Mum-Shaming Myself: Post-Partum Body Comparison

Gumption and mental grit may be the badge of honour you earn after a second or third baby.

It took some getting used to my body not “bouncing back” this time around. 3 months after my first birth I was well on my way to becoming leaner and fitter than ever before, but with my second baby it just did not happen.

With the challenge of having 2 children to care for I had decided not to add the stress and anguish of looking as if I hadn’t had a baby this time. Whereas my first experience left me obsessing over it, somewhat unhealthily.

Having a second baby, I almost assumed my body would know what to do, how to bounce back yet again. But realistically I was 4 years older, 2 months off the age of 30, with a differing lifestyle. Going for walks with the baby in the pram has only happened a handful of times, as the opportunity was not available when I was free and willing to do so. Yet I could get out of the house daily before and walk for an hour with Zac sleeping away.

When my efforts fortified, hearing compliments became like a drug to me. “You look as if you haven’t had a baby at all!”. Had I beaten the mum-bod curse? Had I made it to the elusive MILF status? The most important question, now that I have experienced both sides, is it really that fucking important anyway?

There are enormous amounts of content bolstering motherhood, how you have earned stripes, how you should be proud of your body regardless of the opinions of others. But I found myself so hung up on them and using them to fuel myself when I should have been fuelling my own fire. When I should have been caring less about how the comments made me feel and cared more of how I felt about myself when I looked in the mirror, and what was behind the lense I was viewing myself with.

So here I am now. Another baby into my story and convincing myself it is okay to love my body when I don’t have other people telling me I look lovable by their standards.

Social media hurts to look at when you feel something between admiration and utter envy of famous personalities ability to regain pre-baby bodies within a couple of months. You almost look for those who appear to seem human and take their time and who still have mum tum in the “9 months in and 9 months out” photo.

A 15 minute workout these days is manageable on the odd occasion. For sake of sanity and for what my dismal energy stores allow. Keeping a form of muscle conditioning is important to me for the longevity and quality of my life but it cannot always take precedence over my responsibilities as a Mum, having a job and being a wife.

One day this will seem trivial. Spending time tossing up between wanting for my first post partum physique and being proud as hell for what this body aided me to do.
That little pouch sitting over my lower abs will always exist. It reminds us of the human life we grew inside there, and that miracles can seem impossible but occur right before our very eyes. Our breasts will be forever changed. They even scare you to look at sometimes. I can even see and feel that my pelvic bones changed placement with each pregnancy. That is awe inspiring. This body, those bones, literally moved great distances as far as they are concerned and birthed two children.

We may sit back and judge other women who seem to be completely unaffected by one or more pregnancies, but we never know their true story, what change was made to their physicality or what changed inside their brain.

Gumption and mental grit may be the badge of honour you earn after a second or third baby.

Gaining an understanding of temporary frustrations and learning that this precious baby and toddler phase speeds by so fast could be the perspective we gain. Maybe even the realisation that fitness can be earned, we can gain it back. It is not like a rare unicorn that can never be caught. That mental toughness though, that is brought about by dealing with the hard stuff that life will throw at you. You can read books and listen to podcasts but nothing can train your brain quite like living through a testing time and coming out the other side of it.

These thoughts get me through. And exposing myself to realistic, healthy and likeminded women or men who share honest takes of how they reach their goals.

Letting go of expectations to be like the “old me” gets easier when I feel the comfort of experience and knowledge gracing my daily mothering abilities. How good is wisdom?

Until next time,

Sha xx

Image may contain: 2 people, including Shaara Lee Horin, people smiling, people standing and child

For positive Mums on IG:

@emilyskye @reviejane

For some realness:
@garyvee

Gary Vayerchuck

The Things Nobody Told Me About Pregnancy And Childbirth

What I really looked like within the hour after childbirth (and a shower). Smudged makeup, tired eyes, relief beyond explanation and shock.

Often I wondered why no other woman told me the gory details of their pregnancy and birthing experiences. Being a person that loves to research and know what situation I am walking (or waddling or pushing) myself into, I was utterly bemused as to why all of the women in my life withheld information. Oh the betrayal! After my second child I gained more perspective. They didnt want to SCARE me. Plus there is so much to tell that it sometimes is best to let a person process it alone. Not everyone wants to know what they are in for. Also being a classic oversharer, after my first baby I would tell anyone about any snippet of my experiences, whether they wanted to know or not!

Now, I present you with a choice. See, this benefits me and I get to respect the easily-queezy folks boundaries by telling you that this is where you need to exit the article if you don’t like to know all of the deets of my experiences.

