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Like most pregnant women, I was told about all of the “beautiful” things about new motherhood, and, in hindsight, not much of the reality.
Right off the bat, I will let you know, dear reader, that I’m not particularly precious about these sorts of things. I tend to think honesty is the best policy, especially when it comes to birthing human beings, so I figured I’d share my knowledge morsels with you: what I know about those first days of motherhood; all the truly horrifying things that happen to your body; the first poop ― and the hellacious first pee, for that matter ― post-childbirth.
All this is to say, things are about to get real real.
Yes, the reality for me, someone who had planned C-sections, is entirely different from that of a woman who had an emergency C-section, let alone a vaginal birth. But here’s what I know to be true:
You will go to the hospital with a cute little bag of stuff you’ve packed. If your mom friends were honest with you, you have extra room for the mesh underwear and will have brought with you nothing you’d ever like to wear again. You have crappy slippers you can kick off easily since socks are too high-maintenance for your fluctuating body temperature. You have an empty water bottle you can refill.
After the aforementioned C-section, you will not be able to sit up without being in tremendous pain, which makes post-epidural nausea even more unpleasant (yes, dry-heaving can be particularly unpleasant if you have no stomach muscles with which to heave). Here’s where things get trickier: You can’t get out of your hospital bed to pick up and feed your crying baby. If you’re lucky and your partner is allowed to stay at night, they can bring the baby to you. If you are in a shared room, though, and your partner can’t stay with you and the baby overnight, well, then that baby is going to the nursery for a few hours and will be brought to you when hungry.
Speaking of that first night, it will be one of the most harrowing of your life.
Just ask my husband to recount the alarmed conversation he overheard between me and one of the nurses when our newborn son was, as it turned out, just hiccuping. You will cry. You will panic. You will be sweating and shivering at the same time, all while recovering from the trauma that is childbirth. It is awful. But as soon as you see the sun crack through the clouds the next morning ― because you will be awake for that ― you will take a deep breath and feel oddly, infinitely better.
“It is frustrating. It is immensely comical. But mostly it’s painful.”
At some point, probably in that second day, the kind nurses will come by and take out your catheter to “get you up and moving.” Follow these nurses to the ends of the earth. If they want to take out your catheter even though you are, for the first time in your life loving the feeling of not ever having to pee, do it. That first pee, however, will be an out-of-body experience. You, a full-grown woman, will have to relearn how to pee! It is extremely humbling to stand over a toilet wearing only a big T-shirt (after all, your vanity left you sometime around the fifth OB-GYN appointment) with some patient nurse holding you up because you cannot stand on your own. They will not let you try to pee until you have the urge, which makes the whole thing very unsettling. It is frustrating. It is immensely comical. But mostly it’s painful.
A few days later, you’ll be on your way home. Your partner, or whomever is driving you home, will have never driven slower in their lives and you will not care. You will practically limp into your home. It will be the same as it as before, but you will realize something has most definitely shifted. It simultaneously feels so much bigger and smaller. You sit down (albeit slowly) with the baby in your arms and think, OK, what now? And then you might cry. Or you might sit there in silence. But you will definitely be stunned. That first night is terrifying and blissful and full of so many times you want to call your own mother and ask if she’s ever forgiven you for any of it.
A word on getting out of bed (literally, not figuratively): Before sitting up, slowly roll over to the side of the bed. Have your partner tenderly put extra pillows under your head. Use your arms to prop yourself up sideways while they spot you. Slowly sit up. Do that for roughly the next two weeks before getting out of bed (or any seated position).
And, lastly, the first poop. Nurses probably will have given you Colace or some other stool softener every day in the hospital. Take it. It will make this experience much better. But once you feel the need to have a bowel movement, get a magazine, a book, your phone, whatever, and bring it with you. This will take a while. It will be unpleasant. Thinking about it now is giving me mild sweats. The good news is that it gets easier each time, so keep up the Colace.
I’m more than two years out from my last delivery ― again via scheduled C-sections, so really this is just my experience and isn’t prescriptive. You’d think I would’ve forgotten most of these details thanks to time and years of sleep deprivation, but alas, it’s all crystal clear. Women have an uncanny ability to get through shit, and childbirth is just one of a long list of examples why. Not to go all rah-rah on you, but remember: You’ve got this.