The mysteries of becoming a mother don’t end once pregnancy is over. In fact, the fun’s just getting started. Here are 10 things about postpartum that will surprise you (or at least they surprised me!).
“All women are amazing. A woman can grow a baby inside their body. And then somehow a woman can deliver the baby through their body. And then by some miracle a woman can feed a baby with their body. And when you think of the male contribution to life, it’s kind of embarrassing really.” Jim Gaffigan, Mr. Universe
10 Things About Postpartum That Will Surprise You
Fundal Massage: Not What You Think!
A fundal massage is when a care provider presses firmly in and down at the top of a mother’s uterus (after birth the uterus is as high as the belly button) and vigorously “massages” to make sure the uterus is behaving as it should. The uterus needs to be firm and empty of blood clots, which prevents a serious complication – postpartum hemorrhage.
You guys. A fundal “massage” is not a massage. Just like perineal “massage” is not a what you’d think of as a massage, fundal massage is a far cry from a day at the spa as well. It hurts! Because the uterus is so tender after the work it just did, the vigor of this “massage” is very painful.
As much as I tried to remember my care provider’s positive intentions, I was never able to tolerate this procedure with grace. In fact, with my first I kept involuntarily pushing my midwife away. I couldn’t help it! In order for her to do fundal massage on me, I had to sit on my hands. For subsequent births after the initial “massage” , I just did it myself. DIY fundal massage. 😉
Postpartum Contractions Suck
Imagine the relief that comes once the work of pushing and transition is a thing of the past. You’re holding your baby, perhaps even initiating breastfeeding, relishing in the fact that you “never have to do that again” and BAM, you feel a contraction. What in the world? Isn’t the body done contracting? Baby is here, for crying out loud.
Experiencing postpartum contractions was such a shock to me. I was offended! After all that, how dare my uterus contract, causing me pain!
I’m just going to be honest with you. The contractions that come the first day or two after having a baby don’t feel good. For those that have had only one baby, you may not remember this clearly because first time mothers’ postpartum contractions are typically on the mild side. However, with subsequent babies, postpartum contractions are vicious – they’re more painful and go 2-3 days after birth. (Ibuprofen is so helpful!)
Contrary to popular opinion, however, these postpartum contractions are not trying to sabotage your postpartum recovery. In fact, the opposite is true. Postpartum contractions are caused by oxytocin (a feel good bonding hormone secreted during skin-to-skin, breastfeeding, sex, etc.) and squeeze the uterus ensuring that it stays small and firm, thus preventing postpartum hemorrhage. It’s a good thing!
Breastfeeding: A Troubleshooter’s Paradise
If you enjoy troubleshooting, you will probably enjoy this aspect of breastfeeding. Even for those who breastfeed without complication, at times it can be a little tricky to navigate. An aspect of postpartum that surprised me was how there was a little bit of a learning curve to breastfeeding, even when things were going well.
For one thing, breastmilk gets EVERYWHERE. It soaks the sheets, clothes, sprays across the room – everything gets sticky and smells like milk. (I learned quickly to put these under my chest while sleeping to prevent having to change the sheets all the time.)
At one point with my first, I had to feed my baby while on my back to compensate for my overzealous milk supply. And sure, having engorged boobs may have looked awesome, but it didn’t feel so awesome. All I wanted to do was sleep on my stomach. Denied.
Of course I was also that person that ended up with a milk blister (what in the world?). Thank goodness for Kelly Mom as I found out was is normal and will either resolve on its own or after taking these steps.
Breastfeeding may be natural, but sometimes requires a bit of troubleshooting. Think of a lactation consultant as a breastfeeding troubleshooting magical unicorn. They’re amazing! Find one!
Having a Newborn: Not as Magical as Imagined
Before having children I was one of those people that loved kids, especially infants. I loved to hold other people’s babies – it felt so magical! From a young age I was the the person in the church nursery, so happy to love on other people’s kiddos, especially if they were tiny.
The thing is, once I had my own, things were less magical than I had anticipated. Don’t get me wrong, I loved my baby. I was happy to be a mother. But things felt more mundane and less euphoric than I thought it would be.
Maybe it was the sleep deprivation, or the hormone fluctuations, or the realization that raising this innocent human being was all on me. Or maybe it’s like the newness and fun wearing off after moving in with your BFF in college?
I will say, however, that having an infant for the last time, knowing it would be my last baby, gave me the ability to relish in the day in, day out aspects of having an infant. When I was up in the middle of the night, again, by myself, I actually liked it. I knew that in this moment life seemed daunting, but in the grand scheme of things, these tired minutes were fleeting. That helped a lot.
Postpartum Bleeding: Less than Anticipated
For some reason I anticipated bleeding heavily for weeks on end, and stocked up on one million postpartum pads because of it, but was surprised by what actually happened. Sure, the first day or two bleeding was heavy, but things quickly lightened up even during the first week.
One of the things about postpartum that surprised me was how quickly my bleeding tapered down to light bleeding and then spotting. (Cesarean mamas often have even less bleeding than anticipated too.)