Nobody told me…I’d grow insane amounts of hair when pregnant. Like, alot of hair. I had to maintain at least 4-6 weekly appointments just to trim it and thin it out. The colour may also change. You would be surprised the information an experienced hairdresser can tell you about yours (and your babies) hair when you’re knocked up. My nails also grew like they were on roids.

Nobody told me…I would get debilitating sciatica pain which felt like lasers shooting down my butt, inner thighs and hamstrings. It’s usually due to pelvic instability as result of the relaxin hormone but SHIT does it hurt. You become afraid of sitting, standing, pooping. Everything!

Nobody told me…you have trouble pooping when pregnant. And god help you if you have low iron and need to take supplements. Not only is it painful, but irregular pooping makes people cranky and short fused. It does for babies and kids, why wouldn’t it for adults. Hint: use Iron Melts if you need a supplement. Second time around I was way less backed up.

Nobody told me…hemorrhoids. Enough said.

Nobody told me…. I would get varicose veins when pregs. Everywhere. Even around my uterus. Yep. If you have ever felt the aching of the nasty buggers in your legs. Imagine that in your midsection and downtown. And there is literally nothing you can do about it. Thanks genetics.

Nobody told me…The exhaustion when pregnant is next level. Sure, when baby is here you are a mum-bie but when you are uncomfortable and unwell due to carrying a tiny human, then trying to manage other tiny humans and possibly working at the same time. Well, let’s just say we ate a lot meals courtesy of Menulog and EatNow.

Nobody told me…heartburn is an absolute pest of thing when you’re knocked up. It’s logical, there is less space for food in your tummy so it pops back out to say hello if you eat too much too quickly.

Nobody told me…you can get extraordinarily painful migraines that turn you into a sloth for days at a time.

Nobody told me…. my second pregnancy would be more uncomfortable than the first. Any symptoms I experienced the first time around were amplified ten fold. Hip and back pain being the main offender.

Nobody told me…. I may find it more difficult to lose weight the second time around. Zac was too old for a pram but wouldn’t ride a bike so I couldn’t go for walks like I did with him. Plus juggling two kids at once meant I found it tough to make meals myself.

Nobody told me…I would not necessarily know the signs of labour. Both labours were spontaneous but I mistook early labour each time for active labour. You would find me bouncing on fitness balls and walking half up and half down on gutters, having baths and showers hoping it would kick start the real deal!

Nobody told me…the buildup to the pushing sensation feels like you need to do a number two. And it makes you paranoid that you ARE pooping. I didn’t poop, well my husband and doctor never let on that I did. I’m happy to keep it that way even if the opposite is true.

Nobody told me…delivering the placenta is like going through childbirth again. It was not as painful for me but there were similarities. The OB pulls it out by the umbilical cord which I found really strange.

Nobody told me…if you tear, it doesn’t tear cleanly and in the places you thought. I had a couple of grazes and tears with Zac. One was a lightning bolt shape and went upwards, not to the side or bottom. Ouch.

Nobody told me…you need to pace how you push to avoid tears and added discomfort. In the movies you don’t see the doctor telling the women to slow down after a certain point of pushing, not often at least. I escaped my second delivery with a minor graze because I paced it out with breathing and waiting for contractions.

Nobody told me…you have a choice in how you are treated by nurses and doctors in labour and what medications you receive. Unless the baby is distressed, it is up to YOU how you labour and deliver. I was meek and lacked confidence with my first which resulted in delivering in a way I was not happy with. Speak up or get your partner to be your voice!

Nobody told me…you might burst blood vessels in your eyes and around your body from the extreme pushing. You will also feel sore afterwards as if you completed the biggest workout of your life.

Nobody told me…there will always be a little pouch where your baby belly was. Sure you can work on it and pose so it disappears slightly, but you always know it is there. I am proud of mine.

Nobody told me…. things do not always go to plan. You write a birth plan or at least think about one. Many close friends and relatives of mine had several interventions with their labours they never anticipated. And as you may know, my first labour was extremely fast while my second was 4 times the length.

Nobody told me…you may turn into a complete nutbag after birth. Not just if you get the baby blues (usually day 3 post partum but mine was worse after 4) but also for MONTHS after delivery. I am a hormonal woman at the best of times but the rages and emotional breakdowns post partum can really test relationships. I remember completely losing my shit at Shane for not mopping the floor when we first got home with Zac. Prior to which he had been travelling direct between work the hospital and briefly home and was in a car accident. Hormone monster!

Nobody told me…after birth pains can be just as painful as labour. And you might be able to put your hand in a gap between your abs. It feels like you are wearing a strangers body.

