It really is true when they say that your whole life changes. Your relationship, your family dynamic, your finances, your body, mental state, well-being, health, you name it… I can give you a reason it has changed since having a baby.
Don’t get me wrong here ladies! I’m not saying that all these changes are negative. Things HAVE to change! The equation used to be x + y = z but now there is an entirely new variable to that equation. And not only does that variable cry, sleep, and poo…that variable screams, relies on you 100% of the time, has about 50 more needs than you do in a single day and takes a mammoth amount of energy (which you do not have because you are sleep deprived from the night before). If things didn’t change there would just be no way to cope, or your baby would be lacking an instrumental part of his or hers development.
I remember when I was pregnant I’d get this comment a lot; the whole “everything changes” comment, but for some reason no one could tell me exactly how. And so here I am… writing to you new Mums and you Mum-to-be’s about the Motherhood realness, the stuff no one seems to warn you about. This is going to be a bit of a series of posts that outline in detail some things you may experience while pregnant and into motherhood.
I’ll start with the obvious:
Your Pregnant Body
Now, we all know that everybody’s body is different and no two pregnancies or births are the same. So of course what I’m about to say may or may not apply to your situation but I’m going to try my best to be as general as possible.
Throughout your pregnancy you will notice the first changes… the swollen belly in front of you for example, you know what I’m talking about here… the part of your body that enters a room 5 seconds before you seem to. It’s huge. By the time you’ve reached 40 weeks your wondering how it’s even possible to have stretched that far without ripping open. For some it actually looks like it is about to. There may be faint white lines that stripe up and down your mid-section or maybe you have fiery red and purple slashes all around your front and hips. We’ve all heard and know about stretch marks, and we all have our own relationship with the existence or non-existence of them.
while I was in my third trimester, I began to really struggle with the fact I had so many stretch marks. Once I hit that 36 week mark it seemed like I had one for every week I had been pregnant and it showed no sign of slowing down as I got bigger and further along in my pregnancy.
If I’m honest with you, I felt ugly. Maybe you do too? Maybe you’re feeling the exact dread that I did, every time I looked into the mirror and saw a body that no longer even looked like my own. Maybe you feel the same longing for it all to go back to normal. I was desperate to be happy with the way i looked so I would post photo’s of my swollen and striped belly (along with something positive about loving myself) to try and persuade my brain to really believe it. But deep down I was really struggling with my self image, similarly to a lot of other Mums I know also have.
Some woman feel absolutely empowered by their pregnant bodies, after all there is no time you’re ever going to feel any more like a woman than when you are carrying life inside you. They love the changing shape and roundness, constantly cradling and rubbing their own fleshy bowling balls with so much love. I really admire these woman and to be quite honest I feel jealous that they had that relationship with their bodies while being pregnant. For most though, this isn’t the reality. But your changing body should never ever be a reason to be ashamed. No matter how striped or bulgey it may get. No matter how much weight you put on. This change is a part of a bigger process, that inevitabley leads to the birth of a healthy and happy newborn (that trust me) is well worth every extra Kg.
If you have one, you may even find your partners changing relationship towards your body. Maybe the extra curves, redness in your cheeks, shiny hair and growing libido becomes so attractive to you that he is always saying how gorgeous you are. If this is so you might find your relationship deepen. But don’t be discouraged if this isn’t the case, just like you are adjusting to the sudden body changes you are going through, so is he. The best thing you can do is to be open with one another and talk about your fears and insecurities regarding the “new you”, then to talk about your wants and needs for your physical relationship. After all, you are a team! If you’ve chosen to have a baby together that honest communication is so key to making it all work.
Your Postpartum Body
Then you have your baby and the aftermath may be nothing like what you were expecting. The reality of a postpartum body is… You still look pregnant. For some reason the baby exiting your body, does not actually make your belly disappear. To those of you who think this is a silly observation think about the 9 months it took for your uterus and belly to slowly stretch and grow to support the baby you now have in your arms. The way your own organs have to move in order to accommodate that life inside of you. Whether your baby was born 6 lb or 9 lb that cavity in your abdomen has undergone one of the most drastic changes it possibly can. It does not go back to normal quickly.
