What to Expect After Giving Birth

What to Expect After Giving Birth: 13 Things that Suck

Did you think pregnancy sucked? I did. I wrote an entire post about the things that sucked about pregnancy that no one told me. When I posted it on Facebook, most of my comments in response were “ha ha just wait until you give birth”. Wait, what? But I’ll have a cute little baby and I’ll be breastfeeding so the weight will melt off and I’ll just sleep when he sleeps!

And it’s true, I did give birth to a freaking adorable, cuddly little baby – Humphrey Harlen Wheatley. So all this bad stuff that I list below isn’t actually that bad. But, I still want to rage blog about it (and I have every right to do so!). I don’t include the obvious post-birth stuff like a 6-week long period, incontinence, or a stretched out vagina – you’re probably already anticipating those sucky postpartum inconveniences.

Just remember that these 13 things that suck about postpartum won’t last forever!

Don’t forget to check out our web story: What to Expect After Giving Birth

Photo Credit: Some of the photos in this post are by the incredibly talented Nicola Bezuidenhout. Please check out her Instagram page to see more of her work and her beautiful family!

What to Expect After Giving Birth: 13 Things No One Tells You

1. You Won’t “Sleep When They Sleep”

What to Expect after Having a Baby

When we were preparing for the birth of our child we got the same advice over and over again – “sleep when he sleeps!” Which sounds perfect in theory but in reality, it’s a lot harder than you might think.

When you first get home from the hospital you’ll be so concerned about keeping your baby alive that you’ll be too nervous to nap while they’re sleeping. You’ll wake up to every little peep and will probably wake up frequently just to put your finger under their nose to make sure they’re still breathing (or is that just me?).

And then as they get older, you’ll find that literally nothing can be accomplished while they are awake. Babies like to be held and walked around and played with, so the time that they are sleeping is the only time you’ll have to get things done. Laundry, dishes, housework, catching up on Facebook, finish reading your book, respond to emails, sex – all of these need to be accomplished in the hours that your baby naps. So getting a nap in yourself will seem impossible.

Don’t plan on sleeping while your baby sleeps. In fact, don’t really count on sleeping at all.

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2. Alcohol Isn’t Appealing

What to Expect after Having a Baby

When I was pregnant I really really missed red wine. And I missed sipping fancy cocktails at happy hour with my girlfriends. So I did some research about drinking (in moderation) while breastfeeding and found that it’s really not that big of a deal. Your body metabolizes the booze and if you drink while breastfeeding or right after, you have plenty of time for it to get out of your system before the next feeding.

So I purchased several bottles of wine and dreamed about the day when I’d no longer be pregnant and I could drink that delicious vino once more.

But it turns out that alcohol makes you really sleepy. And taking care of a baby is already freaking exhausting. So the thought of intentionally doing something that will make you even more tired than you already are is not even remotely appealing. Especially in the evening when you know you won’t get more than 2 consecutive hours of sleep all night.

It’s shocking and appalling how many times my husband has offered me a glass of wine and I’ve declined. Who are you and what have you done with Valerie?

3. You’ll Get Body Odor

What to Expect after Having a Baby

I’ve never had noticeable body odor in my life. Ever. In fact, prior to giving birth, I’d often forget to even wear deodorant. But since Humphrey was born, just the act of existing makes my pits smell remarkably funky. And if I work out? I smell like a 400 lb man after running a marathon in a puffy coat. These days I wouldn’t dream of forgoing deodorant, even just around the house.

Supposedly there are a few reasons as to why our armpits (and crotch apparently) smell differently after giving birth. The first is all the changes in our hormones. And the second is because your newborn baby’s hearing and eyesight are quite terrible, but their sense of smell is spot on. So your body’s natural instinct is to produce a strong smell that your baby will be able to recognize. And apparently my baby really recognizes funk?

But don’t worry, your smell should go back to normal over time. Mine hasn’t yet, but I haven’t given up hope!

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4. Breastfeeding Doesn’t Make You Lose Weight

What to Expect After Giving Birth

I gained 25 lbs during my pregnancy. Granted, Humphrey was born 4 weeks early so that number probably would’ve skyrocketed by his actual due date. And the first 15 lbs came off almost immediately which made me think “hell yeah, this weight loss thing is going to be a piece of cake!” (mmmm… now I’m thinking about cake…).

But here I am, 3 months postpartum, with the same damn 10 lbs left to lose. Supposedly breastfeeding burns 550 – 670 calories per day and I work out and watch what I eat (except for the occasional cake), so what’s the deal?

