Top Ten Postpartum Warnings

When you’re pregnant with your first child, you find yourself bombarded with well-meant (but often totally useless) advice such as, “sleep now because when the baby comes you’ll never sleep again!”

If only we really could bank sleep away like that, then maybe it would be somewhat helpful… but since how you sleep now won’t help at all once the baby comes, and sleeping with a bowling ball pressing on your bladder isn’t all that easy anyway, people really should spend their time warning new mamas about the things they truly need to know about.

When I was pregnant I read every pregnancy book I could find and endured endless lectures of advice from well-meaning friends, family and even strangers. But somehow there was still so much I was left totally unprepared for.

If not for the wonderful mamas who make up MSW?! I would have been sure I was dying or perhaps missing the mama gene that should have made my postpartum healing process the glorious time I’d been led to believe it would be.

I asked our experienced group of mamas what they wish someone had warned them about and what they were most grateful to have been warned about.

Here’s a top ten “Why didn’t anyone warn me?!”

1. You might be bleeding for longer than you think postpartum. I had no idea it could go on for six to eight weeks! It’s good to know this ahead of time so you don’t assume you’re losing an internal organ when you see all of that coming out of you for such a long time. It’s also nice to plan accordingly. Get yourself the biggest, softest “granny panties” you can find. Or better yet, hang onto the very fashionable mesh underwear the hospital provides you with— you won’t believe how you can come to love such a garment. And since tampons are a no-no during the healing process,  you should go ahead and stock up on those mattress-sized maxi pads right now. A side bonus is the extra cushion they provide for sitting down with stitches!

2. Your hair will most likely start falling out sometime around three to four months postpartum, and there’s no telling when it will stop. I promise you won’t be totally bald by the end, but it sure will seem that way when you look down at the clumps of hair on your shower floor.

3. Postpartum hormones are no joke! The intense, abrupt shift in hormones can cause everything from sudden chills to hot flashes, to outbursts of tears and instant rage. I knew I was a bit emotional and expected that but I totally underestimated the level of intensity. Looking back now, I can’t believe I thought I was being reasonable. Two years later, I’m still apologizing to my husband for the crazy person he had to live with the first couple months of our son’s life. Let yours know that he will have his sane wife again one day and make sure to drink lots of fluids to replace how much you lose while crying ten times a day. On that note, postpartum depression can hit fast, out of nowhere and can happen to anybody. If you think you might have it, don’t hesitate discussing it with your doctor and getting help.

4. Along those same lines, your marriage is going to take a big hit like a bomb went off— I was totally unprepared for this one. Yes, there will be plenty of ooey-gooey moments where you will be arm in arm, gazing lovingly at this miracle you created together. You will feel special camaraderie when you both get excited over the contents of a diaper. But there will also be plenty (if not more) moments where you will ask yourself why you never noticed how stupid/lazy/selfish your partner can be. You will both be more frustrated, exhausted and stressed than ever in your lives, and since you can’t take it out on the innocent baby, you end up turning on each other. However, you will find new ways to work together and relate as a couple, but getting there is a rough road. In the end, your relationship will be stronger for it all so don’t panic when you can’t understand how you can get so angry with the father of your baby when all you want is to be celebrating. It’s normal, you’ll get through it.

Check out how the mamas work to keep some spark in their relationships post-baby

Image by Cari Hollis Photography

5. The first time you have sex after the baby is born will probably hurt. And this is true whether the baby was born vaginally or via c-section. But I promise sex will be good again one day. Just be gentle, patient and keep trying.

6. You will probably still look pregnant when you leave the hospital. I blame movies for creating this delusion in women’s heads that you’ll look just like your old self about 24 hours after the baby is born. It’s more likely that you won’t even recognize this body you find yourself in and now you don’t even have those sweet baby kicks making it all worthwhile. And don’t bother pulling out your old favorite pair of jeans you’ve been waiting the entire pregnancy to get back into. You’re most likely going to be wearing those maternity clothes much longer than you ever expected, and you’ll soon be wondering why they don’t just make all women’s clothes with giant elastic waist bands.

7. That “love at first sight” instant motherly bond thing doesn’t happen to everyone and that’s okay. This is another majorly unfair myth perpetuated by movies and television. We are set up to believe the first time you see your baby will be a magical moment and you’ll instantly feel everything a mama should and fall madly in love. So when you instead wonder why someone dropped a random baby into your room for you to babysit, you assume something must be wrong with you. It’s normal and it’s okay. For many women, they have to build that intense bond and love. Give it time and don’t feel guilty if you need a little while to adjust to this new human being before falling in love with them.

