I prepared for the birth of my son as though it was a college final. I studied for nine months. I read every book, subscribed to all the mommy blogs and spent hours Googling every piece of information my pregnant mind could absorb. I became a walking encyclopedia and when it was time to welcome my little bundle of joy into this world, I was ready.
When they placed my son on my chest, I knew I had this in the bag. I had perfected my swaddling skills weeks ago. When he was only a few minutes old and he was searching for some milk, I was prepared. I had my lactation consultant (AKA my “breastie”) on speed dial. I was acing this test with flying colors.
That is, until the nurse handed me a white, plastic bag and said, “here’s everything you’ll need.” Need? For what? Clearly, I had skipped a course in my Pregnancy 101 curriculum. So, soon-to-be first-time mommies, take notes. Here’s your crash course in post-partum care and the 10 things that nobody will tell you about.
- Mesh Panties: Trust me when I say these are probably the most amazing invention ever. One-size fits all, stretchy, comfortable, breathable underwear. You may be appalled at the sound of them now, but after delivering a watermelon, you will be thankful you have something non-constricting for your delicate lady parts. Plus, they fit just perfectly over your now squishy belly. My advice—when they discharge you from the hospital, ask for some to take home with you.
- Lady Diapers: In addition to the extremely attractive mesh panties, you’ll have what I have dubbed the lady diaper. In reality, it’s actually the biggest maxi pad you’ve ever seen in your entire life. These go inside the mesh panties and helps with all of the post-partum bleeding.
- Squirt Bottle: If you aren’t lucky enough to have a sitz bath, you may be provided a squirt bottle. It’s not to help you stay hydrated. It’s to clean yourself after going to the bathroom. Following a vaginal delivery, it hurts to wipe, so in an effort to maintain some sort of personal hygiene, squirt yourself clean. Fill with warm water and proceed after every bathroom break.
- Tucks Pads: They look similar to eye makeup remover pads, but only a million times better! Tucks are medicated pads and can be used to treat hemorrhoids (yes, those happen after birth, too) and vaginal tears. After you squirt, dab a Tucks down there. You can also buy them at your local pharmacy.
- Pain Reliving Spray: This takes the edge off and provides a little more comfort down there. My bathroom ritual went as follows— squirt, dab with a Tucks Pad and a quick spray with this miracle worker.
- The First Poop: I’m not talking about baby’s first poop either, but your first poop. The nurses should give you stool softeners. Take them! A few days after my delivery, I felt the urge to go #2 and I was thanking the heavens above that I had taken my stool softeners. I was terrified to go to the bathroom. My inside were bruised, and my lady parts were stitched, swollen and sore. The thought of passing something else through my body brought tears to my eyes. Luckily, I survived, thanks to my boyfriend’s coaching through the other side of the bathroom door. And my stool softeners.
- 3 a.m. Feedings: If you are breastfeeding, be prepared for early morning feedings. For both baby and you. My milk came in the day I got home from the hospital and in the wee hours of the morning, I was nursing my son in bed. I was starving and shaking my snoring boyfriend awake, screaming, “I need you to get me some cheese and crackers!” From then on, I always kept a snack and water on the nightstand. Breastfeeding requires extra energy in order for your body produce milk and until your supply regulates, both you and baby will be eating at 3 a.m.
- Hormonal Rollercoaster: My doctor had talked to me about the Baby Blues and Postpartum Depression, but nobody really prepared me for the extreme hormonal shifts that would occur in the days following labor. My first days home from the hospital were spent crying. I cried watching TV. I cried because I was taking a shower. I cried because I was crying. You can’t control it and it does get better, but if you are acting like a hysterical, crazy person bawling your eyes out because of a McDonald’s commercial, just know it’s probably your hormones.
- Hair Loss: About a month into my post-partum journey, I started noticing my hair was falling out. Not just a few pieces, but actual handfuls. I was certain that something was wrong, so I called my doctor. Nothing was wrong. My doctor told me that during pregnancy, your hair slows down the rate at which it falls out and after the baby is born, a decrease in your body’s estrogen levels causes the hair to resume the normal rate at which at shreds. You won’t go bald and between six to 12 months, your hair will be back to normal.
- Body Changes: This may go without saying, but your body changes after giving birth. But not like you may think. I was certain, I’d be back to my pre-baby bod by the time I returned to work. I’m seven months postpartum and while I’ve lost most of my baby weight, my body isn’t “normal.” My hips are wider, my boobs are still huge and my feet are half a size bigger than they were. I’m adjusting to this new body and learning what looks best on it. Plus, who doesn’t love a good excuse to go shoe shopping?