The Ultimate Snow Day: What It Really Feels Like to Have a Newborn

A couple of weeks ago, we were chatting with a friend who recently had a baby. After the routine pleasantries—“He is so adorable,” “You look amazing,” and “How magical is motherhood?”—the conversation got real. We started to dish on the unbelievable fatigue, the shower drain-clogging hair loss, and the daily outfit dilemma (nothing fits my top or my bottom!).

Let’s face it: those first few weeks can be pretty blustery. To quote a fellow member of the new mom club: “That first month is like one long snow day. You hang out in your PJs, you eat lots of comfort food, and you lay around on the couch.” Your days snowball into nights and avalanche into the next day. It’s one big mental blizzard.

And although many of you will bring your little ones home during a heat wave in August, when snow days are far from your mind, you get the concept. It’s that never-ending feeling of being in a daze. Not only are you utterly exhausted, but you are also completely confused: nipple pads, Diaper Genies, and breast pumps. It’s like speaking a foreign language. It makes you want to bury your head in your pillow, pull up the covers, and take a long nap. But you can’t. Motherhood calls.

At some point, you will have to put on regular clothes, you will have to cook yourself a meal, and you will have to leave your apartment. You will have to go back to normal. And finding out how to adapt to that new normal can be tough—it’s hard for even the most seasoned mothers. It’s important to remember that things will be “chilly” when getting your cadence down, but with time, help, and patience, things will get easier.

Take it from us, former members of the new mom “snow day club.” Motherhood, particularly those first few months, will throw you lots of snowballs. Some will land softly, and some will hit you smack in the face. But wherever they hit, you can brush them off and get back up.
The sun is on its way out!

Going, Going, Gone: Hair Loss in the Postpartum Period

Staring at the mirror in the postpartum period can be rough: black circles under your eyes, stretch marks on your thighs, and a belly that looks like it is still carrying a baby. And if that’s not enough to make you feel really awesome, a couple of months after delivery you begin to notice that the drain of your shower is clogged with hair. Bald spots on your forehead abound, and you begin to wonder what in the world is going on. How can those luscious locks go from plentiful to pitiful in just a couple of short months? Are you losing your hair along with your mind from lack of sleep? No, not really. While you might be losing your mind from lack of sleep, you are losing your hair from a massive change in the hair cycle.

Yes, hair has a cycle. It grows in phases and in stages; anagen, catagen, and telogen. And unlike other stages or cycles, when it comes to hair all three occur on one noggin simultaneously. So while the majority of hair (about 85%) on one’s head is in the anagen phase, one hair strand can be resting in telogen while another can be growing in anagen. You still with us? In addition to the various stages, the hair cycle is actually fairly lengthy, with a growth of about  .5 inches/month. This might give you pause before chopping it all off! While the length of time a hair spends in anagen is largely determined by genetics, in general, the longer hair is in anagen, the longer it will grow.

During pregnancy, there is a substantial increase in the growth or anagen phase relative to the resting or telogen phase; this translates into that Pantene commercial-like hair that you see while carrying your plus one. It flows, it glows, and it really never looked so good. A common misconception is that this unprecedented growth is the result of prenatal vitamins. And while prenatal vitamins are good for you and for your baby, they are not the reason behind that magnificent mane. High levels of estrogen prolong the anagen or growth phase. So rather than having 85% of your hair in growth and the rest in transition or rest, you may have 90-plus percent in growth while you are growing your little one. This translates into some luscious locks while pregnant! Side note…extra hair growth does not only occur on your head. It will also be seen in some of your not-so-favorite places (a.k.a. bikini line, armpits, legs, and lips). Bottom line, you may become quite friendly with your local beauty salon.

Postpartum, the ratio is reversed, and about one to five months after delivery, telogen takes the lead. With “T” in the lead, months of hair loss follow (UGH!). And in contrast to the normal loss that occurs daily when not pregnant (take a look at your brush…we all lose about 50–100 strands on a normal day), post-partum hair loss can last for up to 15 months.

