By the time I delivered my twins, I had carried 12 pounds and 2 ounces worth of baby to full term. (But who's counting?) Leading up to D-day, I assumed I'd lose that actual baby weight—and all 50-ish pounds I'd gained throughout my twin pregnancy—by working hard with diet and exercise. My plan: I'd take care of body biz like pregnancy never happened.
What on earth was I thinking?
Of course, as a first-time mom-to-be, my post-baby body ideas were wildly naive—but they were also driven by the total dearth of open communication on the subject of what a postpartum body really looks (and feels) like, both in media and even among communities of moms. So in the spirit of openness, let's break this dialogue wide open...
Here are nine changes you may or may not expect to encounter with your postpartum body (because of course every pregnancy and recovery is different), compiled from social media crowdsourcing among hundreds of moms eager to bring these hush-hush notions out into the light.
1. Your abs may never be the same.
Ladies, I'll start the convo with the biggest single complaint of my own: diastasis recti. What's that? Well, nothing I'd even ever heard of until another twin mom shared her own experience with the condition. In short, it's the separation of the abdominal muscles, often resulting in the appearance of what's dismissively called a "mummy tummy," or "pooch," or just plain flab. Though some fitness programs claim to be able to help, many medical professionals say it can be fixed only through surgery. So get used to it (or prepare to go under the knife).
2. Your hair might never be the same either.
As well, I lost handfuls of hair around my temples, exposing scalp freckles I'd never even seen before. Charming. It's since filled back in (phew), but the new hairs in place of their former counterparts remain short.
In addition to her hair's volume, one mom remarked on its textural changes: "My hair hasn't been the same since. The texture and thickness is completely different and it also seems that I started getting gray hairs right after giving birth."
3. Your bladder could develop a mind of its own.
After pregnancy, many moms find all that stretching results in what's known as "stress incontinence," or releasing a little pee when you run, do jumping jacks, sneeze, laugh—you get the gist.
But at least one mom I polled had—surprisingly—happier postpartum bladder news to report: "Before pregnancy, I had the world's smallest bladder. I was constantly running to pee every half hour, always had to sit on the aisle at the movies and on a plane, and would drive my friends and family crazy on car rides. Now, I can go for hours at a time! I'm not really sure why or how things changed, but I noticed the difference immediately after I delivered my daughter."
4. Your c-section scar becomes the baby gift that just keeps on giving.
While I don't feel the same way about stretch marks, I do regard my c-section scar as a badge of honor. And anyway, it's so low as to never see the light of day. But, I did notice—with some alarm at first—that it remained red or purple for a full two years following my twins' birth. And I sometimes feel rare phantom pains or itching there.
Other moms reported varying concerns about their scars: "Two years later, my c-section scar still makes it uncomfortable to wear a lot of pants," one mom said.
"My youngest is 9 in December and my scar still hurts sometimes. WTF?" mused a second.
And a third mom had all of us beat: "My youngest is 12 and mine itches still!"
5. Your body decorations may deteriorate.
Remember when you got that cute navel piercing or tattoo around your lower abdominal region? Yeah, your body looked a lot different back then, huh—and so did the adornment you chose.
"That navel piercing stretches out into a hideous long, visible scar and messes up your navel permanently. It never goes back," one mom said. "And any cream that says it can prevent scarring and stretch marks is lying!"
And as for the ink, one tatted mom wrote, "That tattoo you got just above your bikini line—it's never gonna look the same again. My (ill-advised) four-leaf clover isn't so lucky as it used to be!"
6. You might even become Big Foot.
...at least compared to your old size, and at least temporarily—if not permanently. More than one mom mom I polled wrote that her feet grew in pregnancy, stay that new, larger size, and resulted in the need to get rid of all of those cute pre-pregnancy shoes. And that can certainly be expensive as well as frustrating. (In my case, my feet grew just enough to be uncomfortable in close-toed shoes—and for less than six months before going back. So don't toss everything too quickly!)
7. Tearing happens.
"I got stitched back up after a pretty bad tear, and things didn't heal… correctly," one mom said. "It's like putting a puzzle together when all the pieces are waterlogged and the dog has chewed them up."
Another mother echoed the sentiment: "Third-degree tear here. Part of my insides just sort of hang outside now."
8. Your periods might change.
If you thought you knew the natural monthly rhythms of your body—you might need to think again after baby. "I wish someone had warned me about how bad your periods are once you've had kids," one mom wrote. "It's like The Shining over here, and thanks to two natural births, tampons aren't all that effective at staunching the flow." Another mom reported such a heavy flow after giving birth that she had to switch from tampons to a menstrual cup.
9. The cargo shifts.
I did get back to my pre-pregnancy weight after about six months of working hard at it. And I was pretty proud of that. But no one adequately explained to me that regardless of your body weight, "the cargo shifts," as a fellow mom once colorfully chirped. Said another blunt mama: "You know your stomach will grow and hopefully shrink. You know your vag is gonna stretch and maybe go back. But no one talks to you about how wide your a** is gonna get and how your hips will probably never narrow again." And yet another put it succinctly and clearly: "This is simple, but something everyone avoids saying: It will never return to what it was before you became pregnant. It's a simple, unavoidable truth." And that's totally OK, mamas. You're not alone.