Postpartum - The Whole TruthAllison Hutton
You have made it. You have endured labor, and delivered your child into this world. You feel powerful, gracious, and thankful. However, you aren't too upset that it's over now, are you? But is it really over? The answer is no. The postpartum period can be filled with as much emotion and confusion as the entire nine months that lead up to it.
Usually, the postpartum period is classified as the six weeks following delivery. During this time, you can expect hormonal changes, similar to those experienced during pregnancy. On a personal note, I feel that my hormones were much worse after I had my baby. If I looked at her, I cried. If I thought of her, I cried. I was very happy, mind you; I just couldn't believe that I could love anyone so much. And that thought made me cry, too. I could write a book on the things that triggered my crying fits, during and after pregnancy, but I won't bore you with the details. Just be prepared to be VERY emotional.
You may also notice that you feel sad, lonely, left out or angry during the postpartum period. This condition, known as the "Baby Blues," is common, and effects between 50-75% of all new mothers. Although it may only last a few hours, it can also last a month or so. Along with the emotional aspects of "Baby Blues," you may also notice that you have trouble sleeping, you're irritable, and cry often. If the symptoms worsen, you may be suffering from a deeper form of depression, known as "Postpartum Depression." Approximately 10-20% of new mothers experience this condition. Characteristics include lack of appetite, thoughts of harming yourself or baby, sleeplessness, anger, hopelessness and anxiety. This condition is easily treatable, so consult your doctor immediately.
Most physicians will ask that you refrain from sex for six weeks after delivery. I feel that six months would be more appropriate, but I digress. The purpose for this time of abstinence is to let your body heal. This includes preventing infections that could be caused by sexual intercourse; much needed time for healing of an episiotomy (if you had one), and to regain your overall sense of well being. It appears that, although most men can not remember their anniversary, they know when that six-week mark will hit without batting an eye. My husband did. And he watched it pass right by. Don't feel obligated to have sex, because your husband is anxious to. However, if you are just as anxious to resume sexual relations, than more power to you. Just be sure to let you body tell you when its' ready.
Now, I have shared with you the "typical" what to expect. This is information that you will be provided with. However, for those of you who are first-time mothers, there is another side. A side that mom never told you about. Things happen after delivery. Weird things. And I was completely unprepared for them. I never read this information anywhere, and only ever discussed with my friends, after the fact. The next time around, I will be prepared, and I feel it's my duty to share it with you now.
After you deliver your baby, you may shake uncontrollably. You may also sweat, vomit, or feel the need for a bowel movement. Keep in mind that, during this time, your doctor is assisting in the delivery of the placenta. If you feel sick or uncomfortable, ask your doctor or nurse for assistance. You may also notice that the floor is covered with a lot of fluid. I couldn't believe that all of this came from my body, and it made me queasy to think about it. They will allow you to rest and hold your baby for a while, but the time will come when you need a shower. When I stood up out of bed, the rush of blood and fluids that came from my body sent me into a tailspin. Be prepared for this. I was not, and turned into a raving lunatic when it happened. I thought I was dyingor something. After all, this didn't seem normal. Rest assured, it is.
So, you've showered, and the nurses have been kind enough to offer you those lovely hospital-grade maxi pads. And if you are really lucky, they will give you some disposable mesh underwear, too. When I put a pair of these on, my rear end looked like a Christmas ham. But they were free, so who was I to argue? Additionally, I thought no one would really see them. I was wrong. Although hospitals differ as to their postpartum routine, most will stick to a similar regimen. This regimen can include the checking of "potential hemorrhoids." Yes, every few hours, a nurse came to check and see if I had any hemorrhoids developing. I assured her several times that, in fact, I did not. But, she insisted on checking herself. Looking back, I can't believe I was able to carry on conversations about the weather, while someone probed around my behind. However, having a baby changes you, and your modesty. You will find this out on your own.
So, you've done your stint at the hospital, and you are ready to take that bundle of joy home. It is, after all, a momentous occasion! When you get home, you will hit a wall; especially if this is your first child. I was so happy my parents came to stay, because all I wanted to do was sleep. My mom accommodated me, and tended to Hannah while I drifted off to dreamland. Of course, the dreams were interrupted by a hungry baby every hour or so, but that was fine with me. This leads me to breastfeeding. Be prepared for pain, at first. If you can stick it out for just a few days, the pain will stop, I promise. I really didn't know if I was going to be able to do it. When she latched on, my toes curled, as I tensed in pain. But before I knew it, I was nursing while I was frying eggs. It will get better with time, and it's a very rewarding experience.
Your doctor may tell you that it will be normal to pass some "blood clots" within the first few days of being home. They aren't too specific here. They should say, "If you notice clots the size of lemons, don't be concerned. It's normal." Because that is exactly what it was like. Of course, I panicked, and I called my doctor immediately. They insisted it was normal, and just my uterus healing itself. I found that extremely hard to believe, but I am still here, so they must have been right. You can expect anywhere from three to six weeks of discharge, ranging from bright red, to pink, to clear. Eventually the bleeding will stop, and life can return to normal. Well, not quite.
You see, I found that when you gain weight during pregnancy, it's okay; after all you are pregnant. But once that baby is born, there's a lot left over that wiggles and jiggles. Granted, there are a lucky few who can have a baby, and get right back into their pre-pregnancy wardrobe. I am not one of those people. In fact, I wore my maternity clothes for several weeks after Hannah was born. It can be frustrating, upsetting, and feel like a losing battle. But remember that it took 10 months to put the weight on, and it may take at least that, to get it off.
When all is said and done, you will be amazed at how much you have gone through, and at the end result. I must say that being pregnant with Hannah was a life-changing, empowering experience. Sure, I am a bit more jiggly, and my boobs look like a couple of oranges in Christmas stockings. But it was all worth it, and I would (and will) do it again. You have never, and will never, feel a love like you do for your child. And it only grows with time. Pregnancy will change you, but definitely for the better. Make sure to talk to your friends. Talk to people who have been through childbirth recently. You need insight from those who have the experience still fresh in their minds. Trust yourself, and your body, and you will do just fine!
My name is Allison Hutton. I was recently introduced to the Baby Corner by Elizabeth Geiger, and have found it to be a wonderful resource for those trying to conceive, those who are expecting, and those who are already parents. I am a stay at home Mom to my beautiful daughter, Hannah, and wife to my wonderful husband, Daniel. After a long journey battling recurrent pregnancy loss, we welcomed our daughter into the world on St. Patrick's Day, 1999. Motherhood has been the most challenging, exhausting, and rewarding job I have ever had! In my "spare" time, I enjoy freelance writing about issues dealing with pregnancy, parenting, infertility, and women's health. I hope to provide some insight to pregnancy, as well as information that can be difficult to find on the web. I look forward to becoming a part of the Baby Corner, and hope to make a difference, no matter how small.
Allison is a contributing editor for The Baby Corner as well Editor of Pregnancy after Miscarriage at Suite 101.
Visit he webpage at http://www.geocities.com/allies_girl/
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