12 Moms Share: What I Wish I Knew About the Postpartum Period

After you have your baby, you naturally might think you're done. You've finally got your newborn in your arms. You might assume that your mind and body will quickly bounce back to "normal" and you'll be free of the many possible discomforts or symptoms of pregnancy. The pregnancy is over, right? Not exactly. You're now in the often intense, sometimes protracted postpartum period, which is often called the fourth trimester.

The Fourth Trimester

This postpartum experience can vary drastically from person to person. While some feel great physically soon after the birth, others may feel so tired that they can barely function. The moms we interviewed said they felt shocked, surprised, angry, lonely, unseen, and blown away during this time—as well as blissful and in love. Falling anywhere in this range of emotions is normal. It's also normal to feel differently from day to day, or even minute to minute.

However, what lots of new moms tend to have in common during this period is that they feel somewhat blindsided by a diverse series of physical and emotional symptoms. Most women are not prepared for an onslaught of other very common (and normal) postpartum symptoms, explains Tamika Auguste, MD, a Washington, D.C.-based OB/GYN doctor who has been delivering babies for almost two decades.

These symptoms may include self-doubt, frustration, bleeding, constipation, mood swings, night sweats, nipple pain, breast engorgement, baby blues, and breastfeeding challenges.

Understanding the Postpartum Period

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) notes that many expecting moms do not get enough information on the postpartum experience. The organization advocates for more comprehensive care for new mothers during this period as well as enhanced pre-birth education on what to expect.

"The postpartum period lasts from delivery up to eight weeks or more. For some, it takes up to 12 weeks," says Dr. Auguste. She stipulates that this timeframe is unique for each new mother and will depend on a variety of factors, such as their medical history, pregnancy or birth complications, access to support, and life circumstances.

During this period, your hormones are raging, says Dr. Auguste, which explains why many new moms end up tearful, strained, and feeling like they can't do anything right. This emotional upheaval is very common and is typically called baby blues.

However, when it persists and interferes with day-to-day activities like showering, eating, and getting out of bed, then it's more than baby blues. Women should seek evaluation and care for postpartum depression, advises Dr. Auguste.

We spoke with 12 moms from across the country about what they wish they had known about this postpartum experience—both the good and the bad. Read about their experiences as well as their helpful advice.

1

Dana Lawrie

Stats

  • Who: Dana Lawrie, 33, Snohomish, Washington
  • Kids: Nash (almost 3), Jax (18 months), Baby girl on the way (due November 2021)

Dana's Advice

"Postpartum was not like I had expected, and honestly something I didn’t feel I was prepared for. I knew I’d be exhausted, stretched thin, and busy. But the depths of what those days weeks and months postpartum would be like was a surprise to me. 

Emotionally, I found the first months postpartum very difficult. I say that not to scare anyone, but because I wish someone had been flat out open with me about the struggles...without adding a cliche at the end, [like] 'but it’s the best!' or 'but it’s all worth it!'

Dana Lawrie

I wish someone had said that some days you’ll be so tired that your head will throb and you will feel completely lost in a fog. You’ll feel like you don’t know what you are doing, and you will convince yourself that you’re doing it all wrong—but you are not.

— Dana Lawrie

There is no handbook and every parent out there is figuring this out as we go. 

I assumed it made me a bad mom that I wasn’t loving it all. I felt lonely a lot of the time, but there was rarely a moment when I didn’t have a baby attached to my body. It was a different kind of loneliness. One in which I felt like no one around me could see me and truly understand what was going on inside my mind.

I realized that I needed other like-minded women in my life. Moms who didn’t have it all together and we’re not afraid to be honest about it. And who would also support me with zero judgment when I shared my truths. Find your supportive people, whether it be in person or online.

The other thing I wish someone had told me is to go at your own pace. In these first months, the only thing you need to be concerned with is a healthy, fed baby, and a healthy (also fed) mom. Everything else on earth can wait. You do not need to be doing 'more.' Give yourself all of the time you need to heal and adjust to this new life."

