“Motherhood is such a special time” they said, “you’ll be in a blissful love bubble” they said. What about all the stuff they didn't say? While becoming a mum is the most special thing you’ll do, and there are many moments that are nothing short of blissful, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. This gig is hard Mama, and there are some things no one thought to tell you. But don't worry, at Milkeaze we like keeping it real. Here are some of the things you’ll be glad someone warned you about.
- Cracked nipples— Actually add vasospasm, nipple chafe, and engorgement to the list. Ouch! Whilst breast feeding comes naturally to some of us, there are many of us who take a little longer to get it right. If you’re struggling in those first few days or even weeks, know you’re not alone. It’s a huge learning curve for you and for baby. Sometimes it’s as simple as adjusting your latch, sometimes baby just needs to grow, and occasionally it might be something more, like thrush. Luckily there are heaps of resources out there. Have a chat with your GP, see your local child health clinic, or catch up with a midwife or lactation consultant. In the meantime, get some Lansinoh ointment and cold compresses, consider nipple shields, and even take a break and just use your breast pump for a while (with Milkeaze of course!).
- Word finding difficulties— Guys, pregnancy is super weird. Your brain actually changes, and research shows it probably lasts well after the pregnancy. Your grey matter gets pruned to make it more efficient, and helps you form that crazy-strong bond with your new little human. The only problem is that there does seem to be some minor trade-offs where word-finding is concerned. Next time you just can’t get out the name of your bosses dog, know that it’s evolutions way of making you awesome at looking after your baby. Oh and also the sleep-deprivation doesn’t help.
- Hair loss— This one really takes you by surprise. I mean, nothing really prepares you for wads of hair on the shower walls, vacuuming twice a day, or pulling out a foot long strand from your baby’s mouth (that one’s from personal experience). The official name is telogen effluvium and according to dermnetnz.org it is a “temporary hair loss.. after some shock to the system”, and I think you all agree, birthing a baby is definitely a shock. Basically, the pregnancy can make up to 70% the growing follicles change into resting follicles, and then 2-4 months later, new hair growth makes the resting ones fall out. So really, the hair fall means new hair growth, and that’s a good thing right? Right?!
- Incontinence — And you thought your baby would be the only one with the leaky bladder. Luckily it won’t happen to everyone, but unfortunately there will be a group of us who have to deal with the dribbles, even if just for a little while. Even those of you who had a Caesar aren’t totally out of the woods. Just carrying the weight of a pregnancy puts a lot of pressure on your poor pelvic floor. The good news is that for most of us the leaky bladder will improve with time and regular Kegels exercises. Check out this link from The Royal Women’s Hospital Victoria for instructions on how to do them. Also physio is super helpful for this condition! Get onto that pronto.
- Pain with sex — Sex is probably the last thing on your mind right now. I get it, sleep is the only thing happening in your bed! But eventually you will want to get back on that band-wagon and occasionally it doesn’t feel quite like you remember. Lot’s of things can contribute. There’s the obvious one.. some of you just pushed a bowling ball out of your bits, and a heap of you will have sustained a tear or episiotomy for your efforts. That scar tissue can take a while to heal. Then there are the less obvious things. Did you know breastfeeding puts you in a hormonal state similar to menopause? This low estrogen state can make you very dry down below. Importantly we all know that how we feel emotionally affects how we feel physically. The exhaustion that comes with sustaining another little human can have a huge impact on your experience of intimacy. The most important thing is to be honest with your partner so you can work up to it together, and if the pain is becoming a real problem, don’t hesitate to chat to your doctor.
- Nightmares — When you have a new little sleep thief, every moment of shut-eye is precious. That’s why it’s so unfair when the little sleep you get is disturbed by crazy vivid nightmares. There are a few reasons that postpartum nightmares are so common. Firstly, when you are woken multiple times a night, you can’t shift in and out of sleep phases the way you normally do. For this reason you spend a lot more time in REM sleep than you normally would. It’s during REM sleep when you have vivid dreams, so naturally, more REM means more dreams, and therefore less restorative deep sleep. Also when you are woken suddenly, like by the cry of a baby, you are likely to remember your dreams more clearly and they feel much more real. Add to this the new found stress of sustaining another human life and a storm of hormones, and you have the perfect equation for your tired brain to manifest nightmares. Though we can’t help you get rid of them, at least we can reassure you you’re normal, and maybe that’s enough.
- Mum Tum — Your body is a wonder! You made a human, sistah! Of course there are going to be some big changes. We are happy to accept that beautiful baby bump while it’s still full of a tiny human, but we forget that it won’t instantly go away when that human comes earth-side. It’s normal to add some fat layers in pregnancy, that’s evolution’s way of looking after you. As well as that, the layer of connective tissue running down the middle of your abdomen, the linea alba, stretches and thins to accommodate your growing uterus. This leaves you with a weak abdominal wall and possibly even a little pot-belly. It can sometimes be hard to even sit yourself up in the days following the birth due to the weakness. In some women the stretching of the linea alba can cause a condition called rectus diastasis. You might have this if you notice a bulge between your abdominal muscles when you sit up or cough. Luckily this can improve with strengthening and physio, a great reason to get back to that Pilates class you used to love!
- Baby blues — Having a baby is the best thing that ever happened to me, so why do I feel so low? The important point to remember is that so many women feel this way. You aren’t sleeping well, you haven’t had a hot drink in weeks and you can’t turn off the crying, and then there’s the baby. Girl, you’re so normal! It’s a huge adjustment and the changing hormones compound it further. Baby blues generally start between the 3rd and 10th day after delivery, corresponding roughly with when baby starts demanding more of you. With the help and support of the people you love, it passes within a few days and doesn’t require any treatment. We don’t take these feelings lightly though, Mama. Though this isn’t post-natal depression (PND), PND is real and serious, and we need to bring it out of the shadows. Promise us you will get help if you feel overwhelmed, anxious or sad for more than 2 weeks, or you have any other worrying symptoms which may be more than simple baby blues. You can see your GP, or call Beyond Blue any time of the day or night on 1300 22 4636. Click here and check out their website for more information. The baby blues do pass though. You’ll be looking back on those early days fondly before you know it.
So there you have it, our top 8 things that you’ll be glad you now know. Half the battle is just being aware of them, and really they’re all minor and temporary inconveniences in the grand scheme of this wonderful thing we call parenthood.
Though we hope you find it informative, this blog post is the view of the authors and is for entertainment purposes only. It does not constitute medical or legal advice. Please seek professional guidance if you or your baby are experiencing any issues. Happy reading!
Did we miss anything? Comment below and share the good, bad and ugly of those first few weeks post partum.