Let's Get Real About Postpartum
If you have ever met me you would agree that I am always trying to keep it real. Well lets get real about postpartum! When I scrolled through the list of classes offered to pregnant women I never saw a class called “How to Heal Your Postpartum Self” which by the way I would totally call the postpartum class that I would teach……..
When people find out you are pregnant there is such a focus on the glow. Everyone is so excited about that cute baby and the cute clothes and will ask you all about the nursery theme. But no one looks you straight in the eyes and tells you about all the intense physical pain you will feel and the ocean of tears you will shed in the first 6 weeks and maybe even beyond! Don’t worry this post will not deter you from wanting babies, just like I said above, keeping it real.
I really wish I had taken a class that shared things like, “right after you push out your baby you will feel like you can run a marathon but just take it easy, your reality is only a couple hours away”. What’s the reality waiting for me? Well you may feel like you can run a marathon, heck you just birthed a human being, but once that swelling kicks in, walking to the bathroom will feel like you ran 10 marathons wearing the wrong size running shorts. In the postpartum class that I would teach I would get into the nitty gritty details about the Baby Blues and discuss PostPartum depression beyond a questionnaire asking me if I am “happy”. My son is now 2 months old and only now do I feel ready to share my experience and not start to cry.
I had a really positive experience giving birth to Taj. It makes me cringe when I think back to the conversations people had with me asking if I was going to have a home birth vs hospital or “natural” birth vs use of medication. Did you notice I put natural in quotations. Ya, that’s for a reason. Whether you got an epidural, were induced, floated in a tub in your living room, had a c-section or none of the above, its ALL natural to me. You just spent months growing a human who is now outside of your body. Nature did its thing. Trust me. Let’s stop putting so much pressure on each other to show up in a certain way!
Taj arrived at 6:22am, we moved to our postpartum room at about 10:30am…by 2:30pm I could barely walk 2 meters. No one warned me how bad it would be!!! I mean, I DID read on different mom blogs something about freezing pads soaked in chamomile tea to help get things back to normal but no one ever said it would feel like you just took 30 SoulCycle classes in a row! I was finally realizing my body just went through something very major. I guess that’s the most simple way you can describe birthing a 9lb 13oz baby! Oh and no one ever talks about your first bowel movement after birth…holy smokes! If you want a reality check that you body needs to heal, just wait for that first bathroom experience. Also, I was given fluid during my labour so I was swollen, I barely recognized myself. I don’t understand how some women look so put together in their hospital photos!!! Seriously!
We came home after two days in the hospital and I remember that first afternoon trying to take a nap with the baby. I could not relax! I was nauseated with anxiety. Every coo I heard made my stomach flip flop…I would think “is that a good coo or a bad coo, does he need me or is he dreaming”. My mom had flown in from Canada the same day we came home from the hospital to help us with the settling in. Her own motherly intuition must have told her to come check on me. She opened the bedroom door and I looked up at her and started bawling. Between sobs I asked her why anyone choses to have a baby. And there it is people!!!! Another level of reality was settling in, you got the physical and now this is the emotional…There is a now new soul (or maybe old soul) on this earth who is 100% dependent on me to survive because I chose to make him! WHAT! Talk about your life completely changed. Yes, I felt trapped! Some people fall madly in love the moment they meet their baby and others might need a hot minute. I needed that minute. But the problem is you feel guilty for feeling trapped and questioning whether you have completely destroyed your life as you know it. So here is where I want to say THANK YOU to all the instagram and facebook messages that came in addressing this feeling of panic and shame without me even asking for it. The unspoken solidarity of women reminded me that I need to shed the guilt and know I am not the only one who has ever had this experience.
I shed a lot of tears. I had moments of panic wondering how I will find some degree of my “pre-baby” life back. When I got back on instastory, I think my first post was about how I got into a pair of jeans? We share what we chose to share and I always do my best to be real and authentic because that’s how I think I can connect the most with others, but I wasn’t ready to share about the lows I was feeling. I needed time to understand it more. My mom and Michael could see the ebb and flow of my emotions and were incredibly supportive. Michael would insist we take a 10 minute walk together at a park near our house. They were literally 10 minutes but made a huge difference. My mom would take Taj so I could sleep. The first couple weeks she would take Taj from 8am until 10am, just enough for us to get some solid sleep before getting the day going. I had the ultimate support system. The kind of support you describe in textbooks. Taking a shower in the morning or eating proper meals were not a problem for me because I had the support I wish everyone could have. So why did I still feel sad?
