Childbirth: So no one told you what happens after?

For nine months, we pay careful attention to taking good care of our bodies and unborn child. We decorate the nursery, make sure we have all the gear, take birthing classes, and mentally prepare ourselves as best we can for the grueling hours that we will spend in labor and delivery. But what a lot of people don’t talk about is the things that happen after the baby has arrived. Sure, we all know that there will be sleepless nights, nervous moments wondering if we’re doing things right, and there’s a good chance we won’t be getting anything done beyond taking care of the baby, but what about the things your girlfriends aren’t telling you?

The following are topics no one really talks about:

  • You Can’t Drive. This is not the case for everyone, but many doctors will say that new mothers should not drive for at least two weeks. This is definitely the case for those that have a C-section or any other procedure as part of their delivery such as an episiotomy. Doctors consider these major surgeries and don’t want to risk you being behind the wheel when a stitch bursts or another complication arises in addition to worrying about delayed response time or knee-jerk reactions that could create a problem. Yes it’s completely inconvenient, but it’s only two weeks so be patient. It will go by quickly.
  • Insignificant Weight Loss. You just gave birth to an eight-pound baby, a placenta, and a whole lot of fluids left your body. You must have lost at least half the baby weight you gained, right? Wrong! Do not, I repeat, DO NOT step on a scale for several weeks. It seems like a fun thing to do to see how much weight you just shed after giving birth, but your body is hormonal, other parts of it are getting bigger (i.e. your milk is coming in), and you’ll still be retaining a lot of fluid. It takes several days for your body to shed all the extra water weight and fluids you’ve been carrying so not only will you not have lost as much weight as you’d think yet, but you’ll be carrying it very differently than if you just packed on an extra ten pounds. You aren’t going to like the reflection you see in the mirror when you step out of the shower, and stepping on the scale is not going to do anything to make you feel better so it’s best to just stay away.
  • Breast Pain. Many women expect breast feeding to be painful, but there is more to it than just the latching on and even if you don’t breastfeed, be prepared to be in pain as they engorge. As in, do-not-so-much-as- accidentally-brush-a-tissue-lightly-across-my-chest pain. Things like sinking into a bath will be much easier than dealing with the pain of the drops of water from the shower. The easiest way to handle it if you aren’t breastfeeding is to wrap them up as tightly as possible until the milk comes and goes. Otherwise, the pain will ease up in some ways and become worse in others. Stock up on lanolin.
  • Bleeding. If you give birth vaginally, there is bound to be some bleeding. There are lots of things internally and possibly externally that are going to need to heal and it’s not necessarily going to happen quickly. Be prepared to spend anywhere from a few days to a few weeks healing, and don’t bother packing those pretty panties you think you’ll want to wear when you get released from the hospital. The hospital will provide you with plenty of less than attractive, but functional, pairs.
  • Bathroom Complications. Sure, no one wants to talk about the potty, and it certainly varies from one person to the next, but most people are going to be dealing with it on some level whether it be hard to get to the potty on time because your muscles have weakened, you’re holding a newborn, and happened to sneeze — or you are having the opposite problem. Whether you want them or not, there’s a good chance your doctor is going to be sending you home with things like Tuck’s pads and stool softeners.

Nobody ever said giving birth was going to be easy, but there are certainly a lot of parts no one talks about. The good news is that even though you will dread these things, they will indeed become a distant memory. And the best news is that every single ounce of pain and discomfort is so worth it every time you hold your baby. And that’s why so many of us do it over again!