10 Things I Learned About Postpartum as a First-Time Mom

On a white crumpled paper looking background, a black lined drawing of a mom holding a baby in the air.

It took me years to want to become a mom. At first, I didn’t think it was in the cards for me. I wasn’t really sure how to act around kids and they never really seemed to like me. But as I got older I think my biological clock kicked in. I regarded babies with more admiration. When I was 28 we started trying and unfortunately, that ended in a miscarriage. It took me a year before my body decided that it was ready to be pregnant again — and this one stayed to full term.

Being a first-time mom is scary. You have no clue what this new human wants. They cry all the time and only after a few days, you find out what they need based on their differences.

Not only are you learning about this new human, but you are also learning about this new body you have. Your boobs are engorged with breastmilk and leaking all the time. Your vagina and labia are working their way back to normal size and healing from any tears you might have had during natural birth (and if you’re c-section your lower abdomen is doing its best to heal while you’re trying to take care of your baby). You can’t quite pee the same way you used to and don’t even get me started about pooping.

The thing is, all of this happens to every new mom and I knew little about it. What’s the deal with that? There were tons of blogs and articles about pregnancy and the do’s and don’ts, but after the baby comes they only focus on how to take care of the baby. I tried googling symptoms or issues that I was having and everything was like, “That’s normal.”

I didn’t need to know that it was normal or not, I needed to know the why — and how to make it better. With the Frida brand coming out with “controversial” advertisements showing real postpartum mothers going through what real postpartum mothers go through, I find the conversation about postpartum has started to go on the rise.

I learned a lot about what I should expect and when I should call the doctor through my due date group on Facebook. Luckily I found a tribe of women who were going through exactly what I was going through and found “cures” or remedies to help me get through the pain. If it weren’t for the women in this group, I probably would be crying every night wondering if something was wrong with me.

The close people in my life that have had babies didn’t experience what I went through or birth and postpartum happened to them a long time ago. It was stressful and felt very isolating. I didn’t like the idea of relying on social media friends to help, but it was the only way — and with the pandemic the best way — to get the answers I needed.

I’m hoping as more conversations come about postpartum that more first-time moms, like myself, won’t have to feel ashamed about what they’re feeling or going through.

That’s what I hope this post does as well.

10 Things I learned about postpartum as a First-time Mom:

  1. Find a good nursing bra and then take out the padding! The pads will without fail get in the way whenever you unclip to nurse your baby. Night-time nursing bras are okay but they lose support quickly. (Get nursing pads and lots of them. If you want to save money buy reusable ones! They work great.)
  2. Your peri bottle will be your best friend when you use the bathroom. Fill it up just before you go to the toilet. I find it works well as a “bidet” after you poop and if you have hemorrhoids, it’s so much easier to clean that tush before you have to wipe.
  3. To coincide with the peri bottle get Witch Hazel pads!!! I used it for both the labia and the butt. Witch hazel helps cool the inflamed areas and makes it easier to walk around and sit.
  4. Buy adult diapers or maxi pads way before you have the baby. Have the above things ready for when you come home. You do NOT want to be sending your husband out on a pad, witch hazel, and hemorrhoid cream run while dealing with a screaming baby at home. Otherwise, they’ll be video-calling you frantically asking what kind you need.
  5. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. I knew I would need it. I had my mom stay with us for a month. Not going to lie most new moms were not doing this, but I needed her. She made us dinners, did our laundry, cleaned our house, and then when my husband and I needed a break at night she took over for the night shift of rocking our baby to sleep. If it weren’t for my mom, my sanity would be out the window. (Thank you, Mom!)
  6. Your clitoris MIGHT feel like it’s been through a beating (again, vaginal birth). I don’t know why, but it happened to me. I was in so much pain whenever I had to pee but it wasn’t a UTI. None of my doctors or nurses could tell me why I felt that way, it’s just something that happens. I had to look it up and the only explanation is that when you push you exerted that muscle and caused a sprain. It WILL take weeks for it to fully heal. Mine took about 9 weeks.
  7. Your nipples will crack, blister, possibly even bleed. Breastfeeding is painful in the beginning and everywhere says it’s normal for that to happen. Check your latch. Babies do come with some natural ability to suck, but they don’t know how to do everything. There might be something inhibiting from latching correctly. Make sure to talk with your pediatrician or OB if you’re still in pain and don’t think the baby is feeding well. The pain will eventually go away after a week or two of using the lanolin cream and constant feedings. You might not be able to handle it — which is completely fine!! Pumping or feeding formula is A-Ok! Fed is best.
  8. You will get a clogged duct at some point in your breastfeeding journey. It’s usually because you miss a feed (baby changes feeding schedule on you) or it’s your body creating more milk than needed. Best way to combat it is warm compression, massaging, and latching the baby as much as possible. Others have used sunflower lecithin and that’s to help keep the breast milk less fatty and less prone to clogged ducts. Personally, I don’t want to mess with the milk, so I just suffer and do the other things I mentioned. (It might end up as mastitis and those symptoms also include: fever, nausea, vomiting, headaches. Make sure to call your doctor if you ever feel those symptoms, you will need antibiotics for that.)
  9. Sex may or may not happen. Your sex drive might come back in full force or it could still be hiding. Talk with your partner about how you are feeling. They might be asking you to try and if you’re not ready you need to let them know! (Healing takes at least 6 weeks)
  10. Lastly, Postpartum Depression/ Anxiety is a real thing. If you are crying randomly, having dark thoughts, or even feeling extremely overwhelmed and anxious, please call your doctor!! They can help find the medication that could get you back to feeling yourself! They can also help find a therapist that handles this as well and provide tools to overcome PPD/A.

Protip: Talk. Talk to your doctor about what you are feeling. Talk to your partner, parents, friends, anyone you feel safe with. Never hold anything in. Even if you feel like you’ll be a burden — you won’t. I’m grateful for my friends who periodically reached out to me while I was recovering and asked how I was doing. It gave me a chance to vent and complain if I needed to.

Being a new mom is a lot and hard work. Just know there’s a ton of us out there experiencing the same thing.

You got this mama!

Emi Sano is a self-published author of “Voices: a short story collection” and YA novella “We Don’t Talk About That.” She freelances as a writer/blogger.

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