Postpartum is HARD
Postpartum is HARD. That’s quite the understatement though isn’t it? I think I speak for most of us when I say that I didn’t have the slightest clue what the postpartum period would be like. I knew it would be an adjustment physically, mentally and emotionally. I mean I knew there would be bleeding and pain and maybe even stitches. I knew it would mean maxi pads and tucks pads and heating pads and breast pads. I knew there would be ice packs, ibuprofen and more time in bed than out of it. I knew it would mean figuring out life with a tiny new beautiful baby. I knew that my bed, my baby and myself would be quite the milky mess while my supply tried to regulate. I anticipated and prepared for easy to make dinners that my hubby could throw together. I had a list of friends and family that could pitch in and help at any point whether it be with housework, taking care of my other children or watching the baby so I could get even a few hours of uninterrupted rest. I had been through this twice before, so I thought I knew what postpartum is. Postpartum is real. Let’s face it, you can’t sugar coat it for yourself. You can clean it up a bit for others and keep the darker aspects to yourself. But that’s the real problem isn’t it? If we always keep the darkness to ourselves how do we expect new mommas to know what they’re really in for? How can we change the way postpartum is viewed if we aren’t willing to share what it’s really like? I knew it would be hard, but boy I didn’t realize how hard. Postpartum is BOLD, FIERCE, RAW and so damn BEAUTIFUL.
Postpartum is looking in the mirror and not recognizing yourself. I mean she kind of looks like you, like she could be a sister, but that’s definitely NOT you. She’s not the you that you know. No, this woman, she’s different. She has a scale that reads numbers that are foreign to her. There’s stretch marks all over her body. Her skin is loose and wrinkly. There’s bags under her eyes and spit up on her t-shirt. She hasn’t showered since God only knows when and she looks So. Damn. Exhausted. Then comes the realization that THAT woman, the one looking back at you in the mirror, yeah that IS you. The woman you once knew is long gone. There is a pit in the bottom of your stomach and a knot in the back of your throat as tears silently fall down your cheeks. You turn away from the mirror because it’s easier than trying to face your new reality. You wipe the tears away and take a deep breath because you somehow have to pull it together and woman up and accept that this is you now. Postpartum is being so damn frustrated with yourself that you can’t help but to break down in tears. Your house is a disaster. The dishes have overflowed onto the counters, there is a mountain of laundry that includes every bodily fluid known to mankind. You haven’t slept longer than two hours at a time in days. Your brain is the equivalent of scrambled eggs. You’ve had a migraine for a week. Your body isn’t cooperating the way you need it to. You know you need to eat but you would much rather sleep. You’ve basically given up on yourself and everything else. Relationships are put to the test. Whether it be your relationship with your significant other, your parents or in-laws, friends or extended family members. Often times, your circle becomes pretty small. You learn who is really there for you after you have had a baby. You’ll lose some friends, especially if they haven’t had children of their own yet. You become more distant with some family members, not on purpose, because you have less time for socialization. Your priorities have changed. Your focus has shifted from your own life to the life of someone else, to their health and well-being. Postpartum is a complete loss of self-identity. It’s like your sole purpose in life now is to keep this tiny person alive and healthy. You feed, burp, bathe, rock, sway, sing, change diapers, bounce, clean up puke and poop. Wash. Rinse. Repeat. All day long. Feeding becomes one hell of a chore. You cringe at the thought of that beautiful baby latching onto your incredibly sore nipples. They are red and tender and blistered and cracked and bleeding and you know that latch is sure to bring the tears back. Your let down feels like a million needles trying to escape from your breast. Engorgement is no joke, it’s like walking around with boulders attached to your chest. If you’re lucky those first few weeks you won’t end up with a latch problem, clogged milk duct or mastitis. Self-care is almost non-existent. Every few hours you go to the bathroom and fight back tears while the urine burns any stitches or hemorrhoids that remain. You go through more maxi-pads than you ever even thought imaginable. Rinse bottles, anesthetic spray, tucks pads and ice packs become your best friend. If you’re lucky you can squeeze in a 5 minute shower for yourself and maybe even brush your teeth. Anything beyond that is a damn miracle. You can definitely forget about putting on actual clothes each day, or even changing out of your pajamas for that matter. Yet still, somehow at the end of the day, you wouldn’t change it for the world.
You fall into a rhythm that comes as natural to you as breathing. You learn the difference between each and every cry. Your heart is filled with so much love and purpose when the realization comes that your voice is the only one that can calm your baby. Knowing that there are billions of people in this world and all they want is you. All they need is you. The sound of your voice, the smell of your skin, the feel of your heart beating underneath your chest, and they are home. You are their home. The center of their universe. It is the purest form of love and until you have experienced it for yourself, it is completely unfathomable. You reach a whole new level of serenity during that 3am feeding when the whole house is silent and it’s just you and your sweet little babe. As you stare into their little eyes and take mental note of every beautiful tiny little detail of their face. You watch their eyelids grow heavy and their blinks get slower until they drift back off to sleep. You watch their little chest rise and fall with every God given breath. The sweet smell of their skin becomes completely intoxicating. The sheer perfection is incredible. To know that you created this little person. You felt every little wiggle and squirm and kick and nudge as they developed and grew inside your womb. You waited nine whole months to meet each other and now that they are here, you have forgotten about every ounce of discomfort and pain and fear that led to that point. None of it matters anymore, not even the postpartum struggles. The pain, the exhaustion, the rollercoaster of emotions, the lack of self care, the loss of friends or self-identity, none of it matters. Every bit of it is temporary. You get to watch yourself and your partner morph into the perfect parents. Watching your partner form a bond with your baby gives you so much more gratitude and admiration for them. It makes whatever little bickering arguments that you may have had seem completely irrelevant. The two of you have made it through the hard times together. You have created and brought this beautiful baby into this world together. The gratitude and admiration that you have for each other supersedes everything. It strengthens your relationship like nothing else can. So yes, dear momma, postpartum is HARD. But it is short lived. Hold on tight to those serene moments. Snuggle with your baby just a little longer before laying them down. Appreciate every little detail. Those are the moments that will last a lifetime. Breathe it all in, because before you know it, those days will be long gone. By: Katie Jaeger *I understand that this does not portray every woman’s experience and women who are recovering from a cesarean section, choosing to bottle feed or formula feed, or who may not have a partner or support system may experience the postpartum period very differently. This was written as a combination of my experiences from all three of my postpartum periods.