I sit here typing this, 38 weeks pregnant with my third child, munching on two servings of Trader Joe’s mini chicken tacos and doing some needed post-baby research.
There are so many articles suggesting how to prepare for the arrival of your baby. It is good, solid advice, like eating small meals often so you aren’t extra fatigued when the marathon hits. I’m cleaning the house, setting up sitters for my two girls, and meal planning for the weeks ahead.
The literature is severely lacking, however, when it comes to postpartum recovery. That was the most shocking thing to me after my first baby — that NO ONE TALKS ABOUT THE AFTERMATH. Probably because it’s super gruesome and gory. But after going through post-baby recovery twice, I, like fellow blogger Lindsey Galvao, am going to share what I know so that my fellow women won’t have to suffer as I did. It’s time for more real talk and real solutions to make your recovery as comfortable as possible.
Tip #1 :: Diapers are not just for babies
Let’s talk about pads. The pads the hospital offers for your after-birth bleeding (which can last from 4-8 weeks, by the way) are about a foot long, four inches wide. The hospital also gives you disposable mesh underwear to wear with the pads that are, thankfully, better than nothing. But I still consider those pads the last great evil of our time. The advice I’m most excited about taking this time around is to wear woman’s diapers instead of the swishy, scratchy pads. I bought a pack of Always brand Women’s Discreet Underwear. Friends say they are absorbent, they stay in place, and they make your butt look great. JK about that last part, but I bet I will feel like my butt looks great when there isn’t a huge rectanglar pad protruding off of it.
Tip #2 :: BYOJ (bring your own jammies)
After my first baby, I wore the hospital gown they gave me — the entire time I was in the hospital (four days). S0, so stupid. What was I thinking? The gown flaps around, bearing your padded butt, it’s hard to nurse in, and it’s made of cardboard. Bring the big baggy T-shirt and comfy pajama bottoms you were wearing in the weeks before delivery to change into once you’ve taken a well-deserved shower. If you are a robe type of lady, bring your robe. Soft materials and the smell of your laundry detergent will do so much to bring comfort to your recovering body in the harsh hospital environment.
Tip #3 :: Order all the food
They may ask you to please order one entree, two sides, and one dessert. I say, forget that. I was STARVING in the days after giving birth, and if I’m paying over $600 a day just to stay in the room, they can give me two entrees, four sides, and three desserts if I want them. And maybe I’ll order something for hubby, too. It’s also good to pack your own snacks, and maybe get some options for good take-out around the hospital. If you deliver at night, the cafeteria may not be open. One time, I missed the window of time to order my dinner. You don’t want to be hangry at a time like this, so do whatever you can to make sure you take care of your food needs.
Tip #4 :: Get some shut-eye
By the time I got into my recovery room with my second, the early rays of dawn were shining straight through my window — into my red-rimmed, bloodshot eyes. Please, bring a sleep mask for yourself. I think they are bothersome on my face, but anything is better than trying to sleep through the blazing sunshine. Another sleep-related tip: Hospital pillows and beds are about as comfy as laying yourself down on a carpet sample. If bringing home hospital cooties bothers you, get a pillow and some cheap pillowcases you don’t care about, and at the end of your stay, throw them away, or throw them in the wash once you’re home. Related: The hospital staff where I delivered my second child made me feel like putting my child in the nursery so I could get some sleep was the biggest sin I could ever commit. Whatever, dude. That baby can come back after I’ve had two hours of uninterrupted sleep so that I can function as a mother. Sleep is vital for recovery, so I intend to treasure it.
Tip #5 :: Protect the girls
Nursing hurts at first. It just does, even if you are doing everything right. It was easier my second time, but I still was sore for a few days. Use the lanolin cream they give you, get the gel pads, or even nipple shields if you need them. Wearing a well-fitted, soft, cloth, sports bra-type nursing bra was a must for me, because having any clothing brush against my already chapped nipples was close to medieval torture. It gets better, keep at it if you can, and don’t be afraid to yell at the top of your lungs, “MY BOOBS HURT!” if things get really bad. Someone will come to help.
More random tips
- Take what you need home with you. When they bring you diapers, put some in your bag and ask for more.
- Bring your own travel-sized toiletries.
- Turn away visitors if you want. Your privacy and comfort are more important than their feelings. They can always come back when you are feeling more like yourself.
- Pack something to leave the hospital in. Wide shoes or flip flops for your swollen feet, maternity clothes for your still-swollen belly (you’ll still look about six months pregnant).
- A nursing pillow is so nice to have.
- Bring a sweater, and some shorts. Hot flashes will take you by surprise; it’s best to dress in layers so you aren’t freezing or sweating every 20 minutes or so.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for a new nurse. If you really aren’t getting along with someone, talk to the supervising nurse on duty. One of my nurses made me cry once. If it just isn’t working between you, it’s not personal, it’s hormones. And heaven knows you have no control over those.
Good luck, new mamas! You got this!