There’s lots out there about the tough Fourth Trimester. But after that? Not so much. Teresa Sadlier talks any new (but not *that* new) mothers through what they might go through or, indeed, be currently experiencing…
My personality dictates that generally, I like to know what’s happening – what’s on the horizon. During pregnancy I read the baby books, I listened to the podcasts and I saved all the Instagram posts relating to what to expect. There is precious little, though, about life as a mum. How, as a woman, we are ‘reborn’ into a mum and how our bodies and minds have been chemically (and permanently) altered by pregnancy and birth. Allow me to share what I discovered in the two years since having a baby.
From choosing not to at all or choosing to up until a certain age, breastfeeding is a different experience for us all. But what is the common thread here? Milk. Ah, glorious milk. Dealing with our milk supply is something all mothers go through. The understanding being that once you have reached the end of your breastfeeding journey, the milk will stop being produced, right? Wrong! No one told me you can still make breastmilk long after feeding has stopped. In the 2004 edition of Breastfeeding And Human Lactation, author and lactation consultant Jan Riordan says, “Small amounts of milk or serous fluid are commonly expressed for weeks, months, or even YEARS from women who have previously been pregnant or lactating”. News to me, I can tell you.
Cry, baby, cry?
Picture this; you’re bone tired and you’ve just stepped into the shower. You’ve just started to shampoo when – there it is, yes, definitely – you jump out of the shower, check the baby monitor and there is a soundly sleeping baby. WTF. According to Megan Gray, MD, ob-gyn with Orlando Health Physician Associates, hearing phantom crying, most ‘likely has to do with a highly stimulated maternal brain that is being wired to be cued by baby’s cries, leading to a heightened awareness to sound.’ While hearing phantom crying is considered to be common for a new mum, I never expected this heightened awareness to last for years – I need a peaceful shower please. As friend and fellow mum Jessica* recently said to me, ‘It is crazy what motherhood does to you…can make you feel like you are losing your mind’. Hearing an invisible child cry is totally normal, so? Grand.
I will survive…just not on salty crackers
Nausea and food aversions during the first trimester of pregnancy are considered par for the course. In my experience, the nausea was 24/7 and when I could eat, I couldn’t stand chicken. I lived on plain salty crackers almost constantly to quell the nausea. These days I cannot stand them. Honestly, I find them revolting. There is no evidence to suggest why food aversions continue into the postpartum period, but it’s yet another thing that isn’t mentioned in the baby books. Another thing that lasts beyond pregnancy and become part of a ‘new life’ as a mum. To be honest, I don’t miss salty crackers but thankfully, chicken remains an old faithful.
Is there a serum for that?
Hair is widely regarded to be a person’s crowning glory. It’s a good day if it’s a good hair day, that sort of thing, right? So, when the onset of pregnancy throws a woman’s hormones into chaos lots of days can become not so good as soon as we look in the mirror. Postpartum hair loss is expected as the cycle of hair growth and shedding was disturbed by pregnancy. For me, brushing out my conditioner was akin to looking like I’d groomed a dog. It was bad. Though, as promised, it eventually stopped and the balding patches at my temples filled in again. Thank f**k. What I had not expected was to have my curls – once bouncy and full – to droop like a wilting flower every month. Yes, when my period arrives, my curls exit stage left. I have tried every curl product on the market and still, crappy curls every month. Apparently, the hormonal changes brought on by pregnancy can have long term effects that are accentuated during a woman’s period. Thanks a bunch hormones. Sound.
These days, as mum to a toddler, I can officially say- not everything you need to know is in the baby books. While pregnant you can arm yourself with lots of information about how your life is about to change, but there is nothing like a bit of real life hindsight to give you some perspective.
*Names changed to protect privacy