So you’ve found out you are expecting! You’ve succeeded in the fiddly task of awkwardly angling the stick midstream, taking care not to hold it upright for fear of rendering it invalid (and wasting a tenner in the process). You’ve breathed a sigh of relief for not covering yourself in pee, despite your somewhat shaky fingers, and waited the longest 3 minutes of your life for the result. The test is positive, and you are filled with a mixture of shock, delight, and some fear.
After the initial daze, you head to Google to find out everything you can about ‘what to expect when you’re expecting’. And you succeed. Every week of your gestation is covered: symptoms you may develop, which organs your tiny foetus is currently developing, even which type of fruit he or she could be compared to in size.
You are supported with advice almost every step of the journey from your digital dictionary of all things pregnancy; useful tips on how to survive those first 9 months and tips for preparing for the part which inevitably scares you most – labour and childbirth.
And when your sweet bundle of joy arrives, there is a vast library of resources which advises on how to care for your baby and what to do in all types of scenarios.
But what about you, Mummy? When it comes to the postpartum period, for some inexplicable reason, it really is a case of ‘Mum’s the word’. For the most part, details of what every new mother should expect to endure are skimmed over in as little detail as possible.
But why are we so hesitant to be open about the facts of the postpartum period? Are we afraid that by uttering some of the less than attractive truths we will somehow put aspiring mums off? Why is it acceptable to feed expectant mothers endless info about pregnancy and baby care, yet not fully prepare them for the nitty-gritty of after birth?
To that end, here are 5 truths which nobody is likely to tell you about the postpartum period:
So, you’ve most likely had nine glorious period-free months! It has been refreshing to escape Aunt Flow and her monthly gift of cramps and chaos. But don’t be fooled – what mother nature giveth, mother nature taketh away.
Immediately following the delivery of your adorable little miracle, you will receive the mother of all periods: lochia is the mixture of blood, mucus and tissue that your womb sheds as it replaces its lining postpartum.
This can last up to 6 weeks, will be heavy and can get messy. Don’t worry, you’ll get used to wearing maternity pads so thick that you feel like your baby isn’t the only one wearing a nappy. P.S. Be prepared – provided you are not breastfeeding, you can also expect your regular period to reappear about 6-8 weeks after you give birth.
After pains are cramps felt as a result of the womb shrinking back down to its pre-baby size. Everyone talks about labour pains but fails to mention after pains- and they are not to be sniffed at – they can be just as intense as labour pains, especially for second or third (or more!) time mums. The process (Involution) lasts for 6 weeks but the worst of the cramping occurs postpartum over the first few days after birth.
After giving birth, your digestive system tends to slow itself down for a day or two. Chances are you won’t even really notice…until it comes time for that first postnatal poop. Don’t fret – the fear of the act is always worse than the act itself, and it is completely normal to be apprehensive; after all, a lot has gone on down there recently! When the time comes, try to relax and take your time, don’t force it, and if need be, don’t be ashamed to ask for a laxative.
Regardless of whether you choose to breastfeed or bottle-feed, your boobs will go on their own little milk-producing adventure (and it may not be the most comfortable of experiences!). When your baby is born (sometimes before) your body will produce a fluid called Colostrum which is what your baby will feed on before milk, should you choose to breastfeed.
After a few days, your milk will come in. This will not go unnoticed. Your boobs will become full and heavy. They will feel tingly and most likely they will hurt. It will not last forever – if you are breastfeeding, you will feel immediate relief when the baby feeds. If you are bottle-feeding, wear a supportive bra and, if you are very uncomfortable, stuffing your bra with cabbage leaves can help to ease the discomfort.
After giving birth, your hormone levels have to adjust to not being pregnant anymore. One of the delightful results in this shift of hormone levels is night sweats. Hey, your body has to get rid of the excess fluid leftover from pregnancy somehow, right? As with most things pregnancy and birth-related, it does it in the least elegant way possible: by waking you up in a pool of sweat most nights for the first couple of weeks after you give birth.
So there you have it – an insight into what to expect after you’re expecting. Admittedly it is not the most uplifting information, but I hope it proves helpful. After all, it’s only fair that new mums be prepared for everything, because motherhood is truly the greatest gift…but it comes with its fair share of challenges, and preparation is key.
Katie Bruce is a wife and mum of 2 from Glasgow, Scotland. Katie is a teacher, musician and gymnastics coach who previously lived and worked in the Cayman Islands. She loves to crochet, spend time with family and consume more than her fair share of chocolate. Connect with her on Twitter here.
Picture credit: Baby photo created by freepik – www.freepik.com