Yes, yes, everyone has something to say to a new mother. By now, perhaps you’ve heard all sorts of cliché bits, every turn of phrase having to do with raising a newborn. “Get some rest while you can!” they all say, which to me seems more like a cruel joke, because by the time they’ve said it and you’ve heard it, you’re clearly not getting any sleep, am I right? Oy.
“They’re only little for so long—cherish it while it lasts!” warrants an eye roll every time because the last thing I want to cherish is changing my clothes as frequently as I changed my baby’s outfits, because he invariably was going to spit up a surprising amount of milk on me every single time he ate. I don’t know about you, but typically, the times I’ve been left feeling sticky aren’t ones for the memory books. “Isn’t being a mom just the best?” Groan. Yes? No? Both? Yeah, OK, maybe it will be the best when I am not in a constant panic over how much he eats or poops or sleeps or whether he’s still breathing ALL DAY LONG.
These types of comments in the early days don’t even touch on what happens to a woman’s body as a result of childbearing, although that doesn’t keep some people—ahem, RUDE—from making unnecessary judgments or inappropriate gestures. However, while some advice is apropos and some not so much, it occurred to me that it would have been really, really nice to have been given some specific hints from another mom friend about what I could expect about life with my body after housing another human.
Sure, the immediate after-birth effects are something we all commiserate about, but I’m talking about a year or two into this mothering experience. Everyone I know has a story to tell about how their bodies have changed, but not many people want to talk about it unless you directly ask.
So, I’ve been compiling a list of totally weird stuff that happens to your body that literally no one I’ve ever talked to except my own mother (because why on earth would I believe her?) has told me would happen. In the spirit of honest journalism, here goes nothing:
-Your breasts are not your own. Do your boobs hang low? Do they wobble to and fro? Can you tie them in a knot? OK, you get the picture. I’ve always had a medium-sized chest, but pregnancy and breastfeeding inflated those puppies overnight, and then also deflated them like leftover inner tubes from summer vacation on the beach the very second my son was done breastfeeding. I’d heard myths that post-baby boobs wouldn’t be that different—perkier, even! LIES. If anything, they are squinting at me with disapproval every time I get out of the shower and look in the mirror. They are pockets of skin that once housed milk, formerly known as breasts.
-Periods for weeks (with uncontrollable hormones to match!). Are you sad? Are you angry? Have you been bleeding for 11 days straight? Then you are probably a mother! My past menstrual cycle has been so epically long I’m convinced my uterus is throwing a “Store Going Out of Business” sale without my approval. I have lost count of the number of crying jags I’ve had the last week, and I also feel as though I may burst into flames at any moment. It’s a good thing I’ve stocked up on womanly supplies so I don’t have to shoot off any dirty looks to nosy Walgreens employees.
-If you love your hair, kiss it goodbye. People talk of the hair loss that occurs 3-4 months after giving birth, or after any stressful event. I must be more anxious than I think I am. because I’m just not sure mine ever stopped falling out. And forget about trying to grow your hair out after pregnancy—there must be something up there making my follicles loose, because there is literally no other reason I should be losing this much hair, still! I eat decently, exercise sometimes, and get a little time to myself…Don’t I sound relaxed? There’s nothing I love more than sweeping up around our house to find out my hairs are the reason our dust bunnies are so massive, they’re the size of small rodents. Let’s just say that my dog is no longer in the running for the Dirtiest Shedding Animal in the House award.
-The skin you’re in. Yes, lots of us have already had stretch marks. Yes, many of us have gone up and down in size, sometimes dramatically like in pregnancy or otherwise. But I guess I just didn’t realize that my new friend, Postpartum Stretch Mark Skin, would want to hang out with me all day, every day, indefinitely. At least when I head to the beach this summer with my kiddo, I’ll only need to bring an inner tube for him because mine is already attached.
Whoa, you may be thinking. Why is she hating on her body so much? It’s not that, really, but an honest reckoning. The changes that accompany motherhood are overwhelming, and for the mother, so many are largely out of her control—plus, I’m not a celebrity with nannies and personal trainers, finding my pre-baby body post-baby in a matter of weeks.
The level of energy that is consumed by committing to be responsible for another person’s life is far beyond what I’d ever imagined, so it’s no wonder it has a visceral effect on one’s appearance. I’ve found that sometimes, the best thing to do when things fall out of my grasp, or appear amid the chaos, is to laugh!
And for the future moms out there, a little warning of what’s coming doesn’t hurt, either.