I remember thinking I had done everything I could to prepare for my baby.
I read all the blogs, books, and birth stories, listened to podcasts, did the labor exercises, and asked as many moms as I could about what to expect. I knew it would all be a new experience, but I didn’t think there was anything that was going to come out of left field in a completely unexpected way.
Boy, was I wrong.
I remember texting my mom and my mom friends, “What in the actual ****?!” accompanied with pictures that no one wanted to see. Between the swelling, the cluster feeding, and the night sweats, I was feeling totally shocked. Nobody warned me about any of it, and I was left to fend for myself. And while I don’t want to scare any of you pregnant moms, I personally would have loved a warning about what to expect. (If you don’t want a warning, don’t read this!)
When it came to my body/healing…
“The amount of blood you pass after birth is nauseating. The toilet looks like a murder scene for days, and the nurses told me my bleeding was on the lighter side. Cluster feeding the second night in the hospital hit me like a bus. I had never heard of it before, and it was exhausting. Lastly, the night sweats were completely unreal. I didn’t know my shins could sweat buckets of water. I would wake up drenched every night for weeks.” – Jessie Bernhardt, Social Media Editor
“THE SWELLING. No one told me my legs would resemble those of an elephant and that my feet would be so incredibly swollen that even five days later, I’d have to wear my husband’s shower flip flops home. Even my mom was horrified.” – Ojus Patel, Senior Content Editor
“The degrees of tearing and what actually CAN happen [down there]. And if the worst happens to you, how to take care of yourself – no one told me that.” – Cameron S.
“Postpartum shivering! Also, what passing clots is like, and how much you have to pee when getting rid of all of that fluid.” – Sharon L.
“The shivering during and after birth, the amount of night sweating (it’s like someone poured a bucket of water on you), the phantom cries you hear throughout the day/night – like whenever I would try to take a shower – the anxiety about everything related to you and the baby, and that breastfeeding is HARD (even when it comes ‘easy’ for you, it’s painful and emotional. But most of all, the loneliness and crying. I have never felt as lonely as I did the first few months PP. I felt scared, anxious, and sad that I didn’t have anyone to help — even though I thought I could and should do it all alone! It’s a rollercoaster of feelings I wasn’t prepared for.” – Nannette M.
“How intense and painful the first poop can be. I’m allergic to stool softeners, of all kinds, and the combination of hormones and anxiety and tearing and bleeding and googling made me SO SCARED to try to go – and when it happened, not going to lie, it was so painful. BUT, I survived. You always survive!” – Liia R.
“Healing from labor was far worse for me than labor. Recovering from my episiotomy was the worst pain of my life.” – Julia G.
“Major tailbone soreness. It hurt to sit down for several weeks. I bought one of those blow-up donuts to sit on as we left the hospital — best 10 bucks I ever spent.” – Anonymous
“Complete loss of bladder control for months. Pelvic Floor PT should be required and covered 100 percent by insurance during and after pregnancy. I wasn’t even offered a solution until my six-week appointment (which happened at eight weeks). Every question I asked was approached with ‘it’s normal, just let your body heal.’ Not normal, still healing after 8.5 months with the help of a lot of physical therapy. The baby part was easy; the recovery has not been.” – Anonymous
“The crazy shakes right after giving birth and the vomiting, as well. And the insane night sweats. But the one thing that I feel like I haven’t heard anyone else talk about was the fact that I physically couldn’t pee for 36 hours after giving birth. I had an epidural/catheter, and every time they tried to take the cath out, nada. I would try, and it was awful, and nothing would happen. I remember panicking that they were going to send me home without my being able to pee. Then, also the feeling that my uterus was going to topple out of my body if I stood for more than 5 minutes for the whole first month PP.” – Hartley W.
“This is gross… but hemorrhoids! I got them postpartum after trying to poop. I wish someone told me! TMI, sorry y’all. I guess that’s why no one talks about it.” – Melissa R.
“Three words: Cryptkeeper hair loss.” – McKenzie S.
“I got the worst acne postpartum because of hormones and when you’re already feeling blah, that’s not what you want to deal with. Also, trying to make time for self-care.” –Ashlee C.
When it came to my C-section…
“That IMMEDIATELY after a C-section, you have a nurse pushing on your incision to get air and blood out. Yes, it’s necessary, but you aren’t prepped for that pain.” – Julia K.
“As a C-section mama, I was surprised by how much and how long I bled after. And on the topic, holy first postpartum period, Batman. It was like I was 14 all over again and had no idea what I was doing. Ruined underwear, pants, sheets, and mattress pad.” – Mary B.
When it came to breastfeeding…
“Boobs shrinking from breastfeeding!” – Kaitlin P.
“The amount of time spent on breastfeeding and diagnosing breastfeeding issues (mastitis, engorgement, leaking, pumping, blebs, increasing milk supply, etc). It’s a lot.” – Jennifer B.
“How hard breastfeeding is. And that the amount of hair I’ve lost and am still losing could make a full wig. Phantom crying. Nighttime anxiety. The basic loss of self as anything other than a mother indefinitely.” – Marci S.
