I’ve come full circle. I was pregnant for 41 weeks and my baby is now more than 41 weeks old. In the last month she’s become hyper mobile, talkative and is on the verge of walking. She turns when her name is called, she hugs and waves and turns the pages in her books. While we love our infants dearly, sometimes they can be hard to relate to. But toddlers are, although exhausting, are a lot of fun. Yes you are chasing after them, constantly keeping them from killing themselves. And, you have to find some way to contain them in order to do anything, but it’s in many ways easier than when they were tiny, fragile, demanding infants. They come out at a developmental stage much earlier than most other mammals because mommy’s pelvis couldn’t get them out if they stayed in there any longer. Most other mammals come out with all the motor and survival skills of the average 9 month old. But I digress….
So anyway…she’s now been out longer than she was in my belly. So the circle is complete right, and my body is back to normal? Not quite. One of the many things I underestimated was the time it would take for my body to bounce back postpartum. Now those that know me would say I’m doing pretty good. But…just because someone isn’t carrying extra weight doesn’t mean they feel like it never happened. I’m sure it never will entirely. Two weeks after giving birth I was back in my regular clothes and I heard over and over “It’s like you never had a baby.” I can assure you it was. Yes I didn’t gain any extra weight and I didn’t have stretch marks, but HELLO I just squeezed a football sized human out of a very tiny space. That comes with consequences.
So what were those consequences? For me, the majority of these consequences were not apparent from just looking at me.
Your girl parts: This is the most immediate issue of course. If you are less than a month out, you’re thinking “will it ever go back”. Yes it will, but don’t be surprised if certain “ahem” activities cannot easily be returned to after your 6 week check up. Especially if you had stitches. This healing can take months for some woman. In the beginning I used a lot of frozen pads soaked in aloe and ice packs. Then a lot of coconut oil with a drop of lavender essential oil.
Your organs: I used a postpartum girdle to keep them in place for at least the first 3 weeks. For me it was less about getting my shape back and more about feeling like my organs weren’t sloshing around. It really felt good to wear it in the early days and it did give me a super trim look if I was wearing a tight fitting outfit for a couple months after. All the organs do go back pretty quick, or at least they did for me, but in the interim, this was very helpful.
Your Boobs: They will get huge and then smaller, but not as small as before. You need bigger bras, padded to hide your nipples now too. I liked Bravado the best. Make sure to use lots of oil on them to avoid stretch marks. I got a few in the beginning when they would swell with milk, but luckily they aren’t visible now. You also leak a lot! Make sure to get nursing pads to wear in public. At 10 months postpartum it still happens sometimes.
Your joints: My joints are still loose. I’m told because you have the hormone relaxin released until you are done breastfeeding. They were extra loose in the beginning, making my risk of injury during exercise higher than before. So I was careful not to lift anything too heavy, stretch before and after and vigorous activity and just started back slow. Just went back to train with my run group tonight and I can feel it in my hips and knees already, so I still have to be careful. When I first starting running at 7 weeks postpartum I wore an SI joint support belt I got through a sports chiropractor. This helped a lot. Thinking maybe I should still wear it for speed work after tonight.
Your abs: Mine separated and I can still almost get my pinky finger through in one spot. I was careful not to do sit ups, especially holding Maddie in the early days. You cando lots of planks and half crunches though. If you are local to Portland, Maine, go see Nancy at Jade Integrated Health right away to help you set up a safe exercise routine t close the gap. If not, find someone in your area that treats diastasis recti (the medical term).
Your hair: Those luxurious locks you had while pregnant, well they are going to start falling out. I got a “mother haircut” at about 5 months because I couldn’t stand the long hairs everywhere. I even found one in my daughters mouth one morning and when I pulled it out she starting choking. It was really long and most of it was in her stomach. Yuck! So off it came. It stopped falling out after about 6 weeks. Don’t worry, you won’t go bald.
Your brain: If you aren’t sleeping, which I wasn’t for at least 6 months, this plus the hormones will make you pretty nuts, forgetful and emotional. I had to write everything down, set up reminders on my phone, and email myself at work to make sure I was getting everything done – and I still didn’t. Cut yourself some slack and be ok with the fact that you can’t remember anyone’s name, what you did 10 minutes ago, what appointment you just missed, etc…. People will understand for awhile. To combat the fatigue and fogginess, try to exercise as much as possible, eat mostly raw, organic fruits and veggies, beans, nuts, seeds and only clean meats and fish if you do animal protein. Stay away from anything inflammatory like dairy, sugar, gluten and red meat in particular. And drink a glass of wine from time to time to relax!
I was lucky to not have additional complications or postpartum depression. So if you’ve had other consequences, share your experience and healing suggestions. And understand that some of the changes may be permanent like looser skin on your abdomen and stretch marks. You made a human and these perfect “imperfections” should remind you of just how amazing you are momma!