Don't worry, it's not THAT bad. (Credit: ThinkStock)
If you've just had a baby, well done. You've successfully made a human being! As you gaze upon your squishy newborn, you will feel the deepest love you've ever known. And also possibly, the greatest fear. You will have questions. Lots of them. What happens now? What can you really expect when you're no longer expecting? What's the next month look like for your newly no-longer-pregnant body?
Let's break it down by department.
I hate to have to tell you this, but you're definitely not leaving the birth center in your pre-pregnancy jeans. In fact, you may actually still look pregnant. It takes the uterus about six weeks to go back to its not-stretched, looks-like-a-watermelon state of being.
The shortest route from cantaloupe to orange? Nurse your baby. If you're feeling self-conscious about your tummy, wear your precious bundle in a sling. Tada—camouflage! Plus, no one is going to ask if you're pregnant when you're carrying a baby.
When your tummy does shrink, it may look a like a deflated balloon. This can be a bit shocking, but breathe. It's not permanent. It's probably never going to look like it did before, but it won't look like it does now, either.
The Milk Makers
Your boobs are going to balloon. Somewhere between two to four days after birth, your milk will come in like there's a drought and you're feeding a village. You may be leaking. You may be literally spraying milk from. your. body. This is a supply and demand market, and it'll even out. Wear a supportive bra (but skip the underwire until your size has stabilized) and nursing pads to soak up the river of milk. Panty liners work well in a pinch. Seriously.
They are going to be sore. Period. Nothing before has ever been continually attached to your breasts (well, probably not). This soreness is likely to peak around day three or four. The best way to deal with this is exposure; let the girls air. Frankly, you are probably going to be nursing every hour anyway, so just go topless. Squeeze a little milk onto them—the stuff is liquid gold, and can heal everything from eczema to conjunctivitis. That's not just hippie nonsense.
Your tailbone may hurt. A lot. You may have hemorrhoids. You just pushed somewhere between six and (if you're me) 11 pounds of person out, and things are bound to be a little sore. You may even feel like you're broken, but you're most likely not. While you're waiting for it not to look like an alien planet down there, sit on a pillow. Or better yet, lay down.
A word here about poop: This prospect can be a little terrifying. Stool softeners will help. For goodness sake, whatever you do, do not hold it in. This is only going to make things worse. Your colon may have changed shape a bit and your poop may be larger. This is normal. Scary, but normal.
Vagina/Vulva/South Of The Border Business
Don't be afraid to get a mirror and look. I know. Scary. But I'm always in the "knowledge is power" camp. These are your lady bits, and they just did an awesome thing. They are going to be swollen, probably bruised, possibly stitched up. You may have torn up the area toward your labia, back toward your rectum, even sideways or inside. Breathe. The body has an amazing capability for healing. As a nurse I've seen a whole bunch of vaginas. Hundreds? Thousands? Who's to say? And while they all have their own lovely nuances, I can tell you with certainty that they all still look like vaginas. It will look normal again.
While we're talking girl parts . . . here's the best tip you'll ever get. Get a pack of the thickest menstrual pads you can find. We're talking neck-brace level thickness. Soak them in witch hazel. Pop them in a ziploc and put them in your freezer. Wear them. They'll still absorb blood. Your butt will thank you. And you will thank me.
It's going to happen. It may be a bit gushy at first (especially when you stand up after laying down). As long as you're not soaking a pad an hour you're OK. Keep in mind, though, that in the beginning it may look like a horror movie in your underwear. That too is normal, if frightening. Use the spray bottle they gave you to spray everything off after you use the bathroom. This helps prevent infection and feels damn good. Also, the topical anesthetic dermaplast feels amazing if you just spray yourself periodically. Oh lidocaine. How we love thee.
If you had a c-section, you'll bleed less (or sometimes barely at all) because the surgeon does the work for you. If you had a vaginal birth you might bleed up to a month after birth. It will start out bright red and gradually decrease, much like a period. Think of the uterus as an open wound. A skinned knee if you will. It's healing. Too much activity and it's going to bleed more heavily. Take it easy on your body, especially the first couple of weeks. No marathons. I know there's a lot of pressure these days. Just say no.
The Vagina Fart
That thing. That humiliating hilarious thing. I'm not going to sugar coat this. You're an adult, and you can handle the truth. We are designed to birth, but after pushing out A SMALL HUMAN, your muscles are bound to be a bit lax and therefore air may be more easily trapped inside during sex, or yoga, or even just during living. Therefore, you may fart. From your vagina. Kegel exercises help, but they can't completely change the landscape of your insides. So just laugh about it. And if you can't laugh—just blame the dog.
Through all of this, remember to celebrate the thing you've just done. You made a person, and soon this month will be a distant memory. Your body, and your life, will be forever changed. In the best way.
And trust me: Your vagina will look normal again. Eventually.