I read quite a few books and blogs about pregnancy and childbirth before Andrew was born. There is some great information out there for all sorts of baby & mommy-related topics. The topic that immediately comes to my mind is what your body is like after childbirth. I think all women wonder about this, especially when they’re pregnant. One tip I’ll give you right off the bat is this: Don’t look! Some women are curious creatures and want to see what their woman area looks like after pushing a little human out of it. I didn’t look until 2 weeks after delivery, and even then I think it was too soon. I’ll just say this, it’s a mess down there. As it should be! Looking at it only makes it more terrifying. How the F is that going back to normal? All I can say is that the human body is amazing and somehow it really does go back to “normal” eventually. Give it time and don’t freak out! It will be okay! Tell your hubby to hide your handheld mirror and you can have it back when you’re…let’s say 4 weeks postpartum. Too much information for ya? Just wait!
Okay, now I’m going to give you a detailed list of what I needed for my postpartum body and what I found helpful. My list is based on my own all natural vaginal delivery so your list might be different if you had or have complications and/or a c-section. Just keep that in mind. I think this list is important to women AND men. Men – I think it’s important for you to at least try to understand what women go through after childbirth and what they might need. I know a lot of men are curious about this type of thing as well. On that note, read on!
- Those hospital mesh underwear/granny panties/or Depends – Not only is your woman area bleeding and bulging, it’s also fairly uncomfortable. I took home a bag full of the mesh underwear from the hospital that they have you wear after delivery. They’re basically a “boy shorts” style of underwear but they’re a mesh type material so they’re really stretchy and they’re comfy. They’re a little ridiculous and ugly but they’re also wonderful. If you don’t want those, I would suggest buying some big granny panties beforehand. These are the same idea; they stretch and they’re comfy. Depends are a fantastic option for those same reasons but they are also absorbent. They will help catch all of the stuff you leak out. Yes you will bleed and leak odd bodily fluids for weeks after you give birth. All of these items hold pads well, too. Another thing to remember is that c-sections are typically unplanned. If for some reason you do have a c-section, you’ll probably want even larger underwear so they don’t press against your wound as much.
- Pads – Speaking of leakage (ha!), invest in a ton of pads. Believe me, you’ll need them!
- Ice packs – I used an ice pack for 2 weeks after delivery. I would wrap it in a washcloth and stick it in my adorable mesh underwear right on top of my huge pad and it helped me sit down. Yes it did. It hurts to sit for a few weeks and the ice pack was my best friend. Word of advice about this: don’t get a regular lunchbox ice pack, get one of those pearl ice packs. You know what I’m talking about? The ones with those pearl balls inside? Those ones are bendable and sort of form to you so you don’t feel like you’re sitting on a rock which would defeat the entire purpose. I’ve even heard of people wetting their pad (with water of course ;)) and sticking it in the freezer – you kind of get the pad AND ice pack all in one that way but I never tried it. Another use of the ice pack is for your boobs. It helps with engorgement especially right after childbirth if you don’t plan on nursing your baby.
- Squirt bottle(s) – Again with your woman area. Most women tear when they give birth and because it’s still healing, peeing might sting a little. The hospital gave me a great squirt bottle to keep in the bathroom. The idea is that you can squirt your area while you pee and/or after you’re done going. You don’t want to wipe because 1) it hurts, and 2) you don’t want any sort of bacteria getting in there. I bought another squirt bottle from Target to keep in our other bathroom. Buy one that doesn’t squirt too hard though, believe me. Also, make sure you use warm water! Cold water is so uncomfortable! I used the squirt bottle for at least 4 weeks postpartum. A little tip, drink more water! More water=watered down pee=less burn.
- Stool Softener – I was absolutely terrified to poop after I gave birth. I know, again with the “too much information”. But I know that most women have this same fear so I think it’s important to share. The hospital actually gave me a prescription for a stool softener and we picked it up the day after we left the hospital. You certainly don’t want to “push” anything else out when you’ve just pushed out a football size baby. I’ll leave it at that.
- Hemorrhoid cream – Embarrassing right? That’s how I felt but it’s really not embarrassing. It’s a part of life and a big part of giving birth. Most women push so hard and for so long that they get hemorrhoids. You’ll probably want to get rid of those little boogers asap so get some hemorrhoid cream to help with that. There are also medicated pads that you can wear instead of using the cream. I used the medicated pads for a couple of weeks because I was worried about getting cream in my “wound”, and then I started using the cream once I felt like I was healing better.
- Washcloths – Why washcloths you ask? One thing I found totally weird but apparently totally normal was waking up every night or every morning for the first few months drenched in sweat. Yeah. Apparently you’re sweating off those extra baby fluid pounds – or water weight. I kept a dry washcloth on my nightstand so I could dry off when I woke up. I also had to change my clothes every morning because they would be wet. I never knew that could/would happen!
