Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Pregnancy Journal: The 10th Month

From 5 Minutes for Parentin

By Kelly

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.


  1. Shoot. I forgot about that stuff. That, and the essentially having your period long enough to make up for all that time you missed it.

  2. I love reading this stuff. It makes me remember why I thought our family was done :-)

  3. Totally hear you on the after pains! I would add to that list falling asleep any time I stop moving. :) And, your right. None of that stuff would factor in to my "should we have baby #4" list. It IS totally worth it!

  4. I would add the time and adjustment it takes adding this new person into your home and family, adjusting to a whole new schedule, one that includes a person you are not used to yet, and just getting to know. I would also add the extreme exhaustion and lack of proper sleep. It's a phase that will go largely unremembered due to the lack of sleep.

  5. Take the dang stool softener.

    Over and out.

  6. LOL @ Gretchen. Yes! With each of my babies, it's been offered in this very "it's optional, you-don't-have-to-take-it-if-you-don't-want-to" way, which always puzzled me. Who would NOT want to make things easier in that department postpartum? And while we're on the subject, I had almost forgotten about those awesome disposable undies the hospital provides. So fashionable!

    On that classy note, can I just say that I've really enjoyed following your pregnancy journal? This has been a lot of fun. I wish you every happiness with your family of 6!

  7. My 2 cents... I'm still in my early pregnancy clothes 2 1/2 months after birth... well, and the clothes I wore post first baby! I never understood how people could have multiple wardrobes until I had children... :)

    And the hair... yeah, I'm just now starting to lose mine although it's not coming out in clumps, it's just back to normal loss. I haven't lost any in months so this is good, I have way too much hair right now and mine's not straight to begin with!

  8. -TMI ALERT -

    I just want to know when does it stop feeling like a hack job "down there"? I'm going on 10 weeks and still feel like I'm giving birth every time I sit on the toilet or engage know. Do stitches mess you up for life??

  9. Tara - yes, stitches mess you up for life. Sorry. It stops hurting after a month or two. I'd tell your OB at your post-partum if you still hurt.
    Now, 3 years after I had said sticthes, I still cannot crouch down into the "catchers" pose. So I guess my dream of catching for the NY Mets have been squashed... I thought with #2, things might get better, but nope, I'm still the same.
    And yah, Anita, if I never see a pair of disposable hospital underwear again, it's too soon.

  10. Hey, I like the disposable undies. Seriously. They are very comfy and you can't argue they don't allow for air flow. Someone should sell them in a pop-up tissue box sort of thing at Target. 100 pairs for $2.99. They rock!

  11. The crazy hunger if you are nursing! I eat dinner and an hour later am ready for a second meal. I feel like a hobbit.

    I have to wear nursing pads for the first several months. I can't pump enough to make a difference, but if I dare go w/o nursing pads I will have two big circles calling attention right where I don't need it.

  12. I have to chime back in here and say:

    Follow @Gretchen's advice: The stool softener is a must. Take it for as long as you feel necessary.

    And @Tara, I don't want to disagree with Kim, but I've had stitches every time (almost 3rd degree tears with my first), and I've healed wonderfully every time. I'm sure there are many variables, but I think you should talk to your doctor. There doesn't have to be long-term ramifications.

    And yes, @Nicole, I almost mentioned the nursing hunger. But I was too excited about my nightly bowl of granola to keep writing.

  13. I remember now why I only have one child.LOL
    I had stitches and felt fine about 6 weeks after. Hurt really bad until then. Congrats on the new addition!!!!

  14. Congrats Kelly! We are now 2 weeks and 4 days postpartum and the one thing I had forgotten about is the complexities of going anywhere outside the house.

    Do I really need a diaper bag for a trip to the grocery store? I've seen the bathrooms at the grocery store and I really don't think there is enough purell in the world that would convince me that is an ok place to change a diaper.

    Or if I feed the baby at 1:15, theoretically I have until 2:45 before I need to feed her again, but is that enough time to run to the bank and pharmacy, or should I pump? And if I take the time to pump, that cuts my "running errands" time by 30 minutes. But what if she gets hungry and starts screaming before then and there is no discreet place to nurse? And by the time you decide on just exactly how to deal with the unpredictable hunger of a newborn, she has a wet diaper and is hungry again and the decision process starts all over again.

    Ugh. But, yes, totally worth it all. All I have to do is smell that sweet neck of hers and I really don't care if the errands get done or not!

  15. Wow this game looks amazing. How is a worker bee supposed to get any studying done with fatal distractions like this?!?!