Our bodies go through some seriously incredible changes when we're pregnant. They grow in such a way that they're capable of accommodating and providing for an entire person for nine, sometimes ten, months. What our bodies accomplish during pregnancy is amazing, yes, but human growing isn't easy and can, at times, take numerous and unexpected tolls. There are things no one tells you about your postpartum body; things that, honestly, if more women knew, less women would feel "gross" or "not normal" or expected to fit into their pre-pregnancy jeans a day after they've had a baby.
Body image issues during my pregnancy hit me hard. I should have been thrilled to see my body change and grow every day, but instead I was bitter and resentful about it. Pregnancy took a major toll, and admittedly, it took me a long time to learn to appreciate the shell it left me with. Pregnancy is the hardest time for body image for so many women, but our postpartum bodies can be equally as difficult to adapt to. Among the things no one tells you about pregnancy, is the fact that the end of your pregnancy doesn't mean the end of the changes you and your body will continue to experience.
The end of my pregnancy and the beginning of my postpartum journey was a difficult transition for me. Honestly, when I was pregnant I read all the baby books, but I stopped after the chapter about labor and delivery. I figured that I knew all that I needed to know, and that I was fully prepared for what was going to happen after I had my baby. Not the biggest surprise but, yeah, I definitely wasn't. I was armed with information about what to expect with my new baby, but I had no idea that there was information I needed to know about myself and my postpartum body in particular. Since no one warned me about some of the details about my postpartum body, I feel that it is my duty to make others aware of some of the things I wish I had known. No one will tell you about the following nine things that happen to your body after you have a baby, but I will. (You can thank me later.)
You're Still Going To Look Pregnant For A Little While
No one leaves the hospital or the birthing center or their living room, having just had a baby, looking like they never had a baby. Even if your weight gain was minimal, and you weigh exactly what you did when you got pregnant, it's still going to take some time for your stomach to shrink back down to its normal size. That doesn't have anything to do with you or your weight, but rather your uterus. It took it nine months (or more) to grow and stretch so it could sustain life, so it's understandable that it might take it some time to return to its normal state. It can take a few weeks, or even months, for your uterus to shrink down to the size it was before you got pregnant, but it will happen, so try not to fret over still looking like you're pregnant postpartum.
You Might Have To Cross Your Legs When You Sneeze
This would have been nice to know before I went to the gym and accidentally peed on myself during Zumba class. There's a lot of pressure on your bladder when you're pregnant, especially if your baby liked to hang out on it. Over time those muscles weaken, so controlling your bladder, although still quite easy, does become just a little more of a task after you've had a baby. This probably won't affect your life all that much, unless you're like me and forget to cross your legs when you sneeze. Yes, really.
Gravity Is An Spiteful Bitch
Whether you breastfeed or not, the size of your boobs will fluctuate throughout your pregnancy. The increase in blood flow (and breast milk) will result in an increase in cup size, which can be fun, while it lasts. Eventually, the blood flow will decrease and so will your breasts. They will return to their normal size (or close to it), but they might not be sitting where they once did. The increase in size can stretch out the skin, which doesn't exactly rebound back like the rest of your body. The change in your postpartum breasts may or may not bother you (because every woman is different) but if it does, the good news is there are some downright amazing bras out there.
You're Going To Leak A Little At First
Like Chrissy Teigen announced to the world via Twitter, you're going to be leaving the hospital in diapers, too. You're going to bleed for a while after you have your baby, but that's completely normal (if you feel like it's too much though, call your doctor). You also might leak breast milk, especially if you choose and you're able to breastfeed. If something triggers your body to produce milk, but it has nowhere to go, it will find it's way through your shirt. Sounds super fun, right? No need to worry, as both of these side effects are temporary, so you won't be wearing adult diapers for long.
It's Going To Take A While For Your Skin To Go Back To Normal...
Even if you lose every pound you gained during your pregnancy, it's still going to take some time for your skin to go back to the way it was before you got pregnant. It took it nine, maybe ten, months to grow and expand with your body, so it could take it that long, or even longer, to return to its original state.
Then Again, It Might Never Be Exactly The Way It Was Again, And That's Okay, Too
Unfortunately, how your skin recovers from your pregnancy is mostly out of your control. Moisturizers and a healthy diet and exercise regime are definitely beneficial to your skin, but the key factor in its recovery is genetics. So if you weren't born with it, Maybeline can't really help you too much. The skin around your stomach might always be a little looser than it was before you had your baby, but it's likely that no one will notice (or care) but you.
You Aren't The Only One With Stretch Marks (Trust Me)
Despite the myths, there really isn't anything you can do to avoid stretch marks, as they're as heredity as they are circumstantial. I slathered coconut butter all over my stomach three, sometimes four, times a day in an attempt to prevent stretch marks, but the week before I delivered my son they made their appearance. Of course, the bigger you get, the more likely you are to get a few stretch marks, but your size isn't always indicitive of whether or not you'll have them.
However, they do fade over time, and eventually you might not even notice them. Personally, I had a ton on my stomach and a few on my hips, and I was incredibly self-conscious about them, but they've faded to the point that you can hardly see them now. They're still there, of course, but they're a badge of honor and I will proudly flaunt them in a bikini.
Everything Is Going To Be Fine Down There
If you delivered your baby vaginally, your lady bits were probably altered in some way. Those first few days postpartum (and long after) you're going to be sore and swear that you'll never let anything near your vagina again. I promise, that will change. Even if you required stitches, everything will return back to normal, and you will enjoy your sex life again, and sooner than you think. I found out I was pregnant with my second son when my first was only seven months old. You do the math...
Your Body Is Seriously Amazing
Your body might be different after you have your baby, but that's because it did a seriously amazing thing. It grew and nurtured a human, and it gifted you with your perfect, beautiful baby. It earned every single mark and pound and piece of evidence that your pregnancy left behind. Be proud of your body and all that it did.
I'm still not at the weight I was before I had my boys; I still have some extra pounds around my waste, and parts of me jiggle a little when I walk that didn't used to; I have stretch marks on my stomach, and sturdier bras to support my boobs, but I'm not ashamed or embarrassed by any of it. Do I get a little self-conscious from time to time? Absolutely, but when I look at my boys, the two beautiful and perfect gifts that my body gave me, I'm proud to bare the evidence that my body made them, and you should be too.