The highs and lows of childbirth aren't only reserved for the hospital. When my partner and I took childbirth classes to prepare for the arrival of our first sweetheart, we arrogantly "graduated" thinking we learned all we needed to know. However, learning about labor and delivery and going through it are two completely different things — not to mention everything my mind and body would endure for days, weeks, and even months afterwards. There are many things no one tells you about recovering from childbirth, but I will, because I think every woman should know the reality you're about to deal with before you're recovering from labor.
For us, the birthing classes were great for the overall feel of what was in store but, because every woman and every labor and delivery is different, they left out all the (important) parts about the inevitable healing process. I'm sorry, but I don't want to just watch an old video of a live birth, or hear about how to get a baby to latch during breastfeeding. Sure, the aforementioned was helpful, but I also want (read: need) the gory details of what my body will do in order to find its new normal. I want to know how much pain I'll be in, how to deal with the fluctuating hormones when I'm a new mother, and where in the hell I'm supposed to buy adult diapers so that they can be purchased discreetly. In my humble opinion, that is just as important as any other piece of labor and delivery situation.
Our bodies go through so much during pregnancy and birth, so it only seems fair you know about the parts that follow. Like, will you ever be able to laugh without peeing yourself again? This, sadly, is something I can't give a definitive answer on. With that said, here are some of the things no one will tell you about your childbirth recovery (because you deserve to know).
Going To The Bathroom Will Be Terrifying And Painful
There isn't enough warning and/or advice I can give to prepare you for the horror that is going to the bathroom postpartum —particularly of the feces variety. If you're one of the "lucky" ones who go like it's no big deal, good for you! I can't sugarcoat it, though; it will hurt like hell.
The pee burns and trying to have your first bowel movement will make you think you're dying a slow, painful death. However, once it passes, you'll feel like you can do anything. Yes, peeing and pooping can be that powerful.
You Will Not Look Any Less Pregnant
I hate to break it you, but unless you're a Victoria's Secret runway model or have amazing genes or employe a team of people who will work out with you and cook for you, your body won't immediately "bounce back." You'll leave the hospital looking just as pregnant as you entered. Days and weeks will pass and you'll continue to wear maternity clothes (because they're comfortable and familiar), and people will still probably ask when you're due. The baby weight came off when your baby was born, and at some point you'll feel back to "normal." However, for immediately afterwards (and sometimes for a significant amount of time) that weight is here to stay. (That's normal and OK.)
Your Might Rip Your Stitches
When I settled back into home life with a new baby, I had a really hard time not doing all the things I was used to doing. I still wanted to vacuum, mop, and do the mountains of endless laundry, but my body just wanted me to stop and rest.
Because I chose not to listen to my body, I ripped my stitches after both pregnancies (I'm stubborn). It's incredibly painful, delays healing, and then I'm not able to clean my damn home for an even longer period of time. So trust me when I say you should do the mandatory sitting time and listen to your doctors (and body) to avoid this or suffer the consequences.
Hormones Will Run Rampant
I could never tell if I was laughing or crying during those exhausted early days of parenting. While I was eventually diagnosed with severe Postpartum Depression, those baby blues are something to pay attention to, regardless. It will take some time for everything to shift back to a normal level and you may even need medical intervention to help things along. There's no shame in any of it — you just had a freakin' baby so give yourself a break already.
Things Will Itch And Burn (Do Not Scratch)
Warning! Warning! All that vaginal healing causes a whole lot of itchy, burning sensations. Your first impulse will be to scratch yourself raw but don't do it. I remember lying in bed, baby at my side, with a dozen ice packs on my crotch to cool the urge. Hey, whatever works, right?
Your Breasts Will Swell
One of the perks of postpartum recovery is looking in the mirror to see your breasts bigger than ever. Though, while you might look surgically enhanced, it comes at a price. Typically, they're swollen (and super painful) because you have a build-up of milk so you should feed the baby or pump. You could even get mastitis, so it's important to keep an eye out for infections. While they're likely to stay bigger than usual for a bit, once the baby is say, five, your boobs will resemble a deflated balloon so there's that to look forward to.
Your First Period Will Feel Like Death
After everything you've been through, the absolute last thing you want to think about is the first period after childbirth. Alas, it will come and it will likely be pretty awful. Your reproductive system may have forgotten how to do the whole egg-release thing while you were with child, so getting back into the swing might make cramps more painful and the discharge heavier. The good news is, um, none. There is nothing good about this part of the process. There, I said it.
You Will Leak Breastmilk. A Lot.
Hi, everyone. I've just had a baby but you already know because my breasts are leaking through every shirt I own in big splotches where nipples would be. Please forgive me as I adjust to being back to the real world, but those breast pads are either too thick, revealing their disc-like shape through my shirt, or too thin, letting all the milk pour straight through. I have probably run out of things to wear that doesn't have this particular set of stains so please, just look away.
Your First Time You Have Sex Will Feel, Well, Different
As excited as your partner may be to get the green light to have sex from the doctor, you might fall into one of two camps. You'll either be, a) you're equally as excited, but nervous about how it will feel, b) you're not interested in the slightest. I fell into the latter not only because of my delayed healing and weird hormonal changes, but because things changed down there.
Honestly, after pushing something out, it sounded pretty terrible to put another things in. Sex after childbirth was not my bag. Over time, when things settled and I started to feel more like myself again, we got back to it. But if you're not interested, it's OK. You're totally fine to wait as long as you need to, both physically and emotionally.
Pregnancy and childbirth take their toll on a woman's well-being but none of it compares to the hellish aftermath that is (or at least usually is) postpartum life. Just know that everyone who's had a baby can attest to these things on some level. You're not alone in whatever you're dealing with. That has to count for something, right?