Breastfeeding will worsen the situation and promote continued hair loss (what else will this kid take from me?). Continuing to take vitamins, maintaining healthy habits, drinking lots of water, and getting as much sleep as possible (yes, we get that the last one is impossible!) can help get things back on track. Additionally, modifying your hair regimens and treatments may also have a positive impact on your ponytail. So while you may have been dreaming about going back to your Keratin treatment, it is best to talk to your GYN and your hair stylist; they will likely have some good tips on how to treat your tresses.

The postpartum period is often dominated by creativity. And while we don’t mean drawing and designing, we do mean thinking of ways to do things with one hand, one minute of freedom, and what may feel like one functioning brain cell. Coming up with novel hairstyles and clothing options also require creativity. Given the hair loss, you may need to employ bandanas and sweatbands to cover your hairline. But despite these short-lived innovative styles, your hair will come back. It may not be exactly the same (unfortunately, almost nothing really is, post-baby), but you will be able to brush without going bald—we promise!

Pain in the Butt: Hemorrhoids

Talking about your tush, particularly what’s coming out of it and how you feel when these things come out, is no one’s idea of a good dinner conversation. Even during a ladies’ lunch, it’s rare to hear someone say, “So, do you have pain with defecation?” And no matter what you like to call it (defecation is the medical way to say bowel movement), most of us don’t like to call attention to our bowel habits. However, after pregnancy and delivery, pooping can become a pretty big problem. Here’s why…

Pregnancy is a pressure-filled time (and we are not referring to the pressure of knowing that a baby is about to come and change your whole life). During pregnancy, your blood volume increases, you hold on to more fluid, and you usually gain a fair amount of weight. All of these pluses lead to an increase in the pressure bearing down on things like your ankles, your joints, your pelvis, and even your rectum. The local pressure on the anus can lead to varicosities (dilated/swollen blood vessels) in the anal canal (a.k.a. hemorrhoids). Additionally, constipation, a common complaint of pregnant and postpartum women, will make matters worse and will increase the pressure on an already pressured system.

Although hemorrhoids come in two “varieties” (internal and external), most of us are only aware of the external ones. The reason is that the internal ones are sort of invisible. They rarely cause pain or discomfort and only present themselves with rectal bleeding. Therefore, unless you go looking for a cause for the bleeding, you probably won’t find them.

External hemorrhoids, however, are much “flashier.” They cause a pretty good amount of pain with defecation and often move, or prolapse, to the outside of the anus after a bowel movement. On occasion, blood clots form within these prolapsed external hemorrhoids, making them doubly painful. The extra blood will not only cause extra pain but it can also turn the hemorrhoid a bluish purple color, which can cause a good amount of fear. However, the reality is that even though they look and feel bad, they are not dangerous or serious. No matter how little we may talk about hemorrhoids, they are super common, particularly in the last trimester of pregnancy (when pressure is at its peak) as well as during the post-partum period. As you can imagine, labor and all that pushing will not help the hemorrhoid situation, and most women report even more hemorrhodial discomfort (pain, bleeding, rectal itching) in the postpartum period. Not fun.

And while hemorrhoids can be a major pain in the butt, there are many treatment options available, even for pregnant women. From the most basic (anti-inflammatory, anti-itching, and pain relief creams) to the most aggressive (surgery), we have ways to take care of those hemorrhoids and those nagging symptoms. Additionally, changing your diet and increasing fluid and fiber intake can decrease constipation. Decreased constipation = less pushing = less pressure on the rectum = less hemorrhoids.

How your bottom feels can be the basis of how bad (or good) your day is. Let’s face it, we all need to sit, and we all need to have bowel movements—without pain. If you dread defecating, you need to dial up your OB/GYN. Although talking to anyone about your tush seems totally off limits, it’s a pretty standard part of an OB/GYN’s day. We hear this stuff all the time. And if we can’t help you return to the toilet without terror, we have many GI (gastroenterology) friends who can. We promise your hemorrhoids are not here to stay.