To All The Things I Didn’t Know About Postpartum
To all the things I didn’t know about the beginning of motherhood. To the hours, days, and weeks after birth. To the things I didn’t know because I couldn’t know. I couldn’t know them until the force of this shift crashed over me, swallowed me up, and swept me away into its messy and wonderous waves.
To the initial moments, the cries from both baby and me. The relief, joy, and new looming fears. To the surrealness of it all. Bringing baby home while still unable to see that I was a mother and this was my son. To the quiet and hush of the first days. The baby that slept and slept. The tiniest diapers, fingers and toes. The adrenaline that helped me to coast through sleepless nights, just feeding, holding, and listening to his uneven breaths.
To giving into sleep and startling awake thinking I had fallen asleep on the baby. Frantically searching the bed for his little body only to realize that he was safe in the arms of my partner in the other room. How that terrifying moment could feel so real.
To the aching sadness of missing my pregnant belly. Reaching down to feel squishy flesh no longer tightly stretched, strained by kicks and wiggles from within. How long and patiently I waited for my belly to be big and round. How I waited to look as pregnant as I felt. And how quickly it was gone.
To the intensity of emotion. To looking down at my baby and weeping. Weeping because I loved him so much. Because I felt the weight of this new responsibility. Or because of no reason at all.
To the healing of my body. The many days that I bled. Bled more than I imagined. Sometimes making me queasy. To the first few days that I felt my body should be on ice. Every muscle grasped by the soreness of birthing.
To the processing of trauma. The trauma that I hadn’t expected. The hours of labour that kept rolling around in my mind. The pain, the absence of relief, the worrying moments, the exhaustion, and eventual meeting of my baby.
To the mourning of what my relationship once was. How we became passing ships. Trading places, taking shifts, awake and asleep alone. Only feeling close to Adam when I’d collapse into the place where he had laid in our bed. Feeling his warmth as it faded.
To the anxiety. The kind that keeps me awake. Starting deep down in my belly and rushing up to my throat as I wait to hear my baby’s breathing. Wide awake, invigorated by instinct. To the other anxiety. The kind that comes with dusk. The unknown nights with no predictable rhythm or guarantee of rest. The anxiousness that comes with feeling isolated. Alone and awake in the quiet stillness.
To the sense of being robbed of my body. A loss of identity, independence, and agency. To the reminder of this even when my baby is distant from me. The leaky breasts, little showering, and rushing to eat.
To the insidious resentment that would rear her ugly head and catch me in her jaws. Resenting my partner for his still intact independence, his physical vitality, his ability to sleep. To the anger that would rise up from that resentment. The kind of anger that would send me reeling at night and leave me feeling unrecognizable.
To the shame of it all. The shame in my inability to control my emotions. Struggling to breathe through it. To the shame in having to ask for help. In admitting that I couldn’t do it alone. To the shame that wraps itself around the sneaking suspicion that I’m not enough. Not enough of a knowing or intuitive mother. Not cut out for any of it. The shame in admitting how hard its been.
To the minutes and hours spent begging my baby to sleep. Only to finally sink into respite and find myself missing him. Missing his coos and the weight of him in my arms.
To the realization that labour and birth are just a blip. The real work comes after. The real fear, pain, and unknown comes just on the other side. That’s when the breathing counts. The meditating is necessary. The mantras are medicine.
To the very real and needed support of other mamas. The teary phone calls. The validation of my feelings of losing myself, frustration, and unworthiness. The pep talks, the middle-of-the-night texts, and the reassurance.
To the obsessive search for answers and solutions to sleep again. The googling, the forums, the asking, the seeking. To the incessant thinking about more sleep, need for more sleep.
To the true key to it all, which is time. Time that passes dreadfully slow and fast all at once. Time for baby to grow. Time to get used to this. Time to believe in myself. Time to heal my body and to release the thoughts and memories on repeat.
To the unique reality of my postpartum days. How they have taken place during a global pandemic. Leaving us more alone than the newborn phase already succeeds in doing. To giving myself more grace because of this. Forgiving myself for losing it. For having bad days. To the patience in holding out for physical help from friends and family when we reach the light at the end of this.
To how my love would grow so quickly. How I’d learn to savour the sleepy moments in the dark. To the feeling of it all being a mess. How I started to feel it passing and began to pause more. Trying to imprint this feeling in my body and mind. The feeling of his little hand on my skin. His weight on my chest. His dark eyes that lock mine. His little cries for me. His round cheeks and each perfect roll and crease. His sounds and faces and growing curiosity. His tiny body so easy to scoop up and love on.
To the impermanence of it all. And to the belief that I am a good mother. To patiently allowing the roots of that belief to get stronger with each passing day.