The funny thing about pregnancy is that it is allowably selfish. I came to realize this early on. The well-being of my baby depended on my own, so all of my focus was 100% on “me”. MY body. How am I feeling this week? How big is MY belly? How much longer do I have to be pregnant for? I spent countless hours googling questions about how MY body was reacting to the pregnancy. Appointments with the midwife were all about MY uterus and how good of a job I was doing at growing this baby. I took prenatal yoga to make sure that MY body was healthy. His lifeline was braided together with mine. It was a huge adjustment for me then, after MY body did its job and pushed a new life into the world. All of the sudden, we were two separate beings. He was still 100% dependent on me, but in a much more active sense. He required all of my attention, which I gladly gave. The point of all of this, after all, was to have a new baby to care for- right?
In the weeks following his delivery, I devoted myself tirelessly to my Little Man. Everything I did was for him. I ate because he needed me to have nutrients to pass on to him. I slept because he needed me to be awake enough to care for him. I showered because I didn’t want my poor baby to smell my B.O. when I cradled him. In the midst of this milk-drunken self sacrifice, I (gladly) lost my sense of self. Once we settled into our routine, however, I started to try to focus some more on “me” again. I had spent 10 months being pampered and so in touch with my body, then 2 months of suddenly neglecting myself. Once I faced the realization that I had gone from feeling like a self-realized goddess to feeling like a stranger in my own skin, I started to pay attention to my body again. I was amused by my observations.
I miss my pregnant belly. There, I said it. There was a stretch of time not so long ago when I never could have imagined myself uttering those words, but they’re the truth. I felt very “woman” while I was pregnant, and to feel woman is to feel sexy. To boot, there was always this wonderful thought in my mind: “I’m not fat, I’m just pregnant.” Though I was 40 pounds heavier than I had ever been, I felt so proud of my beautiful body. Now, even after shedding the a quick 20 lbs of baby/fluids, I am stuck facing the reality that is the new landscape of my body. Here is the very real breakdown:
Face: I look like a mom. I can’t put my finger on it, but something about my face (maybe the bags under my eyes?) says: “that lady has seen life come out of her hoo-ha”
Flexibility: After the acrobatic act of birthing a baby, you would think that I would be more flexible. After all, my body basically ripped in half to produce a child, right? Wrong! I think my body has PTSD. At the slightest suggestion of stretching or bending, it goes on strike and says “Nope, there’s no way that’s happening again!”
Boobs:I love breastfeeding. It gives me a closeness that I could have never have expected with my son. That being said- WHY, GOD WHY?! I’ll never forget the feeling of that first latch- truly magical….and shocking! My nipples used to always hurt at first while we were both getting used to nursing, now they feel nothing. And I mean nothing. Behind those numb nipples are two massive pains in my arse. E cup. I didn’t even know they made bras in that letter of the alphabet. Men always talk about wanting a woman with giant knockers, but if they ever saw boobs in real life, they would know this is not ideal. Big = heavy, and heavy = saggy. On top of this, one boob is always dripping, that leaky bastard. Through my nursing pad, through my bra, through my shirt, and out on display for the world to see. A milk duct is getting clogged every week or so. I’ve figured out how to remedy that, but it always ends in milk literally shooting out of my nipple. Last, but definitely not least, they’re lopsided. Not “Oh, no one else will notice that” lopsided, but more like “Holy crap, did you frankenstein a boob off of another body onto your own” lopsided. My boobs belong in a carnival freakshow.
Stretch Marks: I was lucky enough to escape my pregnancy with not a single stretch mark on my belly, so I let my guard down. Bad move. In comes milk, out come the boobie stretch marks. I didn’t even realize that those were a thing. I now look like I am wearing a purple tiger-striped bra at all times.
Aroma: The gas. I can’t even, with this gas. Luckily, I have a few oblivious scapegoats in the baby and the dogs, but I know the truth. Also, blame the hormones, but the B.O. is out of control. I fear that when my son grows up, the scent of body odor will bring back fond photographic memories of feeding at his mother’s breast as a baby.
Nether-regions: Of course there was bleeding. Every mother has to deal with that. The bleeding was what it was, but it was the padding that I couldn’t handle. I was so uncomfortable. I think that the lessons in self-diapering from the nurse in my recovery room bathroom were more intensive than my baby diapering lessons in childbirth class. After my long labor (see labor epitaph in previous post), I also ended up with a torn labia and a dislocated and/or fractured tailbone. Those things I could deal with, too. A few stitches and some pain meds and I was good to go. What I was NOT prepared for was the sensation that my insides were going to fall out of my lady hole for the first few weeks after giving birth. I was also not physically or mentally prepared for the horror that was my first post-delivery sneeze. I vow to my dying day to warn every pregnant lady that I meet to physically hold her nether-regions and clench once she feels that first sneeze coming on.
‘The 6-week appointment’: Once things began to feel back to normal down there (I’ve come to terms with the fact that nothing will ever feel the same up top ever again) it is finally time for the all-mighty 6 week postpartum check up. Partners everywhere, rejoice! Getting the green flag from my midwife meant that I was approved for physical activity again. ALL physical activity. My feelings on the “go-ahead” went quickly from elation to “well, shit”. This meant that using the excuse “I’m not allowed to”, wasn’t going to cut it anymore. For anything. I was going to have to face the reality that I needed to start figuring out how my new body worked. Now, I am a very confident woman, but let me tell you, the first time those clothes come off, whether it was in front of a mirror realizing that I no longer had an excuse to not tone up that tummy, or in front of my hubby realizing that he hasn’t seen any parts of me uncovered since before I changed transformer-style from a kangaroo to a normal human being again, I didn’t feel too great. Luckily for me, my husband thinks that I am amazing, perfect, and beautiful so it had very little effect on him. It was, however, very emotional for me to realize that I didn’t feel great about my body like I always have. There was also a very strange little voice constantly in my head trying to convince me that I’d given my body to my child and that it is no longer acceptable to be sharing it with anyone else. That voice is a pesky little bastard, but I’ve learned that I can drown it out with some smooth moves from my hubby and a glass of wine (or four).
I’m learning that pregnancy didn’t just change my body for 40 weeks. It is a transformative process and now that I’ve traveled through this part of my journey, my body will never be the same again. My body tells of my stops on this journey and I am learning to be proud of it. Now, let’s hit the beach!