(Read Top to Bottom)
I am a mother.
I hate my postpartum body.
I cherish all these scars.
I am forever changed.
The labor, the surgery, the pumping…
The birth of my baby.
I still couldn’t be more proud of
The body I once had.
I make myself see past
The joy and growth I’ve experienced,
(Now Read Bottom to Top)
Mother’s Day is Sunday and as someone newly in the club, the reason we are being celebrated is so fresh in my mind still! Not that there aren’t dads across the world who go to great lengths to be everything for their children but moms REALLY have to earn their stripes. *stretch marks joke*
Birth. It is so traumatic on the body. You already know that going in but you really have no idea until it’s your body going through all the wackadoodle affects. The birth itself is a wild ride – seriously, so incredible to know my body can go there with that amount of pain and force and not just, like, die afterwards- but it has a definite finish line.
What ended up being harder for me was the postpartum period. You don’t have the adrenaline rush of a finish line close by anymore. All of a sudden it’s this long road where some people swear there is no end. I feel like pregnancy is talked about all the time, childbirth too. Everything discussed about after that is about your newborn- not about what is next for you. So this is me, trying to fill the gap a bit.
It’s a little different for everyone but I think we all hit similar highs and lows. The postpartum recovery process should definitely be talked about more. Not just within circles of women who want to child-rear- but everyone should have some understanding because a good support system can be the most important thing a lady needs while healing in the most insufficient way possible.
Sidebar: Seriously think about it- it’s widely agreed as the most traumatic thing the average female body will go through and literally the minute it’s over you have to start using your brain again and learn how to be a parent all while not getting the sleep people need to heal.
Here’s a breakdown of my postpartum recovery from birth to present day.
The first hour:
Here we go. So my labor was quick but I pushed for a long time. His head got stuck in my pelvis for quite a while. I could have had him out in a couple pushes if it wasn’t for that. So after an hour, bam, he’s in the world! They immediately plop him on my chest for some skin-to-skin and want to know my first thought? Because it was NOT what people said.
My first thought was “what is this?”
I was SO exhausted for the first few seconds that I just didn’t register he was there. There are continuous photos being taken during this and you can actually see my face change as I actually begin to register what’s happening.
After that, it was exactly as others described. Love and all that.
Instantly, all of the pain of labor went away. Even though I was told that before going it, it still took me by surprise. All the symptoms of pregnancy were gone too from rib pain to acid reflux. I’ll even admit after pushing my legs had some muscle spasms from the tough work put in.
I was lucky enough to not tear but I did receive just a couple stitches since some stuff moved around. I like to joke that it was purely cosmetic.
When it came time to feed him, the breastfeeding came naturally but I wasn’t prepared for another round of contractions. Breastfeeding sends signals to your uterus to contract- it helps it get back to normal size which you want, but it’s the last thing you want to feel while trying to figure out breastfeeding.
After that, I get up to walk for the first time and it was much easier than expected! It actually felt really good except it felt like I couldn’t use my butt muscles. I think they were out of commission after sitting so weird for labor. And that closes out our first hour!
The first 24:
If you’re still with me here- after 24 hours things seem to feel super normal! I’m kinda hobbling onto the bed because it feels weird to stretch anything down there but it’s not a stabbing pain or even anything unbearable. Bleeding was there, but not as heavy as I anticipated. It made me feel very optimistic about the heeling process.
In that first week, a lot is happening outside of recovery! At times I found it a little frustrating that I was trying to heal while also being a human feeding machine. It was SO uncomfortable to sit in a good nursing position for a while. After the initial shock from the birth trauma wears off you start to actually feel what happened to you.
The bleeding was mostly gone by the end of the first week. I was using liners instead of diapers and that was such a glorious switch!
My legs were a little sore, my abs too. I enjoyed walking but could only go a half mile at a time before it felt like I was rubbing something. At this point I wasn’t overly concerned with how I looked physically because I was distracted by everything else.
Routine sinks in and recovery continues. In that first month I started trying to find my core again… which is extremely hard to do. You’re not cleared to work out yet in that first month so I immediately notice that I’m losing muscle mass and feel bloated from breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding is supply and demand but also you have to supply a little something yourself- by eating. On days I don’t eat much, the following day my supply is so low and I worry Shiloh isn’t getting enough food. I had to eat frequently that first month until my supply settled in.
