When I recently asked a group of moms to describe their first postpartum meal, they enthusiastically obliged. In fact, the phrase "it tasted so good" came up a lot which, of course, wasn't all that surprising. After all, there are so many dietary restrictions when you're pregnant. Sushi. Soft cheese. Too much caffeine. Deli meat. Sprouts. Runny eggs. Certain fish. Alcohol. It's no wonder pregnant women everywhere dream and plan for weeks (or even months) about everything they will devour once their baby is born.
Of course, it's not just the pregnancy diet restrictions that create a need to indulge postpartum. Delivering a baby is work. It takes a lot of time and/or energy, during which time many women do not have the opportunity (or medical permission) to eat. So lots of us are ravenous when we're done pushing and/or having another human being cut from our bodies, whether or not we're even dreaming of previously forbidden foods. Hunger, as they say, is the best sauce.
An emergency c-section and a clerical error had me on a liquid diet for a long time after the birth of my first child, so by the time I got to eat solids I was so emotional and exhausted I can't remember what I had. After the birth of my second kid, however, I can still taste the French toast (with extra syrup), chocolate milk, and ice cream. I'd planned it for months. You see, I'd managed gestational diabetes starting at twenty four weeks. That's almost four months of minimal carbs and almost no sweets whatsoever. For a carb queen like me, it was basically torture. (It wasn't actually torture, but in addition to being a carb queen I am also a drama queen, so just let me live my truth here.) I was determined, therefore, to test the human body's capacity to ingest sugar. I'm pleased to report that while I crept to the very edge of the possible, two years later I think I'm finally coming down from that initial sugar rush.
"I remember so clearly because I broke down crying after I was done. It was the first time in months my esophagus didn't burn like a wicked bitch from heartburn. Spinach and feta omelet, bacon, and coffee."
"Because my child was a monster, beast of a baby* that required a C-section to remove from my innards, I wasn't allowed to eat forever after she were born. I will tell you this — orange jello is the greatest invention known to humankind. And salty chicken broth. Oh, glory. Oh, bliss."
[Writer's note: Terri is my mother. She is talking about me. She's a brat. I was gorgeous and beautiful and not mosterish. I was pretty big, but whatever: I'm worth it.]
"One of the first things I said after having my first was, 'Please don't judge me but can I get a cafeteria menu?' I got Diet Coke, a cold cut turkey sandwich, pretzels, ice cream, and cranberry juice."
"Well I had HG [hyperemesis gravidarum] and basically was very limited in what I could eat with my first. So, no dairy, no meat. Some days, literally just one frozen waffle to prevent constant barfing. I distinctly remember being told once the baby was born that problem was magically gone. So, I went straight for, what else, bacon! A big old bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich. It was glorious."
"I had a stomach virus three days before my daughter was born. By the time she was born, I had not had a full meal in four days! I was starving. My dad went and got me a Double Quarter Pounder and fries from McDonalds. I don't eat beef or McDonalds, but that was the best tasting burger ever!"
"I had an unplanned c-section with my almost 10 pounder. I don't remember my first meal, but the second night in the hospital we had a special Stork Dinner, courtesy of one of my friends. They bring a table into the room with linens, stemware, and china. It's a three course meal, and you get wine! I was in a lot of pain, but I got my ass outta bed to eat with my husband!"
"After delivery I immediately asked for two dinners and received two dinners (before the cafeteria closed for the night). I ate two dinners. And then ate a chili cheese dog my friend smuggled into the hospital for me. After three full days of labor on Pitocin (which you can't eat all day on) and pushing for hours on end, I was one hungry gal."
"Let me preface this with my only pregnancy craving was for Five Guys. So anytime we were going to eat out I was like, 'We should go to Five Guys.' After not eating for 24 hours, I was pretty hungry and asked if I could eat right away. The nurse told us the cafeteria was closed and the only thing open that time of night was a McDonald's across the street. My husband goes and I ask him to bring back a Big Mac. He brings back two types of chicken sandwiches because, 'You always get chicken, I don't know why you wanted a Big Mac.'"
"Well it wasn't exactly a meal, but my brother-in-law brought a dozen donuts to us at the hospital when he came to visit right after my son was born. After 53 hours of labor, it was the most delicious thing I had ever tasted."
"I remember it so well because by the end of my pregnancy my stomach had gotten so squished into a corner that I could only eat tiny meals and even then I'd get terrible heartburn. A couple hours after my son was born, I had a giant turkey sandwich, a yogurt, and some cookies. It was like magic — no heartburn and I could eat an actual meal instead of just a few bites at a time. I was in the hospital for four nights, but the food there was terrific (seriously!) and eating big meals again gave me such pleasure."
"I delivered ... on a Monday morning at 9:30 A.M. ... and by the time our skin-to-skin was finished and they were ready to move me to my room, the cafeteria was finished serving lunch, but I was starving and begged them to find me anything to eat. They managed to scrounge a stale tuna fish on whole wheat sandwich, but at the time it tasted so good."
"I don't know if this counts, because we adopted*, but while we were waiting for the interstate regulatory agencies approval for us to leave one state to go to another, we had to stay in a hotel with a kitchenette. I thought it would be lovely for us to make eggs for us. We were so sleep deprived. It was 105 degree outside in the Midwest. A heat wave! And I was used to gas stove cooking in NYC. But the hotel had an electric stove. I sprayed Pam on a heated pan and the pan went up in smoke and the alarms went off. Hotel staff came knocking and the windows had to open...all air conditioning swooshed out of the room. We had thrown a blanket over our son sleeping in the car seat he was sleeping in at the time. He slept through the whole thing. Needless to say we didn't eat eggs. ... After that we ate out!"
[Writer's note: totally counts. No matter how you bring a baby into your life it takes a lot of blood, sweat, and tears, and you deserve a postpartum feast of your choosing when you're done with it.]
"Months before my little one was even born, I told my mother I wanted a turkey grinder with green peppers, lettuce, oil and vinegar, and provolone cheese from Big Y [a New England grocery store chain] as soon as the kid was out of me. From Big Y. Nowhere else. And that's what I had. I remember being amazed how I could instantly fit the entire thing in me, whereas while pregnant I could only manage a few bites of any food! No room!"
"First one was a turkey sandwich* with lettuce and tomato and mustard, specifically from Wawa [an East coast convenience store]. Second one, I can't think of! Third, I waited ages due to allergies — I had to wait for my husband to go home and make me food and bring it back! He brought back allergy-safe French toast and bacon and a flask of tea. It was the best meal I've ever eaten."
[Writer's note: this is our fifth turkey sandwich on the list. Clearly this is the Postpartum Lady's Food of Choice...]
"My water broke just as we were about to eat take out. My son was born two and a half hours later and either my husband or my mother (whoever had the good idea) brought the take out to the hospital. I am forever thankful because it was the best damn club sandwich and French fries I've ever had!"
"Chocolate birthday cake and champagne."