What I wish Someone Would Have Told Me About Postpartum.
It has been just over six weeks now and I have yet to share Brody's birth story or too many details on our first weeks together besides the little glimpses on instagram. Why? Because I was embarrassed. Embarrassed to admit that I was struggling emotionally. Embarrassed to confess the selfish thoughts that would occasionally pass through my mind. Embarrassed that I wasn't the happy mom and wife who had it all together. But today, I am letting go. Embracing what I learned about myself over those long first weeks of motherhood and truly beginning to find the joy in our new norm.
I spent 12 weeks going through Bradley Method classes to ensure that I knew every detail about giving birth. I had all of the baby gear ready to go and was prepped to heal my body postpartum. It turns out giving birth isn't the hard part. Sure delivering a baby is painful, but it is also a moment filled with an incredible amount of joy, excitement, and heart-exploding love. For me, those beautiful immense feelings quickly started to be replaced with sadness, stress, and frustration. All I had ever wanted was to be a wife and mother and even after waiting an extra two weeks for his arrival, I was so excited to begin my journey into motherhood. However, after the initial excitement wore off I faced an internal battle with motherhood far different than I ever expected or anticipated.
I want to share a few things I've learned in hopes that another new mom or mom-to-be realizes that she is not alone. If you are feeling overwhelmed, frustrated, stressed, like an unfit mother, or all of the above, I've been there. I hope my experiences as a new mom can help you realize that it's normal to feel these things and expressing these feelings to others is the only way to get over them and start enjoying your new life. Here are some things I wish someone would have told me about postpartum.
There is mourning that comes along with becoming a mother.
No matter how prepared we are for the life changes that are going to occur, there is apt to be a period of mourning once our little one arrives. We'll mourn for those sporadic date nights with our husband that didn't require careful planning and a babysitter. We'll mourn for the carefree times when we could just walk down the street to the mailbox without spending ten minutes getting the baby ready to bring with us. We'll mourn the loss of "me-time" we enjoyed so dearly every morning and evening. We'll mourn for the full nights of sleep that left us refreshed and ready to tackle the world. And one day, we'll suddenly look back and mourn that our little one no longer wants to be held. We'll mourn that the hand he used to hold is no longer ours. We'll mourn that our short 18 years together went by far too fast.
Breastfeeding Is Hard.
We are filled with beautiful images of mothers with a peaceful baby on her chest suckling away. In reality, the first few days (perhaps even weeks and months) are much different. Figuring out the positioning for a good latch, feeding constantly at times, sore nipples, the list goest on and on. It doesn't matter how many breastfeeding classes we take (although helpful), it just takes time and practice. We are flung into the responsibility of keeping a human nourished. If that's not a lot of pressure, I don't know what is. Not only is it difficult, but it's messy. Like you-better-sleep-on-a-sponge messy. Our boobs leak, our baby drools a mouthful of milk all over us, our nipples are sore. It can be hard to feel like anything but a milk machine. But one day things will click. We will treasure the messy moments when all our little one cared about was being comforted and nourished by us. Then we will blink and it will all be over.
Marriage will never be the same.
Adding a baby to the mix changes our relationships. There is nothing in the world that was more beautiful than seeing my husband become a dad. From the first moment he held Brody, to the first time he changed a diaper, to watching Brody stare into his eyes -- it's heart exploding stuff. But with a baby comes an initial adjustment period that takes some getting used to. Our once thought-provoking conversations now revolve around everything baby. From discussions about poopy diapers to debates on what to do with our little guys congestion, the adult conversations have taken a hit. You may even find yourself getting jealous of the uninterrupted sleep your husband got one night or jealous that he gets to leave for the day to go to work. I've thought all these things too. But one day down the road we will realize that those moments in the middle of the night with our little one are now treasured memories and those long days alone with our baby at home made for the best job we ever had.
Throw out the schedule.
Our first week at home, I sat down with my calendar and made an insane to-do list. There is nothing that adds to stress like having an unfinished to-do list. During the early weeks, we cannot predict how our day is going to go. Some days we literally hold our babies for 24 hours straight, other days we get a chance to shower while he or she naps. It's too hard to make plans during those times. If I could go back, I would put a big X through my entire calendar for our first month together. I wouldn't worry about the laundry that wasn't getting done, the thank-you notes that I still haven't sent, or the kitchen that's a mess. I could have then felt at peace spending the entire day staring at my sleeping baby. The time goes by so fast and those unfinished to-do lists become a distant memory.
You'll do things you said you never would and that's ok.
Throughout pregnancy we are bombarded with conversations on how we plan to parent. Will we use a pacifier? Will we co-sleep? Will we get an epidural? Will we breastfeed? The decisions to make are endless. As a serial type-A, I planned every possible detail of how I envisioned pregnancy and motherhood to be, but once Brody came, things changed. Letting go of expectations we have for ourselves and trusting our maternal instincts saves sanity. Don't over plan, it only leads to disappointment. When your crying newborn refuses to be soothed and you're on the brink of a mental break down, try that pacifier you said you were never going to use. The first few weeks are purely survival mode.
Savor the Little Moments
I've always heard mothers talk about how fast their little ones were growing and changing, but until I had Brody I never realized the magnitude of it. The first few weeks all run together, but take the time to bottle up the sweet faces, noises, and newborn scent. Take as many videos as you can of the little moments. They may not be special at the time, but when you look at them later you will be so glad you did. When you are finally coming up for air a few weeks into motherhood, you will suddenly look at your little one and think "What happened to my newborn?".
There's a light at the end of the tunnel
It's hard to see this light, but trust me it's there. For me it was five long weeks of questioning our decision to start a family. For others, it could be months or even years. Finally, I slowly started enjoying it. I'm not sure what changed. Whether it was me learning how to soothe a crying baby, whether it was the longer periods of sleep I was starting to get, or perhaps it was the smiles and giggles that were popping up on Brody's sweet face. Somehow I've started to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I've started to feel the immense connection and bond with Brody that I expected to feel immediately. I've finally started to feel like I was meant to be a mother and it's the best feeling in the world!
I realize every mother's experience with postpartum is completely different. This was my experience and I can only hope that I can help a mom feel like she is not alone after her sweet baby arrives. Trust yourself and know that your feelings and thoughts during your first weeks of motherhood are no predictor of how wonderful of a mother you are becoming. I'm cheering you on!
I would love to hear other moms postpartum experiences and what you wish someone would have told you about postpartum. Feel free to share in the comments.