5 Things I Wish I’d Known About Before My First Baby
The immediate elation of having a precious new baby lying on your chest all squirmy and beautiful may quickly give way to exhaustion. For first-time deliveries, the average time in labor is about 14 hours. On average, three of those hours are devoted to pushing for a typical vaginal delivery. That’s a lot of hard work with very little sleep over a 24-hour period.
As you near you due date, clear your schedule. Limit anything other than packing a hospital bag and personal primping. This is not the time to be painting a nursery or entertaining family. In hindsight, I should have watched soap operas and napped instead of doing five loads of laundry the day I went into labor. Save your strength. You’ll need it.
2. It Hurts After The Baby Comes Too
You’ll hear plenty about the process leading up to and through that final push. Or for a C-Section, the “pull”. This includes, but isn’t limited to cramps, contractions, nausea, and an epidural. If you are pregnant for the first time, you’ll likely get an earful from older relatives, well-meaning friends and co-workers. But what about the after?
I had some tearing and an episiotomy with my first baby. That means stitches in a place where, well, let’s just say it’s tender. C-section moms have even greater wounds to deal with. Even without stitches, something relatively big just came out of something relatively small. Where there is trauma, there is pain.
I received one dose of “the good stuff” following delivery as a reward for a job well done. After that, it was over-the-counter pain relievers and warm soaks for the aching lady parts.
I also felt a lot of pain in my back, shoulders, ribcage and abdomen from the ordeal. It was like being roughed up in a fender bender. And bowel movements? Ouch. Labor also often brings on hemorrhoids.. So laxatives, stool softeners and lots of fluid are a must. Fortunately, most of the pain and discomfort is gone in about two weeks. But be prepared to hurt all over for a little while.
If you have a C-section, you won’t deal with an episiotomy or vaginal pain and swelling. However, your stitches may sting and itch. Healing also takes longer — four to six weeks. You should keep a close watch for any sign of infection. Proper support garments can help with the healing process for both vaginal and CS deliveries.
3. Feelings And Emotions After Giving Birth Are All Over The Map
One day I was in love with my baby and the next I wondered who she was. I worried that we wouldn’t bond, that I was doing something wrong. Did I love her enough or too much? Why was my belly still huge? Would I ever sleep again? Why was I crying? How could I be laughing? Why was I sitting there feeling numb?
Pregnancy hormones — HCG, estrogen, progesterone, prolactin, oxytocin, relaxin — rise dramatically during the various trimesters as they provide a hospitable womb for your growing child and prepare your body for delivery. And then, kaboom; total hormone dump. Even the most even-tempered new mom will feel the effects. And for many, postpartum depression is a reality.
I was always a “pull-up-your-big-girl-panties” kind of gal until the first month after I gave birth. Looking back, I wish I had been gentler with myself and rolled with it. Your emotions will get the better of you on many days. Rest and self-care, along with time, is all that is needed for most new moms.
However, an estimated 15-20 percent of pregnant women suffer from postpartum depression in degrees ranging from mild depression to postpartum psychosis. Dealing with the expectations of motherhood coupled with hormonal imbalance can trigger depression and accompanying feelings of shame or guilt.
If you’re experiencing PPD symptoms, don’t try to go it alone or tough it out. Reach out to your support system, seek out other new mothers and consult with your doctor for help. It’s not unusual to have feelings of anxiety or being overwhelmed. Ask for help. It’s OK
4. The Worst Period of Your Life
I expected some bleeding after giving birth, but I didn’t realize the extent, or the value of super maxi pads jumbo count until then. The medical term for it is lochia, and it’s not a regular period. The uterine lining that thickens over the term of your pregnancy sheds, along with mucus from the healing process. However, the greater part of the bleeding is due to the wound left in your uterus from the placenta pulling away. It usually heals up in two to three weeks, but too much activity can reopen the wound and cause more bleeding
For the first few days the flow is heavy, dark and includes clotting. It will slow down and change color to brownish, then yellowish, and toward the end look more like a pale discharge instead of blood. Postpartum bleeding can last up to six weeks. However, this depends on your healing process.
During this time you shouldn’t use tampons or a menstrual cup, to minimize infection risks. Breathable granny panties are your friend. How soon your regular period starts back up varies from mom to mom. It also depends on if and how you breastfeed. The earliest you might expect a regular period is around six weeks after giving birth.
5. More Core Exercises Before Pregnancy Is A Great Idea
I was young, healthy and thought I was in good shape. Had I known how strenuous the process of pregnancy and childbirth really is, I would have paid more attention to my core and pelvic floor.
When planning a pregnancy, consider yourself to be “in training.” Getting your back and stomach muscles in shape, as well as making Kegel-time a part of your daily routine, will help to protect you from postpartum back pain, hernias and a condition known as diastasis recti following your delivery. A strong core will make it easier and faster to heal Mummy Tummy, too.
Even if you’re already pregnant, there are exercises you can do to strengthen your core. However, be sure to check with your doctor for safe routines. Crunches and sit-ups can do more harm than good. Finally, a good postpartum compression binder can help with the healing process and boost a new mom’s confidence.