The Real Deal: Helpful Labor and Recovery Tips from Moms Who’ve Been There

February 21, 2012

As my partner and I have been preparing for labor and recovery, I’ve been talking to a lot of friends with babies and have realized that most books and even childbirth classes don’t tell you about the gory details of what it’s really like. 

Since I want to know what to expect, I have surveyed my mommy friends and come up with the top unpleasant things no one told them about that they experienced during/as a result of childbirth, and on a more positive note, the most useful things for recovering from childbirth.  I think the most important disclaimer is that experiences varied widely and it is impossible to know exactly what your labor will be like, but I like knowing what the range of possibilities are, so here goes.

Things to Know About Labor

  1. Epidurals are not always 100% effective.   One friend could feel everything on one side.  Another could feel the area where she tore (ouch!) and had to stop the doctor while he was stitching because she could feel it!  The good news is that I think it’s more common to not feel anything, but you never know!  Also, a friend with an epidural said she actually liked having a catheter because having contractions in the bathroom was terrible, which is a good lesson in trying to be open-minded during labor even when it isn’t going according to you birth plan.
  2. You will probably bleed during labor and you will have a LOT of post-birth bleeding.  My friends’ responses on this ranged from “Expect to waddle around wearing enormous pads for weeks.” to “When I tried to use the restroom post-delivery I left the bathroom looking like a scene from a slasher movie. There is no pad big enough to control that mess.”  I guess the lesson here is just remember it’s temporary.
  3. You will probably poop when you’re pushing.
  4. Hemorrhoids suck.
  5. Many friends remarked about not realizing how long recovery would take.  Specifically regarding sex, one friend noted that sex was impossible for six months post baby and very painful for six months after that.

Recovery and Generally Helpful Survival Tips

  1. For faster recovery, do lots of kegels and perineum massage pre-birth to avoid tearing.
  2. Bring sweats, bathrobe to the hospital.  You are not going to want to wear nice clothes.  Another friend recommended a stretchy v-neck cotton dress for ease of nursing.
  3. Prearrange friends/family to be on call who can bring you food, fill prescriptions, give you hugs.  Basically, people who enable you to focus on your baby.
  4. Eat and sleep as much as you can even though you’re overwhelmed with everything because it will speed up your recovery (but don’t expect any miracles).  Keep healthy and protein packed snacks near your nursing stations.  A water bottle with a straw is great, especially during nursing (someone else can “feed” you water if your hands are occupied.)
  5. The disposable underwear and big frozen ice packs they give you at the hospital will be your best friends.  Ask for extras at the hospital to bring home with you.
  6. Make sure you have super soft toilet paper and multiple peri bottles (put one in each bathroom and one in your diaper bag).
  7. It helps to have an inflatable ring to sit on.
  8. A smartphone is great for lots of things (camera, videocamera, reading while you’re nursing, keeping track of feedings and diaper changes).
  9. Snuggling with your baby will help you forget the pain you’re feeling … or at least remind you why it’s worth it.

Good luck to all your mommies-to-be out there!