Postpartum Body: 1 Year Later
This is an out-of-the-ordinary post for me, but I wanted to share some physical changes I’ve experienced since my pregnancy. I’m doing this because I feel like women in America are subtly taught to be ashamed of certain aspects of themselves, such as their age, their weight, their skin, their hair (too much! too little!), and so forth. These topics all come into play (and several change drastically) during and after pregnancy. I respect everyone’s right to keep their personal details private, but for women seeking real stories about the postpartum aspect of “advanced maternal age” pregnancies, here’s mine.
Weight Changes & Exercise
First off, I’m 5’11” tall, and 36 years old. Before getting pregnant, I weighed about 150. The day I went into labor, I was 190. Now, at 16 months postpartum, I weigh about 140 lbs.
I did Reformer Pilates during my pregnancy, but less and less as it progressed. I did, however, bike and walk A LOT. We’re a 1-car family, and when I was pregnant Adam was still working at his old job full-time and used the car daily. I walked the dogs and strolled to my meetings every day, and I rode my bike with relative ease until the 9th month.
After giving birth, there was no way I was getting on the bike or doing Pilates for about 10 weeks. I had a natural birth, which was wonderful, but I definitely needed time to recover. I worked full-time, as there’s no maternity leave when you run your own *very* small company, and I didn’t have any help with West at home until he was about 7 months old, so exercise was back-burnered. I’ve probably only done Pilates 5 times since West was born. (And I used to do it 5 days/week prior to my pregnancy.) I miss it, and am eager to resume that routine.
Nursing was great during the first day in the hospital, then horribly painful for the next 4-5 days after we returned home. Once my body adjusted (and thanks to the help of a 1-on-1 lactation consultation with a specialist at The Pump Station), it was easy from there on out. I did, however, get 2 mild infections, but they were both due to the fact that I accidentally missed several feeding/pump sessions in a row due to poor planning, and packing incompletely while traveling.
Speaking of pumping: I used three pumps over that first year. The first was a rental from the hospital, the second was a freebie from a medical provider, and the third machine was one I selected and purchased myself. I highly recommend this option, which was very compact and easily portable— perfect for our tiny home and for hands-free pumping when used with a pump bra. It was a bit pricier, but after spending SO MUCH TIME with it, I think it was worth every single penny.
I basically nursed West on demand for the entirety of his first year, since he and I are always within mere feet of one another. I am guessing that all the breastfeeding caused me to lose more weight than I anticipated. I ate healthy meals, but I also ate a TON overall. My appetite while nursing was substantial.
Now that my son is 16 months old, I only nurse him before he goes to sleep at night, and in the early hours of the morning. We bed-share, and breastfeeding is such a precious ritual that I’ve not had the heart to give up because he still asks for it via ASL. Since reducing his feedings, I’ve noticed that I’m creeping back into the direction of my pre-pregnancy weight. I don’t have feelings on that one way or another as of right now— it simply is the way it is.
I’m guessing genetics have a lot to do with this, but my skin changes in the past two years have been wild. For almost my entire pregnancy, my skin was better than it had ever been. It stayed fine until around the time West turned 1. But once I started weaning, my skin went haywire. I threw out all of my old cleansers and makeup brushes and products, and started over with this handful of simple necessities.
I’ve always had Hermione hair. It’s thick, wavy, frizzy, and crazy. I love it now, but I was not such a big fan of it all in my teens and twenties. It grew slightly thicker during the pregnancy, and then it began shedding heavily around 4-6 months postpartum. The abnormal shedding has since stopped, and other than a few extra curls here and there, it’s pretty much back to normal… plus a few grays. (I use this shampoo and this conditioner, and sometimes a bit of Mermaid Oil to smooth it all out.)
The thing I was probably most unprepared for was the change in my shoe size. I try not to buy too many things, but I had to get several pairs of new shoes during and after the pregnancy, because I grew permanently from an 8.5 to a 9. It’s such a bizarre side effect of growing a baby! (P.S. Pons shoes were lifesavers during my pregnancy, and I've loved them ever since.)
Immediately after giving birth, I appeared to be 5 months pregnant for about 2 days. Then my belly stayed swollen for roughly two weeks after West’s birth. (Beyond that, it was just general swelling, which decreased daily during the following month.)
I’ve alway hated my belly. Even in my skinniest days (about 125 lbs), and even in my most confident days. Now my waistline is pretty much back to the way it was, except there are times when I’m lying on my side or standing in the sun and I can see little wrinkles and light marks that didn’t exist before the pregnancy. But now, with my son being a toddler, I have less time to give a damn about my measurements, which is a good thing. Life is too short. I’m over the belly complex. (For now, at least.)
The thing I braced the hardest for were the mood swings… but they never came. I expected to feel up, down, and everywhere in between due to hormonal changes. Yet I haven’t felt anything drastic— I’m simply a bit more irritable when I’m stressed. Still, I think that’s just life and the reality of financially supporting my family (which is terrifying more often than not). I am so grateful that I’ve been able to experience the new and boundless love for my son without any interference from mood fluctuations that are beyond my control. Having said that, I know many women who have not been quite so lucky in this department. To anyone feeling like unlike themselves, you are definitely not alone. Don't hestitate to talk to your doctor.
So. That's been my experience thus far. To me, it's not about "bouncing back." It's about evolving, and growing in ways that keep me healthy and happy for myself, and for my lil' family.