While I was pregnant I spent many hours thinking about labour. Everyone talks about how painful and scary it is. But nobody mentions postpartum. Your friends and family will fail to tell you how to prepare for it. No one will say out loud that postpartum is way scarier than labour. And I can’t help but ask, why don’t we talk about postpartum life?
People will ask what plans you have for labour. Are you giving birth at home? Will you want an epidural? Are you going to breastfeed?
You pack your hospital bag and write up a birth plan. I spent the 3 last weeks of my pregnancy drinking raspberry leaf tea and eating dates to help labour. I rubbed my belly with coconut oil (almost) every night to avoid stretch marks. I even put a potty training bed mat to protect our mattress in case my waters went during the night. All ready and sorted for baby to arrive!
Baby Is Here
And then you go into labour. Mine was very quick, I can hardly remember it now. I spent a day and a half in the hospital ward due to a haemorrhage. And then we went home with our baby boy. What happens now?
The first night home is a roller coaster. You have all these hormones pumping through your body and this new little human that is still a bit of a stranger. It is time to get to know your baby. Until now you have felt him moving inside you. Now there is a whole new range of rhythms to learn; his noises, his breathing, his touch.
I never thought such a little person could create so much chaos in our house. Everything revolves around the baby now. You can’t just decide you want to make yourself a sandwich or take a shower. You will be able to do either of these things if your wee one is content or sleeping. Half of the times he will be feeding and you will be unable to get up for a glass of water or a nip to the loo.
This is one of the things I struggled with the most. I found it very hard to not have the liberty of choosing to do something. One night I put my baby down to sleep. I filled the bath tub for a well deserved soak. After 5 minutes he started to cry desperately. My husband was trying to soothe him so I could enjoy my bath, but it was not happening. I felt soul-crushed. I had spent all day feeding and rocking him, all I wanted was 20 minutes to myself. But being a mother is no longer about yourself. Your new life is all about the tiny human.
Forget about spending an hour in the kitchen preparing a scrumptious meal. You will be lucky if you can manage to boil pasta before he requires your attention again. In order to survive postpartum life it is vital to have cooked meals in the freezer. I had several batches of chicken soup, bolognese sauce and chilli con carne. I was really lucky to have been given this tip before baby arrived.
No one told me I would want to buy a donut-shaped pillow to be able to sit down! Ohh the stitches… I had heard about how they might sting when going for a pee. But nobody told me how painful it would be to sit all day. And all you can do is sit all day. I went out for a very short stroll on day three and almost cried when I walked down the stairs.
And please do not underestimate the importance of doing your pelvic floor exercises. I have neglected them during and after labour. I am still regretting it. Doing your exercises will save you from wetting yourself on your way to the toilet. You might think you have time to get there, but after pushing a baby out your muscles are not to be trusted.
It Gets Better
The first three weeks are the toughest. You have to adapt everything in your life to your baby. You will master doing things with only one hand. You will also learn to move like a ninja in order to not disturb the baby’s sleep. Showers will seem the best gift life has ever given you.
The lack of sleep will make your days a bit fuzzy. Everyone will tell you to sleep when the baby sleeps. I know I tried, but it is not always possible. Reality is you will want to take a moment to tidy up, or read, or just think, when the baby sleeps.
Asking for help is a must. And keep your eye on the prize: your beautiful baby. Some days will be exhausting and some days you will cry, but it will all be worth it.
I just think that if people talked more about what to expect after you give birth, postpartum life wouldn’t be so hard.