Updated: Mar 28, 2022
That little word can give a cascade of feelings. You’ve survived having your first ever period, most likely tried multiple forms of contraception that affect your moods and hormones, such as the contraceptive pill. Maybe you’ve even gone through IVF to achieve conception. You’d think that you’d understand your body and its hormones enough by now. Well, think again. When it comes to feelings and hormones, having a baby starts a totally new ball game. There will be oxytocin released into your body, which can give you feelings of love that you could never have imagined before. Think clouds, marshmallows, rainbows and unicorns, or pasta, garlic bread and pizza – whatever makes you happy, times a million. The wonder and amazement when you first see your baby’s face.
I can hear Celine Dion singing, “The first time ever I saw your face I thought the sun rose in your eyes and the moon and the stars were the gifts you gave to the dark and endless skies, my love. Your face – Your faaaacccccee” 😊
Can you imagine? Many people say they don’t want to know their baby’s sex, so they can have that surprise. But when you see your baby’s face for the first time, you’ll be surprised – and amazed – even if you already knew it was a boy or a girl.
With such huge feelings of love and passion can also come a rollercoaster of other emotions. Just think of it as the balance of life. Before you get to that balance, your body is trying to catch up on everything. Its saying am I pregnant? Am I not pregnant anymore? Am I going to make milk now? Am I happy? Am I tired? Do I want to party and celebrate? Am I going to be able to do this? Did I do the right thing? And why do I still have a baby bump? Confusion o’clock and it’s all normal. It’s all being juggled in the air, and it needs to land. Another completely normal feeling is to just feel numb. It can just be all too much to absorb, process and feel. Not everyone hears Celine Dion singing after giving birth; you may just hear elevator music instead. Quite often, months down the track, some mothers share that they didn’t feel intense love straight away and that it was something that developed, and this is also normal. As I’ve mentioned before, your heart will keep growing and expanding beyond imaginable levels. Give yourself the time and the right to experience those feelings. This is all new.
In the first few days it’s common to feel like you’re on a bit of a high and full of adrenaline. Your body may feel tired, like you’ve just run a marathon, but your mind is alert and still running. This means your body is still full of adrenaline. It also means that your quality of sleep may not be so great. You may have deep sleep with sudden waking periods. Try and rest your body anyway. This usually lasts two to three days and then begins to wear off. When it does wear off, you’ll feel tired. Then comes what you may have heard of as the “baby blues”. What goes up must temporarily come down. I often tell mums that they might feel like the worst mother on the planet, and as if they just can’t do it because they can’t open a tissue box. Expect some waterworks – and you won’t be crying alone. By this stage, babies have usually well and truly woken up and are much more demanding.
So, give yourself a hug; talk to your partner, best friend and midwife and ask for help if you need it. This is the time to put yourself to bed. Tell visitors not to visit and, apart from feeding yourself and your baby, go to sleep, or at least rest. This is not the time to try to be brilliant.
Eat-feed-sleep, eat-feed-sleep, eat-feed-sleep … and repeat. Keep hydrated. This will make everything much better. It will pass, but not if you don’t look after yourself. It’s all about comfort measures, good food, hydration, a shower and whatever is healthy and comforts you.
Healthy mum = being able to look after your baby.
Love and nurture yourself so that you can do that for your baby. Sleep deprivation is a form of torture. Unless your baby is sleeping through the night, you need to have a sleep during the day, till you’re feeling better or till your baby sleeps through the night. If your baby is up early in the morning, feed it and then go back to bed. Don’t start your day too early.
Don’t forget that there are beautiful moments of love and allow yourself to process these feelings. You and your body are learning to find balance again, just like you have many times before, through your life’s changes and developments.
It’s important to give this new life and relationship time to grow and evolve. You’ve jumped in the deep end, into your strongest whirlwind relationship ever. And you may find it hard to take a breather and absorb it all. You can’t say, “I’m falling so madly in love with you. See you for date night again in a few days”. It’s every minute of the day and night. Parts are amazing – the best you’ve ever had – but other parts feel like you’re sleeping with a broken alarm clock, which keeps going off. And it’s so frustrating – you just need sleep. Take a deep breath and know that your feelings are normal. These feelings will come and go over the next few months and that’s okay.
As I mentioned before - days three and four after giving birth are usually the ‘baby blue days.’ Once your hormones start to rebalance, you’ll start to feel better. Your body will realise it’s no longer pregnant. If you’re breastfeeding, usually you will start to make milk and then your baby will be less demanding. Bring on milk-drunk baby, please.
After giving birth you will have a normal period of blood loss. It will change initially from a dark red to a lighter red colour and finally to a yellowy whitish colour with traces of blood. This whole process can last up to six weeks. These changes occur as the uterus heals from the detachment of the placenta. The body is also shedding excess blood and fluids from the uterine lining. The darkest blood usually lasts around three to four days, followed by the blood loss that is lighter in colour. If you think that your blood loss is heavy, show your midwife your pad and keep in mind how often you are changing it.
You may also pass small clots. These are also normal, but if they are bigger than a 50-cent coin, let your midwife know that this is happening, so that she can check that your uterus is still contracting and lowering effectively. Small clots are especially common in the first 48 hours after giving birth. They shouldn’t be happening weeks after. If they are, you need to contact your doctor, as it could mean that you have retained products of the placenta. Your blood loss shouldn’t smell offensive – if it does it can be a sign of infection. If you have left hospital, please contact your doctor or midwife for further care and guidance.
Just in case you were wondering, no tampons. You will need maternity pads and no swimming pools for at least six to eight weeks.
After-birth pains feel like period pains, and they are often stronger during breastfeeding. Their purpose is to contract your uterus, while returning it to its pre-pregnancy position. They can also cause a little more blood loss. These pains can become stronger after subsequent births, as the uterus must work harder to recover.
Keeping hydrated is always important for your body’s health. Being dehydrated can leave you feeling lethargic, and even lower your blood pressure, causing you to feel dizzy or faint. It’s generally advised that humans need two to three litres of water a day for healthy body function. You might prefer to follow the health guidance of one litre per every 25 kilograms that you weigh.
After giving birth, women are often a little dehydrated because of blood loss and/or the exertion of labour. No matter what way you gave birth, your body is working hard to heal. So, keep hydrated and, if you’ve had a caesarean, follow your day-to-day fluid intake rules for the first few days. If you’ve given birth in winter, it can be even harder to stay hydrated, as drinking lots of cold water can lower your body temperature. So, try drinking warm or room-temperature water.
If you don’t like drinking water, you can add a little apple juice or a splash of soft drink to make it more tolerable.
Remember that your body is healing and recovering from being pregnant and giving birth – while also adjusting to this amazing new chapter. Give yourself and everything time.
Always check with your own Doctor, midwife or healthcare professional prior to following any information here - to ensure it's safe and adequate for you and your situation. This is not a midwife - patient - client relationship.