Follow Dana on Instagram @candidlymom

2

Veniece Lee

Stats

  • Who: Veniece Lee, 31, Raleigh, NC
  • Kids: Myan (4), Maelyn (newborn)

Veniece's Advice

"I barely remember the first few days of being home with my son. That's just how tired and out of it I was. Luckily, my husband was there to pick up the slack those first few weeks because my body needed to rest.

Nobody talks about the emotional rollercoaster you may experience postpartum. Thinking or speaking about my birth story instantly made me break down in tears. I would cry over every little thing, whether it was good or bad. I've never felt so out of control of my emotions. This feeling lasted for the first few months after birth. I was never depressed, but postpartum PTSD is real.

Veniece Lee

You hear people talk about how tired you will be with a newborn but that was nothing like anything I've ever experienced—and I used to stay up for 24 hours just for fun back in college.

— Veniece Lee

As a first-time mom, breastfeeding was a little bit of a learning curve. The first two weeks were rough. It hurt like hell and then the cluster feeding started, which doesn't give your boobs time to rest and recover from the last feeding. Luckily, I had an amazing lactation consultant during and after my pregnancy who warned me. She said if I could make it through the first 2 to 3 weeks it would be like night and day. She was right! After that, it was smooth sailing.

Give yourself some grace! It is okay if the dishes aren't done and the house isn't spotless. Trying to do too much too soon can be overwhelming and physically painful in the long run. Delegate those small tasks to your support system so that you can rest and bond with your new baby. 

My husband and I took quite a few classes during my pregnancy that were very helpful and informative. The class taught him how to help me at every stage, from delivery through postpartum, so it was beneficial for both of us."

Follow Veniece on Instagram @innatemotherhood

3

Jimmi Sivia

Stats 

  • Who: Jimmi Sivia, 29, Greater Seattle Area, WA
  • Kids: Atlas (1 month)

Jimmi's Advice

"I’m honestly surprised and still generally weary about how good I feel. During labor, I didn’t tear or need stitches (hallelujah!) and my body feels fantastic. I had a pretty yucky pregnancy, physically. So, I don’t know if I feel amazing just because I’m not pregnant anymore, or if my body is just thriving postpartum.

I had so much antepartum anxiety and depression, my close friends, family, and medical providers cautioned me to pay very close attention to my mental health afterward. However, so far, my mental health is amazing as well. I feel like I’ve been waiting for this my entire life. The only issues I’ve been experiencing are my struggles with breastfeeding

The hardest part has been my inability to breastfeed. I saw a lactation consultant and was doing so much extra work to try and get a latch and to keep my supply up. I made the decision to stop trying recently because it felt too traumatic and I felt my mental health going downhill.

I’ve always heard that some women just can’t breastfeed. But I never thought I’d be one of those women. I had insulin resistance pre-pregnancy and was never informed that endocrine issues can affect milk supply. I think it’s important to know that sometimes your baby won’t latch, your milk supply is low, or underlying health issues can affect that ability—and it’s okay.

Jimmi Sivia

I went back and forth with feeling inadequate and broken and being okay with the fact that I was using mostly formula. At the end of the day, my baby is fed, thriving, and happy and that is all that matters.

— Jimmi Sivia

Make sure you have a solid support system and medical providers that you absolutely trust. You can always switch providers and you can always choose your support system. Make sure they have your and your baby’s best interest at heart and aren’t pushing you to do things you aren’t comfortable with or capable of doing. Know your limits, honor your body, and protect your sanity. You have to be healthy to care for your baby." 

Follow Jimmi on Instagram @heyjimmikay

4

Ashley Ferrel

Stats

  • Who: Ashley Ferrel, 35, Dallas, TX
  • Kids: Margot (4), Ford (9 months)

Ashley's Advice

"My postpartum experience with my daughter (my firstborn) was unexpectedly difficult. I had planned and prepared for a natural hospital birth with as few interventions as possible. Then, she failed the non-stress test at my 40-week appointment and it was straight to Labor and Delivery for an induction that resulted in an emergency C-section.

Thankfully, my daughter was born healthy and we had a pretty easy breastfeeding experience. But the sense of failure I felt from my birth plan falling apart was pretty intense. 

Physically, I labored for 14 hours and then had a C-section, so my body went through a lot. Emotionally, I had baby blues and struggled with the transition to being the mother of a newborn.

