Written by Guest Contributor: Diana Grezlovski from The Healthier Mom
If you’re expecting a little one in the next couple weeks or months, I’m sure you’re anxious to know what to expect after childbirth. This can be the most anxiety-ridden time for an expecting mom because there’s so much unknown.
The truth is that every woman’s experience is going to be slightly different. This is dependent on the type of birth you had (vaginal or c-section), how long you labored, the size of your baby, how your body heals, and so many other factors.
Although, most women will probably all agree that it can be a tough time and takes a lot of adjusting and getting used to. The fact that you’re trying to heal from a serious, possibly invasive, experience or surgery to your body while also trying your best to care for a new little person that you’re just starting to learn about, can be difficult. However, we all get through it for the good of our family.
What to Expect The First Week As a New Mom
The first week is so vivid in my mind like it was yesterday. We brought my son home and I remember thinking to myself, ‘What do I do first?’. He looked so peaceful, sleeping in his car seat and I didn’t want to wake him up. I just stared at him for a while, trying to wrap my mind around what I just went through and that I had a little human to take care of.
I felt like I was in a dream and like what just happened wasn’t reality. I needed some time to soak it all in, but there’s no time for that because you’re in new mom mode!
So what really happens the first week? Here is a breakdown of some of the things you can expect:
The first week is the hardest on your body in terms of sleep. Even before you held that baby in your arms, you probably didn’t sleep well.
Between your overactive bladder and big belly in your third trimester and the grueling hours (for me, it was 32) of active labor, you may not have slept well at all the few days or weeks before delivery. Even after giving birth, the nurses are constantly checking up on you and your baby that you can’t get any rest in the hospital.
Then, when you come home you have to care for your baby around the clock. Whenever they want to eat, you need to feed them. This usually occurs multiple times in the middle of the night because a newborn baby must be fed about every 3 hours all day long. Whenever he or she has a messy diaper you have to change it. Not to mention the non-stop cuddles and kisses that you’ll want to be giving them (but that’s the good part!).
It’s basically a never-ending and non-stop list of tasks to do. The only “break” you get to catch up on some zzz’s is when the baby sleeps. Lucky for most of us, newborns are usually are great day nappers, so take advantage of that.
Related Post: 18 Things Not to Do After Giving Birth
Healing from delivery
I had a vaginal birth with a second-degree laceration (and many stitches down there), so my recovery wasn’t easy. With this recovery comes properly caring for your wound to be sure you heal properly and prevent infection. Your nurse will give you specific instructions and products to use.
Whether you have a vaginal birth or c-section, expect to go through some healing. A c-section also involves wound care for your incision and stitches and to prevent scarring. It may also come with a lot more pain and soreness during movement as it is an invasive procedure.
The first week is the hardest because you’re still healing and need to take extra caution with wound care and not over-doing it. It takes about a week or two for your stitches to naturally come out. Once they do, your recovery process gets easier.
Related Post: 10 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Childbirth Recovery
What happens to all the extra blood and fluid that was keeping your baby safe and cozy? It will come out of you like a period for several weeks after birth. This is completely normal.
Expect to wear large, absorbant pads for the time being because you will have an excessive amount of blood. However, if you notice large clots coming out, call your doctor.
You will eventually stop bleeding, but t will take some time for your period to get back on its regular schedule especially if you decide to breastfeed.
After you give birth, expect to have some sort of constipation. I had difficulty with this because I was afraid to go to the bathroom since I had stitches.
For some reason, I felt like going to the bathroom could delay my healing process, but that’s simply not true. In fact, it’s better to go to the bathroom so you don’t end up making your constipation worse.
If you hold it in for too long, you can also end up getting hemorrhoids. Stool softeners are helpful, as well as hemorrhoid cream if necessary.
The typical rule of thumb for breastmilk is that it comes in the 3rd day after you give birth. If you’ve had a c-section it may take a little longer.
Once your milk comes in, expect your breasts to double or even triple in size, so be prepared. My milk supply ended up coming in the 3rd day and my breasts went from an A cup to a full C cup.
With that size increase, comes a painful feeling as the milk fills up your breast. Be sure to have a comfortable nursing bra if you plan to breastfeed. You will also experience some leakage so have some nursing pads handy as well.
A hot shower was the best relief I could give myself during these painful moments. Along with that, I would gently hand express a small amount of milk until I felt relief. You don’t want to express too much because then your body will keep producing this large amount of milk anticipating that the baby needs it.
Related Post: How to Ease Breast and Nipple Pain During the First Few Weeks of Breastfeeding
Mood swings & hormonal changes
After you give birth, your increased hormone levels, which were high due to pregnancy, drop drastically. This is normal. However, the big switch to your body can also lead to mood swings.
So if you start to feel irritable, sad, tired, annoyed, etc, this is all part of the changes that your body is going through. From the sleep deprivation and physical recovery to learning how to care for and be responsible for another life, you’ve experienced a lot of change.
This should be a temporary phase, however, if you notice these symptoms lasting longer than 6 weeks, speak to your physician because you may be experiencing signs of postpartum depression.
Physical body changes
After birth, you will see a change in how your body looks and feels. It will not immediately go back to it’s size and shape pre-pregnancy. You can expect that this will take some time, however it will happen if you want it to.
Your uterus takes some time to shrink back down, so don’t worry if you still look like you’re pregnant after giving birth. This is normal.
I noticed my hips were wider and I had a larger gap between my legs. It felt odd at first but then I got used to it. You may even notice stretch marks. Whether you get them or not is dependent on your genetic makeup.
Learn to embrace your new body or get on a strict plan to get back in shape.
Getting to know your baby
The first week will also be centered around getting to know your baby. This will require a lot of patience, love, and support on your part.
Remember your baby has been used to being in your comfy womb for 9-10 months. The outside world is a big, cold, scary place for them. You’ll have to figure out what they like and don’t like. Use trial-and-error to figure out methods that work for your baby.
You’ll learn what helps them stop crying, when they’re hungry, or when they’re tired. You’ll learn how to rock them, shush them, and how to make them feel safe. It may take a little time, but you’ll get to know your baby inside and out very soon.
If you’re a mom who is planning on nursing this is for you. Breastfeeding is not easy, it requires A LOT of patience.
There is also a right way to do it, but not every mother and baby is successful at it. You’ll have to make sure you’re positioning your baby properly while still allowing yourself to be comfortable.
It should also not be painful when your baby nurses. If you’re experiencing bad pain, the baby is not latching properly.
It takes quite a few tries for some moms to get it right. Some babies even latch properly the first try, but every baby is different. Your nipples will also become very sore and cracked, so nipple balms or lanolin cream will help with the pain and bleeding.
Unfortunately, I was not able to get a good latch with my son so I had to resort to exclusive pumping. This can happen and that’s okay too.
Related Post: The First Steps to Breastfeeding Success: Helpful Tips from Day One
. . . . .
These are all the expectations to have the first week after giving birth. Remember, you went through a traumatic and drastic life event. It’s going to take some time to get used to and get into a routine that you’re comfortable with. Don’t expect everything to go smoothly right away.
Just do the best you can to get by. Don’t be hard on yourself. Most of what you’re experiencing and going through is temporary and it does get better over time. You got this!
About the Author
Diana has been married for 5 years and recently became a mom to an amazing little boy. She is a faith-driven, stay at home mom and loves helping others. She started her blog to talk about the real-life struggles moms go through and how to overcome them and what she wishes she knew beforehand. She is raising her son without the help of family or friends, so this is her way to connect with other moms.
For more posts like this one check out my blog: The Healthier Mom