Pregnancy held a lot of challenges for my body that I had never considered would happen – things like making my bladder’s capacity shrink to that of a walnut and cravings that had me chewing on dish sponges… just, why??? – and the surprises still keep coming even 6 months on from labour. Here is a list of post baby side effects for you to perhaps relate to, definitely laugh at and maybe even take comfort from:
1) After Pains
I had heard a little bit about after pains and had dismissed them as the possibility of minor discomfort post labour. WRONG! By fluff did they take me by surprise?! There I was, sat on my hospital bed the day after giving birth, using a breast pump to get my milk flowing and reading a particularly gripping issue of ‘That’s Life’ magazine (don’t judge me) when all of a sudden I myself was gripped by contraction pains I had happily said goodbye to. Apparently, your womb has to shrink from up under your rib cage back down into your pelvis again… makes sense that it smarts a bit really doesn’t it?
2) Boob changes
I felt so many changes going on in my boobs during my pregnancy, that I was certain I wouldn’t notice any more once Baby was out. OMG was I wrong?! If anything, we became a sort of team, working hard to get them going on their purpose of becoming a dairy, and the effects were phenomenal. Fuller, heavier, firmer and with a mind of their own most of the time. They tingled, had their own temperature source and agenda, many a time turning me into the equivalent of a human hose as well as making me empathise with all the cows out there who queue up in fields to be milked. I’d wake up completely saturated in the mornings and would go into a blind panic if we were out and about and I had forgotten to put breast pads on. But, I found the whole experience of breastfeeding mesmerisingly beautiful and have never been so proud of ‘the girls’ as I was when they kicked in and fed our baby for 5 weeks. They looked very impressive in a mirror too.. if it wasn’t for the gelatinous mass of my tummy (more of that in a second), then I would have happily donned a red swimsuit and ran along the hospital corridor to the Baywatch theme tune! Now breastfeeding has ceased and all milk flow has gone (sob!) they aren’t quite so ‘Pamela’. It’s weird actually…. they look the same as they did before everything but they feel softer. More marshmallow like. I can deal with that, I like marshmallows.
3) Belly changes
The taught, round, beautiful bump that housed Baby and made me proud to be egg shaped suddenly disappeared within seconds. Funnily enough, without a baby in there to stretch things out a bit, you end up with this sort of empty, jiggly sack…. kind of like the balloons you find behind your sofa 3 days after the party finished. They call it a mother’s apron, and that is exactly what it is. This change has been a hard one to take. I never had a wash board stomach, sectioned neatly into 6 and hard enough to crack an egg on. But it had firm skin tone, didn’t have a 2 second jiggle delay in comparison to the rest of my body and had a perfectly pierced navel that glittered with a cute as a button diamante in the centre. That had to be abandoned during the 31st week of pregnancy, and has now since closed up. Will get it done again but am making a concerted effort to avoid pain for a while as I feel I have reached my quota for this year. Not to mention it has a perfectly executed tiger stripe running through it as well… which brings me to my next topic…
|I loved my bump… it could even rock a Parrot Onesie!|
4) Stretch Marks
Now, some ladies manage to get through pregnancy completely unaffected by this side effect. Others get it to the enth degree, others have a cluster of them in random places whilst the lucky few get literllay one or two here and there. The point to remember is that we are all different and there is no way of knowing if you will get them or not. You just have to go with it and hope for the best. I was hopeful. My mum and sister had little to none of them and I didn’t notice anything until well into my second trimester. Ironically, I got my first one on Mother’s Day. It started off very faint, almost like a little shadow, before becoming more and more prominent over the course of a week and almost overnight a whole host of them appeared. Once Baby was out and my tummy deflated, I could see them all much more clearly (they had all been hiding underneath my bump!) and lets just say, when we read ‘The Tiger Who Came to Tea’ at bed time, I feel like I’m looking at a selfie. I had applied creams, and still do, in vain hopes of fading them at a quicker pace but as the time has gone on, I’ve found myself kind of liking them. I’m even proud of them. They are a reminder of an amazing journey I made and actually look rather decorative. They do itch at times though… more than likely due to healing. And I was shocked at just how far they can spread downwards (!) but apart from that, they are a new feature on the life map that is known as ‘my body’. In fact, they literally look like the roads of my life map! hah! I’m a walking sat nav.
