Two weeks and one day ago, I gave birth to my daughter. It was a pretty amazing experience, all the way up to the point when she was born. Then, while I was luckily distracted by holding my little girl skin-to-skin, I had a postpartum hemorrhage, eventually treated by a Pitocin drip, and some stitches.
With those two surprises on top of the exhausting work of giving birth, I was glad to spend those first two nights in the hospital. Knowing that help getting to the bathroom was just a call button away, that lactation consultants were at our beck and call, and that for a few hours each night a nurse was willing to “borrow” Penrose so my husband and I could get some uninterrupted sleep was precious. Suddenly, in addition to a child and all the accompanying emotion, stress, and responsibility, I also had a “peri care” routine and a drastically lower hemoglobin count to deal with.
But even as each trip to the bathroom revealed a new adventure in inconvenience and pain, I reveled in my post-baby body.
First of all, my reflux has disappeared! It was present with a vengeance through the whole third trimester, and most viciously during labor itself. And, true to the old-wives’ tale, Penrose was born with a full head of soft, black hair. But as soon as my stomach-squishing payload was delivered, I could eat and drink with impunity, free from emotional dependence on my rolls of Tums. (Alas, I apparently still snore loudly enough to wake the dog.)
Another postpartum delight has been the relaxation of the tendons in my legs. At 4 feet 10 inches, the extra 37 pounds I carried put a lot of stress on my whole body, but particularly on my lower legs and feet. That first toddle to the bathroom, supported by two nurses, may have been challenging, but I felt like I was floating compared to the slow waddle of earlier that day. As my strength has returned in the past two weeks, going for walks has once again become pleasurable.
Watching my uterus shrink of its own accord is pretty cool, too. I got so big so quickly in the second trimester, and these two weeks have been like watching a time-lapse video of December to May in reverse. The best part is that all of this shrinking is happening before I’m even allowed to start exercising! Not only that, but I can abandon the Rube Goldberg-like method I developed for getting mugs down from the shelf and simply belly up to the counter again. I have no idea how much weight I’ve actually lost, and I’ve yet to attempt to wear pants (any pants–there is no way I will put on my maternity pants ever again) but the options just in the shirt section of my closet are nearly dizzying. Getting dressed is fun again!
Of course, whatever I put on needs to have easy boob access, which brings me to my favorite thing about my post-baby body: becoming a food source. I’m a little obsessed with the idea of foraging and finding food unexpectedly. I love to go for walks and pick the wild blackberries and strawberries that grow on the roadsides here, and when I remember I look for fiddleheads in the ditches and swamps in April. To become a food source, and especially the source for a food as complete as breast milk, is a natural extension of my fascination with found food. With nothing other than my body I can soothe and nourish my child. I’m extra fascinated by and grateful for my milk production because it was a little late in arriving due to my postpartum anemia. Penrose lost more weight than the pediatrician liked between my late milk and her tongue-tie and for a few frustrating days we supplemented with tube-delivered formula, but now it’s taken care of. Seeing her well above her birth weight at her two week checkup made me proud of us both.
At some point soon, I’m sure I’ll want to fit into a pair of jeans, feel confident in a bathing suit, and test out the jogging stroller. For now, it’s the little things that are making me happy, like tying my shoes without gasping for air, walking easily through narrow passages, and those first sips of beer. And of course, the one big thing–enjoying my feisty, ravenous, perfect daughter, whom I love even more now that she’s on the outside.