We spend so much time focusing on pregnancy and giving birth, that we often don’t think about what our body might be like after birth. I have had three very easy, straightforward births but I still feel like my body had a bit of a battering with stitches, swelling and healing. Long term all is good but at the time of giving birth to my first baby I was so shocked at how bruised and sore I felt – sitting down was an ordeal and I couldn’t bear to think about those stitches. I felt disfigured and damaged and the thought of having sex again was – no chance! Those initital couple of weeks were all about sitting (very) carefully, lots of baths and showers and pouring water over myself when I had a pee to ease the stinging and then trying to resist the urge to scratch when the stitches started to dissolve.
I knew what my body had to do to give birth – I knew about dilatation and contractions and stretchmarks but I niavely didn’t expect my nethers to be so stretched out of shape, I didn’t expect stitches to be so sore or so itchy and I certainly didn’t expect sitting and walking to be so painful.
I also didn’t expect my boobs to swell to the size of large watermelons when my milk came in. They were so big, my nipples flattened out, my baby couldn’t latch on and none of my clothes would fit me. They did of course go down but then I just had to get used to the leaking – omg the leaking. That I could leak enough milk to soak through my clothes and make a puddle on the floor amazed and repulsed me in equal measure. I was and am ok with everything else – my stretchmarks don’t bother me, neither do my droopy boobs (although they do look awesome in a good bra!) But I am well aware that these issues do affect other women. I love that my body made and birthed my three children and my wounds healed quickly – I made and grew three human beings, how cool is that?
Here’s is what some other mums had to say about their body after birth…
“I didn’t expect to still look 5 months pregnant directly afterwards and I didn’t expect ‘toileting’ to hurt so much afterwards but apart from that I was actually really rather impressed with myself. As far as body image I concerned, I’ve never been that bothered about what I look like so I didn’t mind the flabby bits and the stretch marks. I was too busy worrying about how my sleep deprived brain would keep the baby alive and healthy!”
“My belly button floated in the bath….fairly near my ankles. I struggled with this is my 20’s as I was vain. It doesn’t bother me now in my (urgh) late 30’s as I discovered control pants and a different perspective of confidence.”
“Im 6 wks post partum with my 2nd, & 2nd csection. This time im amazed how slim I feel so soon, but my actual stomach is disgusting and I have a horrid overhang above my scar which is different and worse than 1st csection. Last time my scar n stomach didn’t bother me. I didn’t have time to focus on my body too much after baby arrived because of issues with him, but have been amazed how well iv felt so quickly n so much less sore than 1st time around (emergency vs planned csection!) “
“I was amazed at how well I felt actually. All of me recovered pretty well from vaginal birth. No stitches no real pain.
My emergency section was harder but again I’ve recovered well.”
“I was surprised (naively) at the sitting on a bowling ball sized bruise feeling after my first birth, and I’m still stunned that I weigh less than before I fell pregnant with my first yet nothing and I mean NOTHING. Fits like it used to. Conversely though I have less body issues than ever and more confidence despite looking like an explosion in a dough factory“
“I was fairly convinced that the consultant had stitched my lady bits to my leg as walking was so uncomfortable and I often felt like my innards were trying to escape via the baby exit. But – I had created a life and safely brought my little person into the world. I care much less now about how my body looks and much more about how it functions. It grew a person and continues to be the sole source of nutrition for that person so I need my body to work properly. I am much more aware of my body’s needs now and these needs are mainly food (lots of it) and water, it can function fairly well without sleep although I can’t guarantee my brain will allow me to behave like a normal person when massively sleep deprived.”
“I was expecting to have a proper jelly belly after birth. I suppose it’s what a lot of people talk about and make a big deal of. In fact, it looks pretty much like it did before which surprised me given the amount of talking people do about post-baby diets etc. Of course it is squishy and squidgy but I kind of like it really. That may well be me enjoying being the “anti-woman” and refusing to indulge the sexist expectation that I should worry about my looks constantly and work hard to get back to my old body so I don’t offend anyone with my motherly bits. I’m a bit like that.
I was really worried about some of the more medical issues that can happen; varicose veins, stitches, piles and even vaginal prolapse as that happened to a friend of a friend whilst I was pregnant. I had built the stitches thing up in my head to be this terrible experience that was frightening me. Of course, I needed a few but it was not anywhere near as bad as I was expecting and they healed really fast.
What did shock me was the amount of pain I was in the day after the birth. I had focused all of my fears and preparation on labour and stitches and hadn’t considered that I might be….. BRUISED! What was this horror? I have never felt anything so weird. You can’t avoid sitting on your foof, especially when you have just given birth. It was an almost overwhelming pain that I remember much more keenly than the pain of labour. I could hardly walk.
The day after I had a very quick peek in that general direction whilst trying to wee and what I glimpsed was so swollen that I never looked again. What I can say now is that 7 months on it feels much more like it used to. I thought it would be a bit tender for a few weeks then I’d carry on as normal like all the ladies on telly. No sir. It takes much longer to recover than I expected and I think you need to respect that your fanny needs a massive rest after birth. I still wince a little bit at the beginning when I have sex but it no longer feels like there is a bunch of twigs in my pants when I go for a walk which is progress. I still haven’t had a look though.”
After giving birth it can help to…
listen to your body and rest when you need to and when you can – you don’t need to prove anything or to try to be superwomen, you have just made a human being and that is super enough! So delegate housework or just try to do less of it.
drink plenty of water and eat well to help you to heal and to give you more energy
take it easy – so you can let your body heal
seek some medical support if you are concerned about anything or you don’t feel well