things i wish i had known: postpartum body edition
Today, I want to talk about my body. And not just in the context of that Gaga song, which, btw, I still really like.
No, today, I want to talk about the things that happen to a body after you have a baby. And no, I don't mean that same boilerplate list that you see on What to Expect or Parents.com ("You might be sore!" NO SHIT). I mean the stuff that no one told me about.
Now, to be fair, it is absolutely true that you forget many assaults that happen on your brain, body, and emotions in the first weeks of parenthood. If I hadn't written all of my ailments down, I would have forgotten about half of them myself. So, I don't blame other new moms for not giving me the lowdown. But, I certainly wasn't prepared for everything, so for posterity's sake and, hopefully, for the benefit of any other new mamas, I'm throwing it all out there.
Menfolk, anyone who might be squeamish about having a baby, you can use this as your signal to stop reading. I won't take it personally. It's just the miracle of birth.
First, let's briefly go over the physical symptoms that you probably are familiar with:
1) You maybe pushed a baby out of your vagina. Or maybe your abdomen was cut into. Either way, you most likely have stitches. These will hurt. Lying down on soft surfaces is your friend.
2) You will be tired. So tired that you cross over into a territory that's beyond the definition of the word.
3) All parts of your boobs (inside, outside, every side) will hurt.
4) You'll cry, both for reasons necessary and entirely inexplicable.
Ok, that about covers it! Pretty much everything else that I experienced was unexpected. So, that kind of sucks. But, at least now I can share my wisdom. Ready?
Like most other symptoms on this list, this is due to hormones. They go totally nuts after you give birth, which results in everything from crying jags to the aforementioned dryness. But, I'm not talking just a bit of scaly elbow here. My lips have never been more dry and crackly in my life. The only thing that seemed to work was slathering Avvie's Aquaphor diaper rash ointment on them. Chugging water, lip balm: they did nothing. But, it subsided after about two weeks.
permanent (?) bruises
While I was in the hospital, I needed an IV drip of iron for about 24 hours, due to blood loss (I think). While the actual IV didn't really hurt, my forearm still has a bruise from where they inserted the needle. Will it ever go away? I have no clue. Similarly, the point on my spine where they inserted my epidural is still kind of splotchy. Luckily, I can't really see that one.
residual epidural pain
Speaking of epidurals! My back got weird pangs for months post-epidural. These were not painful and lasted only milliseconds, so it wasn't a big deal, but still, it would have been nice to know about. And anyway, you know what hurts more? Delivering a baby without any pain meds.
hip flexor-area pain
Hm, sensing a theme here? Look, I knew my lady garden was not going to feel all that great for weeks (ahem, months) after, but I didn't realize my joints were going to take so long to move back into place. Five months later, I still have to be very careful when doing side-lunges or doing things like pushing a drawer shut with my foot because it triggers a bit of pain in that area.
So the cool thing about pregnancy brain is that it actually lasts for about six months-plus after you give birth. Misplacing words, my keys, my baby (jk, so far) is now a way of life.
At this point, are you like, "Is she just fucking with me?" No! This one actually started while I was still pregnant, but didn't let go until about three months postpartum. It affected my long distance vision -- things far away weren't clear -- not all of my vision, thank goodness. So, if you're pregnant and all of the sudden you tank your eye exam, DON'T FREAK.
I'd forgotten about this one until I spoke to an even newer mom who's going through it herself. As you may know, you lose a lot of the baby weight in the days immediately following birth, since a high percentage of it is fluids. [Side note: you may also be supremely swollen after birth, so there's even more for your body to flush out than normal] This seems to manifest mostly in prodigious sweating, especially at night. Three cheers for losing the pounds, but waking up with the sheets drenched (especially when you're hardly sleeping) is not my favorite. Luckily, it only lasts for a week or so.
Last, but certainly not least...
You guys. Why does no one talk about this more?! I'm pretty sure it happens to everybody, regardless of your type of labor. I'm talking an adult diaper, black underwear, towels on the bed situation. It's Tarantino-level. For weeks.
And there you have it! That was fun. Am I supposed to end this post with one of those "Oh, but it's all worth it because your little angel is the most beautiful creature on Earth and you forget the pain when you look into her eyes!" Ok, sure. Except I just wrote an entire piece about how I didn't.
In all seriousness, you DO forget that your body goes through most of this, even if it sounds scary right now. If you're pregnant and reading this, I'm not aiming to make you freak; just inform! And, fine, babies ARE magical. Especially the thigh rolls.