You may have an idea of what you’ll look like after your baby’s born. You might think pregnancy ends when the baby comes out. That your body will return to normal, immediately, to its pre-pregnancy state, because since you’re not rocking a fetus in your belly, you’re exactly the same as before. External baby equals normal body, right?
Mother nature has a surprise for you.
Your postpartum body has just as many mysteries and as much weirdnesses as your pre-baby body. It leaks. It bulges. Pregnancy has etched its artistry on your body, and at least for the short term, your body will not be the same. That’s not a bad thing. It just means you won’t be looking like your high school self anytime soon.
1. You won’t be wearing your pre-pregnancy jeans home from the hospital.
I packed my favorite pair of pre-baby jeans when my first son was born. I figured that, since there was no baby in there anymore, they would fit. I was tragically wrong. After your baby’s born, your uterus is still swollen, your organs are still disarranged, and your skin is still stretched. All this gifts you with a larger or smaller stomach pooch in the days to come. Belly binders can help make them go away — and keep you comfy — but your jeans aren’t zipping, lady. Deal with it.
2. You’ll be bleeding.
Most people know you bleed postpartum. It’s from the open wound the placenta leaves when it detaches. But you may bleed more or less, depending on the whims of God and Mother Nature. Some women, like me, will drop clots larger than golf balls and need to call their OB for help. Others will bleed heavily for a day, then drop down to a light period. The duration is also unpredictable. With baby No. 3, I bled for a week. With baby No. 1, I bled for six weeks. All you can count on: There will be blood, and there will probably be a lot of it.
3. You’ll have to wear pads.
You can’t stick anything up there because a baby just came out of it, so no tampons for you. No sea sponges, no reusable tampons, no Diva Cups. You’re stuck with the same pads you wore in middle school, the ones that felt like diapers. Luckily they’ve gotten thinner since then, so you don’t waddle when you wear them, but they’re still pads and you’re still wearing them. Ick.
4. Your boobs will resemble Dolly Parton’s.
Everyone knows that your boobs get bigger after you have a baby. What they don’t realize is exactly how much bigger, especially if you’re breastfeeding. You will balloon whole cup sizes. And they won’t sag. They’ll perk up so high you’ll look like you have implants. This is both a pain (you’ll need all new bras, which you needed anyway if you’re nursing) and a blessing, because your boobs have never been so hot in your life. Enjoy them before they start to fall down.
5. Your vagina will probably be stitched. Do not look at it.
No, seriously. There are some things you don’t need to see. Don’t poke at it either — I ended up in the OB’s office with baby No. 3 because I thought I had a hole where there should be no hole. Nope, just normal healing! Eventually your vagina will heal up, probably perfectly. Until then, no mirrors. You’ll look like a sexual Frankenstein.
6. You might want to have sex before six weeks postpartum.
This is not supposed to be OK because of the giant wound in your uterus, and you’re supposed to be on pelvic rest. But…hormones make you horny. The baby’s asleep. Your husband’s around. My husband and I stopped when we tried at two weeks because you could still feel the stitches, which was freakish. But in casual surveys, I’ve found that pretty much everyone does it before six weeks. So, against the advice of all nurses and OBs, go for it!
7. You might ovulate before six weeks postpartum.
This is how people end up with Irish twins. It’s even more likely if you’re formula feeding, but still possible if your baby’s on the breast. So either decide not to do it, or use protection if you do so — you probably don’t want to get pregnant again so soon.
8. Your belly button will change.
Before, you had the teenage dream perfect up-and-down slit belly button, the kind that looks great when it’s pierced. Postpartum, your belly button will not return. Instead, it’ll be a round circle, with a little flap of skin that hangs over the top. You can basically tell a woman has had a baby by looking at her belly button — little known fact.
9. Your linea nigra won’t go away.
For a while, you’ll find yourself parading around with an empty belly and a preggie line stretching up above your belly button. Don’t worry, it’ll eventually fade. But the effect will be exaggerated over your pooch if your line wasn’t straight (mine wasn’t).
10. Your stomach will probably get crepe-y.
As your tummy develops a post-birth pooch, it hangs down a little bit. You’ll get a line there at least, and a crepe-y hang-down if you gained a lot of weight. Remember, you pushed a human being out of your body (somehow). You deserve a medal for that. Wear your battle scars with pride, including your tummy. Your body is beautiful. And so are you.