What They Don't Tell You About Your Body Post-Pregnancy
Ah, such a magical time. You're glowing. Nope. I call BS.
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Congratulations! It's a baby! You now get to leave that pesky pregnancy behind you and move on to a Hallmark-card picture of life with your new blessing.
After squeezing an actual human being out of your body (or having an actual human being surgically removed through a gash in your body...which equally scarring and heroic, btw) your body is going to take some time to feel like it's yours again. And by "some time", I mean years. I gave birth over a year ago, at the time of writing, and I am currently typing while my son drains my life force to fuel his own existence. (Read: He's nursing while I work.)
The period immediately after you give birth is full of fun surprises like post-partem bleeding that makes your worst pre-pregnancy period look like a Tampax commercial, ridiculously painful engorgement as your funbags realize they don't have to provide milk for an entire soccer team of babies (fun fact: this is worse with each subsequent child, because your body is better at lactating...thanks, body), and a myriad of other ridiculous symptoms that make you wonder how our species survived.
We wish that we could get back to our pre-baby body as soon as possible, but it really just seems like nature has other things in store for us! It's something we are more than aware of in the run-up to giving birth, but sometimes, there are things that happen to our bodies that we were not prepared for.
Let's Play Postpartum Bingo
So now let's take a look at some of the more fun (a word I use with the highest sense of irony) issues you may experience after having a baby.
Postpartum incontinence is common. But because of the pressure on your pelvic muscles, this can result in urine leakage. (Urine leakage: a phrase I just can't hear without grimacing.) And it can occur when you are seizing, exercising, laughing, or really deigning to attempt any kind of movement. And this is why it's so important to do pelvic floor exercises. Of all the exercises for incontinence, pelvic floors are crucial to regain your strength. These exercises need to be done on a daily basis. This will strengthen your pelvic muscles, and if you do this about three times a day, and increase the intensity, you will get your pelvis back to normal. Mostly normal.
Regardless of how you give birth, postpartum bleeding is common. Awesome.
It can last between two or three weeks after birth but could last as long as six (or more). The most frustrating aspect is that you cannot use tampons at this time, because bacteria could seep into your uterus. So it's important to use special pads for this to minimize infection.
If you've ever heard a new mom talk about making their postpartum Subway sandwich, it's because in the first days after you give birth, every time you go to the bathroom you perfect a spread of underwear, giant ice bag, even larger pad, witch hazel pads, and antiseptic/pain numbing spray. Hold the cucumbers and definitely no salt and pepper please. You shove all this into whatever containment device you're wearing and waddle out of there like the world's weirdest shoplifter. Every time you go to the bathroom....which, thanks to the aforementioned loosened pelvic muscles, is A LOT.
The Hormonal Changes
It's common to experience hormonal changes, but the surge in oxytocin and prolactin results in a wide variety of emotions.
Think a rollercoaster, but with no safety bars or seatbelts. And instead of riding it intentionally at a theme park you went to on purpose, it's a surprise in the middle of the dairy aisle at the grocery store.
When you also throw into the mix the fact that you might not be sleeping very well (no, you're definitely sleep-deprived out of your gourd even if you have a unicorn baby and a squadron of nannies) or you experienced a difficult birth can result in fluctuating emotions.
The most important thing to do if you feel up and down is that you go to the doctor, speak to people (other than your baby), and keep reminding yourself that it may be the hormones talking when you decide you want to go feral and murder all the villagers.
You May Lose Some Hair
When you were pregnant you got the glossy, full, herbal essences commercial mane you've been wanting your whole life. Congrats, that is no longer a thing.
The hormones and the resulting side effects that come with giving birth can result in some hair falling out. And it's something that many mothers have to deal with. But dealing with hair loss is possible. You can use certain shampoos and conditioners that won't clog up your hair follicles, but also make sure that you consume more vitamins. Health is so important at this juncture, and even if you're not sleeping well, at the very least, you can consume a multivitamin.
When you first have a baby you may alternate between wearing a snow coat indoors in July to cranking the AC to 60 degrees and running around in just your nursing bra. This is usually due to your hormones. And experiencing hot flashes while looking after a young baby is incredibly overwhelming at times, make sure that you always have access to ice and a cold compress. The best trick is to put ice on your wrists and the back of your neck, as this can help to cool your body.
Also, you are most likely carrying around a little heater (read: baby) a majority of your waking hours, so if you lean towards baby-wearing it makes you feel even hotter.
Breastfeeding Is Hard
All I have to say to this one is duh.
You're literally sustaining another human being with your body.
It wasn't enough for you to be pregnant and create an entire human with your body (okay, and a very small contribution from Dad), now you get to let the little leach (whom you love more than life itself) steal your food, energy, and life force on a continuing basis. Swell.
It may be difficult if you decide to breastfeed, it can be frustrating, and you might feel like you are failing at it. (You aren't.) The fact is that while medical professionals speak so much about "breast is best," they don’t have to do it! The truth is fed is best. Your baby nurses like a champ? GREAT! Your little bug digs formula? AWESOME! You just had quintuplets and they all like medium-rare steak, except for the one that demands brie cheese 24/7? WEIRD, BUT OKAY!
You can only try your best. Don't feel bad if breastfeeding is hard, painful, or not possible. And also, you may try, but then your baby might be constantly hungry. In which case, there is nothing wrong with having formula in-between boob feeding.
Feeling Distant from Your Body
One of the things I noticed most after having my first daughter was the feeling that all my previous modesty, self-protection, and ability to give a flying heck about my body had somehow disappeared. Honestly, after nine months of gynecology appointments (not all ultrasounds are over the belly...just saying...), a delivery where everyone in the dang hospital has to put their hands, forceps, and goodness knows what else in your nether regions, learning to breastfeed from a barrage of helpful strangers (who get all up in your boobs like it's not weird), then feeding your new baby what feels like every five seconds, it's not weird that you don't feel like your body is a private place anymore.
Fortunately, this too will pass. As they grow you will start to heal, start to go through a higher percentage of the day without your boobs leaving your bra (yay), and your modesty will grow back. Promise.
Why did we do this again?
Because your baby is the cutest thing ever.
It's not easy being pregnant, becoming a mom, and then dealing with a body that doesn't feel like yours anymore. This. Is. Completely. Normal. Ask any mom (who's honest) and she'll tell you horror stories about her body post-baby. Nothing is wrong with you, and it's okay to want to tear (what's left of) your hair out in frustration.
It's legitimately incredible that some people (myself included) decide to have another baby even after all this, but that's just a testament to the fact that the discomfort does pass, you do eventually reclaim (most of) your physical dignity and ownership over your body, and you level out in your new life as a mom.
In the meantime, lean on your mom friends, have fun grossing out your spouse (who is most likely thanking all the deities he can think of for having been born male), and enjoy the good parts about the newborn phase (read: all the baby cuddles), because, at least in hindsight, it goes by too fast.
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About the Author
Founder | Contributor
Liz (or Dr. Mommy, as her toddler started calling her after learning what a PhD was) is the happily sleep-deprived mom of a baby boy (and professional raccoon noise impersonator), a sparkle-clad toddlernado, a teenage stepdaughter, the canine embodiments of Pinky and The Brain, and a rabbit of unusual size. During nights and naptimes, she uses her PhD in business psychology as an author, speaker, and consultant. She also serves as an executive and principal for three companies, two of which she co-founded with her very patient (and equally exhausted) husband.
My Motto: All I can control is how hard I work.
Motto: All I can control is how hard I work.
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