You’ve bought cute clothes, a chic crib, plastic, and glass bottles because you want to be prepared. You have read the mom blogs that advised you to get nipple cream, so you did. You waited patiently and nervously for the little bundle of joy to arrive, and he/she did…. Thank God you survived delivery! You have a brand-new bundle of joy!… Now what?
Each woman is different, each labour and delivery is different, as such each post-partum and motherhood journey is different, however, some overarching factors are similar to every woman. In my case, I have lived the script of the modern mom, I have read the mom blogs, followed a few on Instagram, I have done google searches, read books and articles, asked my mom a million questions, I have baby proofed. In my mind and per my checklist, I was ready for motherhood…. To my surprise, I wasn’t!
Nothing adequately prepares you for motherhood. Being a mom is nothing like you read. You may have an idea as to what to expect, sure, the books tell you that babies get colic, but enduring a colicky baby is another story. Not to mention the physical, emotional, and phycological changes you go through.
After the birth of my daughter, my outlook on life, personality, and most significantly, my body changed. I did not expect motherhood to completely unravel my personhood the way it did. Pregnancy is a beautiful thing however, it significantly changes the body, temporarily and permanently.
Physical Changes to Your Body
In complete transparency, the day I found out I was pregnant, I weighed 126 lbs. The week before I gave birth, I weighed 168 lbs. I gained 42 lbs over eight months. Everything got bigger; my butt, boobs, arms, and hips, this, I was prepared for. What I wasn’t prepared for was how my body felt, things didn’t feel the same; my posture, how I felt when I moved, my neither region, nothing was the same. It took me a minute to adjust to my new body.
WebMD advises that “a woman of average weight should gain between 25 to 35 pounds, roughly 2 to 4 pounds during the first trimester and 1 pound weekly for the second & third trimester. However, Underweight women should gain 28 to 40 pounds. And overweight women may need to gain only 15 to 25 pounds during pregnancy”.
I was always very body/weight-conscious; it was hard to accept that I had love handles, that any brisk movement would jiggle the fat on my belly. However, to fully accept my new body and to focus on the health and well-being of my newborn, I had to untie my happiness from my weight. By doing so, I was able to provide critical care to my baby for the crucial first months. Changing my mindset allowed me to pace myself so that I could lose weight at a comfortable, healthy rate.
Research shows that pregnancy significantly alters the body. This is due to the changes in hormone levels that prepare the body for delivery and to take care of the baby. Hormones such as:
“Estrogen and progesterone whose levels drop dramatically after giving birth may cause baby blues, postpartum depression, and a low sex drive”. The first months, especially for new moms, are very stressful. You constantly worry that you are not doing things right, you have no point of reference so everything is a learning process. You query every cry, every poop.
The first months were very overwhelming for me, I constantly felt inadequate as if I was failing my baby. I was not prepared to be in such constant demand. My every waking minute was spent breastfeeding and diaper changing. It was so bad to the point that I broke down in tears, more times than I could count. At around two months post-partum, I realized that I was overwhelmingly in love with my baby. When I had those emotions, I was curious why they were not there before. It turns out that I developed a mild case of baby blues.
The drop in estrogen and progesterone is replaced by an increase in oxytocin (the feel-good hormone). This triggers nurturing feelings and behaviors, aids in breastmilk production which may also cause anxiety.
Another hormone, relaxin, produced during pregnancy relaxes the muscle ligaments in your body. “Combined with weight gain, this may make your feet slightly bigger and your arches a bit flatter. Your shoe size may go up, and unfortunately, stay up. The presence of relaxin may widen the hips, in some cases, permanently.
Development of Non-Communicable Diseases
There are hormone fluctuations that occur during pregnancy, weight gain, fluid retention, and reduced mobility. This combination is a perfect recipe that opens the flood gates for a myriad of illnesses such as gestational diabetes and hypertension (high blood pressure) which may lead to preeclampsia.
Many women go through pregnancy without developing a major illness, however, 1 in 3 women may develop serious health conditions during pregnancy. In some cases, these conditions continue after delivery.
In my case, I developed high blood pressure and had to be medicated. After six weeks, however, my blood pressure returned to normal. Unfortunately, many women are not as lucky and struggle with hypertension for the rest of their lives.
Changes to Outlook on Life
Before I had a baby, I took myself …in hindsight…way too seriously; I was extremely hard on myself. I had an unrealistic idea of perfection that I tried to live up to. I internalize every failure. Failure to me meant that I was not performing well enough or I wasn’t pushing myself hard enough. All of that changed the moment I gave birth. I don’t know if it’s the hormones, but failures that caused me sleepless nights before, now seem so trivial and unimportant.
Now, I no longer dwell on every failure, whenever unplanned things occur, I use it as a chance to learn and improve for the next time and keep it pushing. In some weird way, pregnancy humanized me. I realize that life is too short to dwell on failures and mistakes. For success and happiness to occur, one cannot wallow in self-pity and self-doubt.
According to brainfacts.org “pregnancy shrinks the brain’s gray matter, the pinkish-gray tissue containing the cell bodies and synapses of nerve cells. Volume loss is not always negative and Is not directly correlated to function loss. Instead, it can represent a “fine-tuning of connections which makes for more efficient, streamlined brain circuits.”
Improvement in Time Management & Focus
Besides having an adorable bundle of joy, pregnancy has other unforeseen benefits. Since giving birth, my focus and time management skills have improved. I have the same 24 hours I did before I got pregnant and I seem to be able to get more accomplished now than before. Before I had a baby, I couldn’t seem to find enough time to exercise and focus on other hobbies and interests outside of work.
Fast-forward one year; I have a toddler to take care of which means I have to wake up earlier to prepare her for her day. Additionally, I can exercise a minimum of 40 minutes per day, focus on other interests [blog], still perform at a stressful day job, be a wife and take care of my household.
According to Scientific American, “a woman loses gray matter in the brain during pregnancy, this may be because her brain is becoming more specialized in ways that will help her adapt to motherhood and respond to the needs of her baby. Once a woman becomes a mother, she has different priorities, different tasks to complete, as such, the brain changes”
Changes to Relationships
Having a baby is the most life-changing event I have endured, my daily routine and relationships have not been the same. Family and friends tend to understand when you cannot be somewhere, you can always reschedule, however, if you want to stay together, you cannot reschedule or suspend being married or being in a romantic relationship.
Romantic relationships are most affected by the introduction of a baby as couples tend to spend most if not all their time caring for the baby. As such neglect, loneliness, and even resentment creeps in. additionally, couples tend to “stop saying and doing things that make their partner happy” this causes a domino effect that leads to less sex, a reduction in relationship satisfaction, and unhappiness. Finding equilibrium between being lovers and parents is a fete many including myself are yet to accomplish.
While there are many cons the introduction of a baby has on a relationship, there are several positives; the love between a couple may improve as a result of their joint love for the child, the union may be strengthened after enduring rough times together or a couple may rediscover their love for each other when they see how their partner takes care of their child/children.
Being a mom is a wonderful thing. Your failure of success depends on how you choose to navigate the positive and negative changes that will arise.