Well, we are parents now. We welcomed this kid into the world and with that process, welcomed a whole new host of challenges, joys, feelings, mixed-up emotions and physical hurdles. Considering myself to now be an expert in the chaos of postpartum life – I have felt compelled to compile my knowledge and make it available to those about to experience it for the first time, those who are about to support it for the first time and those who will decide to never experience it after they read this. Happy reading!
Step 1: It takes a freaking village
NEVER have I appreciated this statement more then post-birthing a man-baby. I had jolly expectations of a relatively bouncy-backy postpartum period. So what if my vagina exploded a baby? Let’s just pop a couple’a stitches in that bad boy, recoup for a smattering of days and get back in the saddle with a laugh! Incorrect/not my story. Recovery has been slow, bloody, swollen, unpredictable and uncomfortable. Without my live-in mother, my live-in husband – I would be dehydrated, off my pain meds, bleeding everywhere because I forgot to buy stocks in Super Absorbent Pads, emaciated and unable to diaper change my kid due to the lack of any/all core strength. Without my in-laws, I would be screaming at two rambunctious dogs, eager to get their licks and paws in where they can. Without our friends/family, we would be eating frozen TV dinners or cereal for every meal. I have wondered and hoped if every new family is as lucky as mine – and have counted my blessings that our recovery period has been as supported as it has been.
Step 2: Welcome those hormones
‘… And how are you feeling emotionally? This is the day that your hormones typically flood your system.’ My midwives gently inquired on our day 3 visit. I chuckled and marvelled out loud like ‘one of those’ moms that I was doing amazingly well, emotions were steady and things were going just dreamy. Fast forward to 5 hours later – I’m eating the most delicious home cooked meal when I suddenly feel my emotional foundation take a swan dive into an abyss. ‘I feel incredibly and overwhelmingly depressed and stressed’ I announce to my husband and mother. They both rolled their eyes and told me they didn’t want to eat with me if I was going to get ‘all emo’. Jokes. They were caring, gave me space to feel my stress and encouraged the crap outta me. That night ended in a constant stream of tears, anxiety and frustration (so much for beating the odds and remaining as cool as a cucumber). I would urge all you new moms – feel your feelings and VOICE your feelings. Nothing is more unnerving then to feel these bizarre and out of control emotions and simultaneously feel yourself clam up because ‘you shouldn’t be feeling this’. You are allowed to feel it. You will feel it. And you are ok.
Step 3: Buy all the pads
Bless my sweet husband as he masterfully educated himself on the levels of absorbency, length and winged vs no wing options found in the feminine hygiene aisle. He kept his wee wifey well stocked. And I will forever cherish listening to his rants on how insane the ‘droplet’ visuals are on each package of pads (I absolutely agree). I had wisely purchased a pack of stylish, full bottomed granny panties from Superstore to host the diaper-like pads after delivery. This is genius. Do it. Also – throw them out immediately after your thunder-pad days are over. Unless bagged out crotches and blood stained undies are your jam. Then I would carefully store them until your children have children – because what is more beautiful then Granny’s granny-panties getting passed down – generation to generation?
Step 4: Be naked always
I have never been a modest cookie, but those postpartum days really allowed me to let my nakeskie self shine. You don’t like seeing a diapered up, squishy bellied, engorged breasted, baby toting gal rolling about her house? Then get out of my house! Yeesh! For those who have a bit more dignity – the soft, bamboo or cotton robe is the clothing item for you (pro tip: hospital MUST have). Also, heads up for those engorged breasts. Those things are not kidding around. Definitely horrify your partner by walking out (thunder panties on ONLY) into your bedroom, DEMANDING he take in the rocky, mountainous, swollen boulders that are your knockers. Scream ‘do these do ANYTHING for you?!’ (as though your engorged boobs are his fault). Let him flounder for a half sec as he assesses how unstable you have become. ‘I think there is such a thing… as too large?’ He offers up. Accept this. Because you angrily agree. These fun-bags have morphed into evil, painful monsters that mess up your nursing abilities and you appreciate the solidarity.
Step 5: Get friendly with your bits
Nothing screams intimate like your midwife snapping a photo of your newly stitched vagina so that you can a) see what fine work she does and b) have a reference to compare your recovery to (although after almost accidentally posting it to Instagram – I quickly deleted it. I don’t intend my insta-fame to come out of poorly planned gruesome vaginal photo leak). Get cozy with a mirror and figure out what you’re dealing with. This helps when you are battling with that first bowel movement after birth and you are CERTAIN your sutures are erupting. They aren’t. If you had used the mirror to check – you would know.
Step 6: Hang with babe
Did I fall madly in love the second we met? Did my ‘heart walk outside of it’s body’ within the first seven seconds? Did I know the meaning of life and think the sun shone out of my son’s bum straight away? Nope. It was surreal. It was a whirlwind. I was open and willing. But we got to know each other gradually… and are still getting to know each other gradually. I had no lightning bolt of bonding that struck me out of nowhere (amazeballs if you DO experience this – amazeballs if it takes you longer). The first real connection I had with this kid was a few days in, when we spent about ten minutes staring at each other in bed. I knew I was hooked. Jury is still out about how feels about me. I figure as long as I keep bribing him with sweet, sweet breast milk, deep cheek kisses and swift diaper changes – he’s mine for keeps.
Babies are hard work. Ask politely for help. Demand help. Yell for help (this will usually be from the bathroom or the couch and is usually in the shape of an ice pack for your tender crotch). Find comfort in the fact that EVERY experience is a normal experience. Your child casually pisses all over your body while you try and have a gentle, bonding bath together? Totes normal. You feel connected to your partner and babe one minute and find yourself sobbing the next because you can’t explain why – but you feel so disconnected? Oh boy – so normal. You text your friends to visit the baby quickly because you are worried you will have nibbled and consumed his cuteness by the time they arrive? I would expect nothing less. Crumbling into your husbands arms because you’ve decided your recovery is taking WAY to long and you are feeling defeated? You sound right on track.
Here’s to normalizing your experience and supporting yourself along the way (be it a good nursing bra or a sympathetic shoulder to cry on – support is key). You can do it!