Everyone prepares you for the labor and delivery of a baby, but you do not hear much about the week following. I wish that I was better prepared for the week following the birth of my first child. You spend a very quick two days in the hospital, and then you are sent home, baby in arms, to be a mom. Your hospital stay will be longer if you have a C-section, but so will your recovery period. I thought that the hard part of labor and delivery was over, but to my surprise, my first week in recovery was quite difficult! It was basically a week from hell! I’m sure that it is different for everyone, but here is my experience. Hopefully it will prepare you for what is to come.
The birth of my first child was not easy, but thanks to an epidural, I delivered (after 12 hours of labor and 2 hours of pushing) a healthy 9 lb, 6 oz, 23 inch long son. Yes, he was big and continues to be the tallest in his class every year. I delivered vaginally and tore and required several stitches. Ouch! is all I can say. I delivered him at 7:10 am on a Saturday morning and was home by noon on Monday to begin my life as a Mom. I will say that the taking care of the baby part in itself was not difficult for me, but coupled with soreness, being uncomfortable, extreme exhaustion, and hosting visitors, it was hard!
Here are some things to know about surviving the week after the birth of your baby.
Do not be afraid to ask for help. Have friends and family come over and help take care of the baby so you can sleep. I was so tired all the time from endless feedings 24 hours a day and when you are tired, you loose perspective. If help is offered to you, take it! If nobody offers, ask for help!
Schedule prepared meals for your family. Enlist the help of a friend to do this for you. They can make a few calls and have prepared meals brought to you for a few weeks. My church offers this to new moms and it was wonderful. You don’t necessarily need a meal every night because you can eat leftovers and take-out occasionally. You should not be standing in the kitchen preparing food when you are in recovery.
Get plenty of rest. Sleeping while the baby is sleeping is a must! I know this is extremely difficult especially if you don’t have very much help. I assure you that it is better for you to sleep and feel refreshed than to have a clean house. When you are tired, everything negative is magnified and seems worse than it actually is. Proper sleep will also help your body with the healing process.
Limit visitors during the first week. You will be tempted to show off your new one right away, but waiting a week will give you all a chance to get into a routine and get rest. Of course family and your closest friend may want to come right away, but others won’t mind waiting. Invite several over at a time to minimize the amount of day this takes up. Don’t feel like you need to entertain them. They came to see the baby and you, not enjoy a meal.
Your emotions will soar. Be ready for an emotional roller coaster. I am not necessarily talking about post-partum depression although some new mothers do experience this and if you do it is important to seek help. I actually mean that you will be happy and the next minute crying. Lack of sleep, pain medication, night feedings, new responsibility all contribute to these unstable emotions. You may feel inadequate as a mother, but rest assured that if you wait a few weeks, you will have a clearer perspective. I remember sitting on the recliner and crying. I felt so overwhelmed by my new responsibility and couldn’t put my finger on exactly why I was crying. I had to reassure my husband that I wasn’t going to do anything rash like leave, and I would be fine. This is when I enlisted more help from family.
Be prepared with personal supplies. Unless you want to send your husband to the store for Tucks pads and feminine products, you should have these things on hand. You will need enough pads for several weeks. If you are used to using tampons, you will have to now get used to using pads and pantiliners for a while. Don’t be alarmed at how much you will bleed. I was surprised by this and couldn’t believe how frequently I needed to change pads. Tucks pads will be helpful especially if you have stitches or spent a long time pushing. They are very soothing to the area down there. Soft ice packs are great and help the swelling to go down. Soft pillows to sit on are a good idea. I used the Boppy that I was given at a baby shower. It’s a U shaped pillow and was great to sit on for extra comfort. Of course you will need pain medication, but will probably be given this at the hospital by your doctor.
Be ready to face the dreaded constipation. Nobody told me until after I’d given birth that I would not be able to have a bowel movement easily for several days. You can request a stool softener from your doctor, but it didn’t help me that much. Have a good supply of fiber rich foods and fruit juices and drink plenty of water. Prune juice, fruits and vegetables, and foods such as beans, fiber cereal, and bran muffins will help. Be warned that having a bowel movement is very bothersome if you have stitches that are healing.
Ask if you have questions. Do not be afraid to call the doctor’s office and ask questions. No question is insignificant especially if something is concerning you. If you have a problem with your physical recovery, do not hesitate to call for help. Use family and friends as resources. I think I called my mother a million times during the first few weeks and she was happy to help. Invest in a good baby care book which will have answers to most of your basic questions.
You will eventually want to have sex again. You will recover and feel normal again. Your body will heal and you will eventually want to have sex although this will be a distant thought for several weeks. I actually thought I never would because it just didn’t feel normal down there, but sure enough, everything got back to normal!