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12 Surprising Possible Realities Of Your First Postpartum Periods

by Jessica Martin-Weber

Sorry for the Buzzfeed style title. It’s that time of the month and there wasn’t enough chocolate to get me through writing this and coming up with a clear yet titillating title too.

The last 5 days we’ve been bleeding our hearts out on The Leaky Boob, Beyond Moi, A Girl With A View, and a little bit with What Love Tastes Like, opening up and sharing all about periods. Free bleeding information and experiences, debunking myths and being honest. In that time we’ve learned a lot. Like a girl having her first period (called menarche), there were a few things that surprised us and at times we found ourselves overly-grumpy. But mostly we felt like we were in good company and that commiserating was cathartic.

Also chocolate. Or bacon. Sometimes chips. And wine.

As we all shared the activities of our uteruses together, we started noticing a pattern. Not completely regular but consistent enough to chart and make a prediction:

Most women will be surprised by their first postpartum periods.

Not all and the surprises weren’t always unpleasant in nature but many women had no idea what they experienced was possible. Like, at all. And they thought they were the only one in the world to experience it.

Since we’ve already aired all our period panties to the world, it’s time to shed some of the mystery like a uterine lining. Here it is, our list of surprising possible realities of your first postpartum periods.

  1. No matter how long your postpartum bleeding lasts (lochia, which is not a period and you can read more about here), it isn’t an indicator of what your postpartum periods will be like.period week is coming
  2. It could take months for Aunt Flo to visit after you have had a baby, even over a year and for some it could be two years. Breastfeeding exclusively makes it more likely your favorite auntie won’t be around for a while.
  3. But it is no guarantee. Because we’re talking hormones and Aunt Flo, there’s only so much you can predict. Don’t be unprepared because you could be one of those that gets it back at 6 weeks postpartum and is like clockwork every month after. Even if you’re breastfeeding and your child never sees another nipple but yours. Yes, even if you’re breastfeeding twins.postpartum period surprise meme
  4. It could take a while to really get going, there could be brown spotting for a few days a month for several months while your body is indecisive. Get your period undies ready.
  5. OR it could come back with a vengeance with a gush that will feel like a scene from Game Of Thrones playing at the most inopportune moment. You may want to have supplies with you at all times just in case.brace-yourselves-cramps
  6. Essentially, there’s no guarantee when you’re going to start riding the crimson tide again after you have a baby.
  7. There’s also no guarantee that it will be the same as what you had before you had your baby. It could be lighter, shorter, and less uncomfortable. It could be heavier, longer and more painful.* Or any combination. Or different every time.
  8. The products you used before may still be your favorites. But you may suddenly hate them. Many women find they want to try something new and don’t be surprised if you see disposables as stinky, uncomfortable, and gradually building a mountain of waste that will be around when your children are having children. Which is a disgusting thought, your period supplies slowly rotting in a landfill when your grandkids are being born. And since you’re more comfortable with the weird things your body does (childbirth can do that to a person), the idea of washing cloth pads or to put a cup in it doesn’t seem so crazy any more. Diva-Cup-Evangelist
  9. If you’re breastfeeding, shark week may mean that your nipples protest someone latching on. Nipple sensitivity AND cramps? So not fair but often so real. Thankfully it usually doesn’t last long and chocolate can help.
  10. Even more annoying, periods and/or ovulation can cause a dip in milk supply if you are breastfeeding. So not only are you annoyed, your hungry baby is too. Most of the time this indicates a magnesium deficiency and supplements may fix this problem (see more here) but only after the most emotional and sensitive time when you have a hungry kid frustrated at your boob. You know what has magnesium? Chocolate. period week chocolate
  11. Just like a girl may experience irregular periods for about a year, postpartum women may find that it takes their cycles a good year to establish a regular pattern. The upside to this is that it is completely reasonable to always eat chocolate since you never really know.
  12. Health care providers may not have a clue what’s going on either. They should and many will but some don’t. You may have to educate them.

Be prepared for anything. Postpartum menses seem to like surprises.

Keep calm and menstruate on

*It is important to note that severe or debilitating pain or extremely heavy bleeding is a sign that something is wrong and may need more than chocolate and wine to address. It is well documented that women are more easily dismissed by health care providers about their pain and discomfort when it comes to health concerns. If your concerns are repeatedly brushed off as being normal but you feel something is wrong or your normal life is disrupted, please speak to your health care provider or find another one. Be persistent until you find one that will take your concern seriously. Menstruation is a normal biological part of life for most healthy child-bearing age women, it isn’t a pathology that women just have to deal with on a monthly basis and if it is interrupting your normal activity and lowering your quality of life, something more serious may be going on.

 

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Have you survived mastitis? How did you get through?

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Jessica Martin-Weber Drawing from a diverse background in the performing arts and midwifery, Jessica Martin-Weber supports women and families, creating spaces for open dialogue. Writer and speaker, Jessica is the creator of TheLeakyBoob.com, co-creator of BeyondMoi.com, and creator and author of the children’s book and community of What Love Tastes Like, supporter of A Girl With A View, and co-founder of Milk: An Infant Feeding Conference. She co-parents her 6 daughters with her husband of 19 years and is currently writing her first creative non-fiction book.

On My Menarche, Menstruation, and Menstrual Misogyny

by Joni Edelman

I started my period when I was 13. This is just slightly behind the American average of 12.8 — I guess my uterus didn’t get the overachiever gene. I was the last of my friends, which was sad for me then, because periods = grown up. At 12, while the rest of my friends were talking about pads, I was skinny, breastless, and without menstruation. I might as well have been 5.