- Nipple cream – If you plan on breastfeeding you might need some nipple cream. I wanted to breastfeed Andrew so badly but it just didn’t work out so I have no experience with cracking or dry nipples but I’ve heard it can be very painful and irritating. Actually, I’ve heard of some women pumping and still getting cracked and dry nipples. Get some nipple cream to help with the cracking and pain or you can even use coconut oil!
- Nursing bras – If you plan on nursing your baby, get 2 or 3 nursing bras. They really are convenient and they’re comfortable. I would recommend going to a store like Motherhood Maternity where they fit you for a bra and they know to leave a little room for growth because when your milk comes in your boobs will grow. They will get fairly huge actually. This was definitely my favorite part of “nursing”. 🙂
- Nursing pads – Most women with a decent milk supply will leak. Nursing pads are great for this so you don’t leak through your bra and clothes. I found these especially helpful overnight. During the first 3 months I was still waking up every 2-3 hours to pump but once I started sleeping a little longer at night, say 5+ hours, I would be verrrrryyyy full when I woke up. That’s when I would leak a lot and the nursing pads came in handy.
- Nursing tanks/tops – I know some people think nursing tops are a waste of money. I do NOT think they are a waste of money. When you’re waking up every 2 hours to feed your child, the last thing you want to do is fiddle with a shirt around your neck or freeze to death because you had to take your shirt completely off. I also didn’t like seeing my flabby tummy when I took off my shirt. Get a nursing tank for sleeping in. It’s one less thing you have to think about. Same goes for around the house in general. You’ll probably be a zombie the first few months so again with the “one less thing to think about”. Don’t worry, you’ll start to feel human again someday!
- Pain medication – The hospital will probably prescribe you some strong pain meds and you’ll probably need them for a little while. I actually only used mine for about 2 weeks after delivery and didn’t need them after that. You can also just stock up on Tylenol (remember to follow usage directions, though). Just have something available to you in case you need it.
- Maternity pants – You probably already have some maternity pants from being pregnant but I still wore mine for about 2 months after giving birth. I hated wearing them and desperately wanted to wear my pre-pregnancy jeans again but that’s not toooootally realistic. You’ll probably still look about 5 or 6 months pregnant when you leave the hospital and it takes time for your belly to slim down. My maternity pants were actually really comfortable postpartum, too. The high-waisted ones that covered my huge 8 months preggo belly were especially nice after giving birth because they kind of held my tummy up. Sounds weird I know but I was verrrry squishy and those pants helped my self-esteem and again, they were really comfortable.
- Pre-cooked meals – You probably won’t feel like doing this while 8 months pregnant but just do it anyway. I know, harsh. Prepare a bunch of freezer meals before baby comes. Make them healthy and make them easy to just grab and heat for dinners. You’ll need to eat healthy foods not only for your own recovery, but for your baby if you plan on breastfeeding. I filled our freezer with healthy crock pot freezer meals about 2 weeks before I had Andrew and I can’t tell you how much it helped after he was born. We were extremely lucky to have my mom stay with us for 2 weeks after we had Andrew but when she left, neither of us wanted to cook dinner and those freezer meals were a lifesaver.
- Water bottle – This might sound silly to you but it’s really important to stay hydrated after you give birth, especially if you’re breastfeeding. You probably just lost a ton of fluids so you need to replace those fluids. You also need to drink A LOT of water to help you produce more milk. I found it helpful to have a water bottle with me at all times. I actually carry a water bottle around everywhere I go regardless. I don’t leave the house without it and rarely use a cup…but that’s beside the point. I think if you have a water bottle right next to you it will remind you to stay hydrated.
- Tissues– Your hormones will be crazy for a little while and that’s okay. It’s natural and just something that happens. I cried ALL the time for the first few weeks. Not only are your hormones out of whack, you’re also sleep deprived, your body is trying to heal itself, AND you’re figuring out how to take care of this little baby. You’re adjusting to this new life of parenthood and it’s hard. I was an emotional mess. Keep boxes and boxes of tissues in the house and let it out!
- A walk – Lastly, and an important one. At times you will feel like you can’t handle things. You’ll feel like leaving your baby on someone’s doorstep because you just can’t handle being their mother…and that’s normal. You WON’T leave your baby on someone’s doorstep. Instead you’ll ask your partner or mother or friend to watch your baby while you go for a walk. Take 5 minutes, get out of the house and breathe! You can do this! NOTE: **If you’re really feeling overly-depressed, overly-anxious or completely overwhelmed, please talk to your doctor and seek help immediately. Some women develop postpartum depression. It’s nothing to be ashamed of and surprisingly common. It’s okay. Everything will be okay but get yourself some help.
It’s important to take care of your postpartum body but remember to enjoy it all! Sometimes recovery is not fun but having a baby is such an amazing time in your life. The first few months after having Andrew were so incredibly hard but so wonderful, too. I should have added a camera to the list because you should absolutely take WAYYY too many pictures of your little one. I still do!
Mommas, did I forget anything?