The 5 most stressful experiences after childbirth

Nose-to-nipple latch

Nose-to-nipple latch

Ask most mothers what the hardest thing they’ve ever done is and 90 per cent of them will say labour. Five per cent may claim their Hypno-water birth made it a peaceful and pain free experience, and the other five per cent must be risk-taking thrill seekers that consider skydiving a leisurely Sunday activity.

Giving birth is scary but it is only the initiation into multiple stressful experiences awaiting the new mother. Here are the most stressful obstacles to overcome in the 72 hours post birth.

1. Nose to nipple

Shortly after you’ve endured labour, you must then master the all-important nose-to-nipple test. The quest for the “ultimate” latch can be traumatic.  After the labour midwife has manually milked you to get a mere millimetre of colostrum, you will have to learn to master the latch on your own. Raw, cracked nipples, engorged breasts, after pains and a sharp piercing needle type pain are just some of the things you may be experiencing. And every single midwife on duty will tell you something different. Prepare for admonishment. Ridges are bad. Visible areola is bad. Apparently your nipple must simply look 10 sizes time its original size but in perfect shape. Contours and crests are unforgiveable.

2. Passing your first PPP – Post Partum Poo

Indisputably, the most traumatic experience following birth is your first bowel movement. The mere thought of exerting pressure “down there” can paralyse mothers in fear. You can barely sit let alone push. You feel raw and the stitches throb. You think you will never be able to open your bowels again. Surely your stiches will split. They assure you they won’t. You will be offered prunes, peach juice and fibre gel things. Accept them all and make the experience as smooth (pardon the pun) as possible. You will actually feel quite proud after passing (pun again, sorry) this milestone! Not quite the elation of giving birth to a baby but delighted nonetheless. Continue eating All Bran and prunes daily for the next month.

3. The first wail

Nothing incites more panic in first-time parents than the sounds of their baby’s first wail. Sometimes parents are lulled into a false sense of security when their gorgeous little newborn sleeps beautifully the first night. Usually, babies “discover” their lungs 48 hours later, in perfect sync with the drop of your euphoric hormones when you feel depleted and still so raw you can barely sit. Again, every midwife will tell you something different. Hold the baby this way. Swaddle them tighter. “What did you eat?” (accusingly). “She can sense you’re nervous” (damn straight). Try walking. Try sitting. Hold her like a football. Over your knee. It goes on and on. In my experience the only sane thing to do is send the baby to the nursery. They may encourage you to get used to it before going home, but this is something that is better trialled once you’ve recovered from the earth shattering experience that is labour.

4. The drive home from the hospital

Once you’re actually confident that you’ve fitted the baby capsule properly (having checked, and double checked and then checked again), the journey home can begin. It will be slower than a funeral hearse. If your precious cargo is not screaming, you will worry. If you precious cargo is screaming you will worry you fastened the straps too tight. I’ve no official statistics on this but I am guessing that most couples drive home with dad in the front and mum in the back.

5. The absence of the red hospital buzzer

Hands down, this is the scariest of them all. It’s your first night at home. You’ve been shackled to the couch feeding for most of the day, your engorged breasts a sign your milk is “coming in”. You bathe the baby together, feed the baby again, and then dress them in a cute little grow suit because you haven’t yet figured out that nappy changes in the dead of the night are much easier with a nightie. And then you wrap them up like a souvlaki, place them in their bassinette and rock them to sleep.

You go to bed and fall fast asleep, overwhelmed with love, exhaustion, awe and terror. And then, the crying starts. And it doesn’t stop. All. Night. Long. And there’s no red buzzer. No one is coming to help you. A midwife isn’t coming to whisk your baby off to the nursery where the baby will fall asleep in their experienced arms. My advice? Have a pseudo red buzzer in place. You mum, MIL, sister, friend, anyone….

And congratulations, you are a mother!

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Which one of these challenges do you identify with most? What else would add to the list?


  1. says

    It is difficult. When I was at the hospital they had my son at night unless he needed to nurse. But when we got home there was no one but me and my hubby which had to go to work at 6 am :(
    It took a day or two to get use to. Just shocking at first

  2. says

    Ah. The memories… A decade ago now but found myself smiling as I remembered these very same experiences. Laughed at the drive home slower than a hearse.

  3. Col Mason says

    Bugger me …. I started reading this thinking it was going to be like the five most stressful things that can happen to you after childbirth, ie mum dying, dad dying, etc….. but noooooo you had to remind me of what WE and yes I said WE went through. Every man and his dog saying “Oh your having twins, gees that will be hard work” “double trouble hey”…. idiots the lot of them..but wat about the three hourly feeds that i got up for as well?? Doing twelve hour shifts at work and coming home to a partner that if you even slightly crossed would have had you drawn and quartered. Two AM feeds me falling asleep, baby in arms sitting up in bed, only to get a sharp elbow to the ribs to make sure Iwas awake, milk spilling down the babies face, baby looking at you as though it was all your fault its head was a funny shape.. But anyway that was the easy part. The most stressful for me …. First day of school I Cried NEVER. FELT. SO. EMPTY

    • says

      Oh wow, you paint a very stressful (but slightly amusing to the reader) picture of those early months with double trouble. Yes, people do say unhelpful things don’t they?! Sounds like you were VERY involved with the babies which is awesome. It’s definitely a team effort, even more so with twins as it’s double the load. Amazing. I wonder how parents of twins cope…. And yes, I imagine the first day of school is very emotional. I will be experiencing that in 6 months time and anticipating tears…

  4. krystal says

    I must be in the 5% of it not being painful..My big painfull moment was the pooing haha metamucil became my best friend

  5. alyceth says

    Definitely the breastfeeding! Expecting my third in 9 weeks and much more scared of starting that again than giving birth! Although, the LONG nights of crying would be close behind!

    • says

      Before I gave birth I admit to scoffing at the notion of lactation consultants. Why would anyone need one for something that is supposedly so natural. Well, I got the shock of my life didn’t I!!! Those cracked nipples are horrendous, especially coupled with the afterpains. BUT, the good news is some experiences and some babies are better than others. Hopefully your third latches and loves it! Good luck for the birth, and everything else afterwards :-)

  6. hollythecat says

    This is absolutely hilarious – I am due with number two in a few weeks and alternately giggled and squirmed at still-vivid memories of all of the above. Very good.

    • says

      Thanks Hannah. Glad it made you giggle as well as squirm. Hopefully more giggling and less squirming for bubba no.2 in a few weeks. Good luck :-)

  7. Sue says

    My kids are now 15 and 17, so I have forgotten a lot of this stuff, but I still remember that first terrifying drive home from hospital. I was sure every person on the road was out to get us. And the PPP with the first one, because all the required muscles had packed up and gone on a holiday without me. Don’t know where they went, but they were not in my body.

    • says

      LOL!!! Yes, the drive home is very scary. Isn’t it funny how some things don’t fade and that the PPP is still vivid in your memory 17 years later! Love your description about your muscles going on holiday :-)

  8. MG says

    The hardest things for me was leaving my baby behind when I was discharged from hospital as she was born at 26weeks +5. Breaks your heart. I’m sure when we finally get to take her home all those other things will be hard too!!

    • says

      Oh yes, that is hands down harder than anything I have mentioned in this post. I hope you get to bring your baby home very soon. Given the harder start you’ve had you will be able to conquer anything! Best wishes :-)