You’ve painstakingly set up the nursery, gotten everything you needed from your registry, read up on "What To Expect When You’re Expecting" and have highly anticipated the arrival of your new family member. Have you been so focused on the baby that you're not prepared for what happens to you after delivery?
Here are the ways you change after giving birth, and some suggestions on how to manage them:
Most noticeably, your whole body changes after giving birth. Congrats, mama! You brought forth an entire, new life, and it took some hard work! Don't expect to go right back to your pre-birth body though. After you deliver the baby and placenta, your stomach might not magically warp back into its original shape, and that is okay!
According to an article by NPR, about a third of women have a bulging belly or “diastasis recti” caused when the abdominal muscles separate during pregnancy to make room for the growing baby. Don't fear - you can find manageable workouts to tone that tummy if you wish and also use shapewear for a brief period. Women don't magically “bounce back” as our culture sometimes would like us to believe. It takes time and effort. Be kind to yourself because bringing forth a new life is such an accomplishment.
Women do not magically 'bounce back' as our culture sometimes would like us to believe. It takes time and effort.
Another physical change is the healing that takes place based on how the baby was delivered. With a vaginal birth, expect a lot of blood, or “lochia,” and don't be alarmed by clots. Do ask the doctor if you have any concerns or think anything is abnormal. For a C-section birth, it indeed is a major surgery, so rest a lot so the incision site can heal. If you're too active too quickly after birth, it increases the amount of blood flow, so slow down if you notice an increase!
The last physical change is your breasts: whether or not you decide to breastfeed, your body naturally produces milk to feed your baby. Some women automatically are able to feed no problem and don't experience engorgement, while some women produce incredible amounts of milk to the point where their breasts are about to burst. If you happen to fall into the latter category, express some milk in the shower before you feed your baby. Engorgement can be rough because the breasts can be red, hard, and swollen. Nipples also can experience chafing and need to be broken in, and like a muscle, they finally get stronger with time and patience.
There are many ways also to alleviate the pain and lessen the difficulty of breastfeeding, and while it’s not for the faint of heart, there are support groups available for breastfeeding issues. You can seek out your local La Leche League Group or get a referral for a breastfeeding specialist from your birthing site or hospital.
We have all heard the phrase “Mom Brain” in the context of forgetfulness; however, it's more than that. Mom brain is real, but more than forgetfulness, it's the reprogramming of how it functions and is unique to women as evidenced in brain imaging done in recent neurological studies. These studies show that you don't think the same way after giving birth. Motherhood truly is transformative because your brain automatically adapts to your new demands. Nature literally prepares you for your new role!
While your actual brain activity changes, so do your hormones in order to adjust to motherhood. Like your brain changing, some of the hormones changing are necessary to take care of your baby, but when it becomes unmanageable, do seek help because hormones can cause anxiety and depressive feelings. There are also natural remedies for combatting improperly balanced hormones, one of which includes exercise and ensuring you continue to take your prenatal vitamins and eat enough, especially when breastfeeding, to meet your baby’s and your own nutritional needs.
When it becomes unmanageable, do seek help because hormones can cause anxiety and depressive feelings.
Your whole lifestyle changes after a baby! Gone are the days when you can spontaneously rush out the door to meet friends for a drink or a coffee date. While connecting with friends and getting out of the house is crucial for your well being as a new mom, proper planning and preparation is necessary. You need to make sure you have diaper-changing supplies with you, and if you are choosing not to breastfeed, you need the essential feeding equipment.
You also have to consider your baby’s sleep habits and plan social events based on your baby’s nap schedule. Luckily, babies can sleep well in their strollers or carriers that are on the market but don't be afraid to let people know your schedule and needs. You also can kiss a full night’s sleep good-bye for a while, but if you sleep when the baby sleeps, the change in schedule can be more manageable.
Don't be surprised either if you can't go out as frequently or if your friendships evolve. Sometimes people are not as open to spending time with you and your baby, and that's okay. Spend your precious time with people who enjoy you and your baby, and don't overextend yourself. With realistic expectations, preparation, and planning, you can still have a social life.
While babies are adorable and precious, it's no surprise they are demanding. As a new parent, you go through countless diapers and wipes on a recurring basis. Add in the rapid development of your child, which means constantly buying new baby clothes to meet the child’s growth rate, medical bills for routine pediatric appointments, baby books, toys, and accessories, and it all adds up. Budgeting and prioritizing expenses are crucial to managing your household, and while you may not be able to indulge in all the expenses you used to, having a baby is so worth it because you get to invest in their growth, learning, and development that brings so much joy.
You do also have to consider the impact that a baby has on your job trajectory. Some mothers choose to return to work after maternity leave, while others may decide to stay home. The decision is up to you and your family’s needs, but consider that when you are at work, you have work that gives you structure and income and coworkers to socialize with, while staying at home requires you to have to seek out more structure, income, and community. Also, while you can have personal breaks at work, you can't really have breaks at home.
Some mothers choose to return to work after maternity leave, while others may decide to stay home.
Babies not only change mothers from a material and physical standpoint, but also you might entirely experience a change in how you view yourself and your purpose in life. No longer do you make decisions and plans for yourself, but you're in charge of a new life. For many moms, their perspective changes, and they're more focused on the big picture and will undergo so much pain, exhaustion, and difficulty for the sake of providing for their child.
The sheer responsibility of taking care of a child can cause you to turn to your faith more because you realize some things are beyond your control no matter how hard you try to control them. God gives you the grace and ability to undergo difficulties and gives you, not the child that you expect, but the child that is uniquely made for the unique mother that you are.
While your reality of motherhood may be different from your expectations, and these changes might seem overwhelming, you're equipped with the tools and the natural ability to adjust to your new role. Have faith: motherhood is a journey and not a destination.