Postpartum recovery and healing after birth, after labor and delivery, by far was one of the CRAZIEST life experiences I’ve ever had. Did ANYONE let me know that postpartum anxiety is REAL, DIY padsicles must be some kind of hazing joke for first time moms, bleeding would compare to some sort of horror movie and all those postpartum kit necessities are not just essentials, they are SERIOUS must haves?!
We learn all the pregnancy things known to mankind, comparing baby size week by week, taking fantastic prenatal courses, and preparing our entire home for baby as if we’ve transformed into some sort of maniacal, OCD crazed pregnant lady.
This is normal, apparently. We expect this…mostly.
Yet NO ONE seemed able or willing to dish the deets on the whole postpartum hospital stay craziness. I was shocked.
So, here goes. Grab your decaf coffee and lean in close, girlfriend, because it’s time to get real.
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What I Wish SOMEONE Had Told Me About The Postpartum Hospital Stay
1. Your whole hospital stay WILL NOT be in the beautiful, spacious and serene delivery room.
I took the hospital tour. The labor and delivery room was gorgeous. I thanked all that was good in the world that we had chosen this hospital. Elated, I felt much more confident about the whole childbirth thing. It wasn’t going to be so bad. Right?
“And the post-delivery rooms are down the hall that way,” the nurse-tour-guide said, pointing with a hand full of papers in a general direction no one really paid attention to.
In a timeframe that felt like minutes after the delivery, a nurse was walking me to the open bathroom in front of family, having me pee and wheelchairing me into a tiny room.
The disappointment couldn’t be helped. Make sure when you tour the hospital, know where triage will be, where you will deliver and then what room you will be staying in. If it’s a postpartum “roommate” situation….I would find another hospital.
That tour was during the prenatal class I took at that hospital. Save yourself the driving, scheduling, stress and potentially having to take work off. Take an AMAZING prenatal class online that will walk you through everything you need to know at your own pace. Hilary Erickson’s is an RN with over 16 years experience in labor and delivery. She has fantastic courses you can find here. I WISH someone had advised me to do this instead!
2. Nurses try their best but they are human just like you
I felt like I had some of the BEST nurses in all the RN world that fateful labor crazy night. These nurses cared for me like they were my own mother, listened and went way out of their way. But, I had a couple of nurses that were not this way.
I woke up in the middle of the night to “BEEP, BEEP, BEEP, BEEP!” and the alarms on the machine thingies going crazy. My husband startled awake, a nurse ran in, glanced at the machine and fumbled for the oxygen mask, dropping it over and over and over again. She started swearing, trying to now untangle it from the BILLIONS of cords just to end up tangling it more. My husband was about to have some sort of panic attack. I removed her hand from the oxygen mask and calmly but swiftly undid it from the cords, placing it over my face.
She called for the doctor and was genuinely flipping out. The doctor came in, turned me on my side, said it was no problem and then left. The baby’s heartbeat had been sounding the alarms. After the oxygen, it stabilized and I was resituated in different positions every half hour for the rest of the night.
I understand most people may have this genuine reaction though I wish the nurse would have kept it together just a little bit!
I also got pretty conflicting advice from a couple of different nurses. I had never heard such starkly contrasting medical opinions before. If you’re a first time mom, you will likely get opinions: swaddle this way not that way, use formula, no you don’t need formula, use the nipple shield, no you don’t need the nipple shield, use this position when nursing, actually this position is way better….etc.
Do what feels right to you.
3. Seriously think about how you want to handle visitors
I didn’t want to offend anyone who wanted to come see our new little one. People wanted to see the brand new family member and who wouldn’t?! Telling people I wanted space for at least a week felt super selfish but actually…I wish I had done just that.
Family got to see me wheeled into the bathroom directly after labor, door open and the nurse awkwardly trying to put me on the toilet. They were also all gathered there as I attempted to breastfeed, pulling the sheet over my head for some privacy, too exhausted and shy to tell them all to leave.
It really is my fault. I wish I’d known to just trust my gut and ask for some space. I love our family more than anything else, I just know now that alone time is what’s needed in my case during those first few hours after birth.
Plan accordingly for your situation. Write in your labor plan who you’d like in the delivery room and when you’d like to see people afterward. To help you decide and weigh the options, make sure you check out 10 Vital Labor Tips For First Time Moms. There’s more deet-dishing in that post to help tremendously with labor and delivery.
