The Postpartum Life

You did it! After nine months of swollen ankles, ridiculous food aversions and cravings, uncomfortable waddling,  sleeping with a man-sized pillow that your husband was strangely jealous of, comparing your growing stomach to fruits and vegetables, and trying to believe friends when they complimented you on your beautiful glow, you delivered a precious, healthy baby.  Just as the books had predicted, the journey to grow your family had been just that.

A journey.

There were ups.  There were downs.  There was laughter.  Anticipation.  There were tears of joy.  Tears of sadness.  And tears without really any particular reason (because pregnancy hormones have absolutely no mercy).

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But after it’s all said and done – no matter how difficult that 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.  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 conclusion, so to speak…  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.  Like “Retired watermelon smuggler.” Or “I grew my tribe, and I’m still recovering.”  Or “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.

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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, the hormones go crazy 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 the fact that none of your clothes fit quite right.


 

Speaking of hormones…

Let me take a break from my usual tongue-in cheek humor for one moment and talk about post-partum depression.  It is absolutely no joke at all, and it affects so many new moms.  I – in a sense – woke up from it after three months and couldn’t believe that I had missed all that precious time with my newborn.  I had such disconnect from her in the beginning and there was such a cloud of darkness and defeat over me.

I thank God that I had so much love and support surrounding me when I was traveling that difficult road!  I didn’t even have a severe case of it, but it was enough to make my journey to recovery really hard.



Okay, enough serious talk…  I just had to throw that out there, because postpartum depression is such a cruel reality for many women.  But now let’s talk about something less difficult…

Like constipation.

HA!  Oh man, post-partum constipation is no joke either, especially if you’ve had a C-section.  Seriously, if you’re going to have a planned surgery, still take the Lamaze class, because you’ll need the focused breathing to survive your first poop.  I had a friend buy me stool softener 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 Brady 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.  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.  And alone.  (Even ugly, inadequate, unqualified, and just plain exhausted).

And as women, we so often overlook this part of the journey.  There aren’t tshirts, and cards, and post-partum parties.  We don’t even really talk about it much.

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And in reality, that’s all we really need.  Someone to talk it over with.  Support.  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 the extra from a zombie movie.

Maybe we need to stop trying to be brave ALL the time, so that others coming after us can see that it is hard.  But that they too can get through it if we all stick together.  God created us women to be oh-so-strong.  But we’re definitely stronger together.

And – 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.  🙂

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What’s your best postpartum advice – or encouragement – for a new mom or mom-to-be?

 

 

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Supermom Strong

Seeing the positive and sunny side of things has never been difficult for me… until now.  Oh those blasted postpartum hormones…  Kick me when I’m down, why don’t you?

The crying…  Waking up and feeling completely overwhelmed…  The guilt…

It’s all too often commonplace for new moms recovering from a pregnancy, and it hits at the worst possible time.  You’re not feeling 100% yet.  You’re recovering physically.  You’re taking care of a brand new life (and getting very little sleep because of it).  And now there’s a cloud of depression hanging over your head, trying to block out the sunlight.

I’ve had to give myself a lot of pep talks lately.  Like yesterday for example…  I woke up and was filled with a sense of dread.  I immediately thought, “I don’t know if I can have victory over today.”  I already felt like I was drowning and failing.

Overcoming feelings like that is foreign to me.  I don’t think that way.  I’m very rarely negative, depressed, or defeated.  But then again, this is only the second time that I’ve lived the postpartum life.  And honestly, the first couple of months after baby arrives can throw even the most positive of moms for a loop.

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Trust me, I’m proof of that.

Yesterday, after waking up and feeling such anxiety, I had to take a deep breath and remind myself that we had nowhere to be…  No one coming over.  I literally just had to make sure my kids were loved, fed, and clothed.  The house might be chaos, the meals might be from the freezer section, and there was a very good chance that I wouldn’t be showered.  BUT my family would be okay.

Somehow realizing that made me feel a little better.  But really, it’s hard to be rational when those hormones are throwing darts of doubt into your mind.

In addition to those pep talks to myself, I’ve had to apologize to Nate a lot as of late.  I’m not as patient.  I snap sometimes.  I cry a lot, because I feel overwhelmed.  I just don’t feel like myself, because – some days – I’ve poured so much into my babies that I don’t feel as though there’s anything left to give.  There’s never time to recharge, so I’m running on empty.

And I’m fairly certain that Nate was starting to think that his wife had been replaced with an emotional, irrational alien from another planet.  So having an open conversation about my feelings (and how sorry I was for acting the way I had) was nothing short of a relief for him.

Granted, a lot of this heaviness stems from just how difficult this past week was.  Kaitlyn had to be rushed to the ER last Sunday, because she was struggling to breathe.  Long story short, after a terrifying night, it turns out that she has bad acid reflux like her brother did.  We’re still not entirely sure what’s causing it or what the best game plan is to help ease her suffering, so we’re trying a few things.

It’s hearing her scream from pain and discomfort that kills me.  I would do anything to help her feel better, but I don’t know what needs to be done.  So I usually end up biting my lip to keep from bursting into tears… again.  And I cradle her and walk around the house, gently singing to her and hoping that she’ll find relief soon.

And then Brady pretends to cry or get hurt, because he is aching for attention too.  He just wants his mommy, but mommy is tending to a baby girl who just vomited again.  Or who is screaming at the top of her lungs.  And realizing that I can’t hold him in that moment breaks my heart even more.

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It’s been a rough week.  A really rough week.  And those postpartum emotions are just making it harder for me to be strong, and confident, and level headed.

So want to know how I’ve fought through all of this?

I’ve admitted that I’m human.

I’ve admitted to people I’m close to (and, okay, now to all of you in the hopes that I might help someone else) that I’m struggling.  I’ve had open and honest conversations with my husband about how I’m feeling, rather than hoping he might be able to guess what’s going on in my overworked brain.  I’ve taken deep breaths and realized that I need to cut myself some slack.  I had a baby only three and a half weeks ago, and I’m still healing.  We’re in survival mode, so it’s okay if Brady watches more TV these days.  (It’s a great time to cuddle).  It’s okay that our meals aren’t gourmet.  It’s okay that my house is trashed most days.  And it’s certainly okay that I’m not always feeling presentable (because always being showered as a new mom is overrated).

It’s even okay sometimes if I snap a bit and have to go back and apologize.  I hate that I do it.  I especially hate when I’m not as patient with Brady, because he’s so little and doesn’t understand.

But it’s okay.  It’s all going to be okay.

Little by little, things will get easier.  Life will find a comfortable routine.  I’ll feel better physically and mentally.  We will feel normal again.

So deep breaths.  Deep breaths and prayer are my best friends right now.  Deep breaths, prayer, and staring into the precious faces of my toddler and baby girl.   They remind me that this is all worth it and that each day can be beautiful amidst the chaos.  (That and dairy-free, coconut icecream.  The coconut icecream helps too).

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One day at a time.  That’s all a new mom can focus on and conquer!  But even amidst the hard moments like this, it doesn’t mean failure.  Quite the opposite.  When you’re going through a rough patch and still doing your best (even if your best is less than usual and sprinkled with mistakes), you’re still supermom.

Moms aren’t perfect after all. They’re just loving enough to keep fighting, even when anyone else (probably anyone in their right mind) would lift the white flag of surrender.  We are incredible warriors even when the battle seems to be too much!  Because even with so much pulling us down, we not only rise up; but we also rise up carrying our families on our shoulders.

Our love is that strong.  And a love that strong can carry a woman through anything.  It just takes time.

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Have you ever struggled with postpartum depression or blues?  If so, what did you do to help get out of it?