No one really talks about the postpartum period. I think it does women a disservice. When new moms are smack dab in the middle of postpartum they feel like they're alone or that what they're going through is not normal. And, people talk about c-section recovery even less. Before having a c-section I had no idea what the procedure entailed nor how trying the recovery period was. So, I'm going to talk about it based on my experiences with both types of birth.
1. The Stench. Oh man, the stench is horrible. Okay, I'm someone who smells normally. I have tried a million different natural deodorants and I can't do it. Well, I don't like wearing deodorant when I'm breastfeeding my newborn. I don't want him to be overstimulated by the smell nor do I want to expose him to any potential chemicals. But, after a while I worry that my husband is going to move out--kidding of course, but he gags every time I lift my arms. Anyways, I've heard that postpartum stink is a real thing so it's not just me.
2. The Night Sweats. Related to the first thing I talked about are the night sweats. A lot of my fellow moms say they sweat excessively all the time after giving birth, but for me it's really just at nighttime. I'm like a teenager again, except in addition to waking in pools of sweat, I am also covered in milk.
3. The Boob Focus. For me, it's the engorgement and leaking, but I know for others. it's feeling judged for not nursing or being concerned that they're not making enough milk. For me, once my milk comes in my boobs go crazy. On the way home from our four day check up I had to hand express into my shirt because my boobs were like torpedoes and it hurt! Luckily it isn't as bad this time because nursing a toddler is like having a convenient pump (one that's just for draining not milk storage). Speaking of nursing a toddler, it's crazy how different nursing a toddler and newborn is. But I digress. The engorgement is intense. After both my babies I have had strong letdowns that I feel for months. I also leak a TON. Without breast pads, my shirts are constantly milk stained.
4. The Bleeding. After my first born I bled for around 7 weeks. This time I am almost five weeks postpartum and still need to wear pads. It's not always consistent either. Just when you think you're good and don't need a pantyliner, you end up bleeding and needing to change your clothes while your newborn is asleep in your arms and your toddler is having a meltdown. Also, did you know that bleeding happens after both vaginal and cesarean births? I am embarrassed to admit that I didn't. Somehow I assumed that my bleeding was due to my vaginal birth and tearing the first time. Now I know it has to do with your uterus so it doesn't matter what type of birth you have, you will bleed.
5. The Pooping. No one wants to poop postpartum. And the pain meds can make your postpartum poops almost impossible. Get a squatty potty, you'll thank me.
6. The Body Image. I find that at first I feel really thin after giving birth and then I feel saggy and out of shape. My butt becomes like a deflated balloon because it seems to plump up during pregnancy and then just fall after.
7. The Hunger. I always have a huge appetite, but in my early postpartum days I am ravenous. I'm talking eat in the middle of the night, grab whatever is closest, crave all the food hungry. It starts to return to my normal "I want to eat more than a normal person my size probably should" hunger eventually, but pregnancy cravings and hunger have nothing on postpartum.
8. The Post-Cesarean Stomach Numbness. I never knew this was a thing. I guess it has to do with all the nerves at the incision site, but it is bizarre to lose feeling in a part of your body where you have always had sensation. I've heard that for some it comes back, and for others it never goes away.
9. The Emotions. My hormones have seemed much more even keeled this time around. I remember my husband walking in on me crying after our first was born and asking what was wrong. I tearfully replied, "I just love him so much." Also, sometimes it gets better and then worse.
Overall, the postpartum period can be a doozy. It is both beautiful and challenging, exciting and scary, incredible and confusing. I also think it's important to remember that there is no end to "postpartum." There is no right way or one way to heal, cope, or experience. Give yourself grace and patience and don't forget to find humor in this amazing journey.