I wrote this on August 15, 2015. My son was 5 days short of being 1 month old. It's a little glimpse into my postpartum journey.
*I will warn you readers now, if you are easily offended, don't like gross bodily things, or have never had a baby, tread forward with caution.*
Can we talk a moment about our bodies as women? And how magical and amazing and absolutely gross we are?
I've seen a lot of controversy on the interwebs about the "How I got my body back after baby" idea. It is extremely irksome to many that a woman should be ashamed of their post-baby body and that they should want to go back to the way it was before said baby took over.
But that is just the thing, the baby does take over. When I became pregnant I didn't choose for my entire right arm to painfully numb and slightly swollen every morning. That is just one of the side effects of being pregnant. I also was quite pleased with the size and shape of my breasts pre-pregnancy, I didn't need them to get bigger. But baby did and still does.
And speaking of breasts, just one of the many places that leak. Gross. Yes, it's lovely and oh so special that I can feed my child on demand and yes, breast milk is the liquid gold of good food for baby, but all that aside, they still aren't within my control. They are huge, like cantaloupe huge. They get hard, painfully hard. And when that happens I don't care who is around, I will massage and hold them in my own hands for some sense of relief. And at 3 o'clock in the morning and I'm feeding on one side and I can feel the other side drip milk from itself, another thing outside of my control. Gross.
Get my body back? Yeah right.
When I went into labor, my water didn't break like most think it would; in a gush, all at once and in some embarrassing public place. Mine trickled out, so slowly that at first I was wondering if I was occasionally peeing my pants. Gross. And once we finally decided to go to the hospital after several hours of active labor, we were moving me from the check-in room to the delivery room, I stood up and lord have mercy. The amount of fluid that came out of me was one of the most shocking disgusting things that I had experienced. And completely out of my control. It just kept flowing, so much fluid. So gross.
I know that is beyond the notion of "too much information" but I'm now postpartum and am dealing with a whole new set of body issues that are out of my control. My uterus went through hell after delivery and it's still recovering. I joke with my sweet baby that when I change his diaper, I should change mine as well. And I thought my monthly period was bad. Gross.
I am also taking iron supplements to help get my energy back, which in turn makes me constipated, which means I need to take a stool softener, which again is something that I'd rather not do, but my body is saying otherwise. Gross.
The small fact that my belly is still moving back to some sort of resemblance of pre-baby, is so far from my concern. With all the other crap that my body is doing, my belly doesn't matter. It will never be the same, I carried my son for 9 months in that belly. The small valley of stretch marks below my belly button, I need to get used to them, appreciate them as battle scars and be proud of what they represent.
All of this foreign activity in my body is just par for the course, I'm not the only woman going through all of this. I do not have it the easiest but certainly not the worst either. If there has every been a time to sit and value all I have been through and appreciate how powerful and yes, gross my body is, it is now. And again, like labor, this gross-ness will not last forever.
I'll have my body back, in it's new glorious mama form soon enough. And with much less leaking.
Remember the feeling of peer pressure and judgement growing up? I remember when I first noticed how what you look like, how you dress, what you carry with you started to define who I was to everyone else. I was in 5th grade and those Esprit canvas tote bags were THEE bag to carry. And you knew you were going to be in the Cool Crowd if you got a new set of Multiples to wear on the first day of school. I also remember thinking a few years later, "I can hardly wait until I'm grown-up and I won't have to care about what other people think."
Ha. Yeah right.
Cue parenthood. I could say "Cue adulthood" but it's worse in parenthood, specifically motherhood. What is it about seeing another woman being the mom she knows how to be that puts so much judgement on them and second guessing on ourselves?
The pressure to be This kind of mom who only does This thing or who would never do That thing all the while trying to navigate the foreign world of a newborn is enough to send anyone to the nuthouse. The Beatles had it right "Live and let live." Why is that so hard? I mean, we all know what's best, right? And our own mothers know the most, right? So why not tell it to anyone that will ask, right?
Uh no. A BIG FAT NO. No no no.
Commiserating is one thing. Bonding, listening, sympathizing. But it's that unwelcomed-didn't-ask-for-mind-your-own-beezwax talk that really gets my goat. I blame social media. Our parents didn't have the world at their fingertips and we turned out just fine. And just as important, so did they. They didn't have Google and Facebook and Mommy Groups, they had a phone and pen and paper. Ahhhh, simpler times. But truly, without the immediate reaction from someone else or the yahoo answers from some fool who claims to know all, our parents managed not to kill us and raised pretty rad humans.
I left all the breastfeeding groups I was a part of on facebook because of the amount of backlash I got when I said I fed my son formula. I didn't make enough milk, I didn't use the resources at hand to solve the problem and I HATED pumping. So when I went back to work I sent formula with my son to daycare, he was fed and cared for, that was all I wanted. But I had women who didn't know anything of my situation saying "You're poisoning your child." "I can't believe you don't think breast is best." "You clearly haven't done your research on the benefits and risks of what you are doing." Thanks for nothing, ladies. So, Deuces. I'm out. And the relief I felt once I no longer saw those posts pop up on my page.... it was the same sort of relief in my head and heart as it was physically when I finally got to stretch my legs out straight after giving birth. You know that feeling, the best, most relieving, so damn tight stretch of your life.
The pressure of social media to do what everyone else thinks is right for you and your babe is ridiculous. It's like someone is going to come take away your Mom Card if you let baby sleep in a rock and play longer than so many hours a day. Friends, I'm here to tell you, that ain't going to happen. You are going to be a mother forever. No matter if you breastfeed for a month or 3 years, if you co-sleep from day one until kindergarten or if babe is in their crib at month 2, if you follow baby led weaning or if those pouches of fruit/veggies have been your saving grace multiple times (Ahem. Me.) I did breast, formula, side-sleeper, co-sleep (that 4 month sleep regression is a real B), only 2 hours of PBS in the morning to watching Finding Dory 3 times in 1 day, from as many Goldfish crackers he wants to a real balanced healthy meal. I did what works for us and my kid is pretty fabulous. Funny, articulate, healthy, huge, lovable, empathetic, curious.
My mom told me once that when I was still an infant she told the pediatrician that she was unsure how to be a good mom. And he said "You've never been a mom before. But baby has never been a baby before. They don't know when you screw up." Fact. Love your baby, feed them so they grow and are healthy, keep them safe, and do all you can to hold onto your sanity. If mama ain't happy ain't nobody happy. The rest all falls in line.
*Author's note: If you feel like you are struggling in motherhood, are unsure of who you are or how to parent. Or if you just need some extra support, please reach out. This website is a good place to start www.ppsupportmn.org/postpartumsupport You can also check out my Resources page. We are here for you.
Sarah: Birth doula, wife, mother, coffee and wine drinker, lover of beer, books and tattoos.