When I first became a Mom, and even after my second birth, there were many bodily experiences I did not expect that had me 3:00am Googling whether I was normal or not. These extra worries adding to my “new mom anxiety” kept me up at night when I needed every minute of sleep I could get. So I wrote down some of my weird yet supposedly common postpartum body changes to help soon-to-be-mamas and new mamas know that they are not the only one!
Itchy Armpits…while breastfeeding, many women will experience SEVERE itchy armpits during the letdown due to increased blood flow in the area. When I first experienced this it was so intense I had to Google it immediately to make sure I wasn’t having some weird allergic reaction to breastfeeding haha. The worst part of this situation is its impossible to itch while breastfeeding because your hands are busy holding a baby, so you have to learn to breathe through it. Good thing I have years of meditation experience, I needed it for itchy armpits!
Increased Armpit Body Odour…your natural smell is often heightened in the armpits during breastfeeding in the first few weeks to help your newborn baby locate the breasts. And if you’re like me using a natural deodorant without aluminum, you’re going to be applying it a couple times a day, so make sure to always pack a travel one in your diaper bag. 🙂
Pulled Muscles…the same hormone “relaxin” that was increased in your body during pregnancy to help your muscles and tendons stretch to make room for baby is still being produced in extra quantities postpartum. So some women that start working out (after their doctor has cleared them for exercise) may experience higher risk of injuring their muscles due to this hormone. So move with awareness mama!
Intense Abdominal Cramping…in order for your body to heal from birth, your organs need to find their way back to their proper spots. To do this, your uterus contracts every time you breastfeed, exercise or use healing aids such as Red Raspberry Leaf Tea. The contractions can be intense and can scare the crap out of you if your doctor doesn’t warn you about them. Unfortunately for my first birth I was not warned, so when I was Day 3 postpartum I spent 9 hours in the hospital emergency ward because I thought I was hemorrhaging. It was the most awful experience; I was terrified for my newborn, Langley, being in a room full of so many sick people (two were vomiting on the floor). So from 11pm-8am my husband drove back and forth from the hospital to our home to bring 3 day old Langley for me to breastfeed every 2 hours (she was underweight so we had to feed her every 2 hours 24/7 for the first 14 days). I was terrified for my health, but even more terrified for my baby’s health. The reason why it took so long was because there was no doctor available to see me and discharge me for 9 hours. I was perfectly fine, just scared. I now know that if you have no excessive bleeding/large blood clots in your discharge, you are liking just experiencing your uterus contract back into its original size. But if you are worried, of course go seek medical attention. I am no doctor, I just want others to know my experience so they don’t feel the guilt I felt taking my newborn to an emergency ward.
Multiple Nipple Holes…I don’t know about you, but I truly thought that breastmilk would come out of one hole in the nipple. Like a bottle! Little did I know it would be like a shower head with milk spraying out of 8 different holes! I once squirted a nurse across the room (yes a strong letdown can send your milk spraying many feet forward!) when Langley unlatched during my letdown! Whoops!
Milk Letdown…speaking of letdowns, I did not realize this sensation could be slightly painful!? Not extremely painful, but similar to that uncomfortable feeling of loosing feeling in your arm/foot and then having the tingles of regaining feeling/blood-flow. Those prickly tingles remind me of a milk letdown.
Postpartum Depression/Postpartum Rage…this one I am currently learning about and experiencing. I did not have Postpartum Depression/Postpartum Rage after the birth of Langley so I did not think I would have it after my second birth of Odessa. I also did not realize the symptoms could worsen further along in postpartum. Most importantly, I did not realize rage was a symptom of Postpartum Depression. I started to experience rage episodes when Odessa was around 4 weeks old. I will be perfectly happy but then something small triggers me (like my husband hanging a picture in the nursery too high or making the bath for our newborn too warm) and suddenly I am overwhelmed with anger. Red hot rage. I will yell, curse, grind my teeth, sometimes throw something and feel completely out of control. The episodes started to happen more and more often, until I was having a moment of rage almost daily. Unfortunately, my husband was the one to receive most of my anger as he was my biggest trigger. But one day I exploded on my two year old for repeating the same word (happily) over and over and over again. That same day my husband also asked if I still loved him. That was the day I realized there was something wrong with my mental health. I felt so much guilt for being so unnecessarily mean to my husband and now my toddler. Who was this angry person?! This wasn’t me! I started researching postpartum depression and postpartum rage and realized that while I didn’t feel sad nor did I have any thoughts to harm myself or my children, that I still could be suffering from postpartum depression with my most severe symptom being uncontrollable rage. Another symptom that has been getting worse and worse for me is insomnia. I’m obviously exhausted because of breastfeeding a newborn during the nights for the past few months, but once I feed I can’t seem to fall back to sleep, causing me to be even more irritable. So now I realize I need help. I have been suffering alone and that has caused for my depression to only worsen. So this past month I have asked for help and started to heal. I have signed up for a Mom Rage and Resentment Therapy Workshop. I have had 3 acupuncture appointments with my prenatal/postnatal acupuncturist for hormone balancing. I am also having my first meeting with a therapist this week. Finally, I am devoting more time to move my body through yoga, walking, hiking and running. I have committed myself to exercising 3 times a week, a reasonable amount for me. Through conversations with other moms who have also experienced postpartum depression/rage, I know this won’t be a quick fix. It will likely take months for me to start feeling like myself again. But left untreated, postpartum depression can last years, so I am glad to be starting the work now. Looking forward to sharing this healing journey and getting back to feeling like me.
If you are also feeling angry, sad, having uncontrollable mood swings, resentment/guilt, insomnia, or anything that just doesn’t feel right, please ask for help. Asking for help does not feel natural for me, I get it, but we can’t do everything ourselves. Don’t suffer alone, talk to someone. A friend, a therapist, your spouse, your doctor. Anyone. Then make a plan to start feeling better. Because when you are your best self, only then can you be your best for those you love.