Mental health-wise, hormones can throw people for a loop around here! I didn’t notice a lot. I did cry once out of distraction but – hey- only once? Pretty good I think! My biggest challenge was when I noticed the weight wasn’t just “melting off” from breastfeeding and I couldn’t work out to my full ability yet since I wasn’t cleared. I had just worked really hard to reach my goals before I was pregnant so I knew this would be a challenge for me going into it.
A month in the bleeding stopped entirely for me- but it’s common to still be spotting or it stop and pick back up so no worries if you’re currently going through this.
6 week clearing:
After getting cleared I was mostly excited to be able to work out again- not so much the other physical activity I was cleared for (wink.) I kinda imagined jumping right into it all again.
Nope. It was SO hard. I couldn’t finish my routines I did before being pregnant and switched to a postnatal program to learn about how I need to heal my body first. MORE HEALING? The recovery just seemed never ending at this point.
But you have to start somewhere, so I did.
I guess you want to know about the sex right? That’s the big thing after six weeks. I’ll try to be classy here but uhhh, Im not even sure you can call it that because I put a stop to things quickly. The mind was willing but the body was clearly not ready. It hurt immediately and that’s all I’ll say about that. Now there is so much anxiety attached to it- it’s so silly. It gets better but as with this entire process, it takes time.
2 months and beyond:
I’m 2.5 months postpartum right now. I feel great! No aches from childbirth, no bleeding ever reoccurred, I’m working out every morning and I love being a parent.
But I’ll admit the work isn’t done. I do still feel affects from carrying my baby every day. My stretch marks (which weirdly didn’t show up until after I had the baby and started shrinking) are still visible. The biggest challenge is still my core. I work on it almost every day but a woman’s abs are basically torn apart over nine months, so it takes a while to restore them to their former glory- if they even make it back to that.
My weight has discouraged me several times but I’m healthy, it’s happening- just not overnight. It didn’t the first time I lost weight either and I didn’t just have a baby back then. GRACE has been the biggest word I repeat to myself.
My mental health is good! This is not so for MANY women. Around now postpartum depression can rear an ugly head. Please check on your postpartum friends and really want to listen! Lots of moms feel like they can’t speak up because they should be focusing care on their baby.
Self care for mom = care for baby too.
The journey of recovery continues and I’m SO proud of what I’ve accomplished and every woman out there who has done this! One day a year isn’t enough! Not only are we available to our babies 24/7 but we really do sacrifice part of our bodies for them. Just because something is worth it doesn’t make it easy.
Not everything has to be hard though. There are lots of products out there to help the postpartum process. Here are my MUSTS!
Postpartum care box: A friend sent this to me and it was perfect! Stuff you wouldn’t think to buy yourself but ended up being incredible to have. It had cooling pads, ice packs, candles, liners, overnight pads, lotion, cooling spray and lots of other goodies. Get yourself one or send to your next pregnant friend!
Sitz bath: They aren’t glamorous but it was a life saver! They are the plastic tubs you put in your toilet, fill with warm water and epsom salt or some other dissolvable relief tablet and you soak your nether regions! I did it once a day for a week or two. Not only did it relieve irritation with the stitches but it helped with swelling too.
Bidet: Husbands like this attachment too! One of the things I hated after birth was feeling dirty down there! The bidet helps you get it good and clean without compromising your stitches or scratching you up.
Your husband will like it for when he goes #2. My husband exclusively uses the bidet bathroom in the house for that now.
Mesh undies: I took all the ones in the bathroom at the hospital and didn’t need to buy any but they were awesome. No worries about ruining your own undies wear, they are super stretchy, and there aren’t any seams to rub anything wrong.
Thong liners: I’d rather change my liner ten times a day than wear a pad postpartum. The pad ended up rubbing everything weird and was bulky with leggings. If you don’t like bulky, just do thong liners! If you’re not a heavy bleeder it’s very doable. Comfort is key postpartum.
Good tennis shoes: They can’t walk yet but that doesn’t mean you’re not going to be on your feet! After a day or two of recovery you’ll be itching to move around more but with swollen feet and weaker legs you’re going to need a good shoe to improve your progress!