The first two weeks I would tell my mom with resentment that I didn’t even think Taj knew who I was. It didn’t matter who held him, or rocked him. He ate and slept on cue. But then…then a few weeks in, he woke up from his newborn sleep. This light turned on and he smiled. He saw me. And it felt better. Not perfect but better. His stare triggered my feelings of connection. Having a child is major and I am not just talking about the labour. I am forever physically changed, mentally changed and emotionally changed. And so who I was 2 months ago no longer exists and that’s hard to accept. Don’t me wrong, pieces exist but I am now different as a whole. I continue to mourn and process the loss of “me” and am now creating space to redefine who “me” will be.
My mom shared the best piece of advice with me one morning after a hard night. She said “don’t get used to the bad and don’t get used to the good. Every day with your baby will be different”. And she is right. She was referencing Taj and his growth, leaps, ups and downs. But the same goes for me and my healing. Some days will be challenging and some days I’ll find my old self but to not get too attached and be fluid through this time. Thank you mom for this wisdom.
Here are some brief tips I’d like to share. I’ve also made a list of my favorite postpartum products I used for you to check out.
Tips for your weeks 1-6 postpartum healing:
Do not apologize when you cry. I was constantly trying to explain my tears away. Why the heck did I do that?!?! You are allowed to feel whatever you are feeling!! We need to give ourselves a break!
Take 10 minutes for yourself. In my case because I had support from my mom, Michael and I were able to take a daily 10 minute walk. Here we had the chance to regroup as partners, and as husband and wife. But when I’m alone, sometimes it just sitting in the car while Taj sleeps in his car seat for a few extra minutes instead of rushing inside to unpack the groceries.
Set up visiting hours. This was great advice I got from a friend. You will get lots of texts and phone calls from friends who you will miss and want to see. But pace yourself. Or set up specific times during specific days when everyone can drop in. It will be nice to see familiar faces, and you won’t wear yourself out.
You don’t need to answer every text or phone call. This was the hardest for me. My phone never left my hand before Taj was born. I was the most available person that ever existed, or so it felt. But now you have the greatest excuse to not get back to someone. At least that’s what I believe haha! Sorry to all the text messages and emails I have missed the last 8 weeks.
That whole sleep when the baby is sleeping thing…it’s real!!!! I did not do that or even get close to it because I felt like I was having FOMO (fear of missing out) from the rest of the world. And 2 weeks in I caught a cold. My mom and Michael did most of the cuddling with Taj so I could avoid getting my germs on him too much but there is only so much you can do when you are breast feeding every 2 hours. He caught my cold with a mild stuffy nose but oh my god did I feel guilty. If I wasn’t crying enough, the tears rolled down the first night I could tell hear the stuffiness. Also, everything is 10 X worse when you are tired. Lack of sleep is also a risk factor for postpartum depression. It’s not just about sleep, but rest. Just go lay down.
Here is what I would have done differently:
Unplugged sooner. I own my own business, actually multiple businesses. I took a maternity leave from Do It For The Love but not my own businesses. I was taking meetings when Taj was only 2 weeks old and trying to keep up with my emails. This became overwhelming and attributed to my exhaustion. It takes at least 40 days for our bodies to just get over the initial exhaustion.
I wish I had soaked it all in more and seen the beauty in the challenges. Because everything is so temporary, it is so important to enjoy even those ups and downs. It’s not easy to do, but I wish I had tried a bit more. I wish I spent more time just looking at Taj. Sometimes I tell Michael I can’t remember what he looked like when he was only a week old. He laughs and says “he looked the same but smaller” but I really wish I took more relaxed time with him.
Wore my belly band more regularly. It felt really good to have that support when it was on and really I just forgot about it.
I am proud of the last 2 months. I am excited to now be a resource to friends who are on their journey into motherhood. It’s not easy but it really is a miracle.