The first 24 hours after you give birth are pretty intense. Immediately after your baby has arrived there is this overwhelming relief and joy that is unlike anything you've ever experienced. You have made it though the last nine plus months of carrying this sweet little bundle and you are meeting him or her for the first time. Plus, if you've been experiencing the pain of contractions and pushing the relief you feel that it is over gives you a euphoric high. Congratulations, you are a mom!
lets get into the not so joyous part of giving birth. This will be coming from the point of view of a vaginal delivery. If there are any of you who have the experience of a cesarean birth I would love to get your input in the comments to bring some insight into that recovery process. Although each pregnancy and delivery is different, some of the things you can expect right after birth are lots of bleeding, possible tearing and stitches of the perineum, swelling, pressure, cramps/post contractions and an adrenaline high. Sounds awesome, right? Don't worry that little bundle you'll be holding in your arms makes it all worth it. Sounds cliche, but it is true.
If you are giving birth in the hospital they will load you up on a slew of products to help ease the discomforts of your girly parts. They will supply mesh panties with very large pads for all the excess blood and discharge. You haven't had a period for nearly a year so just think of it as a big body flush. They will give you witch hazel pads to line in your pad along with epifoam for those dreadful hemorrhoids. Add in some Dermoplast spray to numb the pain and a spritz bottle to rinse clean after you urinate. When you leave the hospital, stock up on these things. You can take all of it with you. You'll need them in the days to come.
Cramps. If this is not your first baby, you will probably be experiencing more intense cramping/post contractions now. Many first time moms will not experience these kinds of cramps after delivery but with each consecutive pregnancy you will experience the post contractions more and more. I thought I was done with contractions!? It's simply your body working to shrink the uterus back to its pre-pregnancy state but these cramps can catch you by surprise. Many times breastfeeding will trigger them or it can be while you're simply lying down resting. I wasn't prepared, so now you will be.
Sore nipples. Day one was joyous as you and your baby are figuring out just how to latch and snuggle in with you. Day two, well, this can be a rough day. All it takes is one or two bad latches in the beginning and it will create small micro injuries to the nipples which become more irritated with each feeding. That's why it is so important to use the resources you have to make sure you are getting a good deep latch from the get-go. Hospital nurses and on-site lactation consultants are there to help you. Use them! In the meantime, if you are having a tough time with sore nipples apply lanolin ointment in between feedings, allow the ladies to air dry after feeding (just let it all hang out) and if worst comes to worst you can use a nipple shield. Nipple shields have been my saving grace and my kiddos have gained weight steadily from the beginning so I have no hesitation in saying they have worked great for us.
Baby stares. You just can't stop looking at this little human you have made! Amidst all the gross stuff that has been coming out of you and the pain you may be feeling when you try to stand up, you just can't stop staring. This little baby is the best thing you've ever seen in your whole entire life. Enjoy these moments and take them all in.
Sore muscles. When I had my son I was pushing for about 45 minutes. Which meant I was pulling my knees back and pushing as hard as I could for almost an hour. Let me tell you, I was not prepared to have every single muscle in my shoulders, arms and back more sore than any crazy workout I've ever done. And I'm no stranger to sore muscles after trying new intense workouts. I will happily leave this particular workout to once every couple years.
Engorged breasts. Many women will get their milk in between day three to five. Engorgement may not be experienced by everyone but for those who do experience it, it can be rather uncomfortable to say the least. The breasts become large, firm (okay, hard as apples), heavy and warm. Your little one at this point isn't going to be able to stomach everything you've got to offer so you have to bare with it. It should only last a day or two but can be a problem that persists longer. You must be careful though that it does not continue for too long and you start to notice your skin becoming red as this can be leading to infection. To ease some of the discomfort apply cold compresses to your chest in between feedings (frozen veggies work great) or apply warm compresses and hand express. If neither of these are doing the trick you can use your electric breast pump but only pump for 10 minutes or so. Just long enough to relieve some pressure but not signal your body to produce even more milk.
Discharge. Yes, you are still bleeding but there is also a lot of other stuff coming out too. This is known as lochia. It is the discharge that contains not only blood but mucus and uterine tissue. I know, gross. I'm just trying to keep it very real here. I don't want you to be alarmed when its not just your typical bloody period coming out days afterwards. Keep the pads well stocked this can go on for up to six weeks.
Bowel movements. Again, keeping it real. It could be very difficult to go after giving birth. Many women wind up constipated after delivery and there can be a good deal of pressure down in that region which makes the whole experience feel a bit foreign. When the time does come, try to relax and let things happen or you can end up aggravating your hemorrhoids by pushing with all your might. If things are really getting blocked up, talk to your doctor about using a stool softener to help loosen things up. Eat lots of fiber-rich foods and drink lots and lots of water.
Naps and snuggles. The good news is your little one will mainly just eat and sleep (and poo) these first few weeks. So if you are lucky to have this time with just your little one, embrace the time to cuddle and nap with your baby. If you have other kiddos this may not be as easy but try to find time to get cozy with this little bundle because before you know it they'll be running all over the place and no longer accept mommy snuggles as often.
Sleep. Or did I mean, lack of sleep. Yes, it is true what they say, you will be up often with your little one to feed these first couple of months. Now, I have to take a positive spin on this and mention that in my last couple months of pregnancy I was up every couple of hours going pee anyways, so this is nothing new. I'm not saying we don't need sleep but somehow I do feel like I need a whole lot less to function as a mother than I did previously.
Sweat pants and messy bun. Be prepared to veg out and be home for a while. It's okay. Your body needs to recover and you have a newborn who needs to eat every couple hours and only wants to sleep in between. Plus, depending on the time of year you deliver it can be a scary germy world out there. Give yourself grace to lay low, put on that extra large t-shirt that is super comfy and not worry about doing your hair or makeup for several days.
Pediatrician Appointment. You will also be seeing your pediatrician within the first week of your newborns life. We saw our doctor on day four and then again the day after she was one week old. They will do weight, measurements, all the normal check-up on the first visit and then at your one week appointment they will likely only check their weight and answer any questions or concerns you may have. Be sure to write down anything you notice throughout the week that you may want to talk to your doctor about. Our pregnancy brains are not quite out of the fog so keep the paper and pencil handy.
Victory. Things are looking up. Your boobs should be regulating your milk supply better now and not be as tender. Your nipples are toughening up. Your swelling should be subsiding. Your sore muscles are functioning just fine again. The discharge is hopefully getting lighter. It doesn't seem as big a feat to get up off the couch anymore. I'm not saying you are out of the recovery woods just yet but you are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. Continue to rest and allow yourself time to fully recover. You will have five more weeks now of taking it easy... no sex, no exercise. Find a good book to dive into during feedings and enjoy your little newborn.
If you have more to add on things you experienced during your first week postpartum, please share in the comments below! I pray we can help support and encourage each other through this unique time by not keeping the gory details a secret but understand we all go through many of the same recovery obstacles. It may sound like a mess and frankly it is a bit messy but as I've said before the joy of having your little one here with you will ease the pain. God bless you and your little ones!