From the day you give birth until your baby is 3 months old, you undergo another series of changes which we call the 4th trimester. This postpartum Trimester. During this time your body begins its journey through recovery but it far from completes it. Recovery after pregnancy and birth is hard, tiring and lengthy and its of the utmost importance that you take care of yourself during this time, or if you have support available to you after birth, to let other take care of you while you take care of your newborn. You don’t need to be taking trips to the supermarket 3 days postpartum, your priority should be you and your baby and looking after your body after the trauma of birth.
No matter what kind of birth you have had, whether vaginal or c-section, easy or hard, medicated or natural, your body immediately after birth will be almost exactly the same as it was when you were pregnant. For that first 24 hours expect to be extremely swollen still, with a belly that is almost identical to when you were 40 weeks. Though should you press into your belly you may notice it isn’t as firm or hard, it may feel like it is filled with water or a big lump of fat. Over the next few days your belly will start to shrink down as you shed the fluid your body stored while you were pregnant (this is commonly known as loosing your water weight) But when you look in the mirror you will still look something like you did when you were 6 months pregnant.
For me something in my mind changed when i reached this stage. I looked at my body which no longer housed by baby. I saw flab. I saw stretch marks. I saw leaking nipples and mesh underwear. I saw STRENGTH. I saw every detail and all of a sudden I felt to proud of myself and so importantly I felt proud of my body for reaching its absolute limits and pushing through to delivery my baby safely into this world.
My uterus and stomach my never be “the same” nor should it be after the journey it has been through. I look at my belly now 4 months later and it has a story to tell. There are times when I long for the tight young skin I once had but the trade for that back would be to never have had my son. The precious gift I have is one that many woman wish for . For every complaint I have about my loose skin or my purple stripes or my back rolls or my hair that’s falling out there is a woman out there who would trade places in a single heartbeat to be able to have the privilege of pregnancy and child birth.
Your breasts will go through a roller coaster of changes, ranging from huge and engorged, your nipples get bigger and darker and through breastfeeding they start to droop and sag most likely sitting a wee bit lower than where they once did on your chest. Again if your feeding, they’re likely to always be a different size depending on what breast you last fed on, and if you think this will be an unnoticeable difference then take a look at mine.
When you think of this gift it may make loving your postpartum body easier like it did for me. Or you may still struggle daily on your newer, heavier, saggier body. It isn’t easy. Nothing good in life ever is. I’m not here to sugar coat anything. But you have to be healthy and strong for your children. If you have the motivation, time and energy to make a difference with your PP body then eat healthy to have that energy to be present in your children’s lives, be the teacher and the guardian that they need. Teach them that their bodies deserve to be loved no matter what those bodies look like. After all, they look up to you, learn their life lessons from you and take example from all that you say and do. Love yourself FOR your baby if you cannot do it for you just now.
Having a larger stomach won’t make me any less of a mother or any less deserving of self-love and body appreciation. Rock out with your mesh undies for as many days as you can after you give birth! They’re really comfy and often they sit in just the right place. Self-love the crap out of the gifts your body has allowed you to experience. And give yourself grace. Self-love is a daily practice and there are some days its harder to love than others it’s okay to admit that.
Other woman have played a huge role in my acceptance and love of my body. It’s amazing the gift of the “lady village” and if you are lucky you will know someone who is willing to share the openness and rawness of those who have gone before us or are going with us and the change it can make on the way we see ourselves when we can share with each other openly.
That’s why I’m here.
To tell you that what you have done is incredible. That what you are doing right now is amazing.
That who you are and the body you live in are champions in my eyes. That your postpartum body is one of the most beautiful things I could ever see. And I will be here to cheer you on in this post baby journey because sometimes all you need is a reminder that not all changes you go through are negative.