I spent the entire first month of Ophelia's life convinced I was dying. I didn't have any specific proof (except for a slightly suspicious lump in my left breast) but even though my husband, and doctor told me I was fine I spent everyday of her first month of life under a dark cloud. It wasn't that I wanted to be miserable, or even that I wanted to doubt the people around me but I couldn't stop the overwhelming panic and anxiety. I couldn't keep the loud voice in my head telling me again and again that I was not going to get to see my babies grow up at bay. And today I want to share this with you, because I don't think we talk enough about that first month postpartum and I think that needs to change.
I mean yes, we do... we talk about the baby, about the birth, how much did they weigh? Are they sleeping through the night yet? Are you breast feeding? Are you going to have another one? The list could go on and on... but often I think we forget to address or even leave space for the change that is a woman's life postpartum. Pregnancy itself is a huge change and I don't want to discount that but in a matter of hours you go from pregnant to not pregnant and for me it was a struggle to catch up.
Physically I felt like a wreck, sore, leaking milk and who knows what else everywhere... night after night with crazy hormonal sweats and then there is the emotions.. For me it was like I was constantly playing catch up in my mind. Always one step behind what everyone else was thinking, what the baby needed, muchness what I needed and it was suffocating. The noise in my head the worry of not keeping up, the stress of surveying my postpartum body and honestly feeling overwhelmed by the changes, overwhelmed by the lack of recognition left me feeling ship-wrecked in my own mind.
I kept it to myself... bottled it inside and let the anxiety grow. It came out at weird times about unrelated things, towards Ben, towards Jessamyn... as a complete obsessed with the lump in my breast that actually was just from breastfeeding but I was convinced was killing me ( I got it checked out and honestly was truly just channeling my anxiety into it). I'm only a week or two past this and so only starting to really see how bad it was but what sticks out to me the most was the lack of space and maybe even appreciation for all I had just done.
Giving birth is crazy, and amazing, and really really hard. Our society focuses a lot on the baby and so it would make sense that postpartum this would be the case too. I left my birth not grounded, not in touch with just about anything and basically felt like I was barely treading water above the emotions and constant change that is just having a baby. If I could go back I would have screamed STOP... just STOP for one moment and acknowledge what your body just did. Protect yourself, your mind, your energy... acknowledge your feelings, say no to visitors, say yes to more hot tea, more cuddles just because... and most importantly don't rush yourself.
There is a serious push I think for women postpartum to get back to normal as fast as possible, to get back to work, resume taking care of their family, get their pre-baby body back.. whatever that means, but if you think about it we grew life in 9 months... not six weeks, not four weeks... nine freaking hard months and so why should our recovery be any faster? Coming to that realization has been the biggest turning point for me and helped me find stillness and peace. It is okay to be right where I am at, it is okay to not be the strongest, to not yet feel comfortable in my skin, to still have emotions, and feelings of adjustment from welcoming this new little life into our world. It is okay to be broken and to need time...
Every day postpartum feels like waking up a little bit more. Not to what was normal before but to a new beautiful world, a world where I am a mother to two sweet little girls. Everyday where I take time to acknowledge the change, to respect the individual place I am at is better, is full of more peace and less noise in my head.
I know I am kind of rambling on but I desperately wanted to share this. I'm sharing partly for myself because sometimes just saying something out loud makes it real, shows that it happened. Also though because I have to believe I am not alone in this, that I am not the only one feeling a bit lost in life postpartum, and I want you to know it is okay. Feeling lost isn't necessarily bad and isn't wrong... in fact for me acknowledging my feelings and realizing that life has changed in a huge way has been what has made all the difference these past couple weeks.
We hold space for what matters and for me that looks like holding space for change, for the hard moments, for the beautiful moments, for everything that is motherhood. Whether it is your first or tenth baby... what you have done, what your body has been through, what your mind is currently taking in, it deserves space and respect.
I am going to keep blogging about this as I continue through this first year postpartum and wanted to share this first month with you all now. One because it gets better, and month to month I believe these updates will get clearer and show so much of the beauty that is motherhood. Also though because not sharing only breeds more loneliness and isolation and we are a community and this is where I am at. If you have had a similar experience or just want to share your postpartum journey please comment below... there is so much strength in community and there is only love here.