Actually, the inability to lose those pesky 10 lbs is quite common among breastfeeding moms. Many women say it only finally came off when they stopped breastfeeding. There are several reasons for that – you may be eating too much, or too little, or getting less exercise than your body is used to. You’re probably spending a lot of time sitting on the couch, feeding your baby while scrolling Facebook.

The other reason why new moms (and me) may have some trouble with that last few pounds is hormones. Prolactin is a hormone that is released every time your baby latches and it’s also a hormone that has been shown to cause weight gain, exhaustion, and lower energy levels. Breastfeeding mothers have 10 times more prolactin than the average person!

And rolactin suppresses the hormone adiponectin which helps to promote a fast metabolism. So we need prolactin to produce milk, but it suppresses adiponectin which we need to lose weight. It’s an annoying catch-22, and I guess I’ll have to resign myself to this new squishy bod*.

*takes a break from blogging to order a cake

5. Your Sex Life Gets Less Sexy

What to Expect After Giving Birth
Photo by Nicola Bezuidenhout

After you have a baby you begin to see your boobs less as perky fun bags for your partner to play with, and more as big, saggy cow udders. It’s less fun for you to have them touched when they are engorged, painful, and leaking milk. And if your baby is going through a growth spurt and feeding constantly, your nipples will probably feel like they’re about to fall off.

If that isn’t already unsexy enough, your baby will be sleeping about a foot from your bed. And will probably start fussing right in the middle of your sexcapade – which is possibly the world’s biggest turnoff.

Add in the extra 10 lbs, the lack of sleep, the constant worrying, and the body odor and you’ve got a recipe for sex disaster.

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6. You’ll be Late for Everything

It never fails – as soon as you’ve got the diaper bag packed, the baby in the carrier, and the Uber called, he’ll take a giant poop or start wailing and foil your best-laid plans. I find that I’m even late to scheduled phone calls and the mere act of leaving the house is daunting. When I was child-less I thought it was a very convenient mom excuse to blame every tardy appearance or canceled plans on the baby – now it all makes sense.

Don’t be afraid to blame all things on your baby and if you just say “no” to plans that involve putting on pants – every other mom will completely understand!

7. You’ll Become a Poop Connoisseur

Color, consistency, and smell are all things that I used to look for in a fine wine. And I now look for in my child’s diaper. Is his poop too dark? Too runny? How long has it been since he’s gone? It will start in the hospital with concerns about your own ability to poop, and will continue on for literal years until your baby can start wiping his own butt.

And the worst part about your new poop duties? Watching your baby’s tiny face scrunch up and turn bright red while trying to have a bowel movement. Apparently flexing your stomach muscles while relaxing your butthole is a skill that we take for granted and that doesn’t come as naturally as you might think.

Bottoms up!

8. You’ll Worry All The Time

What to Expect after Having a Baby

Is he too hot? Or too cold? Is he eating enough? Or eating too much? When did I change his diaper last? Why hasn’t he pooped today? Is his nose clogged? Can he breathe okay? Is he sleeping too much? Or not enough?

Those are the thoughts that have gone through my mind over the last 3 minutes as my baby sleeps peacefully next to me. When I was pregnant I was so paranoid every time I couldn’t feel him moving and I thought “this will get much better once he’s born”. Wrong.

I worry all the time, about everything. Especially at night when I am not able to continuously stare at him and check to make sure he’s breathing every few minutes. You read horror stories and have scary experiences like realizing that you accidentally fell asleep while he was resting on your chest. The worry for your child only gets worse after you give birth and doesn’t stop until your dead.

The most concerning thing in your baby’s first few months of life is the danger of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrom). It helped me a lot when I read an NPR article that showed our baby is more likely to be struck by lightning in his lifetime than to die of SIDS. You’ll probably still be nervous as hell all the time, but hopefully, that statistic helps.

9. Your Hair Will Fall Out

What to Expect After Giving Birth

I knew that this one was coming but damn, it’s still shocking to pull out clumps of hair after a shower. And seeing it all over the floor and clogging the drain. It’s impossible to really prepare yourself for this one.

And it’s not just your hair, your skin will look lackluster and you’ll have zero time to devote to self-care. Your baby is sucking the nutrients out of your body and sucking up all of your time.

Keep taking your prenatal vitamins, give yourself a castor oil hair mask, and stop washing it so often. It won’t stop the hair loss but might slow it down a bit. And treat yourself to massages, pedicures, and anything else that makes you feel good because you damn well deserve it!

