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