The morning I started my period was the same day I was supposed to sing in church choir with my best friend — who had already had her period for like two years by then. It wasn’t bright blood red, as I expected. I thought I was getting something along the lines of Game of Thrones, instead I got what sort of looked like a poop smear. Since I knew I hadn’t actually pooped my pants, the period was only logical deduction.

It was the best day of my life.

Well, until the cramps. No one told me about the cramps. I went to my mom and showed her my poop/period stain, and she said, “YEP! You’ve got your period.” And she handed me a Stayfree maxi-pad. I don’t know what exactly I was supposed to be free from. The maxi-pad of 1987 was not the thin, super-absorbent pad of today, friends.

Period Week- Joni's 1st image

Look I was in color guard, and we wore tiny bloomers and everyone, I mean EVERYONE, knew when you were on your period. Everyone.

Why? The pads of yesteryear looked more like this:

Period Week- Joni's 2nd image

I know that doesn’t look thick, but trust me, that sucker could have doubled for a whiplash neck brace.

Period Week- Joni's 3rd image

This guy is making neck brace/maxi-pads look hot. They are not hot once placed in your underwear — I assure you.

My mom had never even considered using tampons because “Where does all the stuff go?” I don’t even know what that means, but for me, it meant no one could tell me how to insert a tampon. Also, there was no Google. Also, the tampons of yesteryear weren’t unlike pads of yesteryear. Let’s just say “feminine hygiene” (whatever the hell that is) has come a long way.

Without Google or an experienced adult, I tried to just read the package insert, which featured an anatomical cross-section of the vagina and uterus. No one told me that your vagina doesn’t empty out into your uterus so I was basically terrified to put anything in there, certainly not cardboard.

Here’s what happened: I put one foot on the toilet edge (per package instruction), gritted my teeth, and just shoved it in — half-way.

P.S. A half-inserted tampon A. does not work, and B. hurts. Really a lot.

So, without anyone to tell me what to do, or that I could fix that, or that you weren’t supposed to have something hanging out of your vagina, I walked around miserably for three cycles with a tampon half inserted in my apparent endless tunnel of a vagina. After the half-inserted tampon became too much to bear, I went back to the neck brace and wrapping a sweatshirt around my waist. Obviously.

It never even occurred to me that there might be any alternative choices, or that maybe the choices I had weren’t even really made with me in mind.

I don’t remember when I finally figured out that tampons were meant to go inside your body — like, all the way. But eventually I did and I wore them for most of my adult life; not even considering where they came from or what they meant to me or why they were $7 a box.

They are more than $7 a box now.

Also, they are taxed, like they are some sort of luxurious item. Oh what’s that you say? You don’t open a package of 24 tampons and throw them in your bathtub to create a cushion of pillowy softness upon which you might bathe?

Well you are just missing out. Pillowy bleached chemical-laden softness.

And here’s another thing I bet you haven’t considered, while we should congratulate Science on making a maxi-pad that doesn’t make you looked like you crapped your pants, can we also ask why we ever wore those diaper-pads anyway? I appreciate that this is all better than a rag shoved in your underpants, as was the custom, prior to the advent of the wood-pulp pad in 1888. It probably beats sheep’s wool too (though maybe not, there are so really soft sheep).

The Feminine Protection Industry in the US consists primarily of Tampax, Playtex, Stayfree, and Kotex. Playtex and Stayfree are both owned by Edgewell, which is run by one Ward Klein. Tampax is under the household GIANT Proctor & Gamble, CEO, David S. Taylor. Kotex is a Kimberly Clark product, overseen by Thomas J. Falk.

HOLD ON.

I’m seeing a pattern here. Are you seeing a pattern here (besides the apparent need for a middle initial)? Dudes. All dudes.

Now, while I realize that dudes are often preoccupied with vaginas, I think this has gone too far. And it would be convenient to call me a fem-nazi here, but this is real.

When I was 13, I walked around with $7 worth of cardboard taxed tampons hanging out of my vagina — because no one ever challenged it. No one ever considered that other ways to deal with your period do exist. No one ever considered that the “feminine hygiene” product industry might not actually be designed to benefit women. No one said, own your period, know your vagina, capitalism is bullcrap. We were all just happy with our beltless neck brace maxi-pads and our cardboard miserable to insert tampons.

And then there is the maintenance.

Oh vagina, how do we deodorize thee? Let me count the ways: Powder, spray, wash (who would want their vulva to smell like an Island Splash), wipes, douche, and even extra fancy soap made for ladies. Vaginas actually do not need any accessorizing. They smell like a vagina, because they are a vagina. They have their own little ecosystem that doesn’t need vinegar or backing soda mucking things up. They actually don’t need anything. At all.
A bunch of super rich middle-aged dudes are basically robbing us, by way of our vaginas.

Did you know you can use a sea sponge instead of a tampon?

Not the tampon type? There are pads you can wash. And they are made by WOMEN. I know. It’s weird. Ladies, with jobs and making stuff.

And the menstrual product to rule them all: The Diva Cup. Created, owned and operated by Francine Chambers.

A lady person.

Someone who, ostensibly, also now (or at one time) has had a period.

There’s still a tax on the Diva but Francine isn’t in charge of that.

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I’m Joni. I’m lucky enough to have 5 amazing kids (19, 16, 15, 4 and 2), one fantastic husband, an awesome sister and a yarn addiction. When I’m not raising up people I’m a freelance writer, RN, and the momma behind mommabare. Love is my religion. I like cake and crafty crap. And yoga. In that order.
You can follow Joni on Instagram here and on Twitter here.