What to Expect…Post-Delivery

Here’s some advice I wish someone had given me about the post-delivery stage:

Take care of those stitches!  Avoid sitting for long periods at a time the first few days and buy a swimming tube or circle that you can sit on to help ease the pressure on the stitches. The area where my stitches were got inflamed and swollen, because I was so focused on trying to breastfeed baby during those first few days home from the hospital and so was sitting too long in the chair at a time. I also didn’t know to get a swimming circle until someone told me later. It just made it harder to take care of baby properly, and took me about 4 weeks to heal whereas for most people it takes only about a week or two!

 It feels different down there…  It’s natural to feel really strange down there (like something’s open and not closing properly…) This can continue until about 6 weeks post-delivery. There will also be some bloody discharge which can continue for the same length of time. Although everyone recommends using heavy thick maternity pads, I’ve found that it is possible to use the maternity pads for the first 2 weeks then switch to using  a mix of maternity pads, regular pads and panty liners as the flow of discharge gradually lessens over the weeks. This helps you use up those leftover sanitary pads lying around!

 Help, I’m going bald!  It certainly feels like it. I shed a lot of hair at baseline, but even my husband was shocked at the three-fold increase in hair shedding I was experiencing post-delivery. Don’t worry though, it does lessen and stabilize by about 6 months after delivery, when the hormones are more back into balance, and when baby begins solids so breastfeeding starts to drop a bit.

 Losing that baby bump…  If you breastfeed for a period of time, this will help your body get back to its pre-pregnancy weight much quicker, because of the extra calories burned by the body to sustain lactation. However, I found that the ‘baby bump’ goes away much more gradually. I think it fully disappeared about 6 months after delivery, as I continued to breastfeed and began to be more active. So remember to continue to eat a healthy diet after delivery (keeping having at least 2-3 servings of calcium rich foods a day and take a calcium supplement, as your body’s calcium needs are much higher during lactation) and get moving with some activity and exercise as appropriate.

Lastly, expect a transition period.  Perhaps some people are really ‘born to be moms’, but I didn’t find that to be the case with me. Rather, I underwent a transition phase for the first 6-7 months, and part of that time was in a pseudo-state of ‘mourning’. Sure, it was definitely a great joy to hold one’s beloved child in one’s arms and to watch that little one grow and develop each day. But as a close friend put it, it was also a time of grieving: grieving the person you once were, and grieving your loss of identity and productivity. I was so used to multi-tasking and doing 3-4 things at once (like working full-time and exceling at my job, being involved in Christian ministry, catching up with friends) but now I found all my time consumed by one job—being a mom. I found my day eaten up by changing diapers, breastfeeding, burping, changing clothes or training baby to go to sleep on her own, so much so that I often don’t have time for myself to even check email or do some other work.  And since being a mom was a completely new job for me, I felt like I was swimming in deep water, and could only slowly build up my experience and learn how to take care of a baby that was constantly growing and changing. When baby slept, I was also busy catching up on some quick much needed shut-eye myself, and by the end of the day, I knew I had to get to bed as soon as possible to get a decent block of sleep before baby woke up again. I think it took a period of at least 6 months before I started to fully enjoy being a mom and having this new role in my life. So expect a period of adjustment and transition to your new role in life…and know that it’s ok to feel the way I did!