Image by Cari Hollis Photography

8. You have no control! No matter how many books you’ve read from “experts” about baby sleep, parenting, feeding, etc to decide exactly how you’d like this whole baby thing to go, there’s a good chance your baby hasn’t read any of them and therefore might not agree with your choices. So while getting a variety of tools to try is a great idea, do your best to suspend that picture in your head of how your baby will be (as well as the type of parent you’ll be) because what you get is all a crap shoot anyway. And you’ll have less effect on a lot of that than you probably thought. Just because you think schedules and sleep training are awesome doesn’t mean you’ll get a baby for whom those things work. Just because you’ve decided baby wearing and co-sleeping are the best things for you doesn’t mean the baby you were handed will accept that. Drop your expectations at the delivery room door because they are the one thing that’s sure to make things hardest on all of you. Follow your gut and get to know this little human you’ve just met without putting pressure on either of you to fit into a certain box. And you can’t be ready for how much mama guilt you’re going to feel over every little thing which is compounded by everyone around you who wants to tell you how you should be doing this or that and what “problems” you’re creating by doing things the “wrong” way. Do your best to tune it all out.

9. Breastfeeding can be HARD! It’s surprising how difficult it can be to accomplish something that is supposed to come natural. Even for women who don’t experience some of the more serious hiccups like latch issues, mastitis or supply problems, it’s just plain hard. At first you will feel like a dairy cow that does nothing but nurse all day. And you might have heard how it can be uncomfortable in the beginning, but women are often not warned about the intense cramping that can happen when you nurse during the first weeks— that’s the breastfeeding hormones getting your uterus back in shape which is a great thing, but also a real pain. It does get so much easier as you go and it can be so rewarding if you can just make it through that challenging beginning. Don’t let a rough start define your breastfeeding experience.

Check out Michelle’s Breastfeeding Journey and Alex’s Breastfeeding in the Beginning. Also check out Cassie’s Coolest Things About Breastfeeding, Mary Ellen’s 10 Ways to Help Build Your Milk Supply, and Laura’s Breastfeeding Duties for Dads.

10. Stool softener. Get some and take it as soon as you can. You’ll find out you’ll probably end up fearing that first bowel movement more than you feared your child’s birth. You’ll make it through, I promise.

So there you have it. Not the sugar coated story you might have been fed, and not the usual overused rhetoric about having a baby. And while all of this might not paint the prettiest picture, we all agree that the most surprising thing is how worth it all of it is. None of this is meant to sound scary, only to prepare you. It’s amazing how these things don’t seem nearly as bad when you get through them and how eager you can be to go through it all again.

9 Responses to Top Ten Postpartum Warnings

  1. Yup yup yup…I agree with pretty much all of those! If only we had known!

  2. Absolutely! Thanks for sharing Laura!!!

  3. Thankfully I was warned about a lot of them. Stool softener…god send!!!

  4. I agree…we need to be warned…on the other hand, I read so much and just figured I’d be different, more special, tougher, whatever. That’s *not* how it played out, though! Maybe we just need to be delusional in order to get through it?

  5. I never realized how lack of sleep just through me completely off balance. I think you can read and read all about it, but when you actually go through it it is a completely different experience.

    If anyone had told me how hard breastfeeding was going to be the first time around, I probably never would have tried it in the first place. How come no one ever mentions that your nipple gets so sore it eventually scabs over?

  6. All so true!! These are great. With many of these, I was warned and they were still rougher than I imagined. I totally knew about the hair loss, but when it was happening, it was much worse than I was expecting. It’s why I got a short haircut when my son was 4 months old!

    And #8 is SO important for all new mamas. No matter how many books your read, your baby hasn’t read them and no baby is going to perfectly fit them.

  7. love this! everything is so true. I had a scheduled c-section and still needed to hear all of this. Funny enough, I had friends who thought I wouldn’t have the bleeding because I had a c-section.

    thanks for sharing these!

  8. Yes! When I was imagining handling all of the baby challenges I’d heard about I couldn’t imagine how much harder the sleep deprivation would make everything. Definitely something I had no idea about: some babies DO NOT SLEEP!

  9. Pingback: Ask the Mamas: Bonding with Baby Mama Say What?! | Mama Say What?!

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