Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Give It Time: The Crazy, Strange Postpartum Period

I've been thinking about writing this post for weeks now. About a month after becoming a mom, I came across this article on those first blurry weeks with a newborn. Reading it, I felt like I wasn't alone. (Seriously, if you're a new mom, read it!)

Having a baby is a wonderful blessing, but I don't think we talk enough about how rough the first weeks and months can be. Perhaps it's because we're in survival mode then, and by the time we emerge, we've already forgotten how truly disorienting it was.

For me, I felt like a different person. I'd been so focused on labor and delivery that I didn't give much thought to recovery. I remember looking in the bathroom mirror at the hospital at my body after giving birth and thinking, is this really me? Thanks to Duchess Kate, I knew my belly would still be there and slowly shrink down over time, but I didn't feel like myself.

The night my milk came in, I cried -- partly from the pain of rock-hard boobs and partly because I was so hormonal. I remember saying to my mom and Scott, "I feel so out of control." My body didn't feel like my own. Everything was so different.

Physically, I was in pain from giving birth and adjusting to breastfeeding. I was sleep-deprived and my hormones were out of whack. I was sweating all the time. My breasts felt full constantly. When Evelyn would fall asleep, I'd race to take a shower. Getting clean felt good, but the water hurt my sore nipples and I'd have to carefully towel off and quickly get dressed before I started leaking milk. I let my hair air-dry and didn't have time to put make-up on. I'd eat a PB&J for lunch. On top of it all, I was trying to learn how to take care of a newborn.

Some days, I felt like all I did was sit on the couch and hold Evelyn, nursing her and trying to get her to sleep. I couldn't get anything done around the house -- and I couldn't imagine how it would get to the point where I ever would! Doing one load of laundry was a huge feat. Getting out of the house was a gigantic accomplishment.

Many times, usually in the middle of the night, I wondered if Evelyn would be an only child.

I distinctly remember running a quick errand by myself, while Scott watched the baby at home, and feeling like I was separate from the world. It was as if everyone was still living their lives as usual and mine had completely changed. It was surreal and bizarre and uncomfortable.

Everyone kept telling me, "Give it time." It was hard to be patient. I wanted to savor all the little moments, but I also wanted to fast forward a bit.

And then somewhere around four weeks postpartum, I made it to the pediatrician with Evelyn on my own and then went to Buy Buy Baby to pick up a few things. The whole outing went pretty smoothly. By that point, I wasn't in as much pain and my milk had regulated so my breasts didn't feel so full all the time. I started to feel a little more confident. I could put the baby down and she wouldn't cry immediately, so I could get a thing or two done -- make lunch, do some laundry, unload the dishwasher. It felt like a small turning point.

Slowly, things started to get better. I felt better. I felt more like myself. A different version but myself.


I'm still wearing yoga pants most days and rarely dry my hair or put on make-up. I still have stretch marks on my hips and a belly that pooches out even though I'm almost back to my pre-pregnancy weight. I still have some pelvic pain (which is a bit unusual and something I'm working through). I still can't get as much done as I used to. And I'm still slightly sleep-deprived.

But I can get out of the house to run errands, take a walk, or go to the grocery store with Evelyn. I'm more comfortable with her. We have a routine of sorts. I take a shower every day, make myself lunch, get things done around the house, and I've even been squeezing in work during nap time. We're getting more sleep. I feel more in control.

And let me tell you, the sweet baby smiles really make everything worth it. Melt my heart.


Life is definitely different, but I can already see that the craziness of those early weeks is in the past. I'm settling into a new normal -- a wonderful new normal. I'm trying to let go and cut myself some slack. I'm recognizing how amazing my body is for producing this new life and serving as her source of food. I'm noting the small victories. And I know I'm still in the midst of adjusting. Things will continue to change. They will continue to get better.

It's difficult to put it all into words, but I wanted to share my experience, not to scare anyone but to let other new moms know they are not alone. We don't talk enough about what happens after the baby arrives. It's hard. But I'm here to tell you, it does get better. Give it time. Give it time...

54 comments:

  1. Love your honesty, Melissa. What an important, helpful post for all new moms out there (and those not yet a mom who can't totally understand but at least gives them a little piece of the picture). Keep breathing, you're doing awesome. xo.

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    1. Thank you! We're all just doing the best we can, right? :)

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  2. Melissa! Kudos to you for writing this. I completely agree that we don't talk enough about what happens after birth. A very kind friend of mine sent me an email with a few technical tips just a week or so before Autumn's due date. I thoroughly appreciated that, but I was still in the dark regarding the pain and hormones that would ensue. I distinctly remember thinking (for real) that Autumn would be our only child the couple days after she was born. And, I had NEVER considered having just one. My Mom came to stay with us the week after she was born, and I remember asking her when things were going to get better. I could hardly stand up from the rocking chair with her in my arms because of the pain and lack of abdominal muscles. Plus, there were other issues down there that were NO FUN!

    I commend you for already getting things done! Right around three weeks, Autumn started to be colicky. So, all through the holidays season and beyond, it was very, very hard. It takes a toll to be around a crying baby all the time. But, that also is temporary! Autumn just turned one, and we are still a work-in-progress. I'm beginning to think that is just life with a baby, or children, in general. It is certainly a transition, but one that is well worth it, just as you said. :)

    Thank you for posting! And, it goes without saying, but enjoy your precious little one!

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    Replies
    1. Thank you for your sweet comment! So much of what you said sounds familiar. (I'll admit, I left out some of the more graphic details ha!) Even though the postpartum period is a tough transition, it's nice to know we're not alone.

      From what I've heard, colic is so very hard to deal with. I was a really difficult baby and my parents have told me how the constant crying can truly drive you crazy.

      And you're right, life with a baby is a work-in-progress... changing all the time!

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  3. Excellent entry
    The first time I left the house to go to target (a huge feat 1 week post partum) I felt like I was invisible and that the world was just passing me by. Now I conquer target with 2 kiddies in the cart! It does get easier

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    Replies
    1. You're awesome, Jill :) Glad to have someone like you to pave the way and help me through!

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    2. Great article! Brought back memories. That's the wonderful part about being a grandma- you can live it all again-only you're not sleep deprived. You are doing an amazing job with your daughter. She is growing and is so happy. Like I said, having her fall asleep in my arms was pure bliss. Everyone should be so lucky.

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  4. wow.. you know what it reminds me of? i've never been pregnant, but post-labor body sounds pretty miserable, and it reminds me of what it feels like to be sick or have the flu. it almost seems to me that someone needs to be taking care of postpartum mom while she takes care of the new baby... husbands most definitely need maternity leave.

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