What I should have known about how I would look and feel after I’ve had a kid… or two.
All the reading I did. All those people I talked to. Every scrap of information I found online, in a book, in a conversation, and just through life experiences helped prepare me a lot for pregnancy, childbirth, and what comes after.
But it wasn’t the whole picture!
The top 5 things I wish I’d known before I got smacked in the face with reality
#1 My Weight and Shape
Oh, sure, everyone said to say good-bye to my waist, hips, and the numbers on the scale. And I did. In fact, I vividly recall a shower shortly after I learned I was pregnant with the Angel where I bid a fond farewell to my flat abdomen. Of all the weight fluctuations I’ve had since puberty began, it was my butt and thighs that suffered while my abs always stayed flat.
I got pregnant, the belly went out; I had a c-section, the belly went in.
Pregnant with the Angel
In fact, at my daughter’s first birthday party, I weighed LESS than when I had gotten pregnant. No, this isn’t the average, but that’s what happened to me. Big house, small child, breastfeeding, water-drinking, and eating a mainly whole-foods diet led my body into great health.
At the Angel’s first birthday party– bad posture and outlandish gestures are my norm.
The same thing happened the second time: I got pregnant, the belly went out, the baby came out, and the belly went back in.
Pregnant with the Rover
Here I am at 6 months-ish postpartum and I weigh what I did when I graduated high school…with my flat abs. Part of me is super excited about this while part of me thinks it is just damned odd.
Chalk another one up to the mysteries of genetics!
Ok, forget about the numbers on the scale. Look a bit past the flat abs. What do you see? What I see is something all-together new and, in some ways, improved. In other ways, not so much.
The clothing I bought when I was this weight BEFORE getting pregnant and having kids still DOES NOT FIT. The jeans can’t make it over the hips, the shoes are too small, the shirts are too tight. All in all…
I AM SHAPED DIFFERENTLY!
The family after Mass in April ’16.
Sure, I was warned about the weight. It seems like that was all that was focused on though. Silly Americans. It isn’t that I weigh differently (I don’t); it is that I am shaped differently. My hips are wider, my feet are longer (I’m not making that up), and my shoulders are broader. I have no idea if I’m taller or not but I can definitely tell you my chest is WAY DIFFERENT.
#2 My hair
You’ll hear most any mother talk about how shiny and thick her hair was during pregnancy. She’ll talk about the wonders of hormones and prenatal vitamins, how luxurious her locks felt and how they seemed to grow an inch every night. That isn’t much of an exaggeration, really.
There is so much hair!
You’ll also hear a lot of mothers talk about how frizzy and brittle their hair became afterwards. I’ve even read where many women experience the growth of new hair all over (I’m raising my hand here because I’m one of these women).
NO ONE MENTIONED THE HAIR LOSS!
Seriously, it comes out in clumps. Every time I run a brush through it or wash it, large amounts of my hair just shed away. Since I have hair almost to my waist, and my hair is naturally very thick and kinda frizzy, it is SUPER OBVIOUS when I lose some. Not, like, on my head it is obvious. But the big-ass tumbleweeds of hair everywhere in my house and car are hard to miss.
My head doesn’t look like it is suffering from hair loss, thank God. I just want others to know that around Postpartum Month 4 or Month 6, the hair will begin to SHED.
NO ONE MENTIONED THE HAIR CHANGES, EITHER!
So, yeah, I mentioned the new hair growth. I have all these wiry hairs on my head that are 3 to 6 inches long and have absolutely no chance of laying down. Even with excessive flat-ironing and product usage (even oil!), they just spring up everywhere.
Frizz and fluff and stuff
Speaking of new hair and everywhere… yeah. Let’s just say I wasn’t warned about that. I’m a natural blonde, people. I used to go ages without shaving my legs (or anything else). Now, that is not an option. Seriously, the hair on my thighs is now coming in dark brown. And the armpits. And, yeah, I’m done writing this section.
#3 Mommy Brain
This isn’t a joke, people. This isn’t something we can chuckle about. This is freaking real. You get pregnant, you lose your mind. I’m not talking about hormones. I’m talking a legitimate rewiring of your brain.
A text from a (male!) friend.
While pregnant, my vocabulary checked out. After months of no substantial sleep, certain other faculties have disappeared as well. After a second pregnancy and having an infant as well as a toddler? You can forget the Me you knew Before: that witty, funny young woman with an advanced education and bright views of the real world.
I don’t even know what the real world looks like anymore.
But I can quote Pixar movies like a pro!
Back on track here: it isn’t just what you’re exposed to being so different (kids’ movies, baby food labels, articles about the latest and greatest in the world of car seats); it is how you process everything. Sure, the hormones do their fair share of damage. But you really do start to forget important things, like dentist appointments and plans you made with friends, and you start to lose words as well as your keys and wallet, and you can’t quite place how you know that person but you know you know him.
#4 The Isolation
I knew I’d “lose” friends going down this procreating path. I knew that my forever-single-and-fabulous friends would become footnotes and sidebars in this chapter of my life. I figured the childless ones probably wouldn’t have much in common with me anymore.
