Although I knew postpartum was rough, I didn’t understand how rough it could be until I was in it. It was one of the hardest periods of my life since it was mentally, physically and emotionally challenging. I was healing from birth, had breastfeeding pain, mental breakdowns, and even hallucinated from extreme sleep deprivation… all while taking care of a newborn baby that would not stop crying. I rarely slept and when I did, it was in 30-60min increments since I was breastfeeding every 1-2 hours, 24/7. To say it was rough would be an understatement, I was in survival mode and felt like I was barely staying afloat.
While everyone’s experience is different, for me the 1st week was the worst and each week after got significantly better. I didn’t get that initial butterfly instant-love feeling for my baby since I was exhausted and emotionally drained with no space to “feel” anything except survival instincts. Looking back, I think the root cause of this was from extreme sleep deprivation and the fact that our newborn was constantly crying unless he was fed or sleeping. I probably slept a total of 5-hours via cat naps 4-days following labor, then never slept longer then an hour at a time for several days. I entered motherhood with poor and unrealistic expectations because no-one really talks about the “real shit” that happens during postpartum. I felt deceived by influencers who give birth, and make it look like rainbow and butterflies shortly after (not to mention they look perfect too), which negatively impacted my emotional well-being since I started comparing myself to them. My guess is they probably had a lot of help, got lucky with an easy baby, and/or didn’t show the “real stuff” to make it look blissful.
So here are my honest truths, and things I personally wish I knew about postpartum. If you’re a first time soon-to-be mom, hopefully this will help you be more mentally prepared than I was! Or if you’ve gone through it and had a similar experience to me, know you’re not alone.
10 things I wish I knew about postpartum
1) Everyone says breastfeeding is hard, but no-one explains details why…
- It really fkn hurts in the beginning. Your nipples get sucked on aggressively and never have time to heal since you’re constantly feeding around the clock. You have to bear through the pain if you want to produce milk since the “sucking” is what stimulates and regulates milk flow. It’s normal for nipples to crack or bleed but fortunately mine never did thanks to this nipple cream I religiously put on after every feeding. Outside of the physical pain, it’s mentally draining being the sole provider of food/nutrition for your baby. The constant night feedings killed me. I did not enjoy breastfeeding at first and wanted to give up so many times because of how emotionally and physically taxing it was. I’m glad I endured through the pain though, because now it’s super easy and I actually enjoy it.
2) It takes 3-5 days for your breastmilk to come in, and when it does your boobs might get rock hard and hurt like a mother fuc**er
- After birth, your breasts produce colostrum which is a more richer, nutrient-dense form of milk. Actual breastmilk typically comes a few days later, and my milk came full force day 5 after I showered. The hot water must have triggered “let-down” (when your breast milk starts flowing) because it happened so fast and my boobs were in excruciating pain. They got rock hard and I formed 3 hard lumps in my armpits from clogged milk ducts since breast tissue extends up to your armpits. When I talked to my friends about it, some of them experienced a similar situation when their milk first came in and also formed a huge lump in their armpit. Who knew all this was normal?
3) You will likely resent your husband (or partner) in the beginning
- It’s funny looking back now, but in the early days I was so jealous of Josh… for simply being a man. For not having to go through the pain of childbirth, healing, breastfeeding, and being able to sleep in stretches over 1-hour. Compared to most moms I’ve talked to, Josh did a lot. He cleaned, fed me, changed diapers, burped the baby and was very involved yet I still resented him for not being in as much pain as me, or as sleep deprived as me. Whenever I breastfed Luke in the beginning, I remember yelling at him on how he doesn’t understand how hard it is, and how lucky he is. Now it’s something I laugh about with my other mom friends, because we all felt this way.
4) You bleed for up to 6-weeks
- The first 2-days I bled so much it went through the bedsheets. I was still at the hospital during this time so thank goodness nurses cleaned/switched everything out for me. By the time I went home on day 3, the bleeding subsided but I still bled for 2-weeks. After 2-weeks it turned into spotting then completely went away around 5-weeks. I remember how glorious it felt when I finally wore real underwear without a pad again.
