The postpartum body is a strange and really not super beautiful thing. We get fairly hung up worrying about what pregnancy itself will do to our bodies, but many of us forget to suss out a clear picture of how things will look and feel once the ugly deed is all done and over with. Here are a few of the sad truths that mommy and her body can look forward to in the days and weeks following the arrival of your little bundle of joy.
1. A good, old fashioned ass kicking. In my experience, childbirth is one of two things and possibly a combination of both. It's an endurance athlete's wet dream: a vaginal delivery (especially a natural one) is a physical challenge involving hours, and sometimes days, of significant bodily discomfort, blood, sweat and tears. If you're an adrenaline junkie marathoner, you're in for a real treat. Delivery is also possibly a major abdominal surgery involving a significant amount of anesthesia. Once the drugs wear off, you can enjoy the sensation that someone tried to gut you with a hacksaw, through muscles and around organs which turn out to be very necessary in basic functional mobility and bodily functions (namely your bladder and any basic movement).
Either way, you are left feeling a special sort of exhausted and sore in very surprising places including your shoulders and your jaw. I've never been in a bar fight (at least, not yet), but I imagine the day after a bar fight -- particularly one you've lost -- feels a little like postpartum day two or three. A week after delivering my son via ceserian, I was still finding myself clenching my teeth at night in some bizarre postpartum traumatic stress disorder (PPTSD, which I thought was a clever joke invented by me, but turns out to be a real thing and more serious than sore muscles and clenched teeth).
2. The great uterine retreat. Oh, here's a fun one: The best part of labor (the contractions) don't really stop until your uterus finally curls itself back down to its usual size. The process takes weeks and involves continued uterine contractions. Awesome, right? Granted, the contractions are not nearly as frequent or severe as the ones that happen pre-delivery but who needs that shit once Junior is actually here and systematically trying to destroy you (see below)?
3. Your basic needs take a backseat to spending every moment at your infant's beck and call, leaving you raw and defenseless against your postpartum hormones. If you haven't already experienced what it feels like to be a stark raving lunatic, here's your chance. It's my understanding that in order to facilitate adequate drama during competition-style reality shows, producers often limit food and sleep for participants. See, people are a lot more prone to emotionally snap for the cameras -- think flipping tables and pulling out hair weaves -- when they're exhausted and under-fed. It makes for excellent television (okay, I admit 'excellent' is a strong word when it comes to reality TV), but it's not great for marriages or mom's basic mental or physical health. So unless you're counting on royalties from America's Next Top Mommy, I suggest doing your best to squeeze a few meals and naps into your day.
4. The belly dilemma. Many pregnant women are quite proud of their growing bellies. This is especially true for those who can pull off what I call 'pregnancy adorableness' (I do not fall into this category, I'm more: 'frumpy, jiggly pregnant'). I once read an account by a nurse of a new mom who had brought her pre-pregnancy jeans to wear home from the hospital. It made me laugh out loud. However, in the first few days/weeks and maybe even longer, even our formally adorable pregnant friends must figure out how to accommodate their boggy and still swollen bellies...which secretly gives me great joy because I am a dick. Whatever pregnancy body-type you fall into, expect to get a few more weeks (or months...or years) out of your maternity pants.
5. The boob issue. Just north of the problem belly there's a whole other bizarre natural phenomenon taking place. The day my milk came in with my first baby, I remember standing dumbfounded in front of the bathroom mirror wondering what porn star had secretly donated her breasts to the upper portion of my torso (which wrongly implies I am intimately familiar with the porn industry). I can't remember if I was more appalled or mesmerized --probably both -- but I do remember that my husband was downright elated. Unfortunately, they were so sore and uncomfortable I wouldn't let him within 10 feet of them. Lactating boobs are proof that God has a cruel sense of humor and/or hates men.
6. A hostage to your hormones. Another strong indicator that whomever designed the female body is a mean-spirited son of a bitch is the postpartum hormones. I mentioned them before, but they're so significant, I feel I should take one more crack at them to be sure I really hammer the point home. I have always considered myself a pretty emotionally stable individual. Then I started having children. Suddenly I was capable of becoming weepy and totally unhinged with zero provocation and even less warning. My husband has become so accustomed to my unprovoked sniveling that he barely notices anymore. Between an infant, two toddlers, and a sad-sack wife, the poor guy is totally surrounded by unexplainable tears. I can expect to cry during any commercial featuring a baby or child, any song featuring a melody, and sometimes when folding laundry. One time, a friend texted me in her 3rd trimester to ask how long she should expect to feel so weepy and emotional. I confidently explained that it will get worse postpartum and then -- according to my older mom-friends -- improve shortly after never.
7. Bloody hell. My husband missed the birth of our first child by just a few minutes, but he commented that when he arrived, the delivery room was so covered in the bloody mess of a vaginal delivery of a breech baby, it looked a lot like a crime scene. I suppose that's understandable, but the bleeding doesn't stop in the delivery room. It's like new-mom SWAG, you get to take it home with you! And to make matters even worse, tampons are not an option. Not to worry, the hospital will supply you with disposable mesh undies and a diaper-sized maxi pad, making you feel equal parts geriatric and adolescent. Don't worry though, the bleeding will stop in a few short weeks...or months. I'm told you shouldn't trust anything that bleeds for several days and doesn't die. I never trusted my vagina much anyways.
8. Cognitive Fuzz. It doesn't matter if you are a brain surgeon or a beautician, having a baby will give your cognitive function a swift kick in the pants. Don't expect to remember what you did with the TV remote and don't be surprised when you find it in the freezer hanging out with bags of breast milk. Wearing your nursing bra inside out and spending an extra 15 minutes looking for your left shoe will become the new norm. I think it gets better. Meanwhile, if you see my gray knit boots, please call me.
I am obligated to admit that this is, at best a partial list. My sleep-deprived new-mom brain is confident that I have left out some vital symptoms of motherhood. There are also probably some significant spelling and grammar errors in this piece. Feel free to alert me of errors and omissions. I'll be either changing my maxi pad or crying over the fact that I can't find my favorite maternity pants.