Nobody told me induction can fail and have to be restarted several times over the course of 3 days. Nobody told me what it’s like to wake up in the middle of the night to pry out the twisted adult diaper from your butt crack. Or how your stomach jumps in to your lungs when you pass a blood clot the size of a baseball. Nobody told me about the painful persistence of hemorrhoids...
No, most people don't talk about this side of the postpartum experience. They tend to fill you with sunshine and rainbows about the delight of newborn snuggles and what a magical time it is in your life to welcome a new baby home.
But there is very little that feels magical about having to carry an inflatable donut around with you to sit on. It’s hard to revel in the “magic” of soaking your torn lady bits in epsom salt sits baths, or watching your nipples be stretched Gumby style in the flanges of an electric pump. I felt like my life was falling apart before my eyes and the process by which it rebuilt was slow, and the trade-offs (though they are entirely worth it) were not immediate, nor were they obvious in those early days.
Compounding these issues of course is that motherly guilt born alongside your child telling you “if you really loved your baby you would be happy”. I felt so many things in those first few weeks at home, but happy wasn’t really one of them. I felt tidal waves of responsibility. I felt deep appreciation for my husband. I felt wonder over my daughter and the fact that I grew her inside me. And I felt pity, heaps and heaps of pity for my broken self.
I am an athlete and I felt in tune with my body. But I did not know the body I was living in postpartum. Everything swelled and ached. My entire undercarriage was just so sore. My skin broke out, my hair fell out, my breasts solidified to rocks, and my stomach felt like jello. I had PTSD every time I needed to take a bowel movement and the bags under my eyes looked like the before picture in an anti-drug PSA. I remember looking in the mirror and wondering if I would ever be ok with what was looking back at me again.
And breastfeeding. The single hardest thing I have ever done in my life. And nobody told me that either. My baby did not in fact crawl direct from my womb and self latch onto my breast as advertised. It was hard work to establish that relationship. And it’s a lot of work for most of us, but nobody told me that so I felt like I was failing because it didn’t just “happen” for me.
My love affair with my daughter started many weeks after her birth.
The transformation and in some cases decay, of my body, love life, social existence, physical freedom, and mind, was too much at the forefront before then for me to really see her, to really appreciate her. And I guess I’m writing this because nobody told me that and I want every new Mom to know it’s okay to feel that way.
It’s okay to have to mourn your old life before you rejoice in your new one. It’s okay to be angry and resentful about the state of your body before you are grateful for what it’s given you. It’s okay to be scared about the hurricane of change before you can truly embrace your new reality. It’s more than okay, it’s entirely normal.
Here is another truth I can share; the harsh reality of postpartum healing, both body and mind, is finite. You will journey through it in your own time, and find joyful motherhood on the other side. I am living proof of this.
I love my daughter in a powerful and surreal way that has entirely redefined me. Her smile soothes all the heartaches I’ve ever carried. She is so overwhelmingly worth every single struggle I have endured to be a mother. I feel a sense of peace about my purpose and my contribution to the world because she exists. And these, these are the truths that make all the “nobody told mes” pale in comparison.
Very well put. I think part of it is the fact that you can’t explain it all to a new mom, and sometimes, you just have to live it to understand. Thank goodness these kids are cute though.