Written by Jess Raubenheimer-Free
When I had my first baby in November last year, I didn't really have much time to prepare. She arrived 9 days early, much to the surprise of my midwife and I. When I was pregnant I had spent a lot of time thinking about what the birth would be like. What labour would feel like. What it would be like to push. But I spent no time at all thinking about what postpartum would feel like. Nobody really tells you any of this stuff, or at least nobody told me. So I'm sharing with you the things that surprised me about the first 5 days after having my baby.
Breastfeeding is really hard before your milk comes in
I'd always hoped I could breastfeed, but I hadn't really given much thought to it at all. Somewhere in my head I knew that breastmilk wasn't just 'there' when your baby is born, and I knew about colostrum. But for some reason those things never really registered in my head when I considered what breastfeeding would be like.
Damn it was hard. Colostrum is extremely nutritious and packs a real punch. Your baby doesn't need much at all. You have no idea how much colostrum your baby is getting in those first few days, and it can be really overwhelming. In my case the midwives in the hospital helped me hand express colostrum to feed my baby with a syringe. Which was painful and intrusive. But necessary.
I guess I just wasn't expecting it to be like that. I expected this magical experience of bonding. What I got was extremely sore nipples, a crying baby and being told my baby was dehydrated.
Luckily for me, things got much easier for us when my milk came in, and we are still breastfeeding at 5 months. I can't imagine how hard it must be for mothers who struggle with breastfeeding, where this challenge just continues on and on and on. You are amazing, mamas!
You aren't going to get any decent sleep for a long time
The day before my baby was born, I was exhausted. I spent the day watching Netflix and napping on the couch. I am SO glad I did that! I'd been told that sleep was in short supply when you have a newborn, but I'd never really considered those first couple of days.
I stayed in hospital for two nights, and my husband wasn't allowed to stay as I was in a shared room. Nobody tells you how incredibly hard it is when you've been through labour and birth, and someone says "Get some sleep now" and whisks away your baby. I was grateful to the midwives for doing this, but I really just wanted my baby there. I couldn't sleep anyway. Adrenaline was coursing through my veins after the most unexpected day of my life (it was a complete surprise that my daughter arrived that day!) and I could not fall asleep.
The next night was no better - the other baby in the room was screaming all night, and I got no sleep at all. Then it was home and hourly feeding and rocking and shushing and cuddling.
So when you're thinking about sleep deprivation, try and count out those nights immediately after you have your baby, because chances are you aren't going to get a scrap of sleep.
Your body is going to do some really weird things
Yep. The weird things will vary based on what kind of birth you have, but I can only share my personal experience. In the week following giving birth I had some of the strangest experiences of my life. Here's a few that really took me by surprise.
Breastfeeding causes your uterus to contract. It's nature's way of getting it back down to size. When you feed you'll probably have period-like cramps. And they can actually be pretty damn sore.
Related, your boobs are going to hurt. A lot. Not just from the actually breastfeeding but a general ache. This is preparation for your milk coming in.
Going to the bathroom is going to feel really weird. I had no control over any of my pelvic floor muscles. Peeing was the strangest sensation. I won't even go into the other toilet activity.
Emotions are seriously tricky during this time. When your milk comes in you're probably going to feel overwhelmed, tearful and incapable. It will pass.
Bodies are weird. Birth is weird. It's just a really weird time all round.
What are the things that surprised you about the days following the birth of your child?