Well, yes and no.
Although that did seem to happen, I still am close to some of those single/childless friends. Not all of them found it irritating when all I can seem to talk about is breastfeeding and laundry and bodily functions (mine and the kids’).
I am talking less about losing friends (and I’ve found a few new ones, don’t get me wrong) and more about the numbing isolation of being a stay at home parent.
I love my children. I was recently accused of making my life sound like “torture.” It isn’t that. You know it isn’t that.
It is how I feel alone in my failures. How I feel alone in my struggle to get my kids up, out the door, through a store, and home again without a meltdown. How I feel alone in some of my joys and a lot of my complaints.
Is this societal pressure? Is it what I believe others’ expectations are? Is it too much glamor and ease of motherhood displayed on social media? Is it a begrudging view of the BHE’s life and schedule?
I am not alone. I sometimes feel lonely. I mostly feel isolated, though. I wish I knew a better way to put it. But maybe that is my next point…
#5 My worst enemy
Yep. That’s me. I’m my own worst enemy.
I had all these visions of what kind of mother and wife I would be. I had all these daydreams of what my life would be like with children. I didn’t plan on being a stay-at-home mom until I became one. There are so many things I said I would or wouldn’t do, and I feel like a failure when I go back on them.
I also had plenty of visions of what kind of mother I wouldn’t be. Too often in my life, I had examples of how not to parent. Between reading the news and working at a rural library, I could see some terrible things. I also had a piss-poor role model in my own mother. Those were things I swore I’d never do.
It is so easy to say that shit before it hits. The reality is this: sleep deprivation on top of the anxiety you feel when it comes to your children’s well-being is a terrible combination for sticking to your candy-coated dreams from pre-pregnancy.
I swore I would never drink pop while pregnant. We all know that processed crap is terrible for our teeth, our bodies, our minds… but it tastes so good! What harm can one fountain Coke from McDonald’s do?! After all, it is going through me first; it isn’t like I’m giving my unborn child that whole 20 oz of corn syrup and cancer-stimulator.
I promised my beautiful, leather-interior vehicle I’d never give food or drink to a child while they were riding in it. WOOP! Out the window!
I wasn’t going to ever say a curse word in front of my children. They have minds like clay and sponges, to absorb what I’m saying and doing in a way that’ll shape what they say and do. Yeah, guess what… fuck that.
I would never, ever hit a child. Never! How could anyone ever possibly conceive of span—
Yeah, I’ve read all about how we’re not supposed to yell at our kids, how we should never spank, how the worst thing you could ever do to your child is show them violence and anger.
Let me make this very clear to you: PARENTING. IS. HARD.
You make mistakes. I bet I can point out to you at least one mistake per day that I’ve made ever since I found out I was pregnant with the Angel. I bet I can easily find double that in every day since I gave birth to the Rover. What I can’t tell you is how to best cope with the mistakes you make.
I can say, though, that I’m my own worst enemy. I carry the guilt of each spank, of every harsh word (the way her face crumples when I use the Mean Mommy voice), of every time I left a print on my sweet daughter.
And although she loves and forgives me instantly, chalk that up to another thing no one told me: it is so much harder to forgive yourself.
Parenting is hard. All those things you swore you wouldn’t do? You’re not a bad person if you do them. Just remember that tomorrow is another day, children are as forgiving as Christ, and YOU need to work on YOU to handle it better next time.
This is where I loop back to #4:
As much as it helps ease the burden by sharing it with others that might commiserate with you, you may think you can’t share your story for fear of being judged. Or of being told you’re as horrible of a person you think you are. Or of having your children taken away.
It is isolating to think you cannot speak to anyone of what you’ve said or done. Whether you just don’t want to hear it (yeah, yeah, yeah, I KNOW I shouldn’t drink that pop) or you think you’re a monster (those damning fingerprints that faded after three agonizing minutes), you feel completely alone in your troubles as a parent when you don’t share your burden.
Introspection: I guess that’s why I’m writing this blog. Sure, the hair loss is annoying and the pants not fitting just means another chunk out of the bank account. But the “true confession” of this post is that I don’t have all my shit together and I have screamed the F word in front of my children. I don’t have it all together! And GOD FORBID I admit that, so I must remain isolated in my failures… and post another super-cute picture of my children on Instagram.
You are not alone
As creepy as THAT header sounds, it is true. I am not the only one who is losing great chunks of hair (when I bother to brush or wash it). I am not the only one who suddenly has much more to tweeze, pluck, and shave (please don’t suggest wax to me… that’s just sadistic). I am not the only one who can’t get her jeans back on. In fact, I know plenty of women who weighed less or MUCH LESS after childbirth than they did when they found out they were pregnant. I am not the only one who has gone back on her personal promises and screamed at or spanked her children. Or gave them a thumbs-width of Dr. Pepper in their sippy cup. Therefore, I am not isolated! But I do know I’m not the only one who feels the isolation.
Can I get an amen?