I transferred schools between sixth and seventh grade (arguably one of the most difficult times in adolescents’ lives), and there were a lot things I had to learn as I transitioned from my co-ed, parochial school, with a classroom of 30 to my all-girls school with two sections of 12. Navigating the new campus, uniform guidelines, hot lunch line, and more could have been traumatic had it not been for my best friend Andie, who was by my side through all of it. Her wisdom was invaluable. and we quickly became inseparable best friends.
Fast forward 10 years and I kid you not, two days after my delivery, Andie was at my door with two bags of food and an entire bag of essentials she said I was going to need to help recover. Andie had gone through these changes a few months prior with the arrival of her son, and in handing me that bag, she was pretty much saying, “Things are about to get crazy, but I am here for you.” Honestly, I looked in the bags and thought there is no way I will need some of this stuff- it’s just Andie being Andie. I cannot tell you how many times I texted her thanking her endlessly for the sanitary pads, hand sanitizer, nipple relief pads, witch hazel wipes and more.
I hate to sound like a cliché, but there are some things I wish I had known about postpartum life -no one told me it would be like this!!! The information I am about to present is my metaphorical bag full of stuff for you. Ignorance might be bliss, but hopefully this information prepares you for what is to come. In addition to the store-bought items from Andie, the most invaluable thing I did was always try and think of each surprise in a positive light and come up with solutions.
In my personal experience, I found that friends and family upon being pressed would share what might happen, but few offered anything more than a smile when asked what to do. Here are some common postpartum physical surprises – we shall save the emotional and relational ones for another post -and helpful solutions.
Physical changes may include but are not limited to the following:
Night sweats, leaking breasts, engorgement, hair growth, hair loss, increased appetite, bloody encore and tears. Lots and lots of tears.
Night sweats: The first six weeks you will drench your sheets! I mean, absolutely, undoubtedly drench your sheets. This was the biggest surprise for me. I suggest purchasing an extra set, or two, so you can change them. There is nothing worse than getting into a sweaty bed.
Leaking breasts: I felt like my breasts were two ice cream cones melting on a hot summer day! I had milk dripping out 24/7. I survived this period with Medela disposable pads and a stack full of clean t-shirts. After each nighttime feeding, I would change into a fresh shirt. Milk supply often settles around 10 weeks so just hang on until then!
Engorgement: Hello, Dolly Parton! That’s how I felt when I would look down at my chest. Ice packs, hot packs and taking a shower and hand expressing offered some relief. Another tip to deal with the pain is to think positively about how amazing your body is that it can feed your newborn.
Hair Growth: My armpit hair has never grown faster! All you can do is laugh and purchase razors in bulk.
Hair Loss: For some the healthy, lush locks of pregnancy disappear as quickly as they arrived. My best advice is to see a professional stylist who can help with a cut and style that minimizes the appearance.
Increased Appetite: Breastfeeding moms often have increased appetites due to milk production, but all moms will be starving due to exhaustion from taking care of a newborn. Stock up on lots of healthy snacks and put some next to your rocker (or wherever you feed your little one). I tease my husband that I am setting up for Santa Clause– each night I set out my large cup of water, trail mix, granola bar, chocolate treat, cereal and more for easy access during the night. Having healthy snacks readily available makes all of the difference!
Bloody Encore: I named this myself. I remember when I was pregnant waiting for the “Bloody Show” to arrive. Well the bloody encore lives up to it’s name. I hate to say it, but you will want to only wear dark pants and granny panties for six weeks after delivery. I do not want to overshare, but I have to in the name of sisterhood. I wish I had known about this so that I could have purchased maxipads in advance. I found myself two weeks postpartum in Target trying to find out the best pad. I mean, I had not purchased pads since I was in the 6th grade!
Tears: Last but not least, the tears. Tears of joy, sadness, frustration, hunger, excitement, love, rage and more are sure to come those first couple of weeks. Stock up on tissue and drink lots of water!
Good luck!!! Now that you’ve read this you can’t say I didn’t warn you– or at least try to!!