|From 5 Minutes for Parentin|
This is my last Pregnancy Journal post, friends, because (cue the angels and confetti) I am no longer pregnant. Baby Kieran joined our family on May 7 (birth story is here), and we've been head over heels ever since. I am grateful the editorial staff here at 5 Minutes for Parenting (read: Stephanie, Susan and Janice) graciously gave me a few weeks off so I could stare at the newborn.
But I'm back now, and before I close the chapter on this saga, I feel compelled to mention the hidden month of pregnancy -- the month after the baby arrives.
This postpartum period can be just as bizarre and uncomfortable and messy as the 9.5 months leading up to it.
1. You've had the baby, but you might not look like it. This is especially true the first week after childbirth. My own son looked at me a week after Kieran was born and asked, "You're not having another baby are you? Because your tummy is huge."
2. Nothing fits. Maternity clothes are baggy in all the wrong places. Your normal wardrobe isn't going to see the light of day for another 6-8 months. Which probably means you'll need to go shopping for a few new pieces to get you through the in-between. And there are few things more depressing than going clothes shopping just a few weeks after having a baby. (Note to Old Navy: Install a fun house mirror in one of your dressing rooms and designate it for new or expecting moms. You'll be golden.)
3. You will be in the likeness of Pamela. Breast engorgement strikes all new moms, whether they chose to breastfeed or not. It's intensely uncomfortable and (honestly) just weird. I love nursing, but those first few weeks of my body adjusting itself to the new routine can be brutal. See also: bleeding nipples due to a child with a Dyson-like sucking reflex and gushing milk due to bovine DNA.
4. Your emotions will rise and fall more dramatically than the Himalayas. Even if you don't struggle with the baby blues or postpartum depression, you will have moments in the weeks just after childbirth when you will think it entirely reasonable to kill someone for asking to hold the baby without offering to douse themselves in Purell first. Then, three seconds later, you will cry uncontrollably when that same person says the baby has your eyes.
And then there are a few after-effects I'd throw into the "I'd Almost Forgotten That" file. These might not happen to every postpartum woman, but they always happen to me.
1. Night sweats. About two weeks after I have the baby, I start to wake up every night drenched in sweat. Medical professionals say night sweats are the body's way of shedding excess water that built up during pregnancy. OK. Fine. But it's really cold when you have to get up to feed a newborn every three hours wearing pajamas that could be wrung out over a sink. I suggest wearing cotton fabrics to bed and keeping a fleece blanket nearby. It can help keep the shivering to a minimum while you're feeding the baby, and provide a cushion between you and wet sheets when you're ready to climb back into bed.
2. Hair loss. Most women report that their hair gets extra thick and lustrous during pregnancy. I haven't experienced that, probably because my hair is so thick normally, it has no room to grow. (Although I will say I noticed my hair getting huge at the end of this last pregnancy, but not in a good way. Do you remember that episode of "Friends" where Monica goes to Barbados, and in each recurring shot, her curly hair gets bigger and bigger and bigger because of the humidity? Yeah. I felt a little like that. Only with straight hair. Straight hair that looked oddly triangular on my head from all the volume.) Anyway. Whether you notice a chance in your hair during pregnancy or not, chances are you'll notice a great hair recession shortly after the baby is born. My hair is already falling out in large clumps. Thankfully, this is a good thing for me. As long as I remember to take the hair balls off the shower wall. I haven't had to do that for a while now.
3. After pains. For the uninitiated, these are uterine cramps triggered by breastfeeding. From a medical point of view, they are a good thing, because they help shrink your uterus back to its pre-pregnancy size. From my point of view, they hurt like heck, and they get worse with each subsequent baby, so ow-ow-ow. Until Kieran, I didn't know it was possible to nurse and writhe at the same time. Live and learn.
But you know what? It's worth it. Every pain, every sag, every pound, every ache. It is absolutely worth it. There's a reason many women endure the bizarreness and uncomfortableness of pregnancy and childbirth for almost a year -- and then sign up to do it all over again. Because when you look into those bright newborn eyes, you find love.
Have any bits of wisdom or weirdness to add to this discussion of the 10th month? What was your experience? I'd love to hear it in the comments.
Kelly blogs at Love Well and breastfeeds a baby 14 times a day -- and not necessarily in that order.