I remember when I was a first time mom. I asked about 30 million questions about delivery itself; will I poop? How bad does it really hurt? What if my baby looks weird? Will they have a cone head? Will they know who I am? Does an epidural hurt? Will I tear? I mean the list went on and on. I approached birth with the answers to most of these questions, and a whole lot of knowledge about the actual process of birthing a child. What I knew nothing about and didn’t think to ask was what happens immediately after I push this bowling ball out of my lady bits.
I think I assumed that I would birth the baby and that would sort of be the end of it. I was very wrong.
Immediately after the birth of my first child, breastfeeding was initiated. What I didn’t realize was this involved a whole lot of random people coming in to closely look at my breasts, examine her latch, and give me advice; both wanted and unwanted. I didn’t realize that my baby would nurse frequently as a way to bring in my milk quicker. I didn’t know that the reason my nipples had gotten so dark was to make it easier for my tiny baby to find them.
Just minutes after I was stitched up and the doctor had left, I had a nurse coming in every few hours to press on my sore abdomen. No one warned me about this. No one told me about this. And I really had no idea what she was doing. I was in too much of a fog to worry to much about it until a few hours later when I finally realized that perhaps I should ask. Apparently she was trying to get my uterus to firm back up and checking that it was doing what it was supposed to do. Who knew? Certainly not me and I feel like this is something someone should warn you about. And warn you that the more children you have the more uncomfortable this process becomes.
Speaking of discomfort. No one ever told me that nursing my baby would bring on cramps that would be quite uncomfortable. For me this only lasted a few hours; the first time. No one warned me that each child I gave birth to would bring on longer, stronger, and more painful cramping associated with nursing in those early hours and days. Its manageable for sure and a good sign that your body is doing exactly what its supposed to do with regard to your uterus returning to normal but it certainly is uncomfortable.
The biggest thing no one warned me about was the emotions. Its like a flood. Relief. Love. Joy. Sadness. Overwhelmed. Often all at the same time. I knew I’d love my baby, but nothing could have prepared me for the depth and intensity of that love. Immediately (note: this is not everyone’s experience and that is also normal and something no one tells you about, connecting can take some time). I felt relieved that she was here, healthy, and no longer residing in my body. I felt joy that I had created this perfect being. I felt sadness that I was no longer pregnant. There is something sacred about being able to carry a baby and birth a human. And there is safety when they are inside of you, the world is a big place and I felt some fear and anxiety once she was part of it. I felt overwhelmed at the enormity of the responsibility I was entrusted with. These are my children. My lives to shape. They depend on me, for everything at first. Its such a jumble of emotions and its all intense. Its also all normal (note if intense overwhelming emotions extend beyond the first few days you may want to check in with a medical provider to ensure that you aren’t developing any postpartum mood disorders.)
Birth is intense. The period immediately following birth is intense. I believe we should be educated about both, and prepared for both. They are very different experiences and both deserve to be honored. Ask questions. No question is stupid. You deserve to be informed. To know. You deserve to have all of the knowledge you seek to make your birth and immediate postpartum period exactly what you want it to be. These are just a few things I didn’t know, I’m sure there are many more. You deserve the birth and postpartum period you seek.