If you get a group of new moms together, conversation will often turn to the gritty (and sometimes scary) details of pregnancy, childbirth, and the lingering issues related to both. Why? Well, society has done a pretty bang-up job of ensuring that women feel ashamed of their bodies, especially if those bodies are anything more than visually pleasing to a male viewer. So moms feel like there are pregnancy, birth, and postpartum physical issues they couldn't talk about outside the company of other moms who have given birth. We don't want to weird anyone out. We don't want to admit that there's anything "the matter," lest we be viewed as less feminine or, even worse, an unfit mother.
The fact that many women feel they can discuss these issues within a community of moms is a good thing. When we talk to each other, share our stories, and hear the stories of others, we are empowered with knowledge — we learn from the experiences of others and that, often, we are not alone. Or we learn that the things we have decided are just "the way things are" after having a baby are not common and we are motivated to seek professional help. However, and unfortunately, a lot of these issues are largely kept cloistered and outside of the public eye, which helps no one. Sadly, not all women have a community of other women they feel comfortable discussing these issues with, or they have a community but still feel too ashamed to speak openly about their problems (sometimes, even with doctors).
I thought we might bring some of these issues to light, because staying quiet or whispering in hushed tones with trusted friends does nothing to make women feel like they're part of a larger, understanding, supportive community. Nervous pregnant people: consider this your warning. Things are going to get real in this article. Really real.
"My hips and pelvis have not been the same. I could barely walk by the end of my pregnancy because my hips felt so out of whack and even now, 13 months postpartum, I'm really struggling with lower back and hip issues."
"I had no idea that something I never thought much about and took for granted as a part of daily life, pooping, would be a source of pain, anxiety, and worry for the next five (or more) years. People talk about how scary that first poop can be, but they don't talk about some of the long term issues (hemorrhoids and, the even less mentioned, fissures). I remember sobbing in the bathroom feeling like I was going to die. When the problem was finally diagnosed, I had to take public transportation all over creation to get to a compounding pharmacy. Barely a couple of weeks postpartum, with my baby, and in constant pain. Fun stuff."
Having an ice pack in my pants for, like, two weeks.
"Farting. Like am I gonna pee or fart if I try to push this fart out? It's been five years, I just can't figure out which muscles push the fart out."
"I had a pretty difficult delivery with significant tearing. No one prepared me for what my vagina looked like. When I looked at it, I almost passed out. Think of a cartoon when an anvil falls on the character's hand. It swells like crazy and throbs. That's what my vagina looked like. It even shocked the healthcare professionals. I had to wear ice 24/7 for two full days, and then I was sent home with ice packs to use several times a day."
Difficulty having sex even many months after delivery. It was so painful and I had difficulty telling anyone about it like it was somehow shameful.
"Peeing. Peeing when I laugh, cough, sneeze, run, get up too fast. Really, it can happen at any moment for any reason. I had two huge babies and my bladder and pelvic floor muscles will hate me forever for it."
"Three months postpartum, I had very sudden, rapid weight gain after my third was born. My first two I lost weight very easily, especially while nursing. In one month I had gained 30 pounds without any bad changes to diet and despite exercising. Two-and-a-half years later, a doctor finally said to me, "Hmm, I think you might have a problem with your thyroid." It shouldn't have taken this long to get anyone to take it seriously. Apparently it's not uncommon for women to have issues with their thyroid postpartum. I'm still having trouble getting anyone to treat me properly though. This is years of struggle. I hope no one else has to deal with this, too."
The worst would be the throbbing vagina for weeks after my birth and during every menstrual cycle thereafter for the following two years.
"Vaginal dryness. For a long time — longer than I would have expected — sex would be OK but afterwards it would be so irritated and painful for at least a week afterward. Luckily my OB-GYN is awesome and gave me some estrogen cream and it was much better."
"I had a c-section and something (maybe a tendon or something) was damaged in my hip/groin area on the right side. The first two weeks were excruciating when I needed to lift my leg to do things like step into the shower. Now (nearly two years later) it will still flair up after standing or walking for a while, but immediately will get better after a few lunges."
Diastasis Recti (the separation of abs). I have a three finger gap between my abs now and will forever look like I'm six months pregnant.
"Crazy postpartum sweats! I had so much IV fluid during my first delivery that my body couldn't get rid of it all fast enough, so I'd wake up to the sheets completely soaked with sweat."
"When they did my c-section they nicked my bladder so I had to home with a catheter for four weeks. Plus they had to put it in and out 10 times while we were in the hospital. My nieces were very interested in why I had to do my pee pee in a bag!"
My postpartum anxiety was pretty bad, so I had diarrhea for weeks because I was just so anxious all the time. It struck more than once in the middle of the night while I was breastfeeding my son, so I just brought him into the bathroom with me and nursed on the toilet! A mom's gotta do what a mom's gotta do!
"After being home from the hospital with our precious newborn for just two days, I woke up one morning feeling completely off. I couldn't catch my breath, and the swelling of my feet, ankles, and calves was worse than when I was pregnant. I couldn't walk more than five feet without taking a pause. I thought the tightness in my chest and difficulty breathing was me having a panic attack (I'm prone to them) from having a newborn home with us and being exhausted and not really knowing what to do. I called my OB_GYN and explained my symptoms and they said, 'Oh, it's just part of having a baby.'
Well, six hours later I ended up being admitted to the hospital with a blood pressure of 195/110; I had postpartum pre-eclampsia. Thankfully we went with our gut feelings and went. I spent the next four days there receiving IVs upon IVs of meds."
"With my first, I had tearing, tons of stitches, and I couldn't walk properly for a few weeks. I used a nursing pillow I got as a gift as a doughnut to sit on and brought it everywhere within me. My stitches felt like there was a fist up in me for a long time. At my six-week appointment, the doctor told me that I'd have to come back a few weeks later because I wasn't fully healed. To top things off, on my first night home from the hospital I stood up from the couch and peed myself, a lot. Then I got mad at my mom and husband for taking care of the baby instead of me!"
Mastitis that got so bad that I ended up needing surgery... And they couldn't close the wound right away so my husband had to help me take care of that. Super fun — and sexy — to do while you're also taking care of a 2-month-old baby. Five years later and my right boob is still sad looking (but, I mean, I own it, and I'm proud of it).
"My nervous system was shot. I went into shock two days after delivering baby number two. I also had no control of my bowels for a while. Sexy! About a month after delivery ... I thought I could go back to life and vacuum my floors. That ended me with a full prolapse. Really sexy!"