Several women having their first babies have mentioned how they were not prepared for the following three things: 1) How difficult the recovery was, 2) How much they loved that baby, and conversely, 3) How they didn’t recognize her right away.
1) How difficult the recovery was.
Even if we are prepared for a painful childbirth experience, our thoughts often don’t go beyond that. We imagine how wonderful it will be to have our own little baby, but we don’t realize what a trauma our bodies have to go through to get it. Your bottom will hurt whether you’ve have an episiotomy or not, and it will be hard to go to the bathroom. In fact, the first bowel movement after delivery is cause for celebration. Your arms, legs, and stomach may ache from straining. Your breasts and especially your nipples will hurt as they adjust to breast feeding, and then your milk comes in and suddenly you’re dealing with two bowling balls on your chest. And you’ll sweat a lot to rid yourself of all the water retention from pregnancy. Add to this mix of physical discomforts the natural hormonal fluctuations, and basically you’ll be a mess for about a week or so.
Just know that this stage does not last long and take some tylenol.
However, you should also be aware of the possibility of postpartum depression, which is a very real thing. I’ve read that as many as 10% to 20% of women suffer from it. Here is a quote from the Mayo Clinic web page:
“The birth of a baby can trigger a jumble of powerful emotions, from excitement and joy to fear and anxiety. But it can also result in something you might not expect — depression.
Many new moms experience the ‘baby blues’ after childbirth, which commonly include mood swings and crying spells that fade quickly. But some new moms experience a more severe, long-lasting form of depression known as postpartum depression.”
If these feeling don’t go away after two-four weeks and are actually getting worse so that you can’t care for your baby, run don’t walk to your doctor. The sooner you get treatment, the easier it is to treat it. I have also heard this can come upon a new mother any time within the first year, but there is always help. This is one thing you don’t have to suffer through.
2) How much they loved that baby.
Many people are absolutely gobsmacked by the love they feel for their child. Like the delivery, it’s not like anything, any experience you’ve ever had before, and there is no way to describe the strength of it to someone else. Then you begin to realize that from now on, your heart will be walking around outside your body.
I knew one woman whose pregnancy was almost incidental to other dramas she was going through in her life so she didn’t think much about the baby coming. But when she held him for the first time and looked at his little round face, she said, “I didn’t know it was you!”
Or conversely, 3) How they didn’t recognize her right away.
Most people experience an immediate bonding with their infant, but not everyone does. Sometimes you look at her and see a total stranger. Cute, but not familiar. But this closeness/bonding usually comes when you care for her constantly, and the two of you spend a lot of time together. It’s a basic fact that you love the people you serve, and you’ll be doing the most serving you’ve ever done in your life. So don’t be worried if you take a few days to begin to feel like a mother to this child. It will come, and again, it will surprise you by the force of its power.
Sometimes you might suddenly be struck with the heavy burden it is to be totally responsible for another human being. I understand that when my father took his first look at me, his immediate reaction was, “That poor little s**t! All she has is me!” Again, don’t worry about it. At this point all you have to do is feed her, keep her warm and dry, and love her. The rest will come one day at a time and so gradually that before you are even aware, it’s no burden at all, but has somehow become your whole reason for living.
Next: Living with a Newborn