There’s tons of advice aimed at new moms out there, but I think harsh postpartum realities are often glossed over when it comes to sharing realistic expectations with new moms. Yea, yea. ‘You’re going to lose sleep’, ‘Your body will look different, but accept it and love it.’, ‘You’ll need help.’, but nothing about the real grimy parts of postpartum life. The truth is most women who want to be mothers aren’t going to shy away from postpartum realities anyway, but mental foresight can go such a long way when it comes to preparation for this new life stage.
That said, these are more just a few of things I wished someone would have mentioned, even in passing to me while I was pregnant. I hope they can help a new mom somewhere out there.
1. Breastfeeding is Extremely Painful
With all the talk about breastfeeding and its benefits, what often gets lost in translation is what a truly painful experience it is in the first few days and weeks. For all the frailties of a newborn, their sucking reflexes are instinctual and vicious. And this is without any latching problems. So if you add that to the mix…
I cried tears those first few weeks and often questioned my sanity for continuing with it. Those every two-hour feedings, are well talked about. The fact that a single feeding session lasted as long as thirty to 45 minutes sometimes was not, and as you can imagine contributed equally to the lack of sleep.
It takes some getting used to before you will get to the enjoyment part of breastfeeding. Some women never get there at all, and that’s okay too. Don’t feel bad.
When I had my child, I lost feeling in my nipples for about two-plus years. I’d even felt fearful the feeling would never return and was too embarrassed to bring it up with my Obgyn. It was an equally daunting experience to mention it to my husband. Uh-huh… I can tell you, there’s nothing sexy about unfeeling nipples. Especially when you are feeling all kinds of unfamiliar with your new weird-looking body. The return of sensitivity in my own nipples was painfully slow, and that was something too that I’d never hear anyone discuss. Perhaps it’s not very common, but that pain… whew!
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2. Newborn Babies Outgrow Diapers – Fast!
Newborns don’t rapidly outgrow just clothes. Diapers are one of those everyday baby items that cost more than you can imagine. Loved ones and well wishers typically gift diapers in droves. However, you’ll go through them fast, and although you may be tempted to buy large quantities at a time to save money, your new baby will outgrow the sizes almost just as fast.
When my daughter was young, about 0-4 months old, we found ourselves less than halfway through packs of diapers a number of times, simply because she outgrew them and if we wanted the poop to say inside the diaper, we’d need a size up. And fast. She was born a tiny baby, which made her a perfect fit for Huggins newborn diapers, but weeks to fit into Pampers Size 1. So if your expecting and you can manage it, use a baby shower wishlist and pace yourself on the diaper sizes.
3. You May Get Your Cycle Back Fast – Even If You Exclusively Breastfeed
Ah, yes. The unicorn stories about how very common it was for exclusively breastfeeding mothers to experience a delay in the return of their cycle. This, I was excited for, even if it was only for one month, I was ready. A family member who had her baby 10 months before I did hadn’t gotten her cycle back by the time I was due so I was ready for that to happen to me. *Clucks tongue*
Mother Nature said “aht, aht”! Exactly four weeks after giving birth, exclusively breastfeeding from my tits and not even bottles, my cycle made its appearance. Boy, was I mad! I kept thinking about how if I hadn’t listened to my doctor and been back on the ‘sexy-time’ wagon, Baby Reid 2.0 might have been cooking.
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4. Your Stomach May Get Really Dark After Giving Birth
No one, and I mean no one mentioned this to me at all. As a black woman who made it to the end of my pregnancy with my belly the same color as the rest of my body, I had absolutely no reason to expect that three to four shades darker stomach I saw when I woke up with the next day without the fog of surgery. I half panicked, wondering ‘What the hell is this?!’
I also wondered why my belly looked as if they might have forgotten to take the baby out it was still so big. Somehow, my inexperience had me thinking of my uterus as a sort of balloon. If the baby came out, why wouldn’t it deflate? And why was it so squishy and jiggly? More things nobody told me.
The darkness of my stomach [the majority of it] went away after a few months. But even now, I can still see it is slightly darker than my ribs area.
5. Most of My Stretch Marks Came After I Gave Birth
No one told me that the itchiness of my butt in the tramp stamp areas were stretch marks coming in from the new baby-weight. You see, for most of my pregnancy, my weight was all belly and hips. The real stuff that made me uncomfortable didn’t happen until my baby had already exited stage left. My Boobs went from small B cups to Cups during pregnancy, to the rock hard D cups that didn’t show up till I started breastfeeding. And you guessed it, that when most of the boob stretching occurred.
That truly shocked me. On all the talk of weight gain. none once mentioned gaining weight after the baby landed. Only about losing the weight.
6. I Wasn’t Madly in Love or Felt Like a Mom as Soon as I Saw My Baby
After a lot of private DM conversations with new moms, I feel like women are led to believe that all these insanely powerful motherly instincts and love are instantaneous when you give birth to your baby. So when that doesn’t happen immediately, women think they are awful mothers (on top of the anxiety) and that something is wrong with them. I am not saying you don’t love your baby, but when I although I had raw instincts to love, protect and take care of my child, falling madly in love with my child as a person took me a bit of time for me, and I don’t feel bad about it at all.
I loved my baby from the moment I knew she was growing inside me. But when she came out and I knew what she looked like, how she cried, how she cooed, how she slept, what she liked what she didn’t like, watching her name fit her, that was my in love process.
As for motherly instincts, ha! For several years after having her, the notion that was her mom [anyone’s mom] remained surreal. For twenty-seven years, I was Shandean. By myself. For nearly a decade, I was a while adult woman with no responsibility and accountability to anyone but myself. suddenly, I was responsible for the literal life of someone else. Excuse me if that took a bit of getting used to.
7. Resumption of Sex was Scary and Painful
It’s one thing to feel like your libido goes down the tubes, but what happens when it returns, but you’re scare to try it out? In truth, resuming my sex life was scary. Even when I was aroused and wanted to, after months of inactivity, getting back into the groove took some doing.
In addition to that, things weren’t as moist in the nether regions after giving birth. At least, not like they used to be for a while there. This didn’t help matters none, as you can imagine. Yet another thing, I felt subconscious discussing with my Obgyn. Luckily, after a year or so, things started oiling up right.
Not to mention, there’s something different about the sex when you were open to getting pregnant versus when you know you could pop up pregnant with a new baby. Girl, the nerves!
Of course, all the things I’ve mentioned were personal experiences that I have come to learn are in fact, quite common. So while they may not be your own experiences, it may be helpful to know about them. Being a new mom is hard enough. A new mom doesn’t need the ugly parts of motherhood to be whitewashed going in. Most of us, solider up regardless, but a bit of insight can help tremendously I think.
What are some postpartum realities you wish you were made aware of going into motherhood? Let’s talk in the comments!
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