“I was unaware that I’d have to wear a bra pretty much 24/7 while breastfeeding — even while sleeping to hold the nursing pads. Eight months PP and still constantly wearing a bra.” – Anonymous
When it came to other people and relationships…
“Loss of sex drive with breastfeeding.” – Audrey L.
“All of this plus how difficult a newborn can make your relationships especially your marriage – and how postpartum anxiety and depression can also affect your husband.” –Anonymous
“People waiting for you to ask them to do things. People (friends and family) need to just offer – and do. We can’t always be expected to ask, as we want to feel like we can do it all.” – Susan W.
“I was really jealous when my husband went back to work and I was ‘left’ at home alone with our son – jealous that he was able to go back to a part of his old life pre-baby, jealous that he got to put on real clothes and have daily human interaction.” – Holly D.
When it came to my emotional or mental health…
“I had no idea how to handle everything postpartum while staying in the NICU for three weeks with your newborn, that you can have PTSD from staying in the NICU with your newborn for three weeks, the lack of self-care, that breastmilk supply increases medication side effects and you know – when you get released from the hospital and go home and think, ‘Oh God, what do I do now? How do I take care of this newborn?'” – Sarah M.
“The baby blues! Every night around 6pm, I’d uncontrollably cry for about an hour. I think it was just anxiety leading up to the night and feeling nervous it’d be hard (which it never was!). But this happened every evening for the first two weeks. I’d just sob over my dinner and then after an hour or so, I’d feel fine again!” – Anonymous
“Rage (now I know it’s a form of PPA/PPD…). My MIL brought out fire in my eyes. I’ve never been so angry at people and their self-centered-ness.” – Alicia H.
“The baby blues — they’re no joke. So much random crying. Didn’t help that my baby was born in January in Minnesota with a blizzard and the polar vortex.” – Ami F.
“Loneliness! I had an entire tribe of first-time mom friends and veteran moms, so I thought I would be OK, but I was SO lonely in the first three months postpartum. It didn’t help that I had unexpected postpartum anxiety that made me feel physically trapped in my house with my screaming newborn. Phew.” – Racquel C.
“You read books and articles and take classes on how to take care of a baby after you give birth. But no one suggests you study up on how to take care of yourself after you give birth. I wish someone had told me to educate myself on how to take care of me after the baby was born. Matresence is SO real. I was completely taken off guard with how deeply I mourned who I used to be prior to becoming a mom.” – Heather S.
“Postpartum OCD and anxiety disorder – everyone talks about PP depression and baby blues, but I wasn’t prepared to have extreme (almost crippling) OCD.” – Katie L.
“For me, the weirdest and hardest thing was maternity leave. It was the first time since I was 16 that I didn’t have a job to go to every day. For 12 weeks, my only job was my newborn. I think it took me a solid three weeks to stop truly worrying about work.” – Laurie C.
“That postpartum [mood disorders] can present as EXTREME anxiety instead of sadness. Of course, everyone worries about their child, but I was completely preoccupied with scary thoughts about all the things that could happen to my baby – for the rest of her life. And the separation you feel from the former version of yourself and how in the world to adjust to this completely new life. It was a very hard few months.” – Amanda H.
“Phantom crying. Baby blues (those hit me hard). Hair loss, even months later (I knew about hair loss, but not happening 3+ months later). How you can lose all the weight, but your skin stays loose. Your breasts leak. Last but not least, loss of bladder control the first few days after giving birth.” – Amy G.
When it came to the baby…
“Hearing phantom crying and having vivid nightmares. Not sure if the two are correlated with the lack of sleep you get with having a newborn.” – Lucy F.
“That not having that ‘over the moon, head over heels’ kind of love for your baby at first is OK. My daughter was extremely fussy, clingy, colicky, high needs literally FROM BIRTH. I couldn’t put her down in the bassinet starting the first night or she’d scream. I remember picking her up and walking, bouncing, shushing, in my hospital room while my husband was laying there snoring. I had to kick him and say, ‘Umm I need help here, I don’t know what to do.’ Not that he had any idea either. But I remember hearing those words leave my mouth – ‘I don’t know what to do’ came as such a depressing shock. I really believed that as soon as she was laid on my chest, I’d be in love and everything would be those dreamy sleepy newborn snuggly days. Ha, nope.” – Kendra S.
When you think back on it…
“How have I forgotten so many of these things! It’s like my mind blocked them out!” – Lacy P.
“Also, just want to mention to any expectant moms reading this and feeling utterly terrified now — it’s not that bad! You’ll get through it just like we all have and pretty much entirely forget all these symptoms and things ever happened! I promise!” – Madeline R.
“Every single one of these is SO true… but also can be overwhelming and scary. My son is 6 months old, and I’m a FTM. The biggest thing I take away from it all is that you make it through one day and night at a time! It is so amazing that words in an article could never describe it. Hands down, it’s the hardest yet most beautiful thing we as women can ever experience. Oh, but don’t forget to mention the hemorrhoids.” – Monica M.