When I was first pregnant, I was thrilled to watch the weekly growth of my belly. I took the customary belly bump shots each week and marvelled at my growing and changing curves. But now that I’ve had three kids, I can tell you that your belly isn’t the only thing that changes over the adventure of pregnancy and child birth. Some of these changes will be welcomed (Hello B cup!), and others (Yeah, come on in stretch marks) will just be lovely little reminders of the life you’ve grown inside your body.
1. Your boobs become this whole thing. Oh yes, during pregnancy your boobs will get bigger which for me — score! — and for some of you, will be a hassle (I’m playing a tiny violin for you right now), but after you have a baby, your boobs gain a mind of their own. They become a mobile food truck for your baby who will paw at them morning, noon, and night. They will fluctuate in size based on whether you’ve just fed Junior or you oh-my-gosh-need-to-get-home-to-baby-right-now-before-I-burst. They’ll also leak at the sound of your baby’s cry and during sex. (And by the way, it may be hard to see them as something sexy for a while.)
2. Your nipples are the main attraction. Before you had kids, you probably never thought much about your nipples. Sure, they were a part of your boobs as a whole, but after breastfeeding a child, your nipples become their own entity. Parts that once blended into your boobs will now be a main attraction. Going bra-less….ha! Not anymore. Your nipples may have changed shape, colour or size through the process of pregnancy and breastfeeding. Make sure your bras offer the new coverage you’ll need to not announce the weather to the world.
3. Your “innie” might become an “outie.” As your belly grows, some women experience their belly button “popping” — going from an innie to an outtie. In the weeks and months after your child is born, you may realise, like I did, that your belly button doesn’t exact “pop” back in. I had a doctor once tell me he can look at a woman and know if she’s had a baby or not just from her belly button. From getting stretched out and larger to becoming deeper to staying popped out or developing a kind of hood, your belly button may not retain its pre-pregnancy shape or size.
4. Your face might look totally different. Pregnancy, delivery, and breastfeeding are hormone-ridden times which can cause all sorts of fun face issues. Maybe you’re one of the lucky ones to get the pregnancy “glow”. I was not. Acne? Check. Hyperpigmentation? Yep. Add to that the possibility of eczema, melasma (pregnancy mask), spider veins, redness, itching….should I go on? Do what you can to ensure good hygiene, use non-comedogenic products and sunscreen, and keep your skin moisturised. Many of these skin issues will go away as your hormone levels calm the heck down. But do talk with a doctor about products or treatments that are safe to treat lingering conditions.
5. Your “lady parts”… oh, your lady parts. During the delivery of my first son, one of the sweet nurses in the room offered me a mirror. Naively, I said yes. Which quickly turned to holy-crap-take-it-away-no-no-no. (Bless you if you used a mirror and enjoyed it.) This should come as no surprise, but if you delivery vaginally, your lady parts will have just competed in kind of Ironman marathon and as such, can be a bit haggard from the experience. Things that are tight may no longer be as tight (One word: Kegels.) Due to tearing during delivery or a lovely little procedure called an episiotomy, your nether regions may heal in a way that makes them look and feel different. Having a C-section may keep you from many of these changes (unless you laboured for a long time before your C-section), but you will have your own issues to deal with (incision healing, scar tissue, and loss of sensation). Months after delivery if you’re feeling brave enough, you may want to pick up the mirror and see how things fared down there. Or be like me and stay blissfully ignorant.
Most importantly, remember that it’s okay to freak out a bit about how different your body is. You are a changed being! You’ve created a life! So be kind to yourself. Give yourself emotional time and space to make peace with your new body by highlighting what you love, what your body has done for you, and not, for the love, comparing it to your pre-baby body. Never helpful. Learn this modified Serenity Prayer by heart and repeat it often:
- Grant me the serenity to accept the stretch marks I cannot change,
- The courage to get my butt to the gym to change the things I can,
- And the wisdom to know the difference.
And keep in mind as you look around the playground, Target aisles, and daycare drop-off scene, every other mum there is dealing with these same things. So be kind to yourself and each other. We’re all in this post-baby body thing together.