If you're anything like me when I had my first baby, I read everything and did everything I could to prepare for birth.... and nothing for what comes after birth.
Here's what I learned from that experience- Postpartum or the 4th trimester can be HARDER than the actual birth.
Yeah, I said it and I meant it. I was in pain, I was exhausted, I was scared to poop, and don't even get me started on the first time I tried to pee after. Stitches, itchiness, engorged breasts, spit-up, fundal massage. I know, I'm really getting you excited.
When I got pregnant again I was so much better prepared. I had things already to go to make my 4th trimester easier. And you know what? It really helped! So I want to share a few things I did that helped and a few things I've learned since that I think will help you!
1) Skip the cutesy stuff on the registry and ask for friends and family to chip in to hire a postpartum doula. This is literally my number one tip. Postpartum can be isolating but having an extra pair of hands around to help around the house, watch the baby (and entertain the other kids) so you can shower or nap. A postpartum doula will also have a wealth of resources that you can tap into before your standard 6-week follow-up appointment.
2) Stock that freezer with easy, yummy, nourishing meals. Set up a meal train that goes beyond the first couple of weeks. Maybe only have people bring a meal a couple of times a week but for a longer period of time.
3) Use the lactation consultant at the hospital, ask all the questions, and don't be afraid to call someone. Insurance is required to include 6 visits to a lactation consultant. You also get a free breast pump through insurance!
4) Padsicles. Here's the thing, what you use really matters. The first go around I used the gel aloe vera and when it froze it was so cold that it hurt worse more than soothe. The second time I used a more liquid aloe vera that was organic and all-natural, I also used witch hazel.
5) Use the peri bottle they give you WHILE YOU PEE. If you have to get stitches because of tearing this is especially important. I would fill up the bottle with warm water. (not hot but definitely not cold) and squirt the entire time I peed. Then I would fill it again and clean myself. The second time I didn't tear and I didn't have to squirt while I peed, only after.
6) Order a pack of granny panties, mesh panties, and large overnight pads. I would treat those granny panties as disposable too. But the soft cotton ones that are huge are perfect after giving birth.
7) Skip the button pajamas and get the gowns for your baby. Or at least get the zippered onesies. I always scored great PJs at the consignment store! And the velcro swaddles. 1000% worth it for those middle of the night changes!
8) Have a support team. Find someone that had a baby a few months before you to bounce questions off of. If it's someone who is still getting up in the night to nurse, even better. Most of your concerning thoughts happen around 2 am.
9) Create a basket system. I had two baskets near me at all times. A nursing basket that had my milky milk saver, water, snacks, burp cloths, pads for my bra, and whatever else I might need while I nurse. I also had a diaper changing basket with all of those essentials.
10) See a baby-wearing specialist to help you figure out whatever baby-wearing contraption you're trying! Babywearing is so beneficial and convenient but it can be really overwhelming to figure out at first.
11) BONUS! Postpartum Support International. Volunteers helping to support moms in their postpartum period. With hormones and exhaustion, it can be a very difficult time to navigate. Use the resources there is NO shame in that. I'm going to add- if you experience ANY type of trauma. Whether your birth plan had to change drastically, or maybe a past trauma came up during birth, or was assaulted during your birth see a perinatal mental health specialist.
Remember these days are long but they are so short. Snuggle your baby and try to just enjoy and be present with them. Skin-to-skin benefits don't end after you leave the hospital, cuddle and smell your baby. Right now, go do it!
"The moment a child is born, a mother is born also"