You’ve just had a baby. You’re in a bubble of love and contentment. But while your heart may be full of happiness, your body may be expressing this love in all sorts of unexpected ways. How many of these less-than-heart-warming experiences can you tick off the list?
1. An ache down under
You just endured 40 weeks of pregnancy followed by labour! So it’s understandable that you may feel a little tender in the downstairs area. Sitting on a hot water bottle can help, as can taking a warm bath. Give the new bub to a family member and go soak in the tub for fifteen minutes. Your crotch will feel so much better afterwards – and your mind will too.
2. Dry skin
Still got the pregnancy glow? Consider yourself lucky. If not, don’t stress. Itchy, dry, tight and even bruised skin is all part of the recovery process. My hands peeled so much after pregnancy that I felt like I had lost an entire layer of skin. You’ve been through quite the ordeal and the hormones may be taking it out on your skin. Moisturising regularly with a lotion made of natural ingredients can help.
3. Hair loss
Chunks of hair falling out in the shower? Yes, it’s terrifying but also all part of the postpartum stage. This is the downside of that gorgeous mane of hair you loved so much all the way through pregnancy. Don’t despair – the hair loss will end, and then you’ll have a head of baby hairs to look forward to.
4. Bladder leakage
Sneeze. Laugh. Bounce. Even just getting up too quickly can cause your bladder to lose a little bit of control. This is completely natural, especially after giving birth. It will get better in time, but keeping up with your pelvic floor exercises will help. Use a sanitary pad for the first few weeks for blood loss and the occasional bladder leakage.
5. Engorged breasts
I was warned about how breasts balloon up when the milk comes in. But I wasn’t prepared for the Twin Cities to erect. And leak. And ache. And just when I thought they couldn’t get any bigger, bub would sleep through a feed and BAM! Engorged breasts can be painful but cabbage leaves can help as can a gentle massage. Some milk may come out in the process but that is expected. Don’t express too much or you’ll make the problem worse!
6. Uterine cramps
This is one that I was not prepared for! Every time I breastfed my son, my uterus would contract and the pain would shoot from the top of my tummy to my toes. Why doesn’t anyone discuss this? It felt like I was in labour, but without drugs and with a newborn attached to my breast.
This cramping is actually completely normal and is just your uterus contracting back to its normal size after birth. In fact, the more pain, the better – it means everything is going back to where it should be! Taking paracetamol before feeding and having a hot water bottle on hand can help alleviate the shooting stabs radiating through your body.
7. A loss of routine, balance and structure (and possibly, temporarily, your mind)
One moment you are cuddling your newborn in bed. The next, it’s 5pm and time to make dinner. Seriously, where does the time go? Having a newborn is busy but sometimes it can seem like all you do is feed, change and try to settle bub. I swear some days I would still be trying to eat my breakfast at 2pm. On others, I would have the entire house spotless and dinner cooked by 10am. This can be hard to get used to, especially if you enjoy structure in your life.
Making time every day (every single day) for you can make a world of difference. Just five minutes to breathe, to reflect on the day, to pamper yourself, and to collect your thoughts is sometimes all it takes to turn even the worst days around.
Post-pregnancy can take even the most prepared mum for an unexpected journey. Taking just a few minutes each day for yourself, to do something other than taking care of others is so important. It will help you to feel better mentally, spiritually and emotionally. Most importantly, you will feel like more than just a rocking, burping, feeding machine. You will feel like yourself again.
This post was originally published on 22 July 2015.