Keep wearing maternity leggings: Keep wearing those maternity leggings. They are comfy and will continue to provide support for your changing belly. Plus why waste money trying to get leggings for all of the sizes you’re about to slip between. If you need them to shrink a touch, dry them on high heat.
Support band for belly/back: Some don’t think much of this but I really loved having a belly support band. It’s hard for your body to just not have 10 lbs inside of it anymore and for the organs to slide back into their original homes. It’s part of what makes walking at first so difficult. Having one of these improved my mobility during recovery and I recommend getting one!
A good reusable water bottle: Staying hydrated is important mama! Especially if you’re breastfeeding. If your supply is low make sure you’re water intake is high enough. It’s also going to help you as your sleep schedule changes. A well hydrated mom is a high functioning mom!
Boppy nursing pillow: Not really a postpartum product, but hear me out. It helped with postpartum because finding a comfy nursing position is really difficult at first and it’s made harder for anyone who has stitches because want to know what rubs together when you’re sitting for long periods of time?…
If you aren’t familiar, it’s like a half-donut that secures around your waist. You can sit and then lay the baby across the pillow which rests him at an ideal breastfeeding position which opens up your arms to do get something small done while you nurse.
They also have a lounger I love! Not a postpartum must-have but we use it every single day here! Great for including baby with you on the floor during yoga, on the couch, on your bed, etc. Sometimes your arms just need a quick rest and it’s not worth buckling them into a swing or carrier. That’s when you need the lounger!
I have not yet made it through the otherside of this postpartum recovery journey and I’m pretty far from my goals. I don’t want you to feel discouraged. That being said, I have some parting words of advice that really isn’t anything revolutionary.
- Take the stool softeners. You might think you don’t need them. Take them. The first bowel movement (which I was kind of scared to do) was fine! Went way better than expected but took me a long time to conjure up. It was the following days that I realized I should have just taken them the whole time. So don’t just take them till you think your fine. Take the entire prescription. Your doctor is doing you a real solid here! *no pun intended*
- Don’t be afraid to get moving but recognize your boundaries. You do have to walk a line. Movement will absolutely help your recovery! This is true for lots of recovery plans. By get moving, I mean taking your baby on a walk or bouncing them around the house for 20 minutes. What I don’t want you to do is jump into full sweat exercises. I started walking a couple hours after labor at the hospital and then laps around the park the day I got home but do not use my timeline as your own. You will know when your ready and you may need more rest depending on how your labor went. After two weeks of walking I was able to start slowly start incorporating low impact moves from my prenatal work-outs I was doing in my third trimester. From there, I kind of worked backwards. Now 2.5 months out, I am back to doing my full scale work-outs but don’t go as hard as I did before getting pregnant. I am still working on finding how to move this new body safely!
- Stretch daily. All that extra flexibility from pregnancy goes away so make sure you’re stretching! The last thing you want is to injure your legs or back when you have a newborn you are getting to know. Make a point to do it and actually do it. Don’t just go through the motions because stretching incorrectly isn’t helpful. It will be good for your mental health too. Stretching feels good, take the moment to get a little enjoyment out of it.
- Pelvic floor exercises aren’t done! That’s not just to prep you for delivery. It’s to prep you for after. my pelvic floor was great! Until I pushed a baby out. If you notice you can’t hold more than a little amount of pee in your bladder or seem to lose control of it, focusing some time to your pelvic floor will make a huge difference to you! Peeing yourself a little is not something you should have to worry about. If it’s really bad they have physical therapy for your pelvic floor.
- You are discovering your new body not rebuilding your old one. Remember we are always moving forward! It’s okay to love who you were before. Because that person isn’t lost! She’s right there. Only she evolved so some things have changed. You might need to establish different habits to meet your new goals but make sure they are NEW. Goals that are less related to how quickly you lose the weight and more like establishing healthy habits that you can maintain for the rest of your life. Your relationship with food should now be a little different. Food is fuel! You have to eat to provide the fuel your baby needs to grow and what you need to keep up with them. In that same sense, you might start thinking more about what you’re putting into your body. Is it nutritional? Will this help my baby? Challenge yourself to be a happy and balanced version of yourself. Loving your new body will come naturally after that.
That got a lot more detailed than expected but you know what? Recovery is a lot more than I expected! Each day is a new day to decide to look inward at yourself and tap into that strength that got you your beautiful baby. It’s there with us still everyday!