Often times when you see postpartum women in images on social media, You see them all made up and wearing jewelry, wearing some nicely fitted outfit that flatters their figure. They are holding their baby, calm and still. If they are old enough, the baby is smiling with them or at them.
That’s not what postpartum actually looks like, though. When I look at myself in the mirror now, I do not totally recognize what I see, at least when I look at my breasts anyway. I have bruises on the tops of my breasts from where I do my breast compressions while pumping milk. I have a scar on the right side of my right breast from the milk clog that I had to take out and thankfully was able to remove relatively easily. My nipples are pointier than they have ever been, and not only that, my areolas are absolutely huge, far larger than I ever thought they would become. I’ve barely had any energy to do my usual skincare routine, and I have only masked my face maybe three or four times since the baby has arrived. That is a huge decrease from masking or using some type of enzyme peel 2 to 3 times a week as I previously did (I am a skincare junkie). The one daily indulgence I do now for myself and my body is to slather warmed shea butter all over myself after my daily morning shower. Shea butter is supposed to help with reducing the appearance of stretch marks, which is why I originally bought it. It’s also good for applying to your breasts and nipples given nursing and pumping. But then, I realized that it’s actually quite luxurious, and the added bonus is that it is 100% natural. I also use it to moisturize the baby, and she seems to enjoy it. And on the mornings when Chris was working, I was barely even able to do that given the baby’s feeding schedule. I looked mutilated. In addition, you can’t see it, but my hands and arms are damaged, with nerve issues that hopefully will not be permanent.
When people ask me if life with a baby is what I thought it would be, I say that in many ways, it is actually easier, as I imagined the absolute worse with a colicky baby, no sleep, etc. We are very lucky that our baby eats well and sleeps well. When she cries, we almost always know what she wants or needs. However, the part that I was not anticipating that has definitely been very hard for me personally has been pumping… and around the clock, surprise surprise. That is like a whole separate job from childcare. Because if you are changing your baby’s diaper or feeding your baby, it’s very challenging to be pumping milk at the same time unless you have a wearable or mobile pump. I also never imagined that my body, particularly my breasts, would look like they were mutilated. Chris says that it looks like someone beat me up, and that is pretty accurate. When my friend came over the other day to help with bottle feeding the baby, she saw my breasts on display pretty much the whole time, and the first time she saw them, she raised her eyebrows, had her eyes wide open, and asked how the hell my breasts looked the way they did. And I explained this to her, and she said, “Shit, I didn’t realize it got this complicated.”
Well, neither did I until I became a mother to my child. Neither did I.