5) Ligament pain
The hormone Relaxin is aptly named because it does just that to the ligaments in your body in order to help baby pass through his/hers tiny exit. The problem is, relaxin isn’t very good at only targeting necessary areas. As a result, pretty much all your ligaments end up becoming elastic bands that ping about left, right and centre. My groin, feet, wrists, knees and elbows make me pull an ouchy face at least once a day, sometimes worse! I didn’t cry during labour, but I cried full on for ten minutes when my hip locked whilst getting up off the sofa the other day! Best advice is to stretch regularly and watch how you position your body at all times. Posture is more important than ever before!
6) Shedding your hair
I’m a hairdresser and there has been many a time in the past when I’ve seen new mums sit in my chair, concern written across their face as they exclaim ‘I’m losing handfuls of hair at a time…. its clogging the plug hole?!’. Now, I am one of them, and I have to keep repeating my own advice and reassurance in my head to prevent panicking as well. It is normal. Completely normal to lose hair after having a baby. Hormonal changes and stress all contribute to its happening, and the best thing to do is just go with it, not analyse the amount being lost and remember that in most cases, it is only temporary and each hair strand shall be replaced and renewed in time. In the meantime; go easy on your hair with heat tools, eat lots of protein, oily fish in particular, Brazil nuts, drink lots of water and make time to relax and pamper yourself wherever possible. I hear all the sniggering… I know it’s not easy to find time to do that as a new mum. But even half an hour in the bath with some candles, a face mask and a hair treatment will work wonders!
I’ve always had big feet. Harry Henderson had nothing on me in the feet department! Now, thanks to pregnancy, I’m even further ahead of him in the game. I tried on some heels the other day… felt like Chinese foot binding was taking place. It’s all to do with our friend relaxin again, which has let my foot ligaments stretch out and try to mimic flippers. Thank fluff for wide fit!
During pregnancy, your centre of gravity shifts. You get used to that shift and to accommodating this big egg of a body, and you find all new respect for the Weebles. Once your egg gets cracked, you have to learn how to balance yourself again. Some of the imbalance is influenced by hormones too, but I found that I was so unsteady on my feet and clumsy in those first weeks. I’d move quickly, without much thought and as a result, nearly hit the deck. It was quite frustrating actually, if your brain tells your body to go left, you go left, right? Well, for a moment mine would either not go at all or it would go so far left that I’d do almost a half spin and face plant the wall. I felt drunk. If it wasn’t for breastfeeding I probably would have drunk to gain balance I think.
You know it. It’s the most talked about side effect of parenting. During early pregnancy I slept all the time. Glorious 12 hour blocks of sleep, deep as the ocean and pitch black. Towards the end, it was a little harder, baby was kicking everywhere and I had to get up and pee all the time. Annoying as it was, it kind of prepared me for sleep during motherhood. You don’t get much, and what little you do get is shallow because of the little mound in the cot across from you. Don’t worry, you’ll get it back. Someday.
10) Bladder weakness, pelvic floor and all things down there.
Oh me oh my. This was all a big ole shock. First of all, it was nice to be able to see myself ‘down there’ again…. we hadn’t seen each other for a few months due to a bump coming between us! Second, it’s pretty self explanatory that passing 8lb 5oz of person through a small space was going to stretch things a bit. In the weeks and I’d say even up to 3 or 4 months after Baby was born, I was afraid to sneeze, cough, laugh, jump or run. Unless I had a Tena Lady in place of course. Bladder weakness isn’t glamorous or pleasant but I don’t think people speak about it enough. Or about having sex again after you’ve had your sprog either. That took me by surprise, and not in the usual good way! Things have to heal, tone back up and realign. If you have stitches, you need them to heal up completely which takes time and patience. It can feel like things won’t ever feel the same again and I personally panicked about that a little bit. But, with some perseverance through doing my pelvic floor muscle contractions aka kegal exercises (squeezing the muscles that stop and start your flow of wee) on a regular basis, I’m now back to normal. I can honestly say it was the one symptom that truly surprised and shocked me to the point of tears. No one wants to be a loose goose!
If I can help anyone else feel better by sharing this then I’m glad to have done so, its a scary feeling to go through so much mentally and physically and I found similarly themed posts helped me during my wobbly moments. Stay strong, be proud of achieving so much and remember that no matter what happens on your outside, Being Mummy makes you flourish on your inside.
Note: PPD (post partum depression) is a serious side effect of having a baby and should not be suffered in silence. I have been very lucky to not have to cope with such a debilitating condition (hence not listing it above as all that is written from my personal experience), but others out there are suffering all the time and if that is you or someone you know then masses of hugs, chocolate and strength to you and/or them, my heart goes out to you. Don’t suffer in silence and click here for a link that may provide some help and comfort.