The first six weeks is the hardest. That’s what I tell any friends who are soon-to-be or new moms. In my limited experience with my first child that’s what I found to be true. Of course it then get easier after 3 months, 6 months etcetera, but the first six weeks? That’s where the real tough stuff lies.
My son turned 6 weeks old this week. I cannot put into words what my body and mind have endured the last 6 weeks.
So much has happened. The moment I met my baby was one of the very best moments of my life. After my first birth experience being more traumatic, much longer, and more grueling than I expected, a 3 hour drug-free labour and quick delivery was a welcome and empowering surprise with my second. Sometime in the first hour afterwards, my midwife gave us the opportunity to go home in just two hours. How thrilled I was. I was convinced I was able and ready to get right up and walk (skip) straight down the hallway, babe in arms, ready to start our life at home as a family of four….eeek! Of course it only took a few hours for the adrenaline to wear off, and then getting out of the hospital bed to walk 8 feet to the bathroom was far from a treat. Not to mention waiting for over 20 minutes in there before realizing my muscles had forgotten how to pee. That’s when it all started a downward spiral.
The pain: stitches, weakness, blistered bleeding baby feeders, organ displacement, queasiness.
The exhaustion: lack of sleep, lack of rest, lack of all things “me”.
The emotions: hormone imbalance, guilt, inadequacy, sadness, numbness, everything-ness and nothing-ness all at once. All the emotions, all the time,
I knew this was coming. With my first baby I fretted for much of my pregnancy over the labour and delivery, hardly giving a second thought to the woes of breastfeeding, the changes that would happen to my body, my relationship with my hubby, nevermind caring for the little human I was about to bring into the world. With my second, I easily spent at least my entire third trimester being anxious about the newborn stage. Because the thing is, when you’ve never done it, people can tell you its hard, but hard is just a word, you can’t fully ‘get it’ until you’ve done it. So with my second, I knew what was coming- and I was a little terrified.
In the first days there are so many ups and downs. In mere moments I could go from experiencing the ultimate euphoria, to a sobbing mess of a person. The love I feel for this baby is only matched by the love I feel for his sister. I created him, I grew him, I birthed him, he is human, he is mine. I breathe in his scent, I squish his (giant) cheeks, I kiss him as much as I like. This little person is just the best thing since sliced bread. And then I cry. I cry because he won’t nurse, I cry because he wont sleep, I cry because he won’t stop crying, and I cry because I feel like I am the only one. I cry because in this moment I can’t see the end. I am in a tornado of tears and there are only flecks of light to remind me it is not going to last forever. I know in my heart it will pass, but in those moments I almost can’t see it.
My post partum body took (is taking) much longer to heal this time. My postpartum emotions are much stronger this time. Generally, postpartum everything is just really kicking my butt.
And it’s not to say that I am not hugely grateful for the opportunity to be a parent. We are so, so blessed. How lucky I am to experience life in this way. It’s a treasure. And I’ve never been more sure of creation. I’ve never believed more that this was all on purpose. The miracle of life literally blows my mind. I can’t think about it too much or it just overwhelms me.
The thing is, I know I am in the thick of it. In a few months I’ll look back and dream of my babe melting into me and snoozing for hours. I’ll wish the newborn smell back, and I’ll relive the first smile, the first coo, and the first giggle. But right now, in these days, I often find myself bleary eyed, staring into the abyss, wondering when I’ll start to feel like a person again. I feel guilty for the lack of attention my daughter is getting, and guilty I can’t give my new baby the attention I gave his sister in the first few months. I’ve been told motherhood is one of the most guilt ridden professions, and isn’t it true?
Don’t misunderstand me. This is just a small snap shot of motherhood. It really is fantastic over all. No one can tell you how hard it is just like no one can tell you how incredible it is.
I don’t write this to complain about becoming a mother. I’m sharing my experience in hopes that someone might relate, and know that it’s okay if you don’t experience “mommy-bliss” in the immediate weeks after the birth of your child- and if you do experience it I am genuinely happy for you! I’m trying to be realistic. If you know me or read my blogs you know I write to start a conversation. There’s something so freeing in being real, in not pretending. In life, and in motherhood especially there is this huge sense of competition, and we put so much pressure on ourselves. It’s so unnecessary.
It doesn’t help that social media feeds into this new culture where we only display our highlight real. We post our big moments. We post our vacation pictures. We “check in” to the nice restaurants we eat at. We post the things were proud of, our accomplishments, as well as the things and people that we love. We show the world, or want to show the world that we’re doing alright. “Look at me, I do cool stuff too”. And it’s nice, but you know sometimes it’s just too much. We all feed into it, we all do it knowingly or unknowingly and it feeds into our desire to do more, to have more, to be more. But we don’t need to. We just need to be us. We need to be real. When we are real with one another we become vulnerable. It’s scary and hard but I think it’s what life is all about. Vulnerability is what connects us- not just as moms, but as humans. Doesn’t it feel good to know you’re not the only one? It’s especially true if you’re struggling. There’s nothing worse than feeling like you’re falling apart while everyone else is handling life like a boss.
I know that personally I have felt guilty for having struggled in this postpartum period. I’ve wanted to avoid the well-meaning friends and family that so kindly ask how things are.
“How is he sleeping?”
“How is he eating?”
“Isn’t it amazing?”
“How are you adjusting?”
“What is it like with two?”
“Are you all better now?”
Mostly, I’d like to tell them “No, in this moment I’m not really okay, I’m faking this smile and I only slept for 4 hours last night in 45 minute chunks. I haven’t slept for longer than a 2 hour stretch in 6 weeks and I feel like I’m hanging by a thread- emotionally and physically”. I want to tell them that although I love my boy, this newborn stage sucks butt.
I feel guilty when other new moms tell me how much they love this stage, and also when older moms tell me to soak it all in cause its gone in a flash. All. The. Guilt. All. The. Time.
In some ways its easier if people didn’t ask because then I won’t have to be stuck between lying to them or being a Debbie Downer.
I’ve always believed that honesty is the best policy. I think we’d all be a little more comfortable sharing our icky bits if we didn’t feel like we were the only ones who had them. Something
incredible happens when we take the veil off. When we connect with one another on a real level we can relax a little, lower our standards a bit, and be okay with not being okay.
I know that without doubt, for me it helps to know that women before me have gone through this, women beside me are doing it right now, and one day in years to come women behind me will be doing it…and I’ll probably watch them with a sense of admiration and nostalgia. Actually I’m sure I will.