SO – you may have noticed that I sorta went into radio silence a bit over halfway through the pregnancy! All is fine – more on that in my other blog about the last few weeks of pregnancy, labour and birth here.
But in this post, I want to talk about something that not many people do in as frank a manner as I think they should to prepare other unsuspecting first time mums-to-be! What happens after the glorious moment that baby (i.e. your new universe) is placed on your chest for the first time and your heart just about explodes as you ignore the other dozen people in the room while your legs are still akimbo while you get checked/stitched up etc etc.
NB: I can only speak with any level of expertise on my own particular labour and birth which was a pessary induced labour at 41+6 weeks of roughly 16-18hours continuously monitored with just gas+air, diamorphine resulting in Barnes-Neville forcep assisted delivery (local anaesthetic for that) with a couple inch long cut made to help get our wee man out, and about 850ml blood loss resulting in a 4.5 day hospital stay, severe anaemia and a blood transfusion.
- Whether you’re unlucky enough to be stuck in the hospital for a couple days or you head straight home once you get the all clear, the first thing you’ll notice once the drugs/ anaesthetic wears off is this: Your bits don’t feel like YOUR bits anymore. Completely unfamiliar. This continues for awhile. I started feeling familiar to myself again about 6 weeks pp, but I’m still marginally incontinent if I try and hold it too long which was NOT the case prior to birth. Do your kegels, ladies. But don’t expect miracles overnight either (I had and have been doing my own exercises!!)
- The first time you go to pee after birth will be weird (see above). And a bit of a relief, if, like me, you were catheterised briefly just after birth. There is nothing worse than feeling like you should be getting up at regular intervals to go pee normally but neither the urge or ability are there because of the catheter!
- The first time you go to poop after labour will induce a fear close to mild panic. Because you will likely feel like everything is about to fall out. And I was on heavy duty iron supplements so my digestive system did not like me – but I’ll let you in on a secret: it’s not that bad. It’s better if you utilise your hypnobirthing techniques to be as calm and relaxed as possible to get through it. This too will pass (pardon the pun)!
- Breastfeeding – contrary to lines you may be fed pre-natally, is not easy. (Disclaimer: if you aren’t intending to or aren’t able to breastfeed then no judgement whatsoever; this was just part of my journey) It’s pretty hard to start with. Getting the right latch, knowing what it feels like so you know when baby isn’t latched properly, how to fix it. The horrible interminable wait while babe cluster feeds and you don’t sleep until your milk properly comes in. The rock hard boobs, possible clogged ducts leading to mastitis from said rock hard MASSIVE boobs. Dealing with slow flow, fast flow, leaking, agonising over whether they’re getting enough. BUT. Once you get through all that – and you will get through it with some help and perseverance, it’s a beautiful quiet bonding experience with baby. The first time I properly gave Christian a bottle to get him used to feeding with both so he could be babysat if needed without me panicking over whether he would get hungry – I cried because I missed the closeness I feel feeding him myself. You will look murderously at your partner, slumbering peacefully, with his useless nipples in the middle of the night sometimes, though. And that’s totally normal and okay.
- The postpartum body. The belly. What once felt like it is going to burst may now resemble an apron pocket filled with mushed up jelly. I also didn’t get stretch marks until 39 weeks. They just appeared one morning (I was livid!) so my tummy is now tiger-striped too. I also have NO ab strength to speak of, and my back is weakened from carrying Christian, it has gone in to spasm twice from me not paying attention to how I’m moving and lifting things. Slowly building my strength back up and attempting to love the skin I’m in now! Takes some effort and work! These photos are 10 weeks pp.
- You’ll feel both lonely all the time and mourn the fact that you’ll rarely truly do much alone ever again (including bathing or going to the toilet, FYI). It’s a strange oxymoron.
- You may struggle to reconcile your new self and identity with the self you were before baby arrived – or even before you were pregnant. Also totally normal. It’s not easy to take this new “mummy” part of you, that is first to get up and comfort baby when they cry or meet their need in some form, and try and fit that in with being a wife/partner, being in your own right with your own needs. You will often ignore your own needs – and that’s not always a good thing. Your other half may wonder when you’ll actually want them near you or touching you again! Your body and mind has gone through some massive changes. I’m still working on it. Jiggly bits, stretch marks, things not being quite how they were before. I’ll get there – so will you. My advice – Talk about it – either with yourself through a journal, with your partner or with another mummy who will totally get it.
No matter what kind of birth you had, I salute you. Its one of the most difficult things to do but it is so worthwhile and I would do it over again – and probably will!
What was your experience? I’d love to hear about it.