4. After delivering, you will be the most exhausted and hungry you’ve ever been in your life
PACK SNACKS in every single pocket, container, luggage bag, dump truck – whatever! Oh my Gosh, can I tell you how INCREDIBLY hungry I was after delivering?! Wow. I don’t think I’ve ever felt that famished in my entire life.
I opted for the epidural, so that means no eating for-everrr. I literally went 24 hours without eating a single thing. Needless to say, it made me feel pretty weak and sick.
Do yourself a favor and pack TONS of snacks for the very moment they wheel you into your postpartum room. Seriously treat yourself to a favorite candy bar OR a family sized bag of your favorite candy bar. If you’ve ever deserved your favorite treat during your lifetime, that’s the moment you get to your postpartum room after childbirth.
5. Prepare for a horror movie blood show
I wish SOMEONE had told me about the bloodbath showdown that would happen during and AFTER delivery! Holy fricken cow!
The bleeding and lady bits falling out everywhere just doesn’t seem to stop. A disposable pad is placed on your bed, GIANT pads are given to you to wear, you’re told to wear this ugly as hell (but 100% necessary) mesh underwear with Tucks Medicated Pads and swap out hospital gowns whenever the bleeding doesn’t stop there.
And trust me, the bleeding never stopped there. Those disposable bed pads were changed. Often. Hospital gowns were changed. Often.
Peeing was shocking. Showering was CRAZY.
So now you know postpartum bleeding is the real deal, girlfriend. Take note: it’s okay to stay in hospital gowns during your WHOLE stay (because you bleed through everything). But it will slow down! Just MAKE sure you have a postpartum kit prepared at home.
6. The MOST important thing: prepare a postpartum recovery kit
The first few minutes after you arrive at home from the hospital will be weird. There will be ZERO nurses, doctors or medical professionals to help you. No more postpartum help.
If you haven’t prepared a postpartum kit, you WILL be running to the store and let me tell you this: when you’re sleep deprived, on the brink of tears every moment, in massive pain and want to murder anyone who even looks at you wrong…you don’t want to be running to the store. And you won’t want to be on the phone with whoever is at the store, desperately trying to figure out what kind of medicated pad they recommended to you at the hospital either.
Prepare your kit at least in your third trimester. Here are 9 absolutely necessary items:
- Very quickly, you will run out of those giant pads from the hospital. You also (like me) may not have been madly in love with them. Stock up on Always Maxi (overnight extra heavy flow with wings). They are not as bulky and the wings provide extra space for any leakage.
- You will also run out of those guazy, ugly as heck but amazing disposable underwear the hospital gives you. Or they may give you none. Save yourself the trouble and buy your own postpartum maternity (post-surgical) disposable underwear just like the hospital has.
- Also, the hospital provided Tucks Medicated Healing Pads to place directly on the maxi pad for relief. They are little round (3″) pads with witch hazel and I cannot tell you how much they relieved the burning and itching. Ah-mazing.
- When you want to graduate into actual underwear (and ditch the diaper feel) I would advise having a pack of ridiculously comfortable underwear on hand like these boy short boxer brief panties. Postpartum, I was thanking God that I had those boy short underwear. I liked how they didn’t ride up and they were super comfortable.
- Make sure to add a good panty liner like Always thin dailies as you transition to normalcy. I personally, liked Always liners the best because they were comfortable and effective.
- First off, I know those DIY “padsickles” are like all the rage but I’ve been there, done that and they were TERRIBLE (in my personal experience). If I wanted to freezer burn my painfully injured vagina then padsicles would definitely be the way to go. On the other hand, when I wanted actual pain relief and comfort, these medicated cooling pads (like they have at the hospital) were MUCH better!
- The hospital also gives you this cheapo little bottle to squirt warm water down there every single time you go to the bathroom called a peri bottle. It sucks and it’s not an option. However, there is a MUCH better alternative. Fridababy makes a peri-bottle called the Fridet with a nozzle specifically designed to be held upside down, giving you much more control with each use.
- When you leave the hospital, chances are you will receive Dermoplast Pain Relieving Spray and you will be thankful as heck. The nurse told me, “Never forget to use this each and every time you go to the bathroom.” The problem is, that’s a lot of spraying so we had to go out and find two additional cans. Save yourself the hassle and have it ready beforehand! I can’t stress this enough. Another similar spray gaining momentum is Earth Mama Herbal Perineal Spray. It’s a more natural product and I’ve heard raving reviews.
