"It was incredibly distressing: What no one told me about what happens after you deliver a baby."

The recovery after delivery.

I don’t really know what I was expecting and while I certainly wasn’t assuming it would be easy, no one told me how vulnerable you feel and how messy it is.

I had to have a forceps assisted delivery and episiotomy as I had been pushing too long unassisted with almost no changes; I had been in labour for at least 24 hours and was exhausted. Due to this, I was given a spinal. If you haven’t had a spinal, unlike an epidural, it completely removes all feeling from your chest down. I had to have a catheter as I could not move my legs for the next 24 hours while the spinal wore off.

Mums and non-mums answer questions about childbirth, and yikes.

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While I was forewarned of the physical effects of a spinal, I wasn’t prepared for how stressful I found this with a newborn. Having my little girl within arms reach, but unable to pick her up because I couldn’t sit myself up was deeply upsetting, particularly when she was crying and I would have to call for a midwife to pick her up for me. I wish someone was able to share this with me, so I could have been more mentally prepared.

Breastfeeding can be very difficult and painful

Another thing I wasn’t told about was just how difficult breastfeeding can be. At all the parenting groups and talks, staff would talk about how easy breastfeeding was for a baby as it’s instinct, natural etc. There was a big campaign encouraging women to breastfeed their babies over formula, so I feel they pushed this forward by any means. Yet, when I was in hospital, my baby could not work out how to feed. She wasn’t tongue-tied or had any underlying issues preventing her from feeding, she just couldn’t work it out. Every single midwife and nurse that tried helping my baby feed all said how difficult it is for a newborn to understand how to breastfeed and it takes practise. Completely different to what I was told throughout my pregnancy!

While some babies do learn very quickly how to breastfeed and it rarely becomes a serious issue, I felt emotional over the conflicting information I was given. Unfortunately, my little girl never got the hang of breastfeeding and, after two days of cup feeding or syringe feeding out of desperation, my husband and I caved and gave her formula just so she wouldn’t starve as she was losing weight quickly.

I wasn’t told just how painful full breasts can be! While I did feed my baby formula when she had lost a lot of weight, I still wanted to give her breast milk when I could, so I expressed as much as I could.

how to stop breastfeeding pain
"My little girl never got the hang of breastfeeding and, after two days of cup feeding or syringe feeding out of desperation, my husband and I caved and gave her formula." Image: Getty.

One day, we had to take my little girl to the NICU ward (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) to have a lot of tests done on her liver and her blood levels. I didn't have time to express that morning. I thought to myself “it's okay, I will just express when I get home". I was told that ‘engorged' breasts just felt a little sore and make them feel quite hard, so wired bras can be a little uncomfortable. Oh boy, was that an understatement. I was in the middle of the NICU while my baby was having her bloods taken and I felt horrendous. The pain was excruciating, it felt like they were being crushed in a vice, making me more and more queasy. My head started to spin, I began to get tunnel vision. It was incredibly distressing!

Thankfully, after breaking down to one of the midwives, she explained this was completely normal for engorged breasts and showed me to a little station they have in each room where you can express in private with a curtain. Once I expressed (a lot!) of milk, all my symptoms went away. I couldn't believe how the symptoms of engorged breasts was brushed over so much to me.

Healing after delivery

I was not prepared for how messy it is. It sounds kind of silly, but both media and people you know in real life only really tell you the good parts after delivery; your sweet little baby. No one mentions the endless bleeding for weeks on end, the huge ugly open scar you have after an episiotomy and even how painful having a wee is due to stitching (I would sob and nearly faint from the pain most times).

I do think we are all guilty of going into depth about the good parts and brushing off the bad parts of pregnancy, labour and recovery. While I can understand why we do, I do think it's necessary in at least some of these situations to just be honest about how much it can suck. No one that wants a baby will mind knowing the bad parts because, when you see your baby in the end, you know it was all worth it.

Note: I fully understand that some of these things I experienced can be a complete non-issue for others and that's why perhaps staff, family and friends may not feel the need to tell you about said things. However, I am simply sharing my experience.

This post originally appeared on Quora and has been republished with full permission.

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