After 40+ weeks of pregnancy, gaining a ton of pounds, eating a restrictive diet, and living with all the symptoms and side effects that pregnancy brings, I was so excited to finally give birth and for life to return to normal with the exception of a new beautiful bundle of joy.
Someone should really warn women that life never returns to normal, and the (at least) first six weeks postpartum is really just a continuation of the pregnancy, only your baby is surviving (and hopefully thriving) on the outside instead of nice and cozy in your womb. It’s the recovery period where you work really hard to resume your regularly scheduled life only to learn that that will never happen (though some pull it off better than others). I am one who is not pulling it off, and I am not one to pretend everything is rainbows and sunshine. It’s not fair to other women who need to know the truth. So let me break down what I find is ultimately the most difficult part of having a child –not the morning sickness of the first trimester, the giant bump at the end, it’s not even the horrible contractions and pains of childbirth – the recovery/adjustment period. Because it doesn’t get easier, you just get used to a new normal.
During pregnancy, your body shifts, and your butt pushes out to balance the large baby you are carrying out front. After birth, it takes the body a while to shift back to position, leaving an “off” feeling in my back. Add to that the lack of abdominal muscles and carrying around an eight-pound baby all day, and you have the makings for some serious backaches. This is why rocking chairs and gliders are a god-send, because, find yourself without one as you try to sway your baby to sleep for 30 minutes standing up, and you’ll be cursing your husband up and down for ever putting you in this situation. (No, I never cursed my husband during delivery, but in the seven weeks since, I have on almost a daily basis.)
On that note, your body does not magical boing back to its pre-pregnancy shape – but it might not be as bad as some women experience. I was lucky enough not to get any stretch marks, and I lost 20 of my 35 pregnancy lbs within the first week of giving birth. Now, 8 weeks later, I am 2 lbs away from my pre-pregnancy weight, but I lost a lot of muscle during the pregnancy, so I would call my status right now “skinny fat.” The only part of my body that is toned right now is my arms from carrying an approx. 11 lb. baby around all day. I also still have my linea nigra (dark line that mystically appears down your tummy around the 3rd trimester) and a cavernous belly button, but the good news is I now have giant boobs that give the optical illusion of a smaller waist! I was just cleared at my 6 week checkup to go about my regular physical activities – baths, sex, fitness routine all have the green light. Some women don’t wait for their doctor to give the go-ahead, but when mine used the phrase “risk of infection,” I took his warning seriously.
Lack of sleep.
This really is the least of my troubles. I live and breathe for my daughter, and so I will take the lack of sleep in order to care for her. But be prepared not to sleep ever again.
Going to the bathroom becomes an ordeal.
This one is most likely applicable to women who’ve had vaginal deliveries, and like me, an episiotomy (or tears) during delivery. Guess what? Now you have stitches in a place no one should ever have stitches, and so you have to be extra careful in your nether regions. You have to bring a squirt bottle with you to the restroom and pat dry.
Also, because your uterus starts to shrink, you bleed and release what is called lochia. The first couple of weeks you feel like you’re back in middle school because you have to wear these giant maxi pads the hospital gives you. However, the manufacturers of pads have really upped their game in the last 20 years, because they now make a rather comfortable pad – Always Infinity – that feels less like a diaper and more like a panty liner. Nevertheless, you bleed for quite some time, so it’s like your body is making up for the lack of period in the last nine months.
The point of this is to point out that, what used to take two seconds in the bathroom, now takes 10 minutes, and now there is a baby depending on you, so you only have the opportunity to go maybe 3 times a day. You adapt.
Breastfeeding is a bitch and it controls your life.
Even after the first two miserable weeks of pain and agony, breastfeeding still controls your life. Your life completely revolves around your boobs. Even when baby’s not eating, your boobs can get out of control. My daughter sleeps through the night for the most part, but I still have to get up to pump, or I wake up with engorged breasts and a drenched shirt. I also have what they call a forceful letdown, so when my daughter pulls off my breast during this time to avoid gagging on milk, it sprays everywhere. We are a sticky mess by the end of feedings, and I haven’t yet figured out how to avoid this. I’ve also pulled my boob out in places I never thought I would – my car, doctor’s office, a wine bar – yep, when you have a screaming baby, all decency goes out the window, and you’ll do whatever to make her happy. I need to find a breastfeeding cover to make my life easier, because blankets fall off. It’s hard to anticipate when she’ll be hungry (she is still making her own schedule), so even if I had just fed her 30 minutes ago, there is a chance she’ll be hungry again. Breast pads can be more of a nuisance than they’re worth, too. They bunch up (the stickies on the backs do nothing) and fill up quickly to the point where they look like wet diapers. They are also completely noticeable under a tank top. I have not tried reusable pads, so maybe that’s my next option. It does get better, though, and there’s nothing more convenient than being able to pull out a boob to instantly quiet a fussy baby.
Hormones make you crazy.
As in you’ll cry happy tears, tired tears, hysterical tears all in one day. For me as well, I had (and am still having) a hard time letting anyone hold my baby. It’s like I’m three all over again and resisting this concept of sharing. Screw you. Get your own baby! This was especially difficult for me because I had family staying with me 4 of Ellis’s first 6 weeks of life. I will most likely never agree to that again. My family’s idea of “helping” is offering to hold the baby so I can make a Target run or take a nap. Nope. Those who wish to separate me from my baby I view as a threat, and I will cut you. If you show so much as a sign of interest in my baby, I go on high alert. I’m sure I’ll apologize later if you’ve experienced my wrath, but right now I’m still a crazy mama bear, so step off.
I’m starting to get used to the new normal. Each week does seem to get a little easier and more enjoyable. Ellis has grown so much in these few shorts weeks (save for another post), and she makes all of these new struggles worthwhile. My first week after giving birth, I thought to myself, Why in the world does anyone have babies? And why in the world would they ever do it a second or a third time? But you make it through, and the payoff is right around the corner.
Don’t just take my word for it. This lady is hysterical! – Pregnant Chicken