- Prepare to have sitz baths. They are SUPER healing and fantastic for postpartum recovery. Buy a simple plastic cover that sits neatly over your toilet like this top Amazon sitz bath by Yunga Tart and use a high-quality Epsom salt made specifically for these types of baths like Epsoak Epsom Salt (which is Amazon’s #1 choice). I linked the large bag because sitz baths are usually recommended 2-3 times a day! That’s a lot of Epsom salt.
7. You’ll NEVER want to pee EVER again
Remember that unforgetful first bathroom trip I mentioned (with family watching and nurse awkwardly fumbling me over the toilet out of the wheelchair)? Yeah well, that’s when you’ll likely find out this hellish routine. EVERY time you need to pee (or whatever), you have to use the peri bottle with warm water (and trust me you’ll want warm water), spray Dermoplast down there (it’s AH-mazing) replace mesh underwear, add a new LARGE pad and delicately add the thin Tucks Medicated Pad on top (those will be life savers).
Why hadn’t anyone even mentioned that going to the bathroom would SUCK that bad?! God forbid you have to run to the bathroom and then FORGET to add warm water to your peri bottle. Oh, it’s shockingly cold and terrible. Or maybe you need to pee SOO bad that you are literally fumbling that damn peri bottle open to get the RIGHT temperature of water. This way you don’t scald or freeze off your painfully injured vagina.
It’s all just a bag of rainbows and skittles.
At least remember the postpartum kit. Seriously, put together that kit.
8. Don’t pack the kitchen sink!
I read many articles on what to pack in my hospital bag, preparing for the big day. I loaded our bags up with everything everyone said to pack! We used almost none of it. I felt so silly lugging around those huge bags. We had to leave the hospital several times, waiting for further dilation. Each time we carried the heavy bags in and out. Finally, a couple of the nurses kindly offered to stow our bags in a closet so we wouldn’t have to keep bringing them in! Embarrasing. So, I removed all the extra stuff that I didn’t use and created the perfect list:
Check out: Hospital Bag Checklist, For Mom To Be
Pack your hospital bag at least a month before you are due or whenever is best for your situation. Make a list of what you still need to pack the day of (like your phone, phone charger, toothbrush). Finally, pick the bag up and make sure the weight is comfortable.
9. SERIOUSLY, take classes!
I know I already briefly mentioned this in the first paragraph but this little piece of advice I WISH someone had given me is serious enough to have a full bullet point and explanation.
Prenatal classes PREPARE you for labor and delivery. They go over all the pros, cons and risks that may happen to you and the choices that you have to make. Can you make it through a natural birth? If not, what pain management options do you have? Did you know there are real risks to each choice?
Taking a prenatal class helped me understand EVERY option and allowed me to confidently choose a birth plan. You can do this too! Seriously take Hilary Erickson’s prenatal classes. Hospital classes fill up FAST, you may have to take work off and sit for eight hours at a time. Skip all that inconvenience and check out her fantastic courses online here.
10. The paperwork will be absolutely ridiculous
Last but not least (I’m sighing out loud right now even thinking about this) the paperwork is stupid. I don’t mean stupid as in, not necessary. I mean it’s exhausting and WAY too much for someone who’s been through a major medical event, likely on pain medication, completely exhausted and not all there.
I wish someone had told me to choose a pediatrician BEFORE I got close to my delivery date. There was all this paperwork for our pediatritian that I had to fill out and had no clue what to do. And the paperwork lady would not leave it alone.
Also, here’s a funny ANNOYING story worth mentioning. You know how it’s all fun and games when you hear about that birth certificate being wrong? In our case, it was like they were TRYING to get it wrong. Four times – yes, FOUR times, I had to rewrite the name. Each time I wrote it as fricken clear as possible and still it came back with different versions of “D” names. Then the final fourth version, they had our address wrong on the birth certificate. LORD ALMIGHTY. I was going to murder…
I gave up and still to this day it says our little one was born in DENVER DENVER, CO.
So, little tip…have someone else fill out the forms and choose a pediatrician.
There it is: the postpartum hospital stay revealed in all its naked glory. My hospital stay was no skip in the park under rainbows and Toy Story clouds. Yours, likely will not be either. You may have a tiny room, nurses will probably tell you conflicting advice even though they mean the best for you, you’ll likely want to eat a whale afterward, and you could get paid for the horror movie blood show that will go down. BUT hopefully, now you know more than you did before that decaf coffee.
Now, girlfriend, you have the truth and that means you will be MUCH more prepared than I was. Plus, you’ll have that beautiful new baby to make ALL that craziness, worth it. Seriously!