Ashley Ferrel

When the last of our visitors left, I felt deeply lonely for a while.

— Ashley Ferrel

I’m so grateful that I had a great support system, due to joining a support group for new moms. It’s not an exaggeration to say that group saved me. And my husband is an amazing partner—incredibly empathetic and a great listener. I always felt that we were in it together. 

We found out we were expecting again in January 2020 and then the COVID-19 pandemic happened. Planning for that birth experience ahead of time made my postpartum experience so much better! I knew what to expect physically and emotionally, I was able to focus on bonding with [my baby] rather than beating myself up for 'failing' at childbirth. 

Everyone tells you about [the sleep deprivation], but until you experience it yourself, you can’t really know. The best part for me was the sleepy baby snuggles and the sense of wonder and joy of new life.

Ashley Ferrel

It’s equal parts exhaustion and pure magic. And if it doesn’t feel easy or natural that’s okay and actually normal.

— Ashley Ferrel

There are multiple 'right' ways to care for yourself and your baby. Learn to trust your intuition and find a rhythm that works for you. Be kind to yourself and practice self-compassion. This time of life is amazing but it’s hard! Don’t make it harder by being hard on yourself."

Follow Ashley on Instagram @ashleyferrel

5

Meagan Mason

Stats 

  • Who: Meagan Mason, 38, Atlanta, GA
  • Kids: Madison (5 Months)

Meagan's Advice 

"My postpartum experience was challenging both physically and mentally. I imagined my planned C-section would be similar to my myomectomy (surgery to remove a fibroid). I knew I would have another painful abdominal incision. I knew I would have gripping gas pain. I knew I would have vaginal bleeding. I thought to myself, 'Ok, no problem!' But the biggest difference between the two surgeries is this time I had a newborn baby going home with me that would need my care. 

Meagan Mason

I felt so helpless when it came to caring for my daughter.

— Meagan Mason

As a mother, when you hear your baby crying, your first reaction is to jump up and come to their aid. Many times, I could barely pick up my daughter or even breastfeed. Thankfully, my wife was there to do some of the things that I couldn’t, but it definitely caused me some sadness.

For the first three weeks postpartum, I can say I had 'baby blues.' After much prayer and meditation, I was able to come out of that stage and I was again able to experience the sheer joy of being a mother. 

The best part of my postpartum experience was finally having my baby in my arms. To finally be able to kiss, hug, and hold a human you've created is truly an unexplainable experience. Words can not describe the instant joy and happiness I felt.

Meagan Mason

The most challenging aspect of my postpartum experience is wondering if I am doing everything right. I caused myself a lot of stress and strain trying to be the perfect parent instead of giving myself room to learn what it is to be a great mom.

— Meagan Mason

I think when people speak of the breastfeeding process, they glamorize it. I wish someone would have told me that sometimes it would be easy but other times it would be extremely frustrating. I also wish someone would have mentioned how painful latching can be.

Oftentimes, I would be in tears because the pain was so unbearable. Ultimately, I learned that breastmilk is great, but a well-fed baby is best, whether from breastmilk or formula.

The best advice I can give to pregnant moms is to be patient with yourselves. As new moms, none of us have this thing called motherhood figured out. Know that you will make mistakes along the way and that's ok.

Meagan Mason

Your body just performed a miracle, so allow it to rest and heal.

— Meagan Mason

In addition to that, be open to accepting help from others, remembering you are only one person. Lastly, don't allow anyone to tell you how to raise your child. Even with you figuring things out as you go, you ultimately know what your motherly instincts are telling you—listen to that. You know better than anyone else what is best for your child.

Remember your hormones are high so you may feel a range of emotions daily. One day, you may be happy. The next day, you may be sad. Please know that your fluctuating feelings are all normal. Just know you are doing great and your baby loves and appreciates you for it!"

Follow Mason on Instagram @meg.and.mase

6

Lauren Marciante

Stats 

  • Who: Lauren Marciante, 27, Boca Raton, FL
  • Kids: Savannah (14 months)

Lauren's Advice

"I had a C-section at 35 weeks. I had a fairly easy recovery: I was very sore for one to two weeks, but by three to four weeks postpartum, I was ready to [cautiously] return to my usual life. By six weeks, I felt totally fine and even went for a run around the neighborhood.

