My Real Postpartum Body
Blogger and mother of two Julie Bhosale of The New Mum's Nutritionist discusses the importance of paying attention to how your body feels post-childbirth rather than the way it looks.
I am a mother. I am tired, broken, and sore. I have lumps, bumps, marks, and jiggly bits.
I am a mother. I have created, grown, carried, and birthed two gorgeous sons.
I am a mother. I am solely responsible for the lives of two little humans, every single day and night, week in and week out, and will be for the rest of my life (and maybe future number three baby).
I am a health professional. I work in an industry that is largely focused on the superficial. The how you look. Not how you feel. Not who you are.
I am a mother.
You too are a mother. You are also tired, exhausted, broken, sore, have lumps, bumps, marks, and jiggly bits.
You too live in a world that judges you on how you look. Not how you feel. Not who you really are and what you have sacrificed . . . and continue to sacrifice.
You are beautiful, you are amazing, you are a mother.
You live in a society that pushes images at you every day of women who have given birth and just "bounced back" — great for them (truly, that is great, Kate Middleton, you are amazing!). But this is such a small minority. For most of us, our bodies change, and change a lot. It is scary, it is hard, it can be downright disgusting and upsetting, but it is real and normal. Although I am a qualified health professional, I am also a mother and my body has also not just "bounced back." We are starting to see a shift in the media and online with more women sharing the often hidden and unspoken realities of childbirth and the effect on your bodies.
So I have joined in the movement. Here is my #takebackpostpartum body blog. My real body after two children.
On the 17th of January 2015 at 11:10 p.m., I gave birth to my second son. I fought to conceive him. Put my body through assisted reproductive therapy. I was broken just (ha, just!) carrying him to full term. Broken in ways I did not know my body could break (see previous blogs). Photographs do not tell the full story. I could barely walk. I was induced early just to get my son out, as every day he was in me was another day I had to fight to keep carrying him. Before I had children, I would run marathons for fun . . . yes, for fun — just wake up, find an event, and run . . . I could barely walk to the letter box, and I could not pick up my 2-year-old.
24 Hours Postpartum
Regardless of how you birthed your child (aka watermelon), you can still look and feel like you have a watermelon (or two) inside you. It is often sort of lumpy and squishy too. There’s only one way that thing is coming down . . . hello, excruciating uterine contractions . . . may as well go through labor again. I gave birth vaginally (birth story here), and it feels like a truck, not a watermelon, ripped through me. Good thing is, I am so high on adrenaline and oxytocin nothing in the world matters except for my precious bundle . . . Two days later, it is a different story.
Two Days Postpartum
Have I showered or changed my pj's . . . cannot confirm. Normally a size A cup, I am giving Kate Upton a run for her money. What’s more, these puppies are ON FIRE, and I still don’t know how to bloody use them. Show me that breastfeeding video one last time, and I will tear the television from the wall socket — it is not helping. Everything leaks. I mean, EVERYTHING. I am a mess of body fluid. I am wearing not one but two enormous maternity pads, inside granny panties to try and contain the postpartum bleeding. Golf-ball-sized blood clots keep coming out. I have to keep these to be inspected and make sure it is not part of the placenta. Where has my dignity gone?
Sleep . . . I could count the hours on one hand but am just too beyond exhausted to remember. My body is experiencing a horrendous hormone withdrawal. Is this what drug addicts feel like? Maybe drugs would help right now . . . My eyes just keep leaking. I am more prepared for this second time around. First time, I just could not understand why I would not stop crying. The cherry on the Sunday is that precious little bundle WON'T STOP SCREAMING (don’t let the photographs fool you). You want to come and visit? Sure, let’s have a tea party while we are at it.
One Week Postpartum
Back at home. Still rocking my pj's. Still got a lumpy, squishy watermelon belly. Still got the granny-style undies and thunder pads. I am glad to be home, but surely it is illegal to be responsible for two other little humans when in fact you are a walking zombie? And what the HELL do I do with two children? I barely did one before?! How do I bath them both? How do I get them both fed at the same time? Boobs out, get baby on one side, express pump on the other, and shove a spoon in my toddler's face — that’s how . . . hmmm, bringing sexy back to the dinner table all right. Oh, yes, and somehow I am meant to fit into my prepregnancy clothes right (ha ha ha, that’s a joke, right?).
Two Weeks Postpartum
I look a bit more alive . . . must have had a shower that morning. Tummy still swollen, shrinking but swollen. I am still bleeding — it's like the period that never ends. Am out of my pj's, rocking pregnancy clothes instead (see, you do get more than one use for those!). Boobs are like rocks. My poor husband. If he even thinks about going near those knockers, he will get a swift slap.
I will be honest: I do feel better this time postbirth than I did with my first son. Not fighting horrendous mastitis surely will be playing a large part of that (see why I am not exclusively breastfeeding here). The other, is I am kinder to myself. I am not out trying to walk for an hour or more a day like I did first time around. I have basically told friends to come and visit in about three months time (I am sorry, but I know you understand).
In case you are wondering — that lovely scar down my belly is from some major abdominal surgery I went through as a 21-year-old. Was split open six times after an appendix operation went wrong. Two pregnancies have morphed and stretched this. Never mind, it just becomes the "feature piece" of my stretch marks. May have to reconsider my dream job as a bikini model . . .
10 Weeks Postpartum
Now that it has contracted down, my swollen tummy is a bit more of a jiggly tummy, still rocking preggie clothes, and sporting a moon boot from fracturing my ankle — my body so broken from the last few months, my leg just snapped like a twig when I rolled off a curb trying to walk an unsettled baby. Where did the last eight weeks go? In a blur . . . a blur of feeding, sleeping, pumping, learning to juggle both children and work in among it all. Am exhausted, like bone-aching exhausted. I am lucky to have the knowledge I do of good food to nourish from the inside, but I am still human. I do have chocolate, I do have coffee (lots of coffee), and dinners are sometimes baked beans on toast. I don’t have time to shower, so no, I DON’T make my own baked beans.
Sometimes I wonder, why the hell did I want this so badly (previous blog from the trenches here), but for the most part, I love it, stupidly love it all.
14 Weeks Postpartum
Officially out of the newborn phase. Feel less zombie and more human. I am left with the marks of motherhood. A tummy that appears "flat" but has the stretch marks, the skin, the sunken scar, and abs that have not yet healed. It’s our best-kept secret as mothers. I have just got my first period. I have irregular periods at the best of times, so this I see as a true sign my body feels good. I now am ready to do some gentle activity, to help repair and recover. I may never run a marathon again, don’t think my pelvic floor would survive, but I will run the parenting marathon day in and day out, my boys are so darn worth it — my God, are they worth it!
You may be broken, exhausted, sore, have lumps, bumps, marks, and jiggly bits.
You may not look like the next Victoria’s Secret underwear model, but focus on how you feel. Be kind to yourself and your body — you will look like how you are meant to when you feel good. It may take some time. It took me a lot longer to feel good following the birth of my first son than this time around. There is no one to compare yourself to. No one is walking in your shoes, deals with what you deal with. You will be judged. I am judged every day, and there will be people judging me right now. Doing what is right for you and your family takes courage, takes strength, and as a mother, you have both. Nourish and love from the inside out, and do not forget:
You are beautiful, you are amazing, you are a mother.