I like to think I was relatively prepared for labor and childbirth – as much as you can be at least when expecting your first child. I’d been to the antenatal classes, I’d written a detailed birth plan and I had mentally prepared myself for experiencing a high level of pain, the potential for needing stitches and even the post birth blood loss. There was so much about experiences post labor however that no one ever told me!
Here are just a few of my post labor experiences that I wasn’t expecting…
The Jelly Belly – I’d not given much thought to what would happen to my bump after I had given birth, but what I was not expecting was something that resembled a semi deflated water bed; a wobbly, jelly like tender to the touch water balloon. Touching where my rock hard bump used to be felt odd, like I wasn’t properly making contact with my own skin and as a result, big comfy clothes were essential. It’s important to remember that your body takes a while to settle down after the birth and that it’s not quite so simple as springing back into your skinny jeans.
The Shakes – Whilst it doesn’t happen to everyone; a very common post labor side effect is to experience the shakes. Full on, physical shudders and jitters like you’re standing in the midst of a snow storm. Whether it is a result of the drugs, adrenaline or simply sheer exhaustion, these symptoms soon pass, but be prepared to need a little assistance when holding your newborn, especially post C-section.
The Blood – I’d been warned about blood loss post labor, so was fully prepared with jumbo sanitary pads and disposable knickers, expecting it to feel like the period of all periods. What I wasn’t expecting was that first shower to look like a scene from Psycho. The initial blood loss is so significant that when my partner helped me drag my exhausted legs towards the shower block, the scene that met us as the water washed away came as a bit of a shock. The amount of blood loss does settle down with time, but the first few hours in particular can be a little daunting.
Cramping – After labor, your uterus starts to slowly contract back to its original size and in doing so, can cause some quite painful menstrual style cramping. Breastfeeding can also trigger these pains, so it’s quite common to notice these more when you are feeding your baby. I also felt flutters and flicks inside my abdomen, which really threw me whilst lying in my hospital bed! It felt for a moment as though my baby was still inside kicking and rolling around inside of me and feeling those sensations whilst my newborn lay in the crib next to me was quite a surreal experience!
The Poop Fear – Before discharge from hospital, one of the checks is that your bladder and bowel are working as they should be, and as such, it is recommended that you attempt your first bowel movement after labor when you feel ready and able to do so. What I wasn’t expecting was to have a real fear about going to the bathroom. With an episiotomy and stitches, the physical sensations when squatting to sit down, plus the feeling of bloating and trapped wind; that first poop was a nerve wracking and delicate process!
What were your unexpected post labour experiences?