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10. You’ll Compare Your Baby to Other Babies

What to Expect After Giving Birth
Photo by Nicola Bezuidenhout

Having “mom friends” is both a blessing and a curse. When you get together you inevitably talk about your babies – how much they’re eating, sleeping, smiling, tummy timing, etc. And I really am happy for you that your baby is sleeping from 7pm until 7am, but I also want to punch you and your well-behaved baby in the face. Because mine is still waking up every 2 hours.

Having a baby is a brand new experience. You don’t know what’s normal and what’s not normal. So you’ll want to talk to your mom friends about their experiences. Which is great! Just know that it will probably make you question your mom-ing ability.

It sounds annoying and cheesy, but every baby truly is different. And your baby may sleep more than mine at night, but my baby will definitely grow up to be hotter and smarter than yours so take that Karen!

11. You’ll be Filthy Dirty

What to Expect after Having a Baby
Photo by Nicola Bezuidenhout

Yesterday I managed to wash and dry my hair for the first time in a week, and almost immediately Humphrey puked all over my hair and down my back. And just last night he slept 30 minutes longer than usual and my left boob leaked all over my sheets. And then he blew out his diaper and soiled the back of his nighttime jammies with baby poo.

Those are just 3 of the many experiences in the past 24 hours that have covered me in milk, spit-up, and poop. The only time I am truly clean is the moment I step out of the shower and put on freshly laundered clothes. As soon as I pick up my baby something inevitably happens to make me filthy again.

All this usually leads to me putting my hair in a high bun and wearing the same stained clothes from the day before. Come to think of it, this may also be a contributing factor to why sex is no longer sexy.

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12. You Can’t Have it All

Whenever I’ve thought about having kids in the past, I’ve assumed that I’d be stoked to get back to work after a 3-month maternity leave. I thought it would feel great to get back to adult conversations, professional work clothes, and making money. And that I’d get home at the end of the day with plenty of time to cuddle my cute baby.

But in reality, after 3 months of basically watching my baby every second of every day, I can barely get myself motivated to work from home. What if I miss a cute giggle or the first time he rolls over because I’m typing furiously at my kitchen table 5 feet away?

I cannot imagine what it would be like to have to get up at a reasonable hour, get myself and my baby ready, drive him to daycare, and then get myself to work by 8am. Then I’d spend the entire day pumping and/or looking at videos of my baby being cute while pretending to care about my job. And by the time I got home, I’d have maybe an hour with him before his bedtime.

The idea that moms can work a full-time job and have enough quality time with their children after only a 3-month maternity leave is totally absurd.

13. You Might Resent Your Partner

What to Expect after Having a Baby

I’m currently reading a book called How Not to Hate Your Husband After Kids (just as a precaution). I’m actually lucky that my husband works from home and is really good about cleaning the house, taking on baby duties, getting me coffee in the morning, running errands, and just basically splitting the baby-raising stress equally with me.

But I can imagine that if he went back to work (since men in the US usually only get 2 weeks of parental leave whereas women get 3 months), it would be a lot harder to feel like the workload was equal. Raising a baby is HARD. Harder than going to a stupid office job where you get lunch breaks and coffee breaks and where you don’t have to change your coworker’s poopy diapers.

One study found that a baby crying is the number 1 thing that will wake up a woman, but for men, it’s not even in the top 10! So when you’re crawling out of bed at 2:00am to care for a crying baby while your partner snores peacefully next to you, you’ll probably want to strangle him.

And if he gets off work early and meets friends for happy hour while you’re patiently waiting for him to take over baby-holding duty so you can shower… call me and I’ll bring the wine and the shovel!

We hope this post helps you prepare for the sucky things you’ll encounter after giving birth to your fabulous little baby!

Check out our favorite pregnancy books!


About the Author:

  • Valerie Wheatley

    Val grew up in Portland, Oregon but moved to Oahu on a whim back in 2013. She sold her house and all of her belongings and bought a one-way ticket. Since then she’s taken two around-the-world trips and has visited 60-ish countries while living out of a duffel bag.

    Val started documenting the Wandering Wheatleys travels back in 2013 as a way to update friends and family about her whereabouts and to relay humorous daily interactions. The only readers were her mom and her mother-in-law but that didn’t stop her!

    These days you’ll find Val dreaming up future trips, creating new travel content, managing a team of amazing travel enthusiasts, and chasing around her two adorable but naughty kids.

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