Nobody told me…you could cry at the drop of a hat. Shane told me a story about a footballer and I cried. Any news other than mundane daily things, I would cry. Happy, sad, angry, excited. All the feels.

Nobody told me…my hair would fall out post partum at alarming rates that even scared my 4 year old. The hair goes everywhere. I gagged when I pulled some out of Judd’s mouth. Sorry mate.

Nobody told me…you frow strange “baby” hairs on your sideburns that cannot be tamed by any product or treatment!

Nobody told me…breastfeeding may simply not work out for you. And the guilt lasts forever. The judged feeling you may never forget. But you will also never forget that your baby gained weight, was healthier and your post natal depression improved when you decided to formula feed. It was what worked for me and my family. And you will always look on at other women feeding their babes with an appreciation for the effort they put in regardless of how they feed. Fed is best whether boob, bottle or tube.

Nobody told me…mum brain is real. It increases with each child. They steal your memory!

Nobody told me…having a baby can bring out the most confident version of yourself! It forces you to step outside the box and speak to strangers who dote over your children, or ask strangers where the nearest parents room is. Or apologise for your child crying at an obscene pitch (even though you shouldn’t have to, you still do).

Nobody told me…. you might make amazing friends from having babies. Parents group, kids activities and sports, kinder or daycare all present more opportunities for you to meet like minded people. It is incredibly empowering finding another mum or dad to bitch about children with, and celebrate the wins of course!

There are so many more things about pregnancy and childbirth than the above but they really are unique to each womans experience. Which I am sure is why they are aren’t always shared.

Having children is a significant life event where you will be forever changed. So much emotion in such a short time. Enjoy what you can because before you know it your little ones are walking, talking and will not need your cuddles as much as before.

Until next time.

Sha x

When Your Second Labour is Longer Than Your First

When Your Second Labour is Longer Than Your First

“Well Shaara, looks like Hubby will need to learn to deliver a baby because this labour will be much faster than the first”. Not true for everybody and I am GLAD that didn’t happen to me.

After the 2.5 hour labour with my first, my body went into shock for around 12 hours and I shook that whole time as if I was about to perform a public speech.

Doctors and experienced parents share the notion that if a mothers body has already done the stretching and adjusting once (or many) times before then it usually means the next time you birth a babe it will come out much faster. I’m sure for a vast majority of women this happens but for whatever reason my second labour resulted in 3 days of early labour and 8 hours active.

When you first discover you are pregnant with baby number one you begin to write a plan. An idealistic, dreamy birth plan that may include a fitness ball, yoga music, relaxing back massages, burning essential oils and overpriced candles while you lay in a warm birthing pool repeating mantras and affirmations in your mind as each contraction comes and goes like waves off a tropical island. Well, that is pretty much what my plan was with Zac and as you may already know, it certainly did not happen. {You can read about that here}.

Our second baby, Judd (JJ), decided to take his time.

At the beggining of last year, after our dreamy American honeymoon, we decided we had recovered from the rollercoaster of the first child and took the plunge to procreate once more. Since Zac was more independent it seemed like a good time to try for another as I was no longer helicopter mum-ing him all day, therefore thought I had enough energy. Lol. Oh the naivety of past me.

Eventually July comes along and the pee stick reveals we had another Horin on the way. I was so happy and emotional that I burst in on Shane showering, shoved the test in his face and waited for his reaction. He probably won’t want me sharing this but he had more tears than I did and struggled to get any words out. Being a Dad and growing our family meant so much to him and he was ecstatic that we managed to make another little jelly bean.

The early days were once again filled with nausea and exhaustion. But this time I knew why and I must admit that I took it much easier on myself pyschologically. This was after I thought it a wonderful idea to shovel stones and move wheelbarrows like I did when pregnant with Zac. My back was angry at me but my husband was angrier. After I’d learnt my lesson, gone was the pressure to behave like a superhuman and in came the more relaxed, self-caring version of myself. I looked forward to seeing that baby bump and feel the tiny flutters of first movements. It was a special time and apart from my back and hip issues (hello sciatica!) and initial first trimester sickness, I was astounded at how mentally stable and excited I felt. This was planned and I am a planner.

The months roll by and I was swept away on a suprise luxury getaway to Daylesford for our first wedding anniversary. It was like the babymoon we never had. I pondered whether my husband had really been working those overtime hours because the guy I married, while I love him dearly, is probably the least formally romantic guy I’ve ever met. Sorry babe, but you know you are. He books the most amazing couples massage and at this point I am a sloth like creature who struggles to stay awake for 2 minutes after dinner let alone reward the man for his efforts 😉.

