As a new mom, this was the biggest mystery of all, the first 24 hours after delivery. It was not only the scariest but the most intriguing daydream that would consume my thoughts as my labor neared.
What was it going to feel like holding my new baby? What would my baby look like? Should I be scared? Will I be in pain? All these questions swirled around my head.
Looking back now, the first 24 hours after delivery was a complete blur. To be honest I probably couldn’t even tell you half of what I experienced if I was going solely off my memory. Luckily, I am an avid journaler (is that even a word?) and I kept documentation of every minute after I had my daughter.
So, if this is your first go-around, and these thoughts and questions all sound strikingly familiar to you, then you’re in the right place because I am going to break down exactly what to expect after childbirth in the first 24 hours, through recaps of my experience.
I want to point out that I had an epidural, and I did not have a C-Section, so my experience could vary greatly from others.
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The ‘Golden Hour’
So let’s start at the very beginning, the first hour after you deliver your new little bundle of joy, commonly referred to as the golden hour or the sacred hour (I’ve seen a couple variations). The reason for this name is because this first hour is crucial in terms of bonding with and learning your new baby. This goes for both mom and dad.
Upon handing me my new baby, the first thing the nurses had me do was to strip my gown down and place my naked daughter on my bare chest. This is a practice known as skin to skin, where the mother and her new baby bond. There are actually many benefits to doing skin to skin and both mom and dad can and should do this with their new baby.
Benefits of skin to skin:
- Releases hormones in your baby that regulate heart rate, breathing, and blood pressure
- Releases hormones in mom that promote healing and calming effects
- Helps bring in colostrum (the thick liquid that comes in before your breast milk)
- Can boost milk supply
- Creates a bond between baby and parents that can last a lifetime
As you can see skin to skin is a very important part in the first 24 hours after birth, and it plays a key role in bonding with and calming your baby.
Now, my doctor and nurse staff took initiative in having my husband and I practice skin to skin with our daughter. However, I was prepared to request it, if they hadn’t and you should be prepared for that as well.
As we all know, every hospital is different and you may need to request this skin to skin contact depending on your hospital. If this is something you wish to do in that first hour after birth, then I would recommend having that set in your birth plan so the hospital staff is aware.
Once you’ve had that magical time to bond with your new baby, the skin to skin contact has likely released hormones throughout your body, and have most likely started to produce what is called colostrum. This is a thick yellowish substance that it released before your milk supply comes in.
This is also referred to as ‘liquid gold’ because it contains so many benefits:
- Acts as a laxative to produce baby’s first poop
- Protects the brain, eyes, and heart, with essential nutrients
- Promotes a strong immune system
- Creates a coating inside your baby’s stomach and intestines to fight germs and harmful bacteria
- Helps prevent jaundice
Clearly, colostrum deserves the name ‘liquid gold’ after reading through the list of benefits it provides to your baby. For these reasons I personally decided to breastfeed my daughter, and it was about an hour after having her that I attempted it for the first time.
Once your skin to skin time is over, it’s time for your baby’s first meal! If you decide to breastfeed your baby this is when the nurses or a lactation specialist will come in and help you ‘latch’ your baby.
Now, I won’t get into the details of breastfeeding in this post, but you can read more about my experience with it by clicking here.
Delivering The Placenta
Upon having my daughter, I soon realized that there was an additional step to delivery that I was completely unaware of, the delivery of the placenta.
During the golden hour when you’re first meeting and holding your new baby, there is a lot going on. During this time, I was so focused on my baby and still numb from the epidural, that I was pretty unaware of everything else going on around me. It wasn’t until I watched back some video footage and saw pictures, that I realized the hospital staff was still busy down there.
Once you have delivered your baby, you must deliver your placenta afterwards, or it could cause serious medical and health complications. Don’t worry, there’s no more pushing or pain involved. If you’re like me and you decide to have an epidural, then you most likely won’t even feel or notice this stage of birth. I just thought it was important to mention, seeing as I was unaware of it before I had my daughter.
Post Baby Belly
This to me, was the strangest phenomenon, and by far one of the most memorable parts of giving birth. The post-baby belly.
Before having Hayvn, I was aware that I would still appear pregnant sometime after birth, and I knew that it would take a while to get the weight off. After all it took 9 months to grow that belly, it makes sense right? What I didn’t expect was how empty and loose my belly would feel immediately after having her.
I will always remember the moment after Hayvn was born, looking down and feeling where my big, stretched out belly had once been and exclaiming “oh my gosh it’s gone!” My husband, my mom and the nurses all laughed, but I genuinely could not believe just how much my belly had sunken, moments after my baby was born.
It makes sense, seeing as upon delivery, you instantly lose around 10-13 pounds. Let me tell you this is the craziest, most relieving feeling.
As well as feeling empty, I remember the strange loose feeling I experienced as well. Think about it, during pregnancy our bellies stretch, and our organs move. So once the baby is gone, they don’t just resume their original positions. It takes a while for everything to go back to where it once was.
Until then, you can expect things to feel a little awkward, loose and jiggly for a while.
Yes, the dreaded tearing we often hear of and fear before going into the delivery room. It happened to me. With Hayvn I had a vaginal birth, and it resulted in a second degree tear. For what it’s worth, in my opinion, I don’t think there is much you can do to avoid this.
I know there are many articles and videos claiming you can prevent a tear, but I think it just depends on your body and how well it prepares itself for labor and delivery.
So, once the placenta is delivered and the doctors and nurses are cleaning and weighing your baby, it’s time for stitches (that is, if your tore or had an episiotomy-surgical cut).