Emotionally, I was on cloud nine. I really expected that I would be hit with postpartum depression, however, I felt the exact opposite. I think I was just so full of adrenaline and had so much energy the first few months. 

I think the postpartum hair loss was the most surprising part for me. I had heard about it but I didn't experience it until about seven months postpartum. I thought I was in the clear, so when all of a sudden I was losing a lot of hair and had baby hairs sticking straight up all over the place, I was in total shock and horror.

Lauren Marciante

I also wasn't aware of how lonely being a new mom was.

— Lauren Marciante

While I had my husband and our families around, it never felt like anyone quite understood what I was dealing with. It's hard going from being an independent person who can do whatever they want at any time, to all of a sudden having a baby attached to you most of the day.

Do what you need to do to get through your day. Some days go by quickly while others drag on. It's ok to sit on the couch all day or scroll through your phone during downtimes. It's also ok to feel the need to run around the house making it spotless before anyone comes by.

Lauren Marciante

Self-care is so important! You can't be the best mother to your baby if you aren't the best to yourself first.

— Lauren Marciante

Find a community of other new moms to share your experiences with and to look to when needing advice. I found a Facebook group of supportive, nonjudgmental moms around the country that all had babies within a month of mine. The internet is often a scary and judgmental place, but there are also pockets of sunshine."

Follow Lauren on Instagram @laurennmarciante

7

Rachael Lucille

Stats 

  • Who: Rachael Lucille, 32, Portland, OR
  • Kids: Jett (9), Mia (4)

Rachael's Advice

"Physically and emotionally, my first postpartum experience was really good. I had a lot of support at home with my mom and was able to properly physically recover, without doing much other than caring for my new baby. [When I went] back to work, I was well supported and didn't feel overworked. I had plenty of support elsewhere, even without the support from my child's dad.

In 2017, both my physical and emotional experiences were difficult. I was caring for 2 young kids; my then 5-year-old son and 6-year-old stepson, plus the new baby. I didn't get time to focus on my bond with the baby, and things were very chaotic.

Emotionally, I hadn't considered postpartum depression could happen to me. I was just trying to be everything to everyone at the time. This ended up in a 2-year burnout. My physical healing also took much, much longer and all of this interrupted the bond with my newborn. I lost all sense of who I was. One of the most consistent feelings I had during that time was anger and resentment.

Rachael Lucille

Ask for, or even demand, support. It's not a sign of weakness. You and your child will be better for it. The priority should be bonding with your baby after they are born, not rushing to get things 'back to normal.'

— Rachael Lucille

Sometimes, you have to remind people how big of a deal it is to have a new baby that relies on you for everything and how big of a deal it is to have carried and grown a human for nine months. You have to prioritize focus on you and your baby's bond and recovery.

Surround yourself with people who will support you, and in that season of your life, don't over-exert yourself for those who aren't supporting you. That period of time only comes around once (per pregnancy). If it's unpleasant, the focus should be on finding joy and making it more pleasant. If it is pleasant, enjoy it!"

Follow Rachael on Instagram @rachael.lucille

8

Estefania Badillo

Stats 

  • Who: Estefania Badillo, 27, Houston, Texas
  • Kids: Mateo (23 months), Lucía (3 months)

Estefania's Advice

"If I could describe my postpartum journey in one word, it would be disbelief. I couldn’t believe how little I knew about postpartum. That was the most challenging part for me. I truly feel like I was blinded by Mother Nature because it is not talked about enough prior to experiencing it.

I was surprised that it even came with a series of symptoms. I was not aware that I would go through the baby blues. I ignored those feelings and they developed into postpartum depression. My lack of knowledge and education led me to a dark road after my first pregnancy. The great part was holding my tiny humans. It always makes my whole world stop turning.

My physical experience was very difficult because I had an emergency cesarean for my first child and another cesarean surgery for my second. I had six weeks of surgical recovery. It was very difficult to walk, bend, or even hold my own baby. I was limited to laying in bed or walking very slowly, along with all the other symptoms of giving birth, such as bleeding, constipation, stomach pains, and more. 