In the first couple of days, bleeding can heavy. Adult diapers are the way to go! There’s no worry of leakage with the adult diaper. It’s so easy! I’m a fan of easy when it comes to postpartum. My favorite adult diaper for postpartum are these. They are softer and less bulky than the average adult diaper.
If conventional pads aren’t for you, but cloth pads don’t spark joy either, you may be interested in a more natural postpartum or “maternity” pad by Natracare.
Night Sweats (WHY IS THIS A THING?)
Another one of the things about postpartum that surprise some new mothers are night sweats. Night sweats are typically caused by the wonky hormonal changes that are happening. Think about it, your body produced a certain combination of hormones to support pregnancy, but now that baby is gone your body needs something completely new – especially if you’re breastfeeding. Hello, hormonal rollercoaster.
Many women report waking up in the middle of the night completely soaked in sweat. So much so that it makes sense to change the sheets. These night sweats are totally inconvenient, especially if it chills the body (intended effect) too much, and makes mama super cold. This can make disrobing for breastfeeding a chilly experience! Take heart, as time goes by these become less and less of a thing.
(I never experienced nighttime sweats, but in generally I was VERY hot postpartum. A the drop of a hat I could feel overheated and start sweating. It was so strange!)
Baby Blues Feels… Weird
Speaking of hormones, baby blues is yet another one of the things about postpartum that are surprising. Baby blues is a normal thing that happens to many women in the first few weeks after giving birth. It’s not postpartum depression, but more like temporary mood swings that bring mothers from happy, to sad, weeping to laughing, sometimes all within the same hour. It’s weird.
Baby blues made me feel weird to be in a body that was doing things I was not used to experiencing. I felt a little bit out of control.
A long time ago I used to stay up late (for fun) with my friends and would inevitably get the giggles due to fatigue. The baby blues is kinda like that. Except with a baby. And crying. 😉
In my experience, having a lot of support, choosing placenta encapsulation, and the passage of time are all helpful for coping with baby blues.
Postpartum Hair Loss
I have thick hair and normally shed a considerable amount of hair while washing it in the shower. However, the weirdest thing happens when I’m pregnant. I STOP SHEDDING. All my hair (and body) wants to do is grow, grow, grow.
Another one of the things about postpartum that may surprise you is that after baby the switch flips back and the hair sheds, sheds, sheds. For most women this postpartum hair loss may seem dramatic, but doesn’t actually leave her bald. Her hair is just attempting to make up for lost time and get back to normal.
For some women, however, this postpartum hair loss stage is traumatic! For months on end, these moms experience a disturbing amount of hair loss. What comes out in a hairbrush or during a shower is shocking!
If this is you, take comfort in that things will likely level out by the time your baby turns one year old. Super cute headbands like this one are stylish, but also help hide thinning hair at the hairline. If things seem concerning, however, it’s always a good idea to run it by your care provider. That’s what they’re there for!
TIP: Get you one of these $6 bad boys to save you from clogged drains. Trust me, they’re amazing!
Two Errands is Too Many
Before having a baby it was easy to make a to-do list a mile long, go around town checking those bad boys off, recharge at Chipotle or similar lunch joint, and then keep on getting things done until there was nothing left on the list.
However, things are a whole lot different when baby’s in charge. 🙂
As much as it may frustrate the type-A mamas out there, two errands may be too many for most women during the first six weeks. Start off with one errand a day – a baby doctor or chiropractor appointment perhaps. But then go home.
In that moment you may think you can do more, but trust me on this – go back home. The thing is, later on in the day your outting extravaganza will kick you in the rear manifesting itself in a previously mentioned baby blues episode. It ain’t pretty.
Pace yourself. One errand at a time. Your sanity is worth it.
Strong Desire and Inability to Bounce Back
Which brings me to my next point. One of the things about postpartum that surprised me was how I had a strong desire to “bounce back” or get back in the swing of things. I wanted to do everything, perfectly. I wanted to be the perfect mom that had great hair, breastfed in public with ease, and had homemade wholesome meals every evening.
I am the type of person that takes great satisfaction in getting things done, however, the lifestyle accompanied with having an infant is not conducive to getting things done or bouncing back.
The thing is, there’s no going back and nobody is bouncing except, perhaps, baby. The person you once were before baby doesn’t exist anymore. The only way place to go is forward, and figure out who this new woman, this new mother, is.
How does this new woman spend her time? Who are her friends? How does she see the world and think about things? Everything is different and that’s ok.
As much as you may want to bounce back, remember to take a deep breath and take things one day at a time. It took 9 months to grow a baby. Allow yourself enough time for this new woman to grow, change and be born too.
10 Things About Postpartum That Will Surprise You
To recap, the following are 10 things about postpartum that will surprise you.
- Fundal “massage” is a necessary evil
- The uterus keeps contracting even after labor is over
- Breastfeeding can be tricky
- Life with a newborn can be less magical than anticipated
- Postpartum bleeding may be lighter than expected
- Night sweats are super inconvenient
- Baby blues feels so strange
- Postpartum hair loss is creepy
- Two errands may be too many
- Bouncing back isn’t a thing
What things about postpartum surprised you? Leave a comment and let me know. I’d love to hear from you!