In mid-January, I gave birth to a baby girl named Astor. She is beautiful and perfect and I am so lucky to have two healthy and happy (at least most of the time) children.
But now that I am entrenched in the postpartum period once again — which anyone who’s given birth will tell you is much longer than the official medical definition of six weeks post birth — I am reminded of how similar giving birth is to running a marathon. With both, you selectively remember (or more accurately selectively forget) some of the crazy things you go through. Or, as I like to think of it, the hormonal rollercoaster of having a baby.
It’s those hormones that are at the root of most of the craziness I feel. Or hormones combined with the stress and exhaustion of being sleep deprived, which adds another layer of chaos to your hormonal imbalance (hello, cortisol).
It’s not all bad. I’m definitely experiencing those warm and fuzzy feelings of bonding that come with the oxytocin released during breastfeeding, and I am loving this special time I get to spend with my daughter. It’s so cool to discover how unique she is from her brother. I think she looks more like me than Cooper did at that age. She’s definitely showing her spunkiness already, and she has different habits, one of which is a piercing cry that reaches decibel levels her brother never achieved and is particularly startling at 3 a.m.
But other things have not been as cute. My skin has been all over the place trying to adjust to these hormonal fluctuations. When I was pregnant with Cooper, I developed this dark line on my stomach that’s called linea nigra and is caused by hormonal changes. I was so thrilled when it didn’t show up during my pregnancy with Astor. Then, I gave birth and suddenly, the linea nigra appeared. When that happened, all I could think was: what the hell?
Your body is going through so many changes all at once during this time, and the things that pop up — or don’t — can seem totally unpredictable. I’ve always dealt with hyperpigmentation, but that isn’t my problem during this postpartum experience. Now, the skin on my face, particularly my lower cheeks, has been plagued by redness and sensitivity. I’ve had to add Veracity’s Inflammation Response treatment to my normal routine to help calm it down.
And then there is Astor’s key area of interest during this time: my boobs. No one really talks about the toll that breastfeeding takes on your intimate skin. Some days, everything feels fine. Others, the skin around my boobs is intensely itchy and develops a red blotchiness.
It’s this unpredictability and the fact that people just don’t talk about the uncomfortable or embarrassing sides of the pregnancy and postpartum periods that makes going through these things even harder. It’s not the stuff you really want to share, but I love that by talking about my experience, I can help others know that they’re not alone.
One of the more difficult hormonal changes for me to talk about this time around is the side effects of the plummet in estrogen. The postpartum period can mimic some symptoms of menopause, like night sweats, because of the dramatic drop in the previously very high level of estrogen you experience during pregnancy. This is a normal fluctuation that happens after giving birth, but it has hit me hard this time. Every night when I wake up completely drenched in sweat (I’m talking just went for a swim levels of perspiration), I am reminded that every pregnancy experience is totally and utterly unique. It’s one thing to know that fact, but the reality of having to towel yourself off in the middle of the night when you’re already not sleeping enough is unfair and, let’s face it, a little gross.
The postpartum period is a journey, one that is wild and chaotic. But the nice thing about experiencing it for the second time is that I know it will end.
With my first pregnancy, I was shocked by some of the things I was going through because no one ever talks about the more difficult or awkward sides of the postpartum experience. Plus, I was so overwhelmed by this small human who I didn’t really know how to take care of yet that I found it hard to believe we would ever get to the other side. And don’t even get me started on the false expectations that some of the mommy blogs create. They can make you feel like you’re failing at everything.
But you’re not — you’re doing great. I'm always trying to remind myself and every other woman who has just had a baby that these wild things you are feeling and that your body is experiencing are not you – they’re your hormones. Every mother’s postpartum experience is different, but during this very hard and very beautiful period, the most important thing to do is to share our experiences so that we don’t feel alone and to celebrate the little victories because they’re what really matter.