As far as the emotional part, I was overwhelmed. Of course, everyone tells you that you should be immensely happy and it's supposed to be the greatest day of your life. However, that is not always the case. I felt helpless, hopeless, impatient, tired, and lonely at times. It's very confusing because the expectations as a new mother are very high. 

Estefania Badillo

I wish I would have been educated on how to take care of myself mentally and physically more than just a 10-minute routine talk with a nurse right before you leave the hospital while you are signing millions of papers and worried about your 3-day-old baby.

— Estefania Badillo

I thought postpartum literally meant after giving birth and the days you are in the hospital but it goes beyond that. I wish someone would have told me you don’t feel 'normal' or back to your regular self until six to nine months after. Also, consider therapy before and after birth, even if you are feeling good. Life transitions are hard and it's always nice to have someone there to talk to.

Women should not go into the journey of motherhood without being aware of postpartum depression and anxiety. Women should not feel alone. It definitely should not be something that women are ashamed of. It’s part of being a mother. We are far from it right now, but I hope for a future where there is no 'bounce back' culture. Where [instead], women can be celebrated for the bodies that create humans.

Estefania Badillo

I wish I would have known that the fourth trimester is about you. I can’t stress this enough.

— Estefania Badillo


Self-care should be number one on your to-do list mentally and physically. Your hormones and body are attempting to return to [pre-pregnancy levels] and you have to be patient with your body. Some days will be harder than others. On those hard days, you need to give yourself a little more love.

The greatest advice I got was, 'You can’t pour from an empty glass.' As a new mom, there are false expectations that come from the media, stereotypes, and even your own culture. Forget about all those things and do what feels right for you."

Follow Estefania on Instagram @stephandsip

9

Darlie Hugill

Stats 

  • Who: Darlie Hugill, 33, Toledo, OH
  • Kids: Kari (11), Kohlton (3)

Darlie's Advice 

"I had my daughter when I was 22 (she’s 11 now). I had no idea what to expect and was under so much stress I was sleepwalking. [The postpartum period] was very challenging for me. It literally hits you like a ton of bricks. I definitely had the baby blues and PPD. I struggled because the focus was no longer on me, all anyone cared about was the baby. It wasn’t until my friend told me I was acting differently that I went to go get help.

Fast forward to having my son. [It was a] totally different situation. [I had] no PPD; I felt great. This time, I swole up everywhere after I had him, which the doctor told me was normal. I feel it was way harder to lose weight after I had my son. It still is a struggle. 

Darlie Hugill

The recovery process is not pretty.

— Darlie Hugill

I’m glad we as a society are beginning to normalize the not-so-pretty parts of post-baby life. And also the lack of sleep. There’s no way to put this lightly: You won’t sleep. Just notice the signs of PPD and be aware. Also, take time for yourself. It’s hard when the baby is little because it’s hard to leave them for the first few months.

But when you’re ready, make that time for yourself. It’s very important. Also, make time for your partner because that relationship can be strained as well."

Follow Darlie on Instagram @thenotsobasicmama and the.hugills

10

Erin DeLaney

Stats 

  • Who: Erin DeLaney, 35, Portland, OR
  • Kids: Octave (9), Bijou (7)

Erin's Advice

"I have two daughters and both birth experiences were worlds apart from each other. I responded intensely when my first birth didn’t go as planned, despite saying for nine months that I would totally go with the flow and trust in whatever experience we needed to have.

My first birth was induced and medicated in a hospital and my second was unmedicated at home. The second time my body had an easier time healing. I felt like my emotions were more balanced and I had fewer expectations for myself postpartum. This really helped both mentally and physically. 

Erin DeLaney

I put so much thought and intention into pregnancy and birth that I was in shock and unprepared for all the feelings afterward.

— Erin DeLaney

I was shocked at how tired I was. Every emotion felt heightened, which was beautiful when I was experiencing joy and gratitude and more difficult when I was feeling anxious or depleted. I had thought that I would want to be alone, with just our family, to bond with our new baby. But I was surprised at how much I desperately needed and wanted any and all help possible. 

