Childbirth isn’t all sunshine, rainbows, and skin-to-skin snuggles. In fact, there are a lot of really strange, occasionally gross, things that happen to a woman’s body during childbirth and postpartum. And I think we need to talk about them (a lot more) because they are normal, they do happen, and we usually don’t hear about them until we’re talking with a girlfriend and they’re like “oh yeah, that’s totally normal”. Why is this a secret? Let’s talk about it!
I collected this list of all of the things no one told me about childbirth and postpartum from my own experiences and from the experiences you shared on Instagram. You already know sleep will be scares and childbirth is a challenge, but what about all of the “little things” that have you wondering — WHAT THE HECK IS HAPPENING?! Is this normal?? — those are the things I’m sharing with you today.
Note: childbirth and postpartum are different for everyone. Before you move on to the rest of the post, I want this note to serve as a pause for you to make sure you’re in the right place to read about these details of childbirth and postpartum. I am sharing them lightly, but I know childbirth and postpartum can be traumatic and heavy for many. If you’re not in the right place to read this post, here’s one that will brighten your day!
All of the things no one told me about childbirth
Your dilation and effacement only tell you so much. You can be 3cm dilated and give birth 10 minutes later or 3cm dilated for weeks.
Contractions can migrate to different parts of your body — your back, your neck, etc. are not off limits.
Pushing a baby out requires you to use very similar muscles as when you’re pooping. If you’re having a hard time pushing, try pooping.
Speaking of pooping. You might poop during labor. And after you deliver the baby, they might poop on you.
Also, some people vomit during labor.
Labor positions are a plenty! And no labor position is better than another. You might deliver on your back, on your side, on all fours, squatting — you probably won’t know what will feel best for you until you’re doing it. Follow your instincts.
You might never play the labor playlist.
It’s possible that you will tear (down there) when you’re pushing your baby out. Depending on how severe the tear is (first, second, third, or fourth degree), you might have to get stitches to heal it up.
Babies are all different colors when they are born, pink, blue, white, brown, black.
After you deliver the baby your work is not done! You have to deliver the placenta as well. Sometimes you get a drug called pitocin that helps it just slide right out, or you have to work for it. If you can still feel down there, it’s a very strange gooey, warm feeling when it comes (slithers) out.
It’s really common to be freezing cold and shivering after giving birth. It’s also common to be super itchy if you had an epidural.
Not everyone has the magical, firework, fall deep in love moment with their newborn baby. It’s ok if it’s not love at first site. It will come.
All of the things no one told me about postpartum
Childbirth is the ultimate workout — don’t be surprised if you’re “hit by a truck” kind of sore for a few days.
It’s normal to bleed for the first 6-8 weeks postpartum
At the hospital, they will be checking on your bleeding to make sure it’s not clotting, too heavy, etc. To check your bleeding, they push down on your uterus every few hours. It doesn’t feel great (but hey, it saves lives!).
Diapers aren’t just for the baby. You’ll wear them and you’ll probably love them.
There are things called a tucks pads (witch hazel soaked towelettes) and padsicles (a frozen pad that you sit on after giving birth). If anyone asks, you want them.
Yes, you had your baby, but you will probably still look pregnant.
There’s this thing called “afterbirth pains”. It’s your uterus contracting back to its normal size. It depends on the person, but normally it doesn’t feel great.
p.s. breastfeeding contracts your uterus. Which is pretty cool when you think about it (feeding your child helps you restore your body post-birth), but that also means that breastfeeding = afterbirth pains. (As if it didn’t hurt enough already!!)
p.p.s. they say afterbirth pains get worse with each birth.
The first pee after having a baby is hard. It might be hard to get yourself to pee. And when you do pee it might burn a bit. Peeing might be a little weird for a few days. There’s this thing called a peribottle that will help. Take it home with you from the hospital.
The first poop after having a baby can be scary (remember pushing out a baby is kind of like pushing out a poop, hence why it can be scary, especially if you tore). It’s ok to take stool softeners.
Breastfeeding hurts. Even if you have a great nursing baby, your nipples are not use to that kind of stimulation.
Also, breastfeeding is hard. Sign up to see a lactation consultant before you leave the hospital (you can always cancel).
When your milk comes in there might be a period of time when your boobs feel more like rocks.
Your newborn doesn’t really interact with you for the first several weeks, even though you’re working really dang hard to keep them alive and happy. Just know, they love you and appreciate the effort 🙂
You will be thirstier than you ever though possible. Fill water bottles and put them all over your house.
It’s possible that you’ll pass some large clots in the weeks after giving birth. I was told if the clot is bigger than a lemon that I need to see a doctor.
You will miss adult conversation.
“Postpartum stink” is a thing, natural deodorant might not do it for a few weeks 🙂
Postpartum night sweats are also a thing. Always have a fresh pair of pjs to change into.
Not everyone is madly in love with their newborn, even weeks after giving birth. It will come. Be patient. You don’t need a magical moment to be a good mom. The love will come.
Postpartum anxiety and postpartum depression happen. There are different warning signs and levels of intensity; it totally depends on the person. I spoke with Jeff before both births to tell him what postpartum anxiety and/or depression might look like. We also talked about how he should approach me about it should he be worried. I recommend having these conversations with your partner and/or close friends/family so it doesn’t go untreated if you have it. You are not alone!
You might have diastasis recti (the partial or complete separate of the muscles that make up your abdomen) and need physical therapy.
Hormones are doing all sorts of things postpartum including making you lose your hair. It will grow back!
You’ll become really good at sterilizing things — bottles, pumps, binkies — you do it a. lot.
Support is just one mom away
I’m sure I’m missing things that go on this list because everyone’s experience is different. And remember, even though this list is full of random, challenging, surprising, sometimes scary things, there are sunshine, rainbows, and skin-to-skin snuggles too. Mom instincts are real. You do know what you’re doing. It does get easier.
For both of my pregnancies and births I found that having a mom tribe — virtual or in person — to text and lean on for support and questions (no matter how random or strange) is really important. If you don’t have that, send me a DM and I can be that for you. Childbirth and postpartum are hard so take care of yourself, always. You’re worth it.
Disclaimer: This blog provides general information and discussions about health and related subjects. The information and other content provided in this blog, or in any linked materials, are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice, nor is the information a substitute for professional medical expertise or treatment. If you or any other person has a medical concern, you should consult with your health care provider or seek other professional medical treatment. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something that have read on this blog or in any linked materials. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or emergency services immediately. The opinions and views expressed on this blog and website have no relation to those of any academic, hospital, health practice or other institution.