When I had my eldest daughter almost 10 years ago, no one really talked about what would happen AFTER the baby was here. I was discharged from the hospital with a newborn, the words "take your pain meds and call your midwife if you have any concerns," and the questions "what are the pain meds for?" (even after a tear requiring three stitches I never had pain) and "what might happen that would cause concern?"
Even most pregnancy and birth books quickly brush over postpartum recovery and go straight into baby care. And while there is more talk these days as mommies get real about the important aspects of after baby mommy care, it all seems more gruesome and humorous than helpful.
So here's a few fun facts on postpartum recovery you won't find in the basic baby books:
A placenta weighs approximately 1.5 pounds.
Plus at the end of pregnancy you're carrying around about 1.8 pounds of amniotic fluid. For a 9 1/2 pound baby like my last, that's almost 12 pounds of instant weight loss upon delivery not even counting the extra blood you'll shed, water weight you'll pee out and all the goodies that have been storing up in your breasts to feed your baby!
You'll pass clots and it might freak you out!
It's normal during the first few days to pass clots as the lining of your uterus begins to shed. Some of them can be as big as golf balls and it will freak you out (anything bigger than that, though, should be reported to your midwife or doctor immediately!)
Contractions don't stop after baby is out.
You'll have a few more strong contractions to deliver the placenta and then will continue to have "afterbirth pains" for days or weeks after delivery which often feel more like strong menstrual cramps than labor contractions. The afterbirth contractions will be strongest when you breastfeed (due to oxytocin which is released by nipple stimulation and causes uterine contractions) and they generally get stronger with each baby. I delivered all my babies without an epidural but the afterbirth contractions with my third baby were so bad I couldn't feed him without Tylenol the first few days.
Breast engorgement is real.
Big, heavy, hard and sore breasts are a way of life for most mommies once their mature milk comes in a few days after birth. But that doesn't always mean you have a ton of milk, a lot of the engorgement is just swelling as your boobs kick into gear for their new role and trying to latch a tiny little baby mouth on full, hard breasts is challenging to say the least! If you do find yourself having issues with painful or lingering engorgement, make sure to address it before it becomes a problem.
You'll completely forget about how you pooped on the delivery table when you sit down to do your first business after delivery. It's not so much that it's hard or scary but it feels very foreign, like you've never done it before. Everything in that region is still swollen and tender if you had a vaginal delivery and your innards are still all relocated and starting their migration back home but just know, the first is the worst. By the second, third, etc. you'll just be glad you got to go at all between the feeding, diaper changing and trying to sleep!
It's not something I've ever heard much about with postpartum recovery but if my track record means anything, they should be talked about a lot more! I've been lucky enough to get them every time. Every.Time. With Honeybun the nurses noticed shortly after birth and since I had a small tear that required stitching I was already sitting on ice so that helped. With Pipsqueak, though, I didn't notice until that first excruciating poo. My advice: get some witch hazel pads before baby arrives and if you have trouble with hemorrhoids, just fold a pad in half and stick it right up in between your cheeks for a little while (sounds weird but with everything else gross going on down there, you won't even notice it!)
You'll feel like an extra from The Walking Dead.
Even uncomplicated deliveries have a way of destroying you. The exhaustion of labor plus pushing a small human out of your lady parts (or undergoing major surgery) followed by not sleeping because you're constantly feeding baby or staring admiringly at their tiny little perfectness has a way of doing you in. My advice: don't look in the mirror for a few days and definitely don't look at the pictures from those first few days until you're far enough down the line to be able to look at them and laugh (and don't even try a selfie, no matter how cute your baby looks!)