When I was pregnant with my first child, I had many preconceived notions about “postpartum life.”
I had a vague idea about how life would change. But I intended to work the baby into MY life.
I knew I’d be tired, but there was no way I could even begin to comprehend what exactly I was in store for. I knew my body would probably be a little different. But if you work hard enough, I thought, your body didn’t have to change just because you were a mom.
Photo by Vince Fleming
Secretly, somewhat smugly, I judged moms that I saw juggling screaming, misbehaved children. MY kids would be well-behaved little adults...They wouldn’t eat junk food. They wouldn’t watch tv! I knew a bit about postpartum depression. I knew breastfeeding was hard for some. But these seemed like distant impossibilities. I was a happy, sound-minded person - I wouldn’t be sad! Especially not with a cute, fun little baby to play with! I was going to breastfeed.
No question about it!
Looking back now, almost two years later, pregnant with my second child, I realize how naive I was…how my world was about to be rocked in a way I never expected. The truth is this: having a baby is really and truly the most incredible, beautiful, wonderful, happiest thing in the world. I feel so blessed to have my son, to have been able to birth him, and to be able to raise him. But here is another truth: having a baby changes everything…
In amazing, good, hard, scary, challenging ways.
Things you assume before having a child will be flipped, whirled, and turned upside down.
You will look back on what you thought postpartum life was going to be like and you will laugh. But then again, how could you have known? We all have the very best of intentions.
The truth about life after having a baby is that you won't sleep for longer than two or three hours at a time for weeks on end. Maybe even months. In fact, sometimes getting two consecutive hours of sleep will feel like the most precious gift.
You will experience a level of exhaustion that you didn’t know was possible.
Your body will change more than you think and in ways that you didn’t even consider. It’s not all a matter of how hard you work to “get your body back”…some things just never go back to the way they were before you grew and birthed a human being.
And that’s ok. It is SO SO very ok.
You may have stretch marks (I do!), and loose skin, at least in the beginning. You may never feel comfortable in a bikini again…that’s fine! You’ll still look six months pregnant for a week or so after giving birth until things go back where they should be. You’ll be sore after giving birth. Your boobs will leak. And speaking of boobs, breastfeeding IS hard. In fact, I couldn’t do it. I wasn’t producing enough milk for my son and after two months we had to switch entirely over to formula. I was devastated by this. But you know what? He’s fine!
You’ll feel sad at times…yes, even despite having a cute, fun little baby to play with. You’ll feel sad, lost, and scared even when you know you shouldn’t. Trust me; every mama does at some point.
And that doesn’t necessarily mean you have postpartum depression, but if you DO, that’s ok. It’s ok to need help. It’s ok to not feel ok, and it’s ok to talk to people about how you’re feeling.
You’ll be so absolutely consumed by and in love with your baby that it will feel like the air has been knocked from your lungs time and time again. It’s a love you’ve never felt before. You’ll worry about that child with an intensity and a ferocity that will stun you, and you’ll experience anxiety that will never fully go away. Your life will change to accommodate that child. And yes, you’ll find ways to fit the baby into your world…but more likely you’ll find yourself navigating this strange new terrain for the first time WITH your baby. You will create a new world together.
Postpartum life is hard. It’s so hard. But you know what else it is? It’s full of a love that is so overwhelming and beautiful that you will not be able to remember how you ever existed before it. It’s full of late nights, rocking your baby and forming a bond that can never be broken. It’s about going through a transformation…becoming a new person…a MOTHER. It’s going through an incredible, wonderful metamorphosis, and looking back a year later and thinking, THIS is who I was meant to be. It’s about learning so much about yourself and about what really matters in life.
It’s about feeling the utmost pride in your accomplishments, no matter how small; whether it’s cooking a meal, or doing a load of laundry, or sucking boogers out of your baby’s nose with one of those hose things. It’s bursting at the seams every time YOUR little human hits a new milestone…every laugh, every new tooth, the first steps, the first word… the joy you get from your little one’s accomplishments will outweigh any joy you have ever felt before. It’s discovering that the newborn days are hard and you will be in a fog and you will feel overwhelmed at times. But that the fog will clear before you know it and that, in fact, the time is fleeting. Your baby will grow more and more independent by the day, and soon you will be sleeping through the night again.
You can do this, Mama. You are not alone, and you are embarking on the absolute GREATEST journey…motherhood. Embrace it, cherish the littlest moments. Time is going to pick up speed and you won't want to miss a thing.