This, my friends, was less than enjoyable. Once the epidural had worn off, I was very sore and pretty much every movement was painful.
One word: Ice. Lots of it.
I’m not telling you this to scare you, rather to prepare you. I was very unprepared for this part of delivery and I know that if I had been better prepared I could have saved myself a lot of pain and hardship.
So mommas, if you end up needing stitches and have a tear, your hospital should provide you with necessary items such as ice packs, a blow up ring for sitting, and other remedies. However, there are two very important things that I recommend to all mommas to have in their hospital bag for this exact situation:
These will become your new best friends and you can thank me later. The numbing spray works wonders and can be used as often as you need, and the adult diapers are more secure and help keep everything in place and avoid any unnecessary discomfort.
Here are some more lifesaving tips for packing your hospital bag:
Okay this was by far the most memorable and haunting parts of birth for me. And let me just say that this doesn’t apply to everyone, so don’t let my story scare you. Please just learn from me.
So, as I’ve mentioned in this post multiple times, I had an epidural with my daughter. The epidural was great, I would 10 times out of 10 recommend getting one, however, go easy on the dosage.
First, let me start off with a little background information in case anyone reading this is unfamiliar with how an epidural works. Once your epidural is in, the doctor will give you a little remote that is directly connected to the epidural. On this remote is one button, and if pressed, it will release a dose of medication and will cause you to become more numb.
Now, this is where you need to pay attention. During the time I was pushing, I was feeling some discomfort and pain (as expected) so I had pressed that little button on my remote, causing the epidural to release more numbing effects.
Unfortunately, I didn’t realize just how close I was to actually having my daughter, and I didn’t know that last dose wasn’t necessary. Upon pressing the button, my daughter arrived a few minutes later, and I was extremely numb, which was fine, until the nurses instructed me to empty my bladder.
Mommas, this was the worst part of labor and delivery for me. After having stitches, and obviously suffering the trauma of birth, I could not pee to save my life. I was so numb that my bladder wasn’t signaling my brain that it was full. So in order to drain my bladder, I had to have 3 catheters. Yes, 3 and did I mention, I wasn’t numb for any of them, along with fresh stitches!
So, please learn from my mistake and communicate with your doctor regarding a time frame of when your baby will be here and lay off the epidural dosage. You’ll be glad you did once your baby is here and you’re able to pee.
Sounds relaxing right? Think again! Something I was blissfully unaware of when it came to post-partum recovery was the belly massages aka fundal massages from the nurses. I will say, these aren’t necessarily the most comfortable, but they’re not the worst.
Once you’ve had your baby, done skin to skin, you’ve been stitched up and attempted breastfeeding, it’s time for the nurses to perform routine checks to make sure you’re healing and recovering properly. One of these checks includes pressing down on your abdomen and massaging your uterus to ensure there are no abnormalities or bleeding. This helps your uterus contract and prevents excessive blood loss.
I won’t try to sugar coat it, these ‘massages’ are painful, but luckily they don’t last very long, and they are very important to make sure you heal properly.
No, not from your baby. Well, maybe your baby, but that wasn’t what I was referring to. When Hayvn was born, it was 2:38 in the morning and I couldn’t wait to get snuggled up in bed and drift off into a much needed deep sleep.
Little did I know, that wouldn’t be happening. During my stay, the hospital staff came into my room every 2-3 hours to wake me and perform random tests on Hayvn as well as give reports on how she was doing.
They would also come int to make sure I was waking every 2-3 hours to feed Hayvn, and they made sure to be in the room as I nursed to help me if I needed it.
At the time, all I wanted was to sleep, after all, I had just been through a massive trauma and had labored for hours before that. Plus, I am not a night owl, so 2:30 a.m. was already way past my bedtime. So, I found these night wakings to be slightly annoying. However, the nurses were coming from a good place, and it was all in my best interest.
Videos & Important Paperwork
Depending on how long you stay, your hospital visit could be over within a day or two. But before you leave, there are a few more things you need to do.
Parenthood doesn’t come with a handbook or an instruction manual right? Well, the hospital does their best to help get you on your feet before you leave.
I’m not sure if they do it at every hospital, but at mine and I know of several others, they have you watch a series of videos covering all the bases of parenting. Some examples include how to bathe and care for your baby, how to adjust and install the car seat, different cries and feeding cues, things of that nature.
I found these videos very helpful, and utilized some of the tips once I was home.
Before leaving, they also have you fill out important documents and paperwork such as your new baby’s birth certificate and social security.
New Mom Nerves
Alright momma, it’s finally time to bring your new baby home, where they will grow and play and laugh. You get to leave the hospital with the newest addition to your family and this whole new journey of motherhood is about to really begin.
I remember leaving the hospital, and it felt like I had been there for years. It all felt so surreal to be outside and to load my new baby in the back seat of our car. It was petrifying and exhilarating all at the same time.
Nothing compares to that feeling of the day you first leave the hospital as parents all on your own and introduce your baby to their new home. No more nurses, no more doctors. It’s solely up to you. This can seem overwhelming and terrifying at first.
Remember to breathe. You’ve got this, and as scary as it is bringing your new baby home from the hospital, just remember, you were made for this. You will be just fine and you will figure things out as you go.
I hope you enjoyed this post on what to expect after childbirth. This was my personal experience, and I hope it will help you to feel more prepared for your big day. If you have any questions or personal insight, I would love to hear from you! Please respond in the comments below!