You did it! After nine months of swollen ankles, ridiculous food aversions and cravings, excited planning, nursery decorating, uncomfortable waddling, leg cramps, sleeping with a man-sized pillow that your husband was strangely jealous of, and happily comparing your growing stomach to fruits and vegetables, you delivered a precious, healthy baby.
Along the way, there were ups and downs. Laughter. Anticipation. Tears of joy and sadness. And tears without really any particular reason, because pregnancy hormones have absolutely no mercy. (I literally burst into tears one afternoon just because I saw a little squirrel that looked particularly sad and hungry).
But after it’s all said and done – no matter how difficult the pregnancy journey was – you would do it all over again. Nothing can prepare you for the love you feel when meeting your precious, squishy baby for the first time. (Sigh, is there anything more precious than a squishy newborn)? It was ALL worth it!
What I quickly realized, however, was that the birth of a child doesn’t necessarily mean the end of your pregnancy journey. There is that one final chapter: the fourth trimester that absolutely no one warns you about. Because there is a postpartum journey as well, and it’s almost just as fun.
And by fun, I mean that it too includes all the ups. And downs. And laughter. And tears.
Except this time around, you don’t get to wear cute T-shirts with whimsical sayings. Because your Tshirt would have to say things like “Retired watermelon smuggler.” Or “I grew my tribe, and I’m still recovering.” Or “What bump”? Even “It took me nine months to grow this belly, and I like icecream too much to lose it any faster than that. So don’t judge me.”
Yeahhhh, that last one is kind of wordy. Maybe I’ll save it for the postpartum greeting card line.
But seriously, there are weeks of physical recovery and adjusting to changes in your body. And then once you finally start to feel like yourself again physically, your hormones decide to throw a wild party all over again and your hair starts to fall out. Postpartum hair loss is pretty much a kick-me-when-I’m-down situation and adds insult to injury. But on the flip side, it does take your mind off of other great side affects of postpartum life.
I was definitely not warned about post-partum constipation. And it’s no joke (especially if you’re recovering from a C-section surgery). Seriously, if you’re going to have a planned C-section, still take the Lamaze class; because you’ll need the focused breathing to survive your first poop. One of my friends had actually bought me stool softener (and other survival items) as a gift before I went into the hospital; and I had laughed, thinking it was a gag gift. After my C-section, her present was the best mommy gift in my house.
“Dear friend, thank you for the stool softener. I think it may have saved my life.”
Before B-Boy was born, I hadn’t realized that the postpartum stage is just as much an experience as pregnancy can be; but I was more prepared for it this time during the birth of Princess K. There is so much going on during the recovery, never mind the fact that you aren’t getting any sleep. It can be so easy to feel overwhelmed, inadequate, unqualified, exhausted, and alone. Even despite the joy and the beauty of bringing home a new baby, there are so many tough emotions swirling around as well.
For me, the first two weeks after having my babies were probably the most beautiful weeks of my entire life. I had a ton of help, and so I could focus on my newborn. Those days of bonding, snuggling, and just resting my lips on the peach fuzz of their little heads were priceless. My heart ran over with so much love that sometimes I just felt as though it might explode.
But as life began to fall back into normalcy (and the hormones and physical demands of recovery remained), it was pretty tough. That first year after baby can be really hard sometimes. You’re trying to ‘bounce back’ and to fall back into the pattern of how things once were (despite the fact that absolutely everything has changed). Now you’re running on little sleep, following the schedule of a little human, and carrying around a diaper bag the size of Santa’s sack.
Arriving on time is a thing of the past. Your new favorite color for clothing is that which most closely resembles spit-up. Poop explosions haunt you in your dreams.
Everything is new, and you’re certain that – despite all the books you’ve read – you’re not qualified to care for this beautiful baby. Google is your new best friend… Is my baby eating too much or too little? Is it normal for a baby to have that much gas? Should they be sitting up by now? And, “Google, how many hours of sleep does a mom actually need in order to live?”
As women, we so often overlook this part of the journey. We don’t really talk about it much with each other, and the medical support completely goes away. It’s very common for women to feel alone. Ridiculously exhausted. And less than human.
In reality, all we really need is support. Someone to talk it over with. Encouragement. Assurance that everything we’re experiencing is normal and that it really will get better one day. It will get easier.
One day, we’ll actually sleep through the night. And not have leaky breasts. And we’ll maybe even go to the store without looking like an extra from The Walking Dead.
God created us women to be oh-so-strong. But we’re definitely stronger together when we encourage those coming after us. When we remind them that although the days do oftentimes feel long, the years are so fast. And when we take the time to be the support new moms need, whether it’s folding laundry, dropping off a meal, babysitting siblings, or even dropping off a coffee. (Can we all admit that coffee solves a multitude of hurt)?
Like pregnancy – the postpartum experience can be tough at times. But it helps knowing that – also like pregnancy – it’s worth it. And there will be a light at the end of the tunnel!
But until then, if you know a mom who’s currently living the postpartum life, definitely keep her in your prayers. Tell her that she’s doing amazing. Ask her if she needs any help around the house. And please, just send her coffee! 🙂