This post is not primarily about running. It’s about labor, delivery, and my initial postpartum thoughts. Read further only if this is a topic of interest for you!
When I was pregnant, I spent a lot of time reading websites, blogs, and forums for pregnant/postpartum women. Also, since most of my friends already have kids, they were big resources. It’s been about 10 days postpartum (well, when I started writing this and by the time I publish it, almost 21 days…welcome to motherhood, I guess) and here are 10 things I didn’t realize was as tough or was as prepared for. Don’t get me wrong, our bundle of joy is exactly that and I am grateful she is in this world but it doesn’t change how hard it has been to adjust to motherhood.
1. Labor and delivery plans are very loose, much looser than I’d imagine. I knew this in advance and had prepared a two tiered goal (like marathon training) – natural delivery and worst case, an epidural if needed. I thought about a c-section but it never occurred to me that medically I may need one so I didn’t do enough reading or planning on what a recovery from one would be like. The short story of my delivery was: water broke with no contractions to induction which went from almost no contractions to intense contractions every minute, to a failed epidural, and then more contractions and pushing, until around 9.5 cm when the doctors said the baby’s head was not in position for me to push her out which led to a c-section after almost 29 hours since my water broke. Everything that I did not expect to happen happened and I cried a bit, well not just a bit, through all of these twists and turns. P.S. supposedly there is a link between low barometric pressure and water breaking (my water broke right after a big thunderstorm, coincidence?).
2. I did not expect to gain weight after the baby arrived. Everything I had read mentioned losing an initial 10-15 pounds between the weight of the baby, placenta, and fluids but I gained 5 pounds after giving birth. All of the fluids that were in my body from the IV led to the weight gain. For over a week, my legs and feet looked like tree stumps.
3. Take advantage of the hospital stay and nursery services at night. We paid for a private room at Mount Sinai and it was extremely expensive and gross (sorry, I can’t think of another word for it). On our first night postpartum, I had just delivered CH a couple of hours earlier so we had her in the nursery for the night. On the second night, we thought we’d try it out having a newborn in the room and quickly realized we were not ready for that given my recovery and our lack of sleep. I had to grapple with the fact that it is not selfish to want your newborn baby to sleep away from you initially. To be a good mom down the road, I needed to recover as much as possible.
4. We had no idea how to do anything. Everything you read or learn in advance about newborn care, forget it… you won’t remember. How do you swaddle your baby? What’s the best way to change a diaper? It all takes a bit of time to figure out a routine and your baby’s preferences.
5. The first night home from the hospital sucks. I’m sorry there is no other way for me to put it and I realize that I am fortunate that I did not have to go through it alone. I don’t remember the last time I slept in 2 hour increments (and I think we’re fortunate that she is fairly well-behaved). Throw on top of that #4 – not knowing on how to do anything – with sleep deprivation and it’s really tough.
6. The first week home from the hospital sucks. Between trying to figure out the baby’s cues and trying to take care of her along with your own recovery, I felt drained. My body felt like it got hit by a truck each day. Aside from the c-section being major surgery, I had one new thing after another each day — sciatic pain, challenges with nursing, the lists goes on and on.
7. I cried every day for the first 10 days. Hormones will do that to you. Some happy tears and mostly tears of being overwhelmed. I wished delivery had gone differently. I wished I felt better so I could be a better mother. I wanted to spend more time holding her but pain and discomfort made some of those moments really tough.
8. Being active didn’t make a huge difference initially. I was exercising until the day my water broke. I ran into the 9th month and was continue to walk, go to barre and yoga classes until the end. I ate healthy for the most part in the 39+ weeks I was pregnant but that did not matter during labor. I expected that, per anecdotal stories, doctors, and research, being active to make a huge difference but it didn’t and I was disappointed. Though being active may make a difference in my overall long-term recovery.
9. You go into parent mode immediately. I didn’t expect to immediately go full force into parent mode. I mean, yes, we created this little baby, and yes, we obviously care and love her very much and want to protect her but I didn’t expect it right off the bat. A good example of this is around germs and hand washing. We’re not germaphobes but when it comes to our little one, we’re much more so. We’re constantly washing our hands and/or sanitizing before we carry her, feed her, change her diaper, and we want our visitors to do the same. I’m pretty sure my hands will never be smooth or soft again.
10. How hard everything is in general. Everyone says the first 3 weeks are tough. I had no idea how tough until going through it myself. Caring for a newborn, the challenges of nursing/pumping, sleep deprivation, and all the nitty, gritty details in between is really tough.
Is there anything I am missing that you experienced?