You learn a lot about what happens to your body during pregnancy and labor from books, doctors, and childbirth classes. However, all these sources seem to conveniently gloss over the postpartum period. Bleeding, baby blues, blah blah blah. You read about two tiny paragraphs about it, and then it’s on to the next part: newborn care.
Now don’t get me wrong, newborn care is critical (obviously), but this lack of postpartum education is bullshit. I mean seriously, what the heck? It left me, and many mothers, utterly unprepared for the aftermath. Those first weeks after childbirth hit me like a head-on collision, and without an airbag of knowledge to cushion the impact, my body and emotions felt every blow.
I look back on the scant literature I had read about the postpartum period, and it now makes me giggle. Filled with sugary euphemisms, those words might as well be in Mandarin to a newly minted mother. As a public service to other pregnant women out there, I’ve decided to translate some of the text below. You’re welcome. 🙂
Text: You may be weepy and emotional the first few days/weeks.
Translation: You will be reduced to a pathetic, sloppy puddle of tears and hormones.
You always hear that newborns cry a lot. But you know who else cries? New moms. The tears—oh, the tears. Many a lake could be filled with the dramatic, salty drops of postpartum crying.
“They” like to call it the baby blues. Which is adorable … and also a flipping joke. The truth of the matter? You are a hot mess after giving birth. Yes, a sizzling, sweaty mess of emotions. One moment you’re excited and confident and like Hell yeah, motherhood. I TOTALLY got this. The next moment, the baby won’t latch and he’s starving, and you’re starving, and your hubby walks into the house carrying pizza with mushrooms on it (you HATE mushrooms) and you collapse onto the carpet, sobbing over mushrooms and motherhood. Yeah, the postpartum period brings out a whole new level of cray-cray.
And actually, it’s not just your eyes that leak. Your boobs leak. Your vagina definitely leaks (blood, urine, you name it). Basically, you’re just oozing various forms of liquid throughout your entire body, and all you can do is stuff pads and gauze everywhere to try to contain the flow. Come to think of it, I probably should have just worn eye patches those first few weeks as well.
Text: You may experience some bleeding for up to six weeks after giving birth.
Translation: You may piss out horrific-sized blood clots that resemble jiggly jello cups (but aren’t nearly as fun or delicious).
Okay, I knew I would bleed. Duh. But seriously, no one told me about the giant, mutant masses of blood that could plop out of my va-jay-jay at any moment. I remember my first day home from the hospital, sitting down at the toilet to pee. Once I was finished squirting water up my nether regions (mamas, you know the drill), I wiped and stood up to flush. Only, I didn’t flush. I screamed. There, swirling around in the potty pool, was not one, but two giant blood turds. I’m dying, I immediately thought. This is how it ends.
Already in a fragile state of existence (thanks to hormones, as mentioned above), I immediately started bawling and dialed my doctor, frantically explaining what had just occurred. The nurse calmingly reassured me that it was “normal to pass golf ball-sized blood clots”. Normal?! How can this possibly be normal?! Well, apparently it is. And okay, technically this little fun fact was mentioned in my postpartum printout that the hospital gave me, but honestly, who has time to read those first few days? And even if you do find time, you’re so cross-eyed and stupid from lack of sleep that you won’t be able to comprehend anything you read anyways.
(Side note: As some of you know, I would go on, several days later, to experience a rather serious postpartum hemorrhage—which is definitely NOT normal. That whole experience will be saved for another blog post.)
Text: Your nipples may be sore and/or sensitive during the beginning stages of breastfeeding.
Translation: You will curse and wince while your newborn latches on like a thousand tiny knives stabbing you in the areola.
Breastfeeding is beautiful, intimate, and amazing. It also hurts like hell—at least for the first several weeks. Like a guitarist’s fingers must take a beating before they callous over, nipples need time to adjust and desensitize to the constant sucking and pressure.
In the beginning, when my little man would initially latch on, the pain would literally paralyze me for a few moments. I’d immediately close my eyes, suck in my breath, and clench my toes so hard they’d instantly cramp up.
Oh, and the showers … yes, the postpartum showers. So rare and fleeting (and orgasmic) to a new mom. Well, that’s what they are supposed to be. I’ll never forget one of my first showers after coming home from the hospital. So excited I was for those precious few minutes of freedom and silence. I remember stepping into the shower, feeling the warmth gush over me—then shrieking. Attacked! I’m being attacked! The shower head was launching a thousand beads of water at my nipples like some sadist with a semi-automatic. It was horrible. And cruel. I spent the rest of my shower (and several showers thereafter) with my arms crossed under my armpits in self-defense. Yeah, really relaxing.
Ah yes, the postpartum period. What a wonderful time I will cherish (see: loathe) forever.