Along rolls the end of January and I am waddling like an Emperor Penguin. I certainly did not expect this level of discomfort in a second pregnancy, in fact, I thought it would be easier. Again, who the hell is this naive and ignorant voice in my head feeding me lies? It was a tough pregnancy physically this time and in the height of summer. My boss let’s me finish work early as she feels sorry for me – thanks Mum (benefits of working with family). This gives me more energy and time to devote to Zac’s first days of kinder.

February comes along and a week before my due date I start to feel some light pains in the evening. Thinking nothing of it, I ignore and continue watching a marathon of The Amazing Race. After some time I realise the pains are coming at regular intervals. We time them at about 5-7 minutes apart and call the hospital. As we drive they get stronger and I get concerned we won’t make it on time. Pulling up to the door was like an antidote for labour. As I was being monitored, they plateaued and the nurse suggest I take a bath in their new birthing tub. This was an exciting moment for me. I’d wanted to labour in water but never had the chance earlier with everything accelerating quickly the first time.

Contractions continued to plummet and we left for home in the morning. The next day we decided to go for a walk to help things along. Night came and there I was bouncing on the fitness ball watching The Amazing Race again with regular pains. It did not escalate past the previous evenings levels so we stayed home and once the pains slowed I got some rest. Feeling frustrated, the next day we decided to live life as usual, seeing as baby was hesitating to exit the incubator. So we did. We dropped Zac off at kinder, cleaned the playroom and garage out and headed out to do a big grocery shop at Aldi. By the time we began packing our shopping, pains returned and were intensifying. Determined not to obsess over it, we pick Zac up from kinder. It is at this point I realise the baby would come that day. Taking deep breaths and pausing with the regular contractions, Zac’s kinder teacher explains his day to me and with empathetic eyes asks if I am having contractions at that moment. I nod, unable to speak, hoping some form of motherly telepathic powers kick in. They kind of do and the teacher empathetically glances at me and encourages me to head off.

Still determined, I agree to take Zac to the ice creamery as we had missed his company the last few days. There I was, helping Zac eat ice cream between moments of deep breathing and closed eyes, probably making me look narcoleptic. Not exactly what happens in the movies. I didnt let it bother me.

Again with that horrible guilty conscience of mine, I just wanted to spend time with my boy who I’d been unable to see those last few days. And I knew it would probably be the last moments we had together as a family of three.

We head for the car where, once driving, I instruct Shane to drop Zac off at his parents who happened to live around the corner from the ice creamery. My poor mother in law tries to talk to me but I’m at that level of being unable to speak again. It’s so bizarre when you go through labour again. You know what to expect and yet you do not. There is no way to fully comprehend and be prepared for the experience of birth at any time.

Zac was happy to have a sleepover at his grandparents, me on the other hand cried on the way to the hospital. My big baby had hardly seen Mummy lately and what was about to happen to him would change his little world forever. No longer would everybody notice just him, it would be him and his brother and I hoped he would become proud rather than jealous. An Aunty had bought him a book about becoming a big brother and I knew he was excited, but what if it went all wrong?

The midwife at the hospital was, if I am completely honest, kick ass and so boss at her job. She made lame jokes which relaxed both of us, but probably Shane moreso because he is in his Dad-joke prime right now. Lord help us when the kid are teenagers.

The contractions are stronger and the monitoring system at the hospital sends information to the obstetricians phone. He asks if I would like any intervention to speed things up but I refuse as I wanted the baby to come when he was ready. He stays at home and informs us he will return at 9pm.

They fill the gloriously large bath and I hop in. That warm water was bliss. The contractions were well and truly increasing. Because they are necessary and a sign of birth preparation, they didn’t bother me as much as the back and hip pain I’d felt all pregnancy becoming sharper with each wave of pains. The water relieves the weight of gravity and after over 3 hours I feel the need for the toilet. I did not want to be the one that pushes more than a baby out on the bed. So I request that the nurse begins emptying the bath so I can get out. With the frequency of the contractions I had no idea how I would get to the loo and do my business. I stop the midwife emptying the tub and ask her to put more water in, only to tell her minutes later I need to push. Clearly I had confused what movements were going on down there. Shane is sitting by the bath the whole time, letting me squeeze his arm like a stress ball and massaging me when asked to. That was just a precursor to what I was about to inflict on him. The midwife insists on me getting out of the bath and over to the bed for labour because the hospital is not accredited for water births. I stand up and feel the full weight of my belly and baby on my back and hips, and they begin to burn. The doctor arrives just on time, earlier than anticipated and luckily so. I walk over to the bed, having to stop and lean on the nurse as I concentrate breathing so I won’t scream like a banshee. I have to lie down on my back so that the staff can monitor our vitals. At this point I become very verbal.

