Giving birth is crazy. We know this because women all over the world will happily (and not so happily) regale you with tales from their time in the trenches: the 40+ hour labors, giving birth to surprise twins on the side of the road, you know. Crazy shit.
What a lot of women DON'T often discuss (at least they weren't when I gave birth in 2009) is all of the absolutely insane ways your body freaks out after your baby drops (see what I did there? Women who have given birth do) and you're left with the aftermath. And no: we're not going to be talking about eating placenta today.
The Neck Hair Situation
I noticed a few months into my pregnancy that random dark hairs were popping up on my neck, so I subsequently freaked out. I didn't know the sex of the baby, so I mused: was it a boy baby and I was absorbing all of his testosterone? Was it a girl baby and she was hell bent on destroying my neck? Or was it something else entirely (yes)? I never found exactly what caused the hairs to begin to grow, but I did notice that they basically quadrupled in number AFTER my son was born. I still poured the excuses on (it was breastfeeding! Lack of sleep! And so on!), until I realized that the hairs were apparently here to stay. In fact, I still have exactly four spots that I have to check on the regular, lest I wake up with a random long hair growing. I don't know why it happens, and I don't know if it will happen to you, but now you've been forewarned.
The Hair on My Head Got Darker AND Fell Out
If you've read about pregnancy ever, you've probably picked up on the fact that pregnant women tend to have awesome hair. I'm pretty sure it's some kind of combination of magic hormones and prenatal vitamins, but your hair grows like crazy. It's not just LONG -- it's luxurious. Like, kings and queens would be happy to sleep on your glorious mane luxurious. What you may NOT have read is that once you have the baby all of the thick, beautiful strands you've come to know and love start jumping ship, and you have weird bald patches all over your head.
There are a few things you can do to stave off the hair loss (I -- speaking as someone who is not a health professional in ANY way -- recommend you keep taking your prenatal vitamin and consider adding flax to your vitamin intake), but the fact remains: you're gonna be losing some of that hair. Once I realized and accepted this, I learned to change my part when it felt like my hair was getting too thin. What I didn't also know is that your hair can start growing in darker -- or at least mine did. I know of many a friend (including a woman who had the most gorgeous strawberry blonde hair pre-birth and ended up with a still-gorgeous but different dark reddish/brown shade a few months after) who experienced this trick of the tresses.
My Period Completely Stopped Until It Very Suddenly Didn't
One bonus of pregnancy is that you don't have a period -- yay! Granted, you're growing a human being and gaining a lot of weight and have so many hormones surging through your body that you do things like ask your partner to hold your hand while you cry during the 18th viewing of "Free Willy" in three days -- but you don't have a period! Who cares about your strange cravings for chocolate icing and matzah balls -- at the same time -- in the middle of the afternoon? Your period is GONE!
A second bonus if you choose to exclusively breastfeed is that you STILL don't have your period the entire time -- like, ever. There are people who will disagree, but my period didn't come back until my son stopped nursing in June 2010 -- 15 months after I gave birth to him. Yes, you're reading that correctly: Due to pregnancy and so much breastfeeding that I spent many a night sobbing in bed, I spent two years without a period. But then, just as it oh-so-suddenly didn't come one day, it all of the sudden definitely showed up two years later. I might as well have been 13 again based on my reaction (essentially: “WHAT IS THIS BLOOD COMING OUT OF MY BODY? Oh... damn.”).
Random: My period also likes to skip around now. It's been over two years since mine returned and it's only in the last four to five months that I can predict it with any sort of accuracy -- and pre-baby my period was like clockwork.
My Stomach Became an Alien Part of My Body
I was totally prepared for the changes to my stomach WHILE I was pregnant -- it was the post-partum stuff I never really gave much thought to. My son was born two months early, and at the time of his birth I had gained 30 lbs. Considering this is the maximum my midwife thought I would gain, I was on track for some epic pregnancy weight gain for my body type. As it was, I was pretty uncomfortable with the lack of balance and newfound uncoordination.
I didn't really look at my stomach until the second day after I gave birth, so I can't tell you what it was like during the first 24 hours. Once I peeked at it, I discovered a previously unrealized stretch mark that would have been pretty wicked had I gone to term, and I also discovered that this part of my body that had stayed mostly the same since I was 16 was... foreign. I don't know what I thought would happen to all the skin that stretched while my son grew inside it, but I definitely wasn't prepared for being able to literally pull my stomach away from my body, release it, and watch it sort of whimper back into position. I also was able to push my fist into my stomach, which was an entirely new sensation -- not a bad one per se, but definitely new.
I bled... and bled... and bled
I saved the goriest for last, and for that, I apologize. Everyone tells you to stock up on maxi pads and the like for your post-partum bleeding, and for the last week or so they will TOTALLY get you through. But that first week or two? Girrrrrrrrrrl.
Here's what you need to know: If you end up giving birth vaginally, you're going to be bleeding quite a bit after your baby is born. I realize that to a lot of you this is a duh moment, but it was something I didn't really think about. My son was immediately whisked away to the NICU after birth, so I had 30 or so minutes where I just hung out eating a grilled cheese sandwich and basking in the post-birth glow. I also assumed that my body was going to stop bleeding in these 30 minutes (I didn't tear) and was super disturbed when the nurse helped me into a wheelchair and what seemed like a ton of blood poured from my body. Dudes.
If you're giving birth in a hospital, I suggest you ask for as many of the hospital maxi pads that they'll give you. Seriously: There is no shame. Fucking hoard 'em! I went home with hospital maxi pads stuffed into every corner of my bag that they would fit, but I'm also seriously icked out by blood.
The magical/freaky thing about giving birth is that it's different for everyone -- and I'm sure some of you had even crazier shit happen. Let's discuss!