You live in a society that pushes images at you every day of women who have given birth and just "bounced back" - great for them (truly, that is great, Kate Middleton you are amazing!). But this is such a small minority. For most of us, our bodies change, and change a lot.
It is scary, it is hard, it can be down right disgusting and upsetting but it is real and normal. Although I am a qualified health professional I am also a mother and my body has also not just 'bounced back'. We are starting to see a shift in the media and online with more women sharing the often hidden and unspoken realities of child birth and the effect on your bodies.
So I have joined in the movement. Here is my #takebackpostpartum body blog. My real body after two children.
On the 17th of January, 2015 at 11.10pm I gave birth to my second son. I fought to convenience him. Put my body through assisted reproductive therapy. I was broken just (ha just!) carrying him to full term. Broken in ways I did not know my body could break. Photographs do not tell the full story. I could barely walk. I was induced early just to get my son out as every day he was in me was another day I had to fight to keeping carrying him. Before I had children I would run marathons for fun - yes, for fun. Pregnant, I could barely walk to the letter box and I could not pick up my two-year-old.
24 hours postpartum
Regardless of how you birthed your child (aka watermelon), you can still look and feel like you have a watermelon (or two) inside you. It is often sort of lumpy and squishy too. There's only one way that thing is coming down - hello, excruciating uterine contractions - may as well go through labour again. I gave birth vaginally and it feels like a truck, not a watermelon, ripped through me. Good thing is I am so high on adrenaline and oxytocin nothing in the world matters except for my precious bundle... 2 days later it is a different story.
Two days postpartum
Have I showered or changed my PJs? Can't confirm. Normally an A-cup, I am giving Kate Upton a run for her money. What's more these puppies are ON FIRE and I still don't know how to bloody use them. Show me that breastfeeding video one last time and I will tear the television from the wall socket - it is not helping.
Everything leaks. I mean EVERYTHING. I am a mess of body fluid. I am wearing not one but two enormous maternity pads, inside granny panties to try and contain the postpartum bleeding. Golf ball sized blood clots keep coming out. I have to keep these to be inspected and make sure it is not part of the placenta. Where has my dignity gone?
Sleep - I could count the hours on one hand but am just too beyond exhausted to remember. My body is experiencing a horrendous hormone withdrawal. Is this what drug addicts feel like? Maybe drugs would help right now. My eyes just keep leaking. I am more prepared for this second time around. First time, I just could not understand why I would not stop crying. The cherry on the sundae is that precious little bundle WON'T STOP SCREAMING (don't let the photographs fool you). You want to come and visit? Sure, let's have a tea party while we are at it.
One week postpartum
Back at home. Still rocking my PJs. Still got a lumpy, squishy watermelon belly. Still got the granny style undies and thunder pads. I am glad to be home but surely it is a illegal to be responsible for two other little humans when in fact you are a walking zombie? And what the HELL do I do with two children? I barely did one before?! How do I bath them both? How do I get them both feed at the same time? Boobs out, get baby on one side, express pump on the other and shove a spoon in my toddlers face - that's how. Bringing sexy back to the dinner table alright. Oh yes and somehow I am meant to fit into my pre-pregnancy clothes right (hahaha that's a joke right?).
Two weeks postpartum
I look a bit more alive... must have had a shower that morning. Tummy still swollen, shrinking but swollen. I am still bleeding, it's like the period that never ends. Am out of my pajamas, rocking pregnancy clothes instead (see you do get more than one use for those). Boobs are like rocks. My poor husband. If he even thinks about going near those knockers he will get a swift slap.
I will be honest I do feel better this time post birth than I did with my first son. Not fighting horrendous mastitis surely will be playing a large part of that (see why I am not exclusively breastfeeding here). The other, is I am kinder to myself, I am not out trying to walk for an hour or more a day like I did first time around. I have basically told friends to come and visit in about three-months time (I am sorry but I know you understand).
In case you are wondering - that lovely scar down my belly is from some major abdominal surgery I went through as a 21-year-old. I was split open six times after an appendix operation went wrong. Two pregnancies have morphed and stretched this. Never mind, it just becomes the 'feature piece' of my stretch marks. May have to reconsider my dream job as a bikini model.
Ten weeks postpartum
Now that it has contracted down, my swollen tummy is a bit more of a jiggly tummy, still rocking preggie clothes, and sporting a moon boot from fracturing my ankle - my body so broken from the last few months my leg just snapped like a twig when I rolled off a curb trying to walk an unsettled baby.
Where did the last eight weeks go? In a blur. A blur of feeding, sleeping, pumping, learning to juggle both children and work in among it all. I'm exhausted, like bone aching exhausted. I am lucky to have the knowledge I do of good food to nourish from the inside, but I am still human. I do have chocolate, I do have coffee (lots of coffee), and dinners are sometimes baked beans on toast. I don't have time to shower so no, I don't make my own baked beans.
Sometimes I wonder why the hell did I want this so badly, but for the most part I love it, stupidly love it all.
14 weeks postpartum
Officially out of the newborn phase, I feel less zombie and more human. I am left with the marks of motherhood. A tummy that appears 'flat' but has the stretch marks, the skin, the sunken scar and abs which have not yet healed. I have just got my first period. I have irregular periods at the best of times so this I see as a true sign my body feels good. I now am ready to do some gentle activity, to help repair and recover. I may never run a marathon again, don't think my pelvic floor would survive, but I will run the parenting marathon day in and day out, my boys are so darn worth it - my God, are they worth it!!
You may be broken, exhausted, sore, have lumps, bumps, marks and jiggly bits.
You may not look like the next Victoria's Secret model, but focus on how you feel. Be kind to yourself and your body. It may take some time. It took me a lot longer to feel good following the birth of my first son than my second. Do not compare yourself to anyone else. No one is walking in your shoes.
You will be judged. I am judged everyday and there will be people judging me right now. Doing what is right for you and your family takes courage and strength. As a mother, you have both.
Nourish and love from the inside out and do not forget: You are beautiful, you are amazing, you are a mother.