By TMoM Team Member Laura Dydek

As a first-time mom, I prepared endlessly during my pregnancy. I read all the books, ate the “right” foods, did all the exercises. While I prepared myself for every last detail leading up to the birth, I forgot to prepare for the result – a baby in my arms! I was even less prepared for what would happen to me after baby’s arrival. I was unprepared for what my body would go through, physically and emotionally, and what those first few days, weeks and months of motherhood would really be like.

I was told a few things about what to expect postpartum, but the true details were neglected. My personal birth experience was a vaginal birth with an epidural. Every mother’s experience is different, but what remains constant is the lack of realistic information provided to women about postpartum recovery. I believe it is imperative to talk openly about what a mother truly goes through after the baby arrives.

Why had nobody told me I would be bleeding for weeks? I was sent home in a 3-layer diaper that helped keep the bleeding under control. My new bathroom routine took about 3 times as long as before and I had to make sure I had all my “equipment” before going in. I was terrified to the point of tears of having to poop. I had no idea I wouldn’t be using toilet paper for weeks but instead using a water bottle (and God forbid you don’t use warm water)!! Where was that in the baby books? And don’t get me started on sitz baths. Sitting naked on the toilet soaking my wounds… talk about glamorous!

Why hadn’t anyone told me breastfeeding would be one of the hardest things I had ever tried in my life? If anyone tells you breastfeeding is easy, they are lying (or forget what it was like at the beginning). It hurts! Baby doesn’t know what he is doing, and neither do you! I had cool gels for my nipples, nipple shields while feeding my baby, nipple guards for after feeding and nipple cream on constant repeat. I couldn’t let my nipples touch my shirts for almost 2 months because they were bleeding and sore, not to mention the 3 bouts of mastitis and countless clogged ducts.  It took 3 months for my son and I to finally get the hang of it. 3 MONTHS!

Oh, the sleep deprivation! Now this is something that was definitely mentioned before I had my son but I never really understood this until my first night with him. That morning, our doctor came in asking how the night went. We proudly declared that our son had slept 5 long, glorious hours! The doctor looked at us with a concerned glance and told us we could absolutely not let our son go that long without eating. He explained it was imperative that he get back up to birth weight so he would need to eat at least every 3 hours for the next few months! Cue the tears, the confusion and the dreadful feeling of failing as a mom, not even 12 hours after he was born! I had to feed this child every 3 hours?! With feedings lasting up to an hour each, that didn’t give me much time to rest (let alone eat, bathe, or, with my lengthy new bathroom routine, even go to the bathroom). That was the last time I slept 5 hours straight for 5 long months.

I truly believe that so many new parents and moms are unprepared for this time. It could be because other moms forget what this stage is really like. After our children grow up, it becomes easy to block it out or convince ourselves it really wasn’t that bad. But I’ve learned the female body is incredible and you are made for this. You will heal, you will get your strength back, and every day gets a little bit better. Those days will pass, and you will see the sun again, I promise you. There is no way to be fully prepared for everything motherhood throws at you, but never forget you are resilient, resourceful, and strong as a mother!

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