Mama Life: "Climb every mountain"
When you become pregnant, there is often more than your belly that grows bigger. Here you can read about my experiences with body changes during and after pregnancy.
Let’s talk about boobs. Now that word would usually get people pretty excited, me included. I used to love my boobs. My much younger self was blessed with round shaped, pretty full looking D cup breasts. I was pretty proud of them. But as soon as we saw those two little lines on that stick, I knew my boobs were in for a real rollercoaster of a ride.
Everyone knows that your boobs go through a few changes during pregnancy and postpartum. But I had no idea just how drastically my boobs, and my relationship with them would change. These changes almost happened the instant we found out we were pregnant. They felt tender and almost tingly, as if they were giving me a heads up – a warning of what was to come. So when all those pregnancy hormones started to really kick in, my boobs began to grow. And grow. And grow! It wasn’t until I went for a wedding dress fitting that I realised just how much they grown. And yes, I was getting married while pregnant. I somehow got it into my mind that it would take my body a long time to fall pregnant after coming of the pill. How wrong I was. I was going to be 13 weeks pregnant at our wedding and my boobs were going to make their debut to the world. I can’t believe I was more worried about my growing tummy fitting into my dress! The seamstress removed the breast pads from my dress, as I certainly didn’t need “filling out” anymore, and I looked at myself in the mirror, hoping to God that you couldn’t see my pregnant belly. And to my relief, no belly was in sight. Instead, all you could see were two voluminous mountains of skin and breast tissue bulging out the top of my dress.
I didn’t have a baby, I had a natural boob job!
Fast forward to my second trimester, and I’m packing away my beautiful, elegant and sexy lingerie and replacing them with stretchy Kmart breastfeeding crops. Cheap, unsupportive and ugly as all hell, but they were the only things that seemed to fit my every growing bosom. By this point I had resigned myself to one size fits all approach. One bra for the rest of the pregnancy. What was the point in spending money on more bras and more sizes, when you can squeeze yourself into the same one everyday and look like a lady of the night. It wasn’t long till I looked like I had four boobs rather than two, as they started to spill over the top of my over-used bra. By the time our baby girl was born, my boobs had not only tripled in size, but had changed shape too! From round, relatively even oranges, to long, pendulous melons. Women don’t have the pregnancy waddle because of their huge bellies. It’s because they have two heavy weights dangling from their chests, acting like a life-sized metronome, throwing them off balance.
I had decided that I wanted to give breastfeeding a go, and so began the next phase of my journey with my mountainous boobs. They, and I, had already been through a lot – changing size and shape. But breastfeeding was about to offer me one more little treat. Nipples. Yes, my nipples had some catching up to do. Unfortunately, by day 4 of having the baby, the balloons I called boobs, now had milk filling up inside of them, which made it incredibly hard for my daughter to latch onto. You would think, big boobs meant easy breastfeeding. But I would choose labour over the initial struggles of breastfeeding any day. The increasing size of my breasts only made it harder, as my nipples became stretched and flattened. I was constantly told by midwives and lactation consultants to “shape the boob” when breastfeeding. The idea was to squeeze my breast between my index and middle finger and guide it into my daughters mouth. But has anyone every tried to shape a watermelon between their two fingers? I sat there, each time I fed her, with all my might, trying to mould my nipples. Even when I was successful, it wasn’t long till they slipped out of her mouth with the sheer size of them, and we had to start all over again.
Ok, so where was I? That’s right, my nipples. Now, if you’re someone who doesn’t like too much information, then you might want to move on from this post. I want this to be an honest and real account of my experiences as a mother, so my nipples are just going to have to make an appearance at some point. My younger brother had the unfortunate experience of realising this new reality, when one day I whipped out my boob, with my nipple raw and in plain sight for him to see. Poor guy didn’t know what had hit him and where to look. From that moment on, I have had to remember to yell out “Boob is coming out!” to warn any onlookers. However ‘mum brain’ is definitely a real thing, so I often forget and seeing my boobs has just become an accepted norm in our family.
Breastfeeding was a challenge to say the least.
Who would’ve thought something so natural and primal, could be so darn hard to master. During those first few weeks, I felt like my now ginormous boobs were failing me. You had one job to do! If I can push an eight pound baby out of my vagina without drugs, why can’t you just shape yourselves into perfect sized teats for my daughter to suck the living daylights out of. Is that too much to ask? Despite being told that my milk might take a bit longer to come in because of the blood loss I had experienced post-birth, I put an enormous amount of pressure on my breasts to perform. It was as if they were an actress with stage fright or an athlete who had worked all their life to get to the Olympics and suddenly freezes mid run. I had big boobs, flat nipples and a hungry baby to feed. So the midwives told me to pump. And pump I did. Before every feed. After every feed. Between every feed. I often sat on the edge of the bed in the middle of the night, holding the pump to my breasts, hoping to God that the loud whirring doesn’t wake up the baby or my husband. The pitiful half price express pump we had bought before the baby arrived, couldn’t keep up with the amount of pumping I did. Therefore we had to buy a better, more expensive one to really pull those flat nipples of mine and suck out that liquid gold.
Once my milk finally came in, I still had to master the fine art of latching. The lactation consultant said she had a special breastfeeding hold for mums like me with mountains for breasts. Lucky me! All I had to do was hold my arm tight to my side to support my boob while simultaneously holding my wriggling daughter. Sounds easy right? Well, today I had an appointment with my physio because my neck and shoulders were seizing up due to the sheer weight I have had to hold from my breasts and growing baby combined. Soon enough my daughter will be a year old and my shoulders will be up around my ears with tension. Either that or my biceps will be as big as Arnies.
We have all seen that meme about the different types of breastfeeding boobs out there. The ‘I forgot which side’ boobs and the ‘baby slept through the night’ boobs. But no one tells you about the pancake boobs. I often would see myself side on in the mirror after a feed, and see my boobs lifeless and flat like a deflated balloon. All I can say is thank god for the invention of bras. Although, it did take until about week 6 of having the baby to find a breastfeeding bra that would fit my now I-cup boobs.
So before you leave this post, I have some advice for anyone out there thinking they might like to have a baby in the future. Yes, you’re body is going to go through changes. How much change is totally dependant upon the individual. But change is unavoidable. I knew that when I got pregnant, that I had to prepare to see my body in a new light. But I had no idea my boobs would be the most drastically affected. With change comes either rejection or acceptance of that change. My advice is, to try your very hardest to accept and hopefully embrace the change. I am not quite at that point yet. My daughter loves my new boobs. My husband definitely loves my new boobs. But I, on the other hand have struggled to look at them the same way as I did pre-pregnancy. This is a mountain I am still climbing, and I know that time and self-care will eventually lead me to like, and one day love my boobs again. So I encourage you to look at yourself in the mirror and stare those boobs right in the “eye”. I want you to say to them: “Yes you will change. I understand this. I might not like this. I might not love this. I might even resent this. But, I will learn to accept this and appreciate them for what they look like and what they can do.” My boobs and I have been through a lot over this past year. They have fed my daughter for over 4 months now. She is thriving because of what my boobs can do. So even though I don’t love them at the moment, I will say this to them.
“Thank you. You’re both pretty awesome!”