I spent so much time getting ready for postpartum recovery. And I'm really glad that I did because I learnt so much and was able to prepare for it. Things like what to pack in your hospital bag, having a water spray while you pee (soz for the TMI) and to make sure you have comfy underwear. But this is my own little list, because there's always things you won't learn and things you won't be told. These are all the things that I learned and discovered for myself.
1. LEARN TO DO EVERYTHING ONE HANDED
Learn this trick and say goodbye to luke warm coffees and eating dinner after everyone else. I personally love more than ever just sitting with my baby and playing with her hair while she feeds. But every now and then you have to multi task. It's not the worst thing in the world to send an important email while breastfeeding, or to make a smoothie, or even to get some exercise in (walking and breastfeeding at the same time is a great fat burning activity, and good for taking it slow whilst getting active). It will take a while to get used to this one handed method but where there's a will there's a way. Also feeding pillows come in super handy when you just want both hands free. It's been super useful for me to have learnt this as I am feeding and typing this blog at the same time!
2. BREASTFEEDING AND SLEEPING
If you're a new mumma and can master this technique then it will make your life a whole lot easier. Although it's inevitable that you will lose sleep in those early weeks, it's easy enough to get into a comfortable sideways lie down position while you are breastfeeding baby on the bed. Don't allow yourself to go into a deep sleep, stay somewhat aware, allow yourself to be in a state where you can wake up if needed. I help baby latch and then dose off to sleep, she'll give me a little cry when she's done. Then I burp her, she doses back off to sleep and I put her down. This way I'm hardly loosing any sleep. But it comes with it's warnings. Always set baby up with her nose clear to breathe when you latch. Never do this if you've been drinking or taking drugs. Don't do it if you're overly tired or if you move a lot in your sleep and likely to roll over. All these things are important to prevent SIDS and to ensure your baby's safety. It's really a case by case thing, if you don't feel confident, it's probably better not to do this and instead to stay awake. Some things aren't worth the risk.
3. MORE CONTRACTIONS!
This was truly a shock to me. I didn't read about contractions after birth in any of the "what they don't tell you about postpartum recovery" articles that I read. My sister had told me about these but I hadn't remembered, nor had I realised how bad they are. These are known as "after-pains" and it's when your uterus contracts to shrink back down to its original size and shape. These after-pains are full blown scream and cry type contractions, at least that was my experience. They're not just stomach tightenings like braxton hicks or the false contractions I had before giving birth. The pain and amount varies between women, I had about 4 after-pain contractions a week for the first 3 weeks. Which is pretty good when you consider that a uterus will grow roughly 25 times its original size during the course of pregnancy, and it only takes a few contractions to bring it back down. Don't worry it does get better!
4. LEARNING HOW TO WALK
I was really surprised to find out after labour that I couldn't walk properly. Maybe it was partly a side affect of the anaesthetic I'd received when I got stitched up. Maybe it was because of the pre-eclampsia or maybe just the whole ordeal and stress. But I would have been able to walk better after running a marathon than I could after giving birth. I actually had to re-learn it, I had to practice and re-balance my body. It makes sense, I'd just lost a whole lot of front weight. Plus my legs and lower back were still aching. Don't freak out, it didn't take very long. But I was surprised by just how difficult something so easy could be.
5. MY BELLY "POUCH" HURT
I was fully prepared to look 6 months pregnant after giving birth. I had been told that over and over again. In the past I've been very judgmental of my body but I'd prepared to give myself time to recover and heal before getting back into fitness. I don't want to miss out on any precious moments with my girl. Therefore, although health is a priority to me, toning my body can wait.
But what I wasn't prepared for was that the first time standing up after giving birth there was so much pain! Not only could I not actually stand up straight, but my belly pouch hurt. It makes sense when you think about it. There used to be a baby in there holding everything out and in place. But now it was just heavy and floppy and sore. Thankfully it fixed itself pretty quick and I used a belly band to hold it all in place. I also didn't do too much standing anyway, and it stopped hurting around day 5. But still, that's something to know for next time.
The number one lesson I learnt is that it will get better. So hang in there! (and buy lots of books in preparation for taking it easy and lying down lots).
Thanks for reading,