15 Things You Learn After You Give Birth

IMG_208715. Childbirth’s the easy part.

This may sound crazy, but really – pregnancy and childbirth are easier than what’s to come in the next 18+ years! I remember the pure bliss I felt immediately following the birth of my daughter (now 15 months). It was like zen – I had just brought a new baby into the world and couldn’t believe what a miracle it all was. We spent 2 nights in the hospital and brought her home the following morning. What I didn’t know was that from that moment on, being a mama was far more challenging and demanding (and rewarding) than I ever dreamed. It’s a job you can never fully prepare for… being awake around the clock and letting this new little human completely dictate your life. But is it worth it? ABSOLUTELY… far better than any other job in this world!

14. Breastfeeding can hurt!

And for me… it did hurt! After about a week of wondering why it was so painful to feed my baby, I was diagnosed with mastitis. Ouch. I had no idea what to expect – even with taking a class and reading the books… they never mention that it can hurt and even the lactation consultant told me that it doesn’t hurt if you are doing it correctly. Well… my daughter was eating and getting food and I was in pain and that’s all I knew. With that said – it didn’t stop me from making milk for my daughter until my supply ran out at 10 months. So if you are lucky enough to have milk, don’t give up – it WILL get better!

13. You might be puffy all over.

I specifically remember just days after my daughter was born, my mom looked at me and said ‘You don’t have much of an ankle…’ I looked down at my (absent) ankles and sure enough… they were so puffy and swollen that they didn’t exist! Throughout my pregnancy I was one of the lucky ones who really didn’t swell, so this was a bit of a shock. I called my doctor and they assured me that it was normal and that it’s from all of the excess fluid leaving the body after childbirth. So don’t be alarmed when you notice you suddenly have ‘cankles’!!

12. You’ll feel like you’re in the middle of a marathon.

I ran my first marathon 5 years before giving birth to my daughter and would honestly say it took less out of me than childbirth. The difference is that you will have so much adrenaline and incentive to get this baby out of your belly that you probably won’t even notice how hard your body is working…. AND there is NO turning back!

11. … But you’re stronger than you know.

I never dreamed my body was capable of doing what I did. I carried my baby for 41 weeks and gave birth to an 8 pounder. When she was born my husband looked at her and said “I can’t believe that she was inside you!” Women are strong creatures and are designed to be able to survive childbirth. If it was so bad I don’t think people would have more than one child!

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10. The baby’s heart rate might drop.

Everything seemed to be going seamless for my labor and as soon as the nurse told me ‘time to push’ I was feeling great… we were finally going to meet our baby! That’s when the doctor arrived, looked at the heart rate monitor, got very serious and said ‘we have to get this baby out NOW.’ We asked if things were okay and he didn’t flinch and said ‘she needs to get out NOW.’ Apparently her heart rate had suddenly slowed just from being in a compromised position in the birthing canal. I kicked it into high gear and did what needed to be done to get the baby out – and she was healthy as can be. So while it was a scary moment, it is not uncommon and the baby usually will be just fine!

9. You might push for a loooong time.

Before I went into labor, I had heard horror stories from new moms about childbirth. Some of them pushed for hours and hours and others were in labor for over 24 hours and ended up with a c-section. I was fortunate that neither was the case for me, but I also knew there was a good possibility that I would be pushing for a LONG time… so be prepared (at least you will be immensely rewarded!)

8. Pain relief isn’t a guarantee.

Yup – that’s right. If you want those drugs, you better decide ahead of time and sometimes even if you are set on them… there’s no time. I was one of those who decided I would not get drugs unless it became unbearable, so I did not decide ahead of time. Fortunately my husband convinced me to bite the bullet and get the drugs after I was 7 cm. (I think he was in more pain than I was at that time…) After I was given the epidural all of my pain went away (almost instantly) and not much time passed before our baby was born. Had I waited much longer I would not have had the option… and in my case may have regretted it.

7. You probably won’t be allowed to eat.

This was one of the hardest parts for me – but since I was induced (and if you end up having a c-section) you aren’t allowed to eat. So eat up ahead of time, you won’t want an empty tummy! My daughter was born shortly before midnight so the cafeteria was closed… they offered me a deli meat sandwich, cheese stick and juice box. Since I’m a vegetarian I ended up with a juice box and cheese stick until morning. So be prepared not to eat – although food will be far from your mind when you are focusing on bringing your baby into the world!

