When baby comes along, they drum it in to you relentlessly how much better off your child will be if they are breastfed. How it will help their immune system, how they'll automatically get a membership to MENSA and become child geniuses who go on to solve world hunger and cure cancer... ok, I'm exaggerating slightly. The point is, we are told that breast milk has so many benefits for children that it barely seems an option to do anything else. Not everyone agrees that breastmilk is better than formula, and I'm not here to debate that. You may or may not know that in Jack I had a bit of a lazy feeder - he'd guzzle from a bottle but from a boob, nah mum, too much work. So I was so determined to get him breast milk that I pumped for 9 and a half sodding months to get it for him, and even now, at almost 11 months I have only in the last few days used up my freezer stash of one feed a day. I'm super proud of that achievement because it started as a 6 week target, then 3 months, then 6 months, and then I just kind of kept going. Pumping is an absolute f*cker of a job, but it is also strangely addictive, and I have often said that it saved me mentally at a time where I really felt like I was failing as a mother.
It did put me in kind of a strange position though - I found on some levels I could relate to both breastfeeding mums and formula feeding mums. However, when it comes to the post partum hangover, I think I'm in the same boat as the breastfeeding mums because its only once you really cut down on your feeds/pumps and wean totally that you realise how much your body has been through and how much pregnancy and breastfeeding has taken from it. Funny how when you're pregnant they don't tell you about the point that it all turns to shit, because at that point, what you need really doesn't seem to matter. It should though.
Pregnancy and breastfeeding is like the longest party ever (hear me out here). You just keep going and going because it doesn't feel like you're going to get a hangover. You finally get to a point where you can appreciate the freedom of not being attached to a child or a pump, you're finally getting ownership of your body back!! Just like partying for days though, that freedom comes with a lot less fun and a lot of caveats. You might be free from having to produce milk, you might think you're getting you back, but your body's got other ideas which mostly consist of it all slightly falling apart. Well, certainly in my case anyway.
It all began at about 8 months post partum when I was down to a couple of pumps per day. Suddenly I had done my back in. I thought maybe I had overdone it in yoga, but it just wouldn't go away. Finally I had to admit defeat and go and see a physio. The physio informed me that because I was weaning, the lovely relaxin hormone that makes everything all nice and soft and flexible in pregnancy was gradually leaving my body, meaning that suddenly any injuries I might have incurred even in pregnancy, come out of the woodwork and make you feel like a 90 year old, just for shits and giggles. There were no giggles here I can assure you of that. The back issue has come and gone with time, but never fully gone away, and bending over to lift 23lb Jack certainly has not helped one little bit.
The back issue is only the beginning though....
Along with the relaxin goes the lovely hormones that help you deal with sleep deprivation, meaning that I now look far more tired - the kind of tired where your family remark over FaceTime that you look like you've got a black eye. SARCASTIC THUMBS UP. I can definitely see now where less sleep has aged me and its as if my eyes have kind of sunk back into my head a bit - sometimes I can't actually see them when I smile in a picture with no make up on. I really did not appreciate enough how well rested I looked before kids. The come down from all the hormones has been a bit brutal for me and left me feeling really quite lethargic and rubbish, something I am currently having to fight on a daily basis. However, I am confident that this too shall pass. I am staring the end of my maternity leave in the face and have recently moved house, so there is a lot of change happening in my life all at once and those things in addition to going cold turkey can be a bit of a shock to the system.
Illness - did anyone else find once they weaned that they suddenly just got ill? Maybe it has just been some badly timed viruses with the change of seasons (a lovely tummy bug that struck us all down, left Jack with the sh*ts then quickly followed by another virus/teething/cold for Jack) but oh my GOD the last few weeks have been crap. We have all been ill and thoroughly fed up about feeling so rotten or not getting any sleep. I wonder whether the come down from the hormones also attacks your immune system too because I feel far from my best lately.
Next on the list is the hair. So, I'm not sure if I have had post partum hair loss yet or not. Maybe that's a good thing but it has left me slightly on edge, living with the fear it might just suddenly fall out, and slightly confused about all this bloody baby hair appearing at the front. My hair has also taken on a very lank, greasy, dull quality, when for so long (despite not being highlighted for nearly a year) it was looking healthy and shiny. So now I look like a sunken eyed, lank haired old hag (slightly dramatic but you get the idea).
*I am now happy to report since the time of writing that this is not a permanent state, and my hair has now begun to regain some life and look less like that of a hormonal teenager. Woohoo!
Baby weight. So what the hell is that about? I was slimmer at Easter when I was pumping more because I was burning all those calories and doing yoga like a mad woman because I had a baby that didn't move. But despite eating less, and trying to eat better overall, as well as keeping up my yoga (until Jack and I got ill) how is it fair that at 10 months post partum I am bigger than I was at Easter?! Nature is a cruel mistress, but I am just hoping that once my body has totally caught up with the fact that I am weaned, it will cut me a little slack, and let go a little of what its holding onto. Quite the eye opener, another caveat to the freedom. It just makes me want to stamp my feet and cry "It's not fair" because you just naively think that 10 months post birth you would look better rather than worse.
*As with the hair, I have recently seen a little loss in the weight department, I'm not where I was at Easter by any stretch, but I am getting there, so the virtue of patience is worth having here it would seem.
They tell you to go to the dentist when you're pregnant or just after and take advantage of the free dental care. I didn't. I hate the dentist. I hate someone poking about in my mouth. (Behave). It's not fun and it often hurts, plus I have a weird tongue that embarrassingly seems to follow the dentist's tools around my mouth as if trying to stop them from doing their job. Awkward. In the weeks after Jack's birth I met a woman who told me her teeth had crumbled after having a baby. WHAT?! CRUMBLED?! Are you f*cking serious?! Ok so that hasn't happened to me but it certainly makes me more afraid to go to the dentist now! Is there no end to the side effects of pregnancy?! I just hope she was being dramatic.
And now I think it's time to breathe....
This post may be a bit of an eye opener to those who are pregnant or have never been/never will be, but much as I have had a right old rant here, would I change having been pregnant? Not for the world, absolutely no way! Has the come down sucked a bit? Has it been a bit of an eye opener how far reaching the effects of pregnancy are? Sure, but I would go through a hundred of those come downs for my little guy (just please don't ask me to, kay?).
Now, I'm off to wean myself out of my nursing bras....