So, I have this baby. But more importantly, I spent nine months incubating that baby. And apart from the occasionally frank literature out there, exactly zero websites or books I perused during this time truly addressed the biological horrors of pregnancy or post-pregnancy. Sure, they hinted at the fact that I might slowly become a hormonal shapeshifting pod of oozing smells and explosions, and that I'd need few months' worth "recovery," but only in the most sugar-coated tee-hee sort of language. I had no idea how soon I'd be scrounging around on websites postpartum Googling "burns when I pee" and "boobs like taffy."
A few things I would have liked to be warned about while pregnant or just after popping out the baby:
You just are, and it's OK (in some ways, it's even freeing). I know, I know, glowy-up-with-people-everyone's-beautiful-in-their-own-fertile-way blah blah blah, but you're a spectacle of a slimy alien hostage situation and you know it. Your pores are oozing with pod-person goo.
Google the size of the pad you will wear after vaginal birth. It's bigger than a catcher's chest armor. Friends, nurse-friends and anyone who's ever been pregnant: Why didn't you tell me?!?!? Why doesn't anyone tell anyone?!?
After you have the baby, it burns when you pee for, like, a while — and every second of it is pure wincing torture.
Yes,you do totally feel "kinda loose" down there after. Real talk! It goes back and stuff. But it's no less weird/amazing/discomforting when it happens to you.
If you thought everyone looked at your body a lot when you were pregnant, guess what happens after you have the baby? Everyone looks at your body a lot. And it's totally just to see what it looks like now, like some kind of collective post-labor trainwreck voyeurism. Boobs and ass, just like before, get the most ogling. Only now it's for a different reason. (Dude you worked with, while casually passing by your office cube: "Wow, your boobs are HUGE.") And for other baby-having women, it's pure fucking schadenfreude. It's like they're instantly friendlier because they know the truth: You are now one of them. You have been humbled. Well-meaning friends and relatives will remark on the rate of your weight loss with the zeal of a sports commentator.
Your boobs stretch out in weird ways you probably imagined could happen but somehow didn't fully internalize. It's too soon for me to report whether they regain a shape anything like their old selves. But as of right now? It's not cool; it's not okay. It's just weird and not good. It doesn't make you any less happy about the precious little turtle bear you're nursing, but it's independently its own universe of awful.
Oh, the sobbing. The sobbing for no reason. The sobbing for every reason. Do not try to be funny/sarcastic about it to your in-laws who may or may not be staying with you the first week post-baby. Do not say, when they ask how you are doing, that you'll be "Okay as soon as the bawling stops." They will not know how to respond.
Breastfeeding is not a backlit-postcard of you smiling wanly in a hand-carved rocking chair with your baby nestled in your arms. It is you, with matted greasy hair and the remnants of meatloaf still stuck in your bra hunched over your baby at 2 a.m. trying to convince her to please please please actually suck correctly and not just use you as a giant pacifier and make your already sore nipples even more raw. Exhausted husband stands nearby helplessly holding glass of water for your insatiable thirst.
And not because you'll spill on it yourself (although you do become increasingly clumsier, so in that case, it's possible you'll also spill it on yourself). I'm talking about a more sinister invasion here. Around the 7th month of Preggersville, I just started smelling like chicken noodle soup. Partly, I couldn't be bothered to shower Every Single Day for obvious reasons, but I also just felt like I emitted this warm, salty scent. It's possible I was just leaking pee all over myself unawares — not enough to notice the wetness (God knows there's enough going on down there already), but apparently enough to produce a sizzlin' can of Campbell's-like odor, and I never discovered the root cause
No one told me about it until I mentioned it to my husband, who, uh, immediately confirmed my suspicions. Then, at work a few days later, while leaning very pregnantly on a coworker's desk, another coworker who happens to have a remarkable Valley Girl accent walked up and said, clearly disgusted, "Ewww, it smells like BO and chicken noodle soup in here."
"God, I know!" I said quickly, sniffing around for the elusive culprit while slowly backing away. "So weird!"
Tracy Moore is a writer living in Los Angeles. She smells better now.