Congratulations! You just had a healthy baby. Oh no! What just happened to your body?
Eleven things no one told you about having a baby:
1. There's now a hole in the bottom of your pelvis. Yes, an item roughly the size of a watermelon just barreled right through there. The good news: collagen is adaptable and that stretched feeling fades over time. Kegel exercises (tightening the pelvic floor muscles) really do improve the situation. The bad news: things never quite return to the "pre-baby" state, but who remembers exactly what the pre-baby state was when:
2. You are thoroughly exhausted. If you are especially unlucky, you’ll deliver your baby after a night of hard labor. But you'll be too excited to catch up on your zzzzs what with the nurses checking your vitals at all hours and the flocks of well-wishers coming to visit. You finally escape to the peace and quiet of home to discover that you have a new unreasonable member of your family, your crying baby! So be smart about things: master the art of swaddling the baby before you leave the hospital (you can purchase special burrito-wrap type blankets), be sure to thoroughly burp the baby after feeding since they can't get rid of a gassy tummy on their own and catch cat-naps while the baby is sleeping. Don't worry; most babies get the hang of a sleep cycle by 6 weeks of age.
3. You don't have a clue what you're doing--and neither does the baby. The baby cries when hungry, when full, when wet, when lonely, when cranky, when..... You have an entire language to learn, and you're soooo tired. Good thing your baby is a quick learner. Just as you're learning about the baby, the baby is learning about you. You'll find that the baby has different cries for different things--the uncomfortable cry can be distinguished from the hungry cry or the lonely cry. Cool, huh?
4. You're flabby as all get out. See that baggy saggy sac attached to your spine, that's your new abdomen. It looks jiggly and empty, where have your abs gone? Good thing that crunches and ab work are ok to start after your joints get more stabilized, usually by 2 weeks. Start with an easy workout like postnatal yoga to build up your core.
5. Your bladder is a leaky mess. You can't reliably control it; sometimes you can't even feel it. Just like other collagen, the collagen supporting you bladder recovers from childbirth over 2-3 months. Kegel exercises improve control. Try this: isolate the pelvic floor muscle by trying to stop the flow of urine, squeeze the muscle for 10 seconds then release and squeeze again. Go for a set of 15 contractions twice a day. Be sure to totally isolate the muscle by not squeezing your buttocks or abdomen as you do your Kegels.
6. Got hemorrhoids? Hemorrhoids are varicose veins of the anal area that are aggravated by pregnancy and pushing. Prevention is the best way of dealing with them however. Avoid constipation with Metamucil, stool softeners like Colace, or prune juice. Don't spend lots of time sitting on the toilet or on the handy inflatable ring that you got at the hospital. Preparation H or Anusol are available over-the-counter. These usually get a lot less noticeable over the next 2-3 weeks.
7. Breast feeding is harder than it looks. Renaissance paintings show that breast feeding is calming to babies and leads to beatific expression on the mother's face. Hey, that's you! What are you doing grimacing in pain when the baby latches on? Nipple soreness is commonly experienced by new mothers. Lactation Consultants try to minimize this by ensuring the baby gets the proper "latch" beginning at the hospital. Prevent nipple cracking with lanolin and treat soreness with moist black tea-bags. Be alert for redness, fever or pain since these can be due to a breast or nipple infection. Don't worry; this phase only lasts a few weeks. Beatific is just around the corner.
8. Your intimate parts are sensitive (not in a good way), sore, dry and achy. Breast feeding leads to low estrogen hormone levels and low estrogen levels lead to drying of the vaginal tissues. Using a lubricant can make intimacy much more enjoyable. Be sure to take time for romance, relax and consider scheduling a regular "date night" with your sweetie.
9. You're a weepy mess, likely not exactly depressed but watching the wrong commercial may set you to bawling. Important fact: sleep deprivation amplifies mood changes. Action Plan: increase your sleep-time by napping, ask for help, eat a diet rich in vegetables, lean protein and fruits and exercise. Remember that it takes a village to raise a child so ask for help!
10. You've left the modern woman behind and turned into cave-mamma. You can't remember anything, you've lost your ability for witty repartee, you can't imagine leaving the baby and going back to work without panicking. You should be over this phase by first grade.
11. You can't wait to do it again. By three months, you'll have forgotten all the hard part at the beginning and you may have convinced yourself (and your mate) that it wasn't so bad. Danger, danger, this is how "oops babies" happen. Where did you leave that old diaphragm? Better yet, call us so that we can help you make your best choices about when to have your next baby.