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So you just had a baby.... Now What?

You spent months preparing to meet your little one.

You took the classes.

You read the books.

You researched every baby gadget known to man.

You bought the clothes and decorated the nursery.

The big day finally came, and you welcomed your baby into this world.

But now what??

I recently asked a group of mothers what they wished that they had known about the early postpartum days before going through that season. Here's what they shared:

1. The first poop after birth can be terrifying.

After labor and delivery, everything is sore. Your pelvic floor has been through a lot, and it will be very sensitive and possibly swollen. The thought of a bowel movement may be scary, so don't be afraid to ask your care provider about a stool softener or mild laxative. Most moms said that the anticipation was much worse than the actual poop itself.

2. Make sure to keep an open line of communication.

Mothers and Fathers adjust to life with a newborn very differently, and unsatisfied expectations can quickly result in bitterness. It's important to remember that both partners are probably functioning on much less sleep than usual and that both are navigating a humongous life change. Talk to each other. Also, speak up for yourself and set boundaries with visitors. In the first few weeks postpartum, any guests that come to visit should be coming to support the mother-baby unit... not to be entertained by the new mother or just to hold the new baby. Boundaries will also prevent bitterness and burnout. Communicate.

3. Everyone bleeds after birth. Everyone.

Regardless of the method of delivery (vaginal or cesarean), all women bleed after delivering a baby. Postpartum bleeding or "lochia" is normal, but the length of time spent bleeding and the amount of blood loss varies from woman to woman. The mother's activity level in the early days & weeks after birth, can effect the amount of bleeding she experiences. If you'd like to learn more, Mama Natural has an excellent blog post on lochia.

4. Ask for help and REST!

Before you give birth, form a postpartum support plan. Ask a friend to coordinate a meal train. Arrange for help with household chores. Have a friend or family member help with older children. Hire a Postpartum Doula! Your priority after delivery is to heal your body and nourish and bond with your new baby.

5. Postpartum Depression and Anxiety are real.

It's normal to have mood swings after giving birth. Your body is a sea of raging hormones. You will likely cry. A lot. But if you start feeling out of control, hopeless, or find yourself experiencing any of the symptoms listed here, contact your healthcare provider as soon as possible. Placenta Encapsulation can lower your risk for Postpartum Mood Disorders. Learn more about encapsulation here.

The early postpartum days have been dubbed "The Fourth Trimester" for good reason. After giving birth, you and your baby will continue to grow as a unit. Don't take this time lightly. Build a strong support system, and ask for help. You and your baby are worth it!

Thank you to the ladies of South Mississippi Birth and Breastfeeding Mamas for your input on this list and to the talented Danica Donnelly for the beautiful photos!

Click any of the photos to see more of her work.