6. A lot of people will look between your legs.

Be prepared to have an entourage of people checking between your legs… doctors, nurses, residents, you name it. Just know that you aren’t the first and won’t be their last that they look at in that vulnerable moment… it could always be worse!

5. A lot of people will want to meet your baby.

In the days following giving birth, don’t expect much downtime. In between having nurses constantly checking on you, feeding your baby and non-stop visitors you won’t get much of a break. But enjoy it… it does eventually lapse and you may get lonely while your baby sleeps!

4. Everyone will tell you to enjoy every minute.

But really… time goes way too fast and while some of the days may seem long, the months will fly by. You don’t have to feel guilty if you don’t literally enjoy ‘every’ minute, but do savor the smiles and laughs and snuggles… try to take it all in!

3. Babies cry. (sometimes a lot)

In the first few weeks of being new parents there were times when we couldn’t figure out why our baby was crying. She was fed, dry, burped, snuggled, etc. So, why was she crying?!?! Eventually I took her to the doctor to have her checked out and the doctor basically smiled and assured me that she was just fine. Yes… it’s true – babies sometimes cry for no reason, your job is to just try to be patient and wait for it to pass and continue to snuggle them while knowing that the crying won’t last forever! (And yes if you are running out of options, my doctor told me that it’s also okay to put your baby down for a few minutes and let him calm himself!)

2. You will get to sleep again (someday)

I remember the initial shock at the lack of sleep we were getting in our house. I ended up letting my baby dictate her eating schedule. That worked for us (but every baby is different – so do what works for YOU!) In the days following our daughter’s birth I remember thinking, maybe in a few months I can have my mom keep my baby for the night so I can have one night of uninterrupted sleep… it sounded like bliss – kind of like paradise. What I didn’t know at that time was that babies DO start to sleep more and more as they get bigger. We were very fortunate (and no don’t hate me for this… we recognize our luck) but our daughter started sleeping through the night at 6 weeks old. Not to say she didn’t have her moments, but we did get to start sleeping again AND it was amazing. So don’t worry – the sleep will come, it just takes a little time. Your baby won’t be nocturnal for life… and neither will you!

1. Going somewhere (anywhere) alone will feel like a vacation.

I remember going to the dentist (alone) after my baby was a couple months old and feeling like I was at a spa. Yes, the dentist felt like a spa to me. Mainly because I was able to fully lay back and relax. So remember, while your baby is your priority and most important job… let people help you when they offer. You need a break, too!

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Disclaimer: I am no mommy expert – but this is my take on my experience of childbirth and parenthood after one year! I welcome all comments and takes on your experiences!

*You may also enjoy: 15 Things You Learn After You Give Birth to Twins

Alisa was born and raised in Iowa before attending Arizona State University. She then lived in Chicago, Georgia and Florida before settling in Madison. From her nomadic lifestyle grew a love for the beach, as well as a fondness for spicy food, sushi, white wine, southern charm, Diamondbacks baseball and idyllic ocean sunsets. Alisa and her husband, Joe, are parents to Ava Mae (August 2012) and twins, Nora & Jacob (March 2014). Alisa is a work-from-home mompreneur with a passion for business, fashion, fitness, community and all things mom. When she’s not enjoying time at home with her family, you can find her sweating it out on the tennis court, training for the next big race, pinning her heart out on Pinterest and exploring Madison with her little ones (and sweet Boston Terrier, Peaches) in tow.

4 COMMENTS

  1. One thing I’d add is that things may not go as planned. Be prepared to deviate from your birth plan! You might not be able to nurse. Your baby may come early (as mine did – very early) or come late. However it happens, it will be okay. And don’t beat yourself up for it.

  2. Definitely second the “things may not go as planned.” Mine was about as opposite as I planned and wanted as you can get. But, you have to let that go sometimes and focus on the end goal.

    Also, I respectfully, but fully disagree with sending the baby to the nursery while in the hospital. One, I just plain didn’t want my baby out of my (or my husband’s) sight and he was not except for the 30 or so minutes he was taken for circumcision. Two, I think it is really important in those first few days to start learning your babies cues and cries and getting the help of a nurse when necessary while they are readily available.

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