“Please can I go on my knees to push. I don’t want to lie down. My back and hips!” That burning, tearing, and disjointing feeling is one I wont forget. The staff reassure me I will be able to roll over and kneel at the head of the bed. I’m fully dilated and feel that uncontrollable pushing return. Kind of like when you need to vomit and can’t stop yourself, not the most pleasant of comparisons, I know. The OB notifies me that waters had not ruptured in the bath as we had suspected and asks would I like him to break them. I’m sure I replied “Yep!” before he finished the question. He proceeds and it ups the ante. Like a tantruming toddler, I keep repeating that I do not want to give birth on my back.

It. Is. Time. With assistance, I roll over to kneel with my arms on the head of the inclined bed. Gas was offered, but after my strange out of body experience last time, I declined. That’s the planner/control freak part of me. Immediately I need to push. This time I had the OB and amazing midwife guiding my pushes. Shane again repeating their words like before but this time coaching me like pro, and I could feel the positive, encouraging vibes from him. With that, I knew I could do it. I just had to overcome the feeling that my lower back and hips were going to split halfways down the middle. This was not a quiet birth, people next door definitely heard my wails and I did not even care. I needed them. Pushing a baby out is bloody hard work. Two or three lung emptying pushes followed by a bunch of little pants and our second baby boy enters the world. I felt a rush of endorphins as I pull JJ through my legs up to my chest and roll onto my back. He is here and he is sure to let us know with his compacted and wrinkly, squelling face. I’d done it and he was perfect.

Looking down at him, tears formed. He had light coloured hair that covered him like a layer of shimmery glitter. I breathe in his smell like it’s the best drug in the world and secretly hope he will be a red head like me. I glanced over at Shane whose smile was ear to ear, eyes full of proud, happy tears. The entire room was alive yet so tranquil. Encouraging comments from the nurses, doctor and my husband were chimed back to me and it dawned on me that I’d managed to pull off a drug free labour as planned, that it was beautiful and I should be proud of myself regardless of the banshee impression. It was almost an indescribable moment, even while my placenta was being delivered. I felt love immediately, not world-upturning shock like my first birth.

I had researched all I could about breastfeeding, getting advice and watching videos. The first latch was painful and awkward and from there it became more difficult. Nurses commented on how red my nipples were and how unusual it seemed. My supply was also problematic and I could not get a comfortable latch (even with the so-called lactation consultants help, later we discover JJ has a lip tie) so after a few days I gave it a rest and pumped exclusively while mix feeding formula. The baby blues hit me and Judd was crying throughout the night. This time I bucked up and asked for help from the nurses. I didn’t want to or have to do it alone.

The nurses made my hospital stay a wonderful memory. Each supporting whatever decision I made. I hadn’t experienced that before and I left hospital with nipple shields, still expressing but knowing deep down that breastfeeding was not for me and my child. I continued to pump. Almost consumed by the idea of being able to eventually breastfeed. But the reality was that for so many reasons I was not capable. I stopped pumping after awakening to the fact that I was clutching at straws. I’d given my baby colostrum. He was mostly fed by formula. Time for me to overcome my pride and put my family first. It took weeks of grieving. Of hiding my tears and ugly crying in the shower. Hormones did not help but I felt like a failure again.

Another moment occurs when it is confirmed why I married my husband. He sits with me while I cry and tells me that I got the labour I wanted. I set out to use a fitness ball, have spaced contractions so I could process what was happening, use a birthing bath at least for pain relief, avoid medications, get back massages AND give birth any way but on my back. If I could have slapped myself I would have. Gratitude hit me and I snapped out of the grieving. I was fortunate to get something I asked the universe for. I should be grateful to have ANY type of food for my baby. I am grateful.

Physically, my recovery was swift. Mentally, that took time. It is a work in progress that I chip away at each and every day. Looking at my beautiful, healthy and loving boys I feel complete. Not in generic way but in a way where it is like your heart has grown and you don’t know how to tell other parents with one child so that they will understand how great it really is. My boys dote over each other. I had always wanted 2 boys. Ask and you shall receive.

Until next time.

Sha x

Just after giving birth
Judd (JJ)
Our boys first cuddles
Walking to help labour along

Resources

If you are a “planning/routine” Mum like me you made find The New Contented Little Baby book helpful. Take advice that is relative and leave the rest.

Your local Maternal Child Health Nurses. A lot changed in 4.5 years and our local MCHN (Cardinia Shire) are much more accepting and constructive than they were previously. I would recommend talking to them if you are not coping or need advice.

St John of God Raphael Services in Berwick are wonderful for PND or Anxiety support