5) It hurts to sit down in the beginning
- There’s a reason why they recommend bedrest the first 1-2 weeks. I made the mistake of sitting down on an outdoor couch for 1-hour, 1-week post birth and when I got up I felt like my vagina took a step back in the healing process. I felt so much pain and soreness down there from the pressure that got applied. If you do want to sit, sit on a donut pillow so you avoid putting pressure on your vagina. You gotta let it breathe those first few weeks!
6) Your linea negra (pregnancy line) takes months to fade
- I’m writing this 3-months postpartum and still have the linea negra line although its way more faded now. My belly button is still dark although it is now back to being an innie.
7) Sleep is SO important. Do whatever you can to sleep even if it means kicking your husband/partner out of the hospital room (or house) with a crying baby so you can nap.
- Everyone says “sleep when the baby sleeps” and I honestly found that quote unhelpful because to me it was obvious. I literally could ONLY sleep when Luke was sleeping and wished I had more opportunities to sleep when he wasn’t sleeping since his naps only lasted 30-minutes long, 24/7. When he wasn’t sleeping he was either being fed by me or crying.
- I was so unhappy in the beginning because of how sleep deprived I was. It’s tough when you’re exclusively breastfeeding since you’re the only one feeding every 1-3 hours so have to get up around the clock to feed. I know what you’re thinking… why didn’t you use formula or have Josh feed the baby? I didn’t use formula since I was “feeding on demand” and wanted the baby to regulate my boobs since milk production works by supply and demand. I never had a problem with undersupply because of this. I also didn’t have Josh feed because it was honestly more work… read 7.
8) It’s more work and time-consuming pumping compared to breastfeeding
- Although breastfeeding is painful, pumping is more work. With pumping you have to… put on your pumping bra, pump, feed, clean the pump parts/bottles, sterilize, and then prepare the bottle to feed. Some woman like to pump since it gives the partner an opportunity to feed and you can get a “break” but I found it inefficient since it was double the work and required us to constantly go to the kitchen. With breastfeeding you just plop out your boob and there’s nothing to clean afterwards (outside of your sticky chest from spit-up or spilled milk). Now that I’m used to it though, it’s way easier/faster and I ironically love breastfeeding now. Most women end up pumping when they go back to work, which I’ll likely have to do.
9) You will cry, all the time for the most bizarre reasons
- I was a wreck that first week and never cried so much in my life. I’m not an emotional person either so felt crazy until I talked to other mom friends who also all cried a lot. Your hormones are all over the place, you feel different, and it’s a lot to adjust to. Whenever I had a chance to sleep, it was hard for me to actually fall asleep because of my emotions and anxiety. I remember being so delusional that I cried myself to sleep one time in fear of hallucinating again. I eventually fell asleep, then cried when I woke up because I was so happy to finally get 1-hour of sleep. “Cry me a river” could be the song theme of my first week postpartum lol.
10) Know that everything is normal, and don’t feel guilty about anything
- Even the most bizarre scenarios that happened to me were normal. I didn’t know it at the time until I openly talked and shared about my experiences and there was always someone that said the same thing happened to them. There are so many changes that happen after birth and adjusting to your new role as a mom is a huge change with a steep learning curve. It’s like taking on a new 24/7 job without any prior experience.
There’s so much pressure on being a mom, and pressure moms tend to put on themselves. Being a mom is constant work, unbelievably tiring, but one of the most fulfilling things ever. Don’t ever feel guilty for anything during postpartum because you have every right to feel the way you do, and it is ALL normal. At the end of the day, it’s impossible to take care of a baby if you yourself aren’t taken care of and in a good mental state. The days I got rest, were the days I had more patience with Luke and could be a better mother to him. So through it all, know that you’re doing an AMAZING job, you just birthed a miracle baby, and you will get through this! You got this mama. xoxo