The world is full of advice for pregnant and about-to-deliver mommies. From books to blog posts to friendly neighborhood chit chat, pregnant women and those on the verge of delivery have numerous information sources when it comes to figuring out what the hell is happening to their bodies and how to cope with those changes.
But what about after they’ve delivered the baby? Where are the books and blog posts and neighborhood chit chat talking about the extreme and sometimes frightening changes taking place both with women’s bodies and their relationships with their babies and others?
They’re few and far between. Those that do exist are hidden in the forgotten recesses of the Parenting shelves at Barnes and Noble, the rarely lurked corners of the interwebs, and the private diaries of seemingly put-together neighbors. Which is why, from one mommy to another, I’m here to shed a bit of light on what you can truly expect when you’re no longer expecting and assure you that you are NOT alone on this life-altering journey.
The bulgy body. Though movies and real-life celebrities would have you believe you walk into the hospital pregnant and leave with a baby and your pre-pregnancy rockin’ bod just a couple days later, that simply isn’t reality. What you really leave with is a brand new baby and a body full of blubbery, bloated bulge. Though they’ve taken all 7 pounds, 9 ounces of love out of that uterus of yours (if you’re one of the lucky ones to have a normal sized baby), that doesn’t mean everything shrinks back to its recognizable size instantaneously. It takes time for that massive uterine muscle to relinquish its status as Large and In Charge and for those fat molecules that didn’t quite make it to baby to melt away. But you’ll get there. With a little determination and some willpower, you’ll get there, Mama. Just not in a cool 48 hours is all.
The swelling. Nobody tells you your ankles will swell up to the size of your thighs and your hands will balloon out to Mickey Mouse proportions anywhere from hours to days post-birth. But it happens, especially if you’ve been hooked up to IV fluids for any amount of time. No need to beg someone to take a pin to your skin in an attempt to deflate. In a few days, all that fluid retention will be a thing of the past. Just don’t plan on wearing shoes for the next few days. Or jewelry. Or much of anything, really. After all, it is hard to outfit the Stay Puff Marshmallow Man, is it not?
The sweating. Think you sweated a lot during pregnancy? That sweating ain’t got nothing on what’s about to happen post-delivery. One of the body’s ways of releasing pent up water weight and hormonal mumbo jumbo is to sweat. A lot. As in drench-the-jammies-and-soak-the-sheets a lot. Sweating out the equivalent of your own private lake may be totally normal, but it’s no less disgusting. Have an extra tub of laundry detergent on hand and plan to run the washer and dryer non-stop for a few weeks. Your linens and pajayjays will thank you.
The throbbing boobies. Mother Nature is such a clever mistress. Anywhere from one to five days post-birth, she’ll deliver life-sustaining breast milk to your ta tas, and all without any effort on your part. While miraculous and all, there’s a catch, for Mother Nature doesn’t really ease you into the whole thing. Instead, she sends a flood of boob milk so massive and intense, if you’re having troubles getting baby to latch or have decided not to breastfeed at all, you’re destined to suffer from engorgement, and let me tell you mamas, it ain’t pleasant. Second only to the searing pain of your exploding vagina during delivery, engorgement, which feels similar to taking a sledgehammer to the chest, is one of the most unpleasant postpartum maladies you’ll encounter. The good news is, if you are breastfeeding, there are ways to relieve those rock-hard knockers, from applying heat to cabbage leaves. If you’re not breastfeeding, I’m sorry to say that you’ll have to ride the throbbing tide until the breast milk dries up and Mother Nature figures out you won’t need any more. Until then, ice, a snug fitting bra, and a little Motrin are your new best friends.
The whacky emotions. Those first few weeks following delivery have a way of hitting you right in the feels. Most people attribute this to fluctuating hormones, but if you are already susceptible to anxiety and depression, hold on tight, for that plus the hormonal balancing act can send your sensibilities into overdrive. A few weeks of crying over everything from not securing baby’s diaper as snugly as you’d hoped to fears that you’ll drop baby or emotionally scar him for life is perfectly normal. But if you find yourself fantasizing about harming baby or yourself, or if the emotional roller coaster ride lasts longer than a month or two, seek the help of a doctor or therapist pronto. While extreme and even dangerous emotions are not uncommon, they do require diagnosis and attention from a trained professional. With a little treatment and time, you should be back to your kick ass self before you know it.
The relationship woes. Taking on a new role as mother is no easy task, and it can leave you confused about what this means for your relationship with baby as well as wondering how this will mesh with your other pre-baby roles of lover, friend, colleague, and acquaintance. Just because other women tout love at first sight when it comes to their babies doesn’t mean you’ll see unicorns and rainbows alongside them. Sometimes it takes a little bonding and getting to know your little one for those Kumbaya feelings to settle in, and that’s OK. Similarly, motherhood can leave you feeling like anything other than the sex pot your spouse or partner still loves or the reliable shoulder your friends like to cry on. Adjusting to being your own brand of modern Madonna with child will take some work, but don’t forget that you are also still all the other things you were before baby came on board — you’ve just added a new position and skill set to your resume, is all.
While these postpartum afflictions don’t encompass everything new mamas may encounter and don’t apply to every woman post-delivery, they do sum up some of the more common ailments you can expect when you’re no longer expecting. And all I have to say is this: Hang in there, sisters, for while the post-pregnancy train ride can be brutal, there is a light at the end of that swollen, sweaty, emotional tunnel. I promise.