At the time, I was really hard on myself for the difficult emotions that came up. I remember feeling like I had disappointed myself and all those people who told me what a great mom I was going to be when I got tired and impatient with a crying babe at 2 am. Lack of sleep changes your brain and so do all those emotions after birth.

Erin DeLaney

Just because I was cranky for waking up so much and maybe not able to savor every moment when I was sleep-deprived did not make me a bad mom. It made me human. 

— Erin DeLaney

Take all the help that is offered, and then ask for all the help you need. Give yourself permission to feel every feeling under the sun. It’s yours, and it’s there to teach you something. Feel it and then let it go. Remember that everything takes time. Especially getting used to your new body and babe.

Move slow and take care of yourself. It’s not a badge of honor to see how much you can accomplish after you give birth. You will never get this slow time back, so savor it and sleep whenever you can!"

Follow Erin on Instagram @appetite.for.color

11

Kelli Adams

Stats 

  • Who: Kelli Adams, 34, Houston, TX
  • Kids: Mason (2)

Kelli's Advice 

"My physical postpartum experience was challenging. I had an emergency cesarean section due to having a fever. Recovery from that made things more difficult to manage. I climb stairs or drive myself anywhere for two weeks post-surgery. 

I knew my hormones were all over the place, so I would have crying moments and feelings of failure at times, but I knew it was temporary. So, I just went through the motions day-to-day. My support system was very good at keeping me motivated even when I felt like I was not doing enough. Having a loving and supportive village is so crucial. 

The swelling that lasted at least a week postpartum caught me off guard. Social media and the internet will have you thinking the recovery is seamless and there are rare times when people recover slow. I was definitely one of the slow recovery cases. The aftermath of having a child is hard. The recovery and what all happens in the recovery would have been very helpful to know.

Kelli Adams

Sleeping when the baby sleeps: I heard it but did not really implement it like I should have. 

— Kelli Adams

Always remember you are doing what is best for your child. People can give advice all day long, but [as the baby's mother, you have] final say. Trust your gut and instinct. Also, it is ok to make mistakes. We are all learning on the job with parenting. Your child will not love you any less and you are the best to them no matter what. 

When you feel down on yourself, have your moment, but don't stay there. Get up and encourage yourself and understand that emotions and hormones are all temporary. This too shall pass."

Follow Kelli on Instagram @_kelzncurlz_

12

Jessie McCarty

Stats

  • Who: Jessie McCarty, 28, Vancouver, WA
  • Kids: Briar (4), Zeke (2)

Jessie's Advice

"I was very intentional about preparing both my body and mind before childbirth. I feel like that greatly impacted my ability to feel good fairly quickly. I did a lot of prep with conscious language and positive affirmations ('I was created to birth a baby,' 'this contraction is helping me bring my baby earthside,' 'I can do hard things'). I also worked out up until my due date, all low impact, slow movements focused on overall strength.

Don’t get me wrong, there was still a recovery time, but overall I felt good and like my body healed quickly. I was surprised by how peaceful it was. People are quick to tell you that babies keep you up all night…but not how relatively easy newborns can be! Truthfully, that fourth trimester was my favorite season—in bed, all day, resting, and soaking up the new babe. It’s not all bad! It’s a really sweet season.

Know that your body won’t bounce back to what it was pre-baby right away. In fact, you’ll probably have a good bump going still even a couple of weeks postpartum. This is normal! You just carried a baby for nine months and then birthed it. How incredible! Look at your body through a lens of gratitude for the miraculous act it just did.

Prepare as much as you can (and rely on your family or community surrounding you) so you can really slow down and just be in the moment during that time. Have easy meals prepped, let family or friends help you when they offer (and don’t be shy when they ask if there’s anything you need). Move slowly and rest. Allow the dishes to pile up (or hire someone to come help you and tidy the house that first month!). It goes so quickly. 

Jessie McCarty

Know your options and do your research—every birth, every body, every baby is different.

— Jessie McCarty

Get a doula. They are gifted in helping you prepare your mind for and during birth. Find a midwife or OB/GYN that you really connect with. Don’t feel bad about 'firing' one that you don’t. You’ll be working with them for almost a year! It’s important to have someone you feel is on your side, for you, and cares about you."

Follow Jessie on Instagram @jessielmccarty

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