warning: gross childbirth related descriptors ahead
After an intense seven hour labour, my first child was forcibly extracted from my body in the wee hours of a stifling summer morning. The resulting wounds were unpleasant and a bit traumatic. Upon leaving the hospital, the doctor reminded me, “Don’t put anything inside yourself for at least six weeks.”
Right…the way I felt, Jason was lucky I didn’t recoil in horror at the mere sight of him stepping into the shower!
A recovering vagina isn’t exactly a happy place. You know how wounds are, right? As they heal, they tend to weep and lymph and ooze. Along with the healing wounds and the normal lochia sloughing out of the uterus, it’s a mess (thankfully a temporary one). And there is a certain smell. It’s not really bad, but it is strange. There is the metallic bloody smell coupled with body fluids. I found it to be a weird buttery popcorn and red wine smell. I know, that is too much information.
Get ready for more!
My freshly extracted baby smelled just like me! When I held him close and smushed my nose into his soft newborn skin, I could smell a very faint buttery popcorn and red wine smell. The smell was very strong when he pooped, which made sense because the first poops come from what the baby injested while inside the womb – so in other words, the baby was pooping out the same stuff that was dripping out of me and into the man-sized mother pads I stole from my hospital room.
Anyway, I healed and stopped smelling so strange and my baby developed his own smell as he began eating something other than amniotic fluid.
I found his little baby smell utterly intoxicating. His poop wasn’t pleasant but overall, I just couldn’t get enough!
But I don’t normally find other babies so aromatically pleasing. And other people probably don’t enjoy the scent of my children.
Case in point: a visiting friend was cuddling with my infant RJ when he burped in her face. She said, “Phew, formula breath!” She confided that the breasted babies she knew smelled better. She wasn’t saying my baby was over-the-top stinky, but she obviously wasn’t in love with his scent.
I do not have breast fed babies and therefore cannot say if formula fed babies are stinkier. However, I didn’t find my firstborn to be foul smelling. My second born smelled absolutely disgusting until his dietary issues were sorted out. Then he smelled just as good as my first baby.
Did other people find my formula fed babies to stink? Probably!
But I didn’t! Which leads me to conclude that the primal and instinctual connection we have with our young does indeed extend to scent. Mammals often know their young by their smell. Humans don’t rely on scent because we don’t have to. But that doesn’t mean the instinct isn’t there, buried under centuries of technological and societal advancements.
My baby grew in me and came out of me. We smelled the same and we belonged together. We then spent months (and years) entwined in various embraces of feeding, playing, and cuddling. I never knew about the scent connection until I gave birth. It’s strange, fascinating, and wonderful.