A friend of mine, who is a first time mom, recently asked me via Facebook message how long it takes to feel normal again after you have a baby. Hah! I laughed out loud when I read that question. How long does it take to feel normal? Short answer: never. Long answer: keep reading.
First of all you have the physical stuff. Whether you have had a vaginal delivery or a c-section they both come with their recovery time and lovely, lovely aftermath. Having had two vaginal deliveries I can only comment on what that is like; it’s no walk in the park among the roses and squirrels. Your vagina feels like it was one of the cars left on the street for assault during the Canucks 2011 riot. It has been beaten, kicked, burned, torn, you name it. After Everly’s birth, I remember thinking it felt like I had a roast beef stuffed in my underpants, with Matthew not so much. Not sure why but my swelling was significantly less, maybe the old vagina had toughened up from the first go around?
Hopefully you got haemorrhoids too, nature’s gift to mothers everywhere. Seriously ladies, who doesn’t want to feel like they are smuggling grapes between their but cheeks all day long? I can honestly say that the rhoids that I contracted (yes contracted like the disease that they are), are the worst part of my “healing” this time. Why don’t they just go away already? I use lotions and creams and sitz baths and all the tips and tricks known to humankind and they still hang around. Taking a poop is so dreaded that I am surprised I am not constipated from fear. At least I have an excuse to keep a small amount of “irritant” food in my diet.
And then you have the bleeding and the after cramps, everyone gets those. Joy of freaking joys. I think the only pleasant surprise of this process for me the second time was how wonderfully Always Infinity sanitary pads work. You know your life is bleak when you are impressed by a maxi pad. You can hope that this entire process is done by 6-8 weeks. They should say your pregnancy lasts 48 weeks, because you are still dealing with the bullshit from it 6-8 weeks afterwards.
And your boobs, they gotta throw something into the mix. They swell up themselves, to nearly 3 times their usual size. Your husband loves that you look like the porn stars of his adolescence, but is disappointed that he can’t touch them because they feel like two sandbags filled with thumbtacks. They let down and leak and throb. Your nipples also grow to 3 times their usual size. A friend of mine likened hers to pepperoni sticks; I agreed and adopted the euphemism for my own. Don’t forget breast pads, because your breasts will leak when you don’t want them to and people will stare at you and laugh. How do I know this, um, it happened to me at Thrifty’s in 2009, and I am still in trauma counselling because of it. Oh and say good-bye to your once perky and glorious girls, flapjacks is what you have now. The faster you make peace with this the better, it’s not worth dwelling on, you can’t change it.
Oh and let’s go ahead and throw the rest of your body in there while we are at it. I lost my ass. I have varicose veins. Lack of sleep gives you constant headaches and bags under your eyes. Body grooming decreases, many new moms adopt a more “European” look. Some women never have the same size feet again (?). And stretch marks! I was lucky to avoid those; I can only imagine how lovely it must be to be painted with them. My heart goes out to those ladies who have them. The lack of sleep things may go away once your baby (ahem, toddler), starts sleeping, but the rest my dear friend is there to stay. And people will say “oh you had a baby, these things are indicators of how amazing your body is,” or “look at the reward…” Blah-de-freaking-blah-blah-blah. If you are upset, be upset for a little while, you have the right to be. Vent and be pissy a bit. You can bet your husband would if his penis was forever changed (hah- we wouldn’t hear the end of that one!). But do get over it eventually, exercise, eat well, get waxed, buy a push up bra- you will feel so much better when you do.
Then let us throw in the emotional “back to normal” rollercoaster. There are days that you will cry at every single stupid commercial on television. I bawled when I read on Twitter last week that over 30,000 children have died in the Horn of Africa famine that is currently occurring. I just thought of my own two babies and how I would feel if I couldn’t keep them alive and they wasted away to death in my arms. Okay, tears coming back let’s derail this train of thought! Anyway, it takes a while. Medical professionals will tell you it’s 6 to 8 weeks before you emotions go back to normal. Hmmm, yeah, sure. I don’t know about you, but having my heart wander free in the world does not help me return to emotional normal. You will never be as emotionally carefree as you once were. Never. But you will also experience the greatest joy that you ever have the first time that baby smiles at you, or giggles at your stupid ass facial expressions.
Then familial changes. It is no longer just you and your partner (if it’s your first baby). If it is your second or subsequent child, it’s no longer just you and the older(s). Life will never, ever go back to the way it was before. Say good-bye to romantic dinners for two, say hello to taking turns holding the baby while you scarf back enough food to keep you running. Say good-bye to sleeping in on Sundays, laying in each others’ arms; say hello to sleeping next to your farting, burping, puking, squaking, milk guzzling infant and getting up at all hours of the night. You and your partner become a little like co-workers. Your life will be baby, baby, baby for a good long while before it becomes toddler, toddler, toddler, lol. It takes a lot of work to keep things alive and fresh; date nights are essential. But forget date nights being anything like they once were. More than likely you will spend your time talking about the kid(s), and the colour of your newborn’s poop. You will always feel that there is something missing when you go out without your child, and that’s because there is… NOISE. You might even feel guilty, but don’t. I did with my first baby and now with the second I do a little freedom song and dance in my head as I scamper off to have some fun. I learned that being a good mom also means taking time for yourself, it’s not healthy to have your entire life revolve around your child(ren).
And speaking of life… let’s talk about lifestyle. Your lifestyle doesn’t change in huge amounts with your first if you don’t let it. Our philosophy was that children come into our lives and they don’t know any different, so bring ‘em along! We took Everly to all kinds of (appropriate) dinners out and parties and movies and she got used to it; she adapted and we never had a problem. Not so easy with two kids. You have two different schedules to balance and two different little people to watch. And if your little people are anything like mine, they will have you going two different ways!
And finally, your identity, how long until you feel like “you” again? You won’t ever. You are different now, you are a mother and you always will be. This will mess with your head; well it messed with mine at least. Your opinions, thoughts and beliefs about yourself are about to be challenged and you might be surprised by what comes up. You might find that you are turning into your own mother (agghhh!).
You will most definitely not feel normal for a long while, because being a mom is new. But believe it or not, you find your groove. You sort things out and you realize that you don’t want to go back to “normal.” You realize that life, currently, is better than what normal used to be, minus the swollen va-jay-jay of course.