is going to go. After my C-section it was so much worse than I had anticipated and after my vaginal delivery it was so much better. I had general advice (lots and lots of lube) and while that was helpful (and advice I would pass on) that wasn't really enough preparation. Honestly, I don't think there's anything that really could have helped one way or the other, aside from a fairy godmother with a particularly powerful magic wand...
So I guess I wish I'd known a fairy god mother in my first three postpartum months is what I'm saying.
Your Boobs Won't Always Do The Thing
Breastfeeding moms know what I'm talking about: the thing. The thing where your boobs engorge to the size of watermelons in the span of an hour or so and wind up all lumpy and painful and leaky and make enormous wet marks on the front of your shirt that you don't notice until after you open the door for the UPS guy.
The first three months or so, yes, they are mercurial and annoying, and engorgement never goes away completely, but they eventually chill out and you probably won't gain multiple cup sizes in the span of an hour.
Freezer Meals Are Your Friend
I had some frozen meals at my disposal (thanks again, mom), but I wish I'd taken the time to prepare more. There's just never not a need for an already made meal. Stock up on as many as you can.
Your Social Life Is Going To Take A Hit For A Long Time
If you're anything like me, you once told yourself that having a baby will not change your social life. "I'm going to make time for me! And the baby will just have to learn from an early age to deal with hours long dinners at nice restaurants with friends!"
And then you actually have a baby and, even if you had the most chill, laid back, agreeable child of all time, you are far too tired to go out as frequently as you did. And even if you weren't, going someplace with a baby just... isn't as fun as going without a baby. You can't really leave them too frequently either because, well, babysitters are expensive AF.
It would have been nice to measure my expectations a little more than I did.
There Is A Brief Window Where Your Social Life Will Be Cool
There is a magical moment, sometime around your second and fourth postpartum month, where your social life, while not what it used to be, is cool. You've recovered a bit from delivery, you're getting into the swing of things, and your baby is basically, like... a blob that sleeps a lot (bless them). As such, you can bring them places — restaurants, friends' apartments, etc. — and they'll just sleep in their (portable) car seat or in a baby carrier, or in a specially made fort of pillows in your friends' bedroom while you get in some much needed adult time. After that they start to get less sleepy and more mobile and you become less available once again, but for a shining moment you're having it all.
Babies Are Robust
I'm not saying you should use them as a shuttlecock for your next badminton game or anything, but I was so scared of doing anything that might hurt the baby in those first three months especially. Yes, they're delicate as far as humans go, but they're also pretty sturdy. They have millions of years of evolutionary adaptations on their side that enabled them to make it this far in the first place. Fear not... but, still be careful.
A Routine Will Emerge
The first three months is chaos. And just as it started to be slightly less chaotic I had to go back to work and it was once again chaos. But, eventually, you keep at it and comforting, lovely patterns emerge that get you through it all. So even though things seemed impossible at first, I would love to tell past me that it's not always going to be so haphazard.
No Matter How Short You Cut Your Hair Your Baby Will Pull It
My son was a hair fiend and he loved yanking at it. And I know what you're thinking: "He was a baby: how hard could he have pulled it."
So I cut it short (also because I really wanted a pixie cut) and the little dude learned he just had to reach a tiny bit higher and yank just as hard.
Poop Will Get Everywhere
People joke about all the poop you'll be exposed to before they have children, but until you're there, elbows deep in the fourth disgusting, overflowing diaper of the day, you have no idea.
You Are Doing Enough
I feel like, especially after my first child, I didn't know what exactly I should be doing minute to minute, and became stressed whenever I wasn't frantic which, of course, made me frantic 24/7 for a little while. But if your baby is being cared for (and you're being cared for) it's enough. You're enough.