My post baby body was a shock to say the least.
I knew when I fell pregnant that certain things would change about my body. I expected to gain weight, for my boobs to grow, my feet to swell and maybe some stretch marks to form. I mentally prepared myself as best I could. After all, I was growing a tiny human and that is pretty darn amazing.
What I wasn’t prepared for was how different my body would be postpartum. On top of dealing with sleep deprivation and raging hormones, I was also living with this body that continually surprised me with its weird and wonderful (not wonderful) changes. Here are five things, which took me by complete surprise:
- The hair. Oh god the hair.
I heard of other women who grow this thick and lush hair when they are pregnant. I too was one of those women. Except that my thick and lush hair grew everywhere, not just on my head.
My delightful snail trail became a full on snail 100km trek. I grew what could only be described as a lady mo. And don’t even get me started on what was going on downstairs. I couldn’t see it by the end of nine months thank goodness. But I imagine it was a site to behold.
A few months after my son was born, my hair started to fall out. And it just didn’t stop. I went from one extreme to the other. I now sport these little tufts of short hair around my hairline where no amount of hairspray or gel will help slick them back. I wear a lot of hats now. But on the plus side, I no longer have a snail trail.
- I am as dry as the Sahara dessert
This may be way too personal. But then again I have found that when you get a group of mums together, nothing is off the cards. And this is a topic that I always want to broach but get way too embarrassed. The topic of vaginal dryness. There I said it.
There may come a day after having a baby, when you finally get your groove back and start looking at your partner with interest. You start to feel a rush of love and desire. But your body simply does not respond physically like it used to. Everyone’s egos get bruised. Your pleas of “its not you it’s me” fall on deaf ears. And you may feel a bit betrayed by your body.
Apparently it’s very common and caused by estrogen and progesterone levels declining dramatically after giving birth. Estrogen is further affected if you are breastfeeding. As a breastfeeding machine, it’s not surprising that my hormones have changed. The only solution is patience, your body will eventually return to normal. That and a healthy amount of lubricant. Once again, sorry if this is too personal.
- Varicose Veins are actually a thing
This has been arguably the worst surprise for me. I expected the stretch marks. After all, when I was going through puberty I was riddled with them. Surprisingly I didn’t get any throughout my pregnancy. I couldn’t believe my luck. I think stretch marks are a beautiful badge of honour. But I was still wearing them from teenage me. I had enough thanks.
So when I noticed these angry red and purple veins popping up behind my knees and snaking their way up and down the backs of my legs I was shocked. I went to my doctor, who reassured me that like most things, these varicose veins were totally normal.
Varicose veins are caused by the uterus growing and putting pressure on the veins in your body. Not helped by the amount of blood in your body increasing and putting even more pressure on your veins. They are uncomfortable and a bit unsightly, but I was told that they would likely dissipate after pregnancy.
The day after I gave birth I noticed that all the varicose veins in my legs had simply disappeared. Hooray! Except my celebrations were short lived as they came back a week later with a vengeance. Nine months later they were getting worse and looked like had permanently moved into my legs.
I opted to get treatment. I never had the greatest self esteem to begin with, and have always been really self conscious of my legs. I had exercised my butt off, quite figuratively, pre pregnancy to get in shape and was finally just starting to like my legs. I was really sad to be losing this newfound respect.
So with a fair amount of research and soul searching I decide to undergo ultrasound guided sclerotherapy and endovenous thermal ablation. It was expensive, uncomfortable (not painful) and I had to wear a support stocking for two weeks in the middle of summer. But it worked for me.
It wasn’t an easy decision to make and I plan on having more children so it could have been premature, but it was the decision I made and I have to stick by it.
- Skipping is no longer an activity I participate in
I can’t say this is something I hadn’t been pre warned about or wasn’t expecting. But that didn’t make it any less embarrassing the first time it happened to me. I was definitely more prone to light bladder leakage after giving birth.
I did all the right things pre and post baby. I worked those pelvic floor muscles day in and day out. I did Pilates. I practiced my keggle exercises while driving. But still, twelve weeks after giving birth, at my first bootcamp class, I did a frog jump and woops. Yes, I peed myself. Just a bit, and thank god I was wearing black tights. But it happened.
From that day on I accepted that I would need to wear a panty liner while exercising. I had to listen to my body and understand its limitations for a while. Just because I couldn’t frog jump, didn’t mean I couldn’t do some controlled squats. And I must always endeavor to sneeze in private. This is my new normal.
- I get my period. Like all the time. And it’s bad.
A mum friend of mine recently complained that she got her period back a full thirteen months after giving birth to her son. I just looked and her and was like, “Girl I got my period back two months after giving birth”. And I get it all the time. Like every three weeks!
She had full right to complain. Not getting your period is one of the perks of being pregnant. You get so used to not having it, that when it rears its ugly head, it’s not a very welcome guest. I expected to have at least six months of period free time after having my son. I was breastfeeding around the clock which I have heard delays it even more. So when it arrived I had a definite WTF moment.
Now I literally get it every 21 days. And it’s bad. Like thirteen year old me bad. The PMS. The rage. The night sweats. The cramps. Unlike thirteen year old me, I can’t curl into the fetal position with a block of chocolate and feel sorry for myself. I have a baby who needs constant care and attention. Subsequently, I think my husband is feeling the return of my period almost as bad as me.
I am hoping it will calm itself down over time. But it has been almost twelve months now and going strong. The only solution now is to have another baby! I wonder what will happen to my body in round two? Oh god, what about round three??
So through it all, the body changes, hormones and coping with a new baby or even a troublesome teenager, how do you handle it? For some coping strategies, read my article The Mum Mantra Which Keeps Me Sane
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