We all get a lot of advice during pregnancy whether we want it or not. It’s one of those special times of life when people feel like they can just comment on everything. During pregnancy I read all the books, all the articles, listened to all the podcasts, talked to all my sisters and friends, but I still had some surprises. In hopes to shed some light on the subject for those of you embarking on this child baring journey, these are 5 things I was NOT prepared for postpartum.
1) How wrecked my body would feel.
I had heard recovery postpartum was rough, but I didn’t know how rough. The first day after my c-section, the nurse asked me to stand up out of bed to help get the circulation going. I thought “oh of course, that’s an easy enough task.” Let me tell you, I was humbled real quick. I could barely even lift my legs to move them to the side of the bed. With some assistance, I finally got them over. Then I had to get my torso up off the bed. It took all my strength grabbing onto my husbands arm and I finally got there. Then the real task, actually putting weight on my legs and standing up. With help from my husband and the nurse I trembled to a hunched over stance. Oh boy, I wanted to cry! At that point I felt like I was never going to recover. The next day my first walk to the sink (which was about 5 feet away from the bed) felt like I had ran a mile up hill with knives in my abdomen. I was happy to find, however, that each day I felt more and more recovered. A friend gave me advice to stand up and walk as soon as I could post C-section to help with recovery, and I found that to be true. In the moment it felt like the worst idea, but I know I would’ve been much worse off had I not moved those first few days.
2) How hungry I would be.
I knew what pregnancy did to my appetite, but I had no idea how much breastfeeding and labor recovery would effect it. I have never felt more famished in my life then that first week home from the hospital. At the hospital I wasn’t too hungry, I think it took a few days for my internal systems to get back to normal after surgery. Fast forward a few days, I was ravenous! I was so grateful for friends and family bringing us dinners and filling our fridge. I would eat a big meal, and an hour later feel like I hadn’t eaten all day! My appetite lessened a bit after the first couple of weeks, but I’m still much hungrier than I was during pregnancy and I'm four months postpartum. I’ve tried to stay on top of it with handy snacks in the fridge like homemade protein balls, cheese & apples, beef jerky, peanut butter & banana, and lots of oatmeal! Most days I’m eating every 2.5 - 3 hours. If you are postpartum, and especially if you’re breastfeeding, now is not the time to skimp on calories, and you should not feel ashamed if your plate is bigger than your husbands. Own it girl :)
3) That my pelvic floor muscles could actually be tighter after trying to squeeze a baby out, not looser!
A common misconception about our bodies postpartum is that it will stretch everything out, we’ll have to pee all the time, and we should do lots of kegals. While this may be true for some women, this was not the case for me. The muscles making up my pelvic floor actually rebounded tighter than they were pre-pregnancy. My core was already pretty tight going into pregnancy. During pregnancy I spent a lot of time really working on that lift breath. That background plus the trauma of my birth ended up being the perfect storm for an overly tight pelvic floor postpartum. I thought this was the case on my own, and then had it confirmed when I went to my pelvic floor physical therapist. I’m now working on this. The good news is it can be improved upon! This is why I highly recommend everyone go see a physical therapist postpartum and not just follow advice to do kegals! What is needed for one body may not be the best advice for another.
4) How physically demanding caring for a baby is.
I’ve strength trained for a long time, and even though I wasn’t in my best shape before and during pregnancy, I viewed myself as a pretty strong woman. Baby nurturing rocked my world! The constant holding, feeding, rocking, burping, lifting, strolling, all take a HUGE toll on your back, neck, and shoulders. I don’t know if there’s any amount of exercise one could do to be fully prepared for these demands. It’s becoming easier, but man those first few weeks my body was aching constantly! I would invest in a good baby carrier, and let your husband hold the baby when he’s around, don’t try to do it all on your own! Take time to stretch as well. This became my morning and nightly ritual. I throw down my yoga mat and find some zen time first thing in the morning and after I put him down for the night. Also, really focus on how you’re holding your baby, and picking him up. Use proper form and posture. Try not to let those shoulders slouch over, and do your best to switch our carrying arm throughout the day. I have a post about this on my instagram, check it out here.
5) How intense my emotions would be, both the ups and downs.
I’d heard about baby blues, but I didn’t know how many different emotions would be involved! This mostly effected me in the first 2 months postpartum. I would look at my husband holding Ivan and just burst into tears of pure joy! It was so overwhelming. Then the next minute I’d be crying thinking about him growing up and changing. I would just stare at him and feel a deep sadness about him growing up and becoming a man. Then I’d feel this intense rush of love. I didn’t know I could feel so strongly about someone so quickly. I thought I knew love when I got married, but my love for my husband has grown so much while we’ve both fallen crazy in love with this little boy of ours. Sometimes I think my heart is literally going to burst right out of my chest!
Can any of you relate? I would love to hear your stories. Let me know what surprised you postpartum!