I was recently in the office break room with a colleague of mine and the subject of nursing came up. We discussed how shocked we were that it wasn’t as “easy” and “common sense” as the world would have you believe. My colleague talked about being so discouraged after the birth of her first baby and wishing that another mother had been upfront and honest about what to expect so that she would not have felt like she was failing. I agreed. My first experience at motherhood with Bug and all my subsequent deliveries would have been a bit easier had someone shared a few things with me prior.
1. Your first BM after you give birth can often be as challenging as birth itself.
When I first had Bug almost 14 years ago, labor took a little less than 12 hours. Here was this perfect little person and I was so amazed that I was taking him home 48 hours later. The nurses told me I could leave after I passed gas. I kind of giggled at that, but did so on the second day and they were satisfied. I didn’t have to poop while at the hospital so they told me I’d probably go within a day or so of being home.
What they did NOT tell me was that first BM would be very uncomfortable. In hindsight, I really should have thought about it. You’re using the same muscles for bearing down and pushing as you do for a BM. Then you’re pushing this massive being from your body. It’s safe to say you’re going to put your body through some trauma.
Guys, I walked around my bathroom and stared at my toilet for two hours before I had the nerve to actually poop. It took another three hours for my body to remember how to coordinate to get the movement out. I didn’t know the use of stool softeners was HIGHLY recommended though I’d been given one dose before leaving the hospital. Having that movement was hard, scary, and intimidating. No one told me I would be praying that my body functioned properly. No one told me of the anxiety. As I later told my cousin, I would have rather gone through birth again than that first movement.
Please note that subsequent deliveries and the post delivery experiences have been better. I always take the one dose softener the hospital offers and follow up with one of my own the next day. I drink plenty of water and my body seems to adjust better. I just wish someone had told me to do that the first time.
2. Breastfeeding will hurt until your nipples are used to this task.
After my children were born, they all latched like champs. I was so happy. I’d read all the “Breast is best” material and was overjoyed at providing for my babies. What I didn’t know in the very beginning is the babies weren’t getting milk but colostrum (the golden-nutrient-fueled-welcome-to-the world-milk). Your milk won’t come in until about 48 hours later (at least mine doesn’t).
Your baby is going to stay attached forever and you’ll be thinking how great a job of supplying them you are doing. You are. But after a while, all that pulling and suckling of your nipple is going to hurt.
Don’t buy into the hype about “if you’re latched correctly, it won’t hurt”. My nursers latched correctly as confirmed by the lactation consultants, but it will realistically take about two weeks before your nipples and you are used to breastfeeding. *Edited to add this changed after I was introduced to the Thompson Method of Breastfeeding. I highly recommend it.
3. Blood blisters on your nipples are a real thing.
The first time I experienced a blood blister from the cracked nipples, I was shocked. No one told me about this. I researched and talked to my mom friends who all nodded sympathetically. They told me of compresses, creams, and techniques to help reduce them. They also were honest and stressed that I would need to “hang in there for a hard two weeks”. It wasn’t until I asked about a blood blister that had developed that I knew about them. Click here for more information on blood blisters and additional breastfeeding issues.
4. Your baby will lose a couple of ounces before leaving the hospital.
I was so upset when I found out my firstborn had lost three ounces from delivery to checkout of the hospital. I felt like I’d failed him and “wasn’t producing enough”. Later, my Ob/Gyn and the baby’s pediatrician told me that it was normal for newborns to lose a couple of ounces to a pound in the hospital but should pick the weight back up by the follow-up appointment.
5. There is a possibility that you will feel post epidural site pain. For weeks after the birth of Bug and A., I would feel a dull ache where the epidural needle had been inserted. It was jarring but nothing serious. Now, 14 years after my first, I still sometimes feel this ghost pain. It’s odd. I can be driving and there’s a tingling, a little shock and I realize my site of application is being bothered.
6. The huge menstrual diapers and disposable gauze underwear are your friends. You haven’t had a cycle in nine months. Nourishing blood and nutrients fed that placenta and made sure the baby was well. But its job is complete and now it’s time to relinquish alllll of that blood. Be ready for the period of all periods. I didn’t cramp too much, but I bled normally for quite a while. If you’re passing fist sized clots, go to the hospital!!
7. Postpartum depression (“baby blues”) is real and can hit you hard. This little bundle of joy just arrived. You’re supposed to be happy except you’re not. You’re crying. You are worried about being a failure. Nothing you do seems right. Be careful. You may be suffering from PPD. When I experienced PPD, it took a while for me to recognize symptoms until it got scary. I wish someone had given me more information about what to look for and how to recognize it. I will say that great strides have been made in understanding PPD since the birth of my son so many years ago. Now doctors actively ask and watch to make sure you are okay.
8. It’s okay to ask for help. After the births of my latter children, the assumption was, since I had a husband, I had a ready made helper. That wasn’t really the case. He still had to work and leave the house at crack of dawn in the morning. He was still taking classes. All of that meant most evenings, I was the one who was up with the children–all by myself. I also took care of cooking and making sure the elder children had whatever they needed for school. Because I didn’t say anything about feeling worn down and isolated, it was just assumed that I had everything under control. I didn’t and finally spoke up and said I need assistance. What worked well for me was delegating specific tasks that gave me room to do other things. I asked for help in preparing bottles (if I wasn’t pumping), for someone to gather diapers (if I was running low on them in my station), for assistance with food items. It took a while, but I definitely am glad I finally said “Hey…I need help”.
That’s my list! There are plenty more that I can think of, but these were the most pressing. Do you have any others on your list?