In all the excitement about the tiny human growing inside of you and the monumental feat of birth ahead of you, postpartum often gets overlooked. You register for all kinds of neat gadgets and buy adorable little baby onesies. You set up a room full of supplies and cute furniture. You read book after book about your pregnancy and birth. You take a childbirth education class. You write a birth plan. Then you wait (and wait and wait and wait, it seems). But here’s the thing, when the birth is all said and done, that baby is coming home to live with you. An actual tiny little human being. With. No. Manual. So what goes down that first week?
Here’s 5 things you need to know about the first week home with a new baby:
Those all-nighters in college have nothing on this kind of sleep-deprivation.
Babies tend to be born with their days and nights a little mixed up. They’ve spent 9 months in the womb where it’s always dark, so the sun is irrelevant to them. They’ve also been rocked all day by mom’s movement. At night, mom stops moving and they wake up to party (which you probably know well if you’re pregnant or recently have been). It takes them a while to realize they’re in a new world and adjust to our sun-based schedules. A postpartum doula can help ease the transition and let you get some good sleep in!
You’ll feel like you ran a marathon. With no training. Or even a little exercise. Ever.
So, if you labored at all, you’re probably going to be sore in places you didn’t even previously know existed. Labor requires so much exertion from so many parts of your body that your muscles are bound to be feeling it. That’s not even including a cesarean recovery, any nipple discomfort, or those beautiful “after pain” contractions as your uterus shrinks back to size. The good news is with lots of rest and a little time, you’ll be good as new! And you can totally tell people you ran a marathon. I won’t judge.
Going to the bathroom will probably look like a scene from Dexter.
The technical term is lochia. Essentially everything that’s been built up in your uterus to support growing human life has to come out now. You’ll lose a lot of it immediately after birth, but it will probably take a few weeks to stop completely. The hospital will provide you with some super-mega pads and mesh underwear (for the most hilariously real-life picture of this ever, see this link), or you can just go all out and wear Depends. A peri-bottle can help keep things clean without bothering a lot of really sensitive areas. Your care provider will provide you with guidelines about how much is too much, but just know that there will be blood. Lots of blood.
Pooping is the scariest thing you’ll ever face in your life.
I know, I know. No one wants to talk about poop. But real talk, you will probably be terrified. There’s swelling, there may be stitches, there’s probably hemorrhoids. The last time you were bearing down, a human exited your body. It’s just a LOT to take in. A stool softener can help, as can a Squatty Potty. Just know that it’s something that has to happen and you WILL get through it!
Babies. Smell. Amazing.
In all this crazy (and gross) stuff, let’s not forget that adorable little person. One sniff of that precious, soft little baby head and I promise you none of the previous points will matter anymore. It’s intoxicating. It makes everything you’ve dealt with through pregnancy, labor, birth, and postpartum feel completely worth it. So much so that you may find yourself daydreaming about doing it all over again (in a few years…)!
Postpartum is a beautiful, vulnerable, and yes, messy time. You will probably feel every emotion it is possible to feel (and likely in a very short period of time). What you need to know is that it is all completely normal. No one wants to talk about the less glamorous side of having babies, but we all experience it anyway. Embrace it. Give yourself grace and time to rest and recover. And hire a postpartum doula to support you through it. You’ve earned it!