During my third trimester, I all of sudden became very anxious about the postpartum period. I was primarily concerned with the physical recovery, so I read lots about it to prepare myself. As it turned out, I had very little to physically recover from thanks to a smooth delivery, but my research completely failed to prepare me for all the other aspects of postpartum experience. In hindsight I really wish I had had some real, no-punches-pulled stories to read from other mothers. Since so many of my friends and acquaintances are expecting or have just had their babies, I thought I’d share some of my real life postpartum experience here in the hopes that it might make another mama’s day a little better. So, here are seven real postpartum experiences I didn’t expect:
- All The Crying (me, not the baby)
I expected to be emotional after giving birth; after all, there’s a LOT of hormones involved here. I didn’t expect to regularly find myself in floods of tears over totally trivial things. Here’s a short list of reasons I have cried in the last few weeks:
- I read an Instagram post about a stranger’s dog.
- We were out of milk when I wanted to make a coffee.
- My baby cried while I was driving and couldn’t touch him.
- I watched the episode of Friends where Rachel gives birth.
- I put too much brown sugar in my oatmeal and made it gross.
- We had no clean towels.
- The Huggies commercial with all the newborns came on.
- I dropped ice cubes on the floor.
- I saw baby pigs being hurt in a documentary about veganism.
Sometimes, even if I’m not crying, I am sad for absolutely no reason. I’ve discovered that I can be simultaneously bursting with love for my baby and overwhelmed with crushing sadness-and that this is completely normal and OK. In my case, it passes and I am feeling normal fairly quickly, but I keep an eye on it. Postpartum depression is serious and very common; if you are struggling, speak to your doctor as soon as possible.
2. People Treating My Newborn Like A Celebrity
I knew I was going to be completely in love with my baby- at no point did I really expect that anyone outside of our family would share my level of interest. Turns out, the general public LOVES tiny newborns and they are shameless about wanting to get closer and have a good look. I’ve been fairly active, taking the peanut out and about every day; everywhere I go people stop me to look at him, make noises at him, or just ‘awwww.’ It’s pretty cute, but people are intense. My next door neighbor literally elbowed someone out of the way in her rush to get to the baby. A family of complete strangers waited outside The Gap for me to come out so they could get a good look at him. Some guy in a restaurant failed to notice I was breastfeeding and came RIGHT up “to see his little face” before turning bright red and making a hasty exit. I’m considering attaching a sign to him to save time. “It’s a boy. He was 6lb 15oz. Yes that was a nice size (sidebar: what exactly constitutes a “nice size” of object to push out of your vagina?) He is __ weeks old. Yes he’s a pretty good sleeper.”
3. Me Treating Those People Like Aggressive Paparazzi
Even more surprising than my baby’s celebrity status is the reaction I often have to it. While the rational side of me has no problem with people wanting to see my offspring, the crazy mama bear side wants to push everyone back at least four feet and make them stay behind a fence. If a stranger attempts to touch him I’m instantly overwhelmed with protective rage. When random women in the grocery store say things like “I could just whip him out of that seat and run away with him!” I immediately begin to calculate how I would take this bitch down if I had to. FYI well-meaning strangers, don’t say things like that to a new mother. Or like anyone, ever. Additionally please don’t tell me, “I’d cuddle him but I have [insert contagious sickness]” after you’ve just hovered over him cooing for five minutes, because it makes me want to kill you.
4. The Pain of Breastfeeding
I know all the moms out there are rolling their eyes at this one… yes, I knew it would not be comfortable to nurse for the first time. But I did not expect it to feel like my child was sucking hot lava out of these cantaloupes attached to my chest. I’m not going to lie, I’ve spent many nights over the last two months quietly crying while nursing, because it hurts so damn much. I’ve been lucky enough to have a hungry baby that latched properly right away; I don’t take that lightly, knowing the struggles that many women have getting their babies to nurse. I am definitely grateful to be able to nurse without issue. But he eats A TON, and it hurt A LOT, so I’m going to whine a little bit. You’d think after giving birth someone would throw us a bone, but instead there’s one more lovely painful surprise waiting for you after labour and delivery… thanks Mother Nature! Thankfully, this becomes much less of an issue as time goes on.
5. Missing The Bump ( and the body image struggle)
This was the single biggest surprise to me after giving birth. I didn’t like being pregnant, so I really didn’t expect to miss my baby bump at all. But a postpartum body is a whole different animal, one I’m struggling to come to grips with. I have lost more weight than I gained while pregnant and I still feel uncomfortable in my own skin. While pregnant, even though I felt big, I also felt very empowered by the amazing thing my body was doing. Pregnancy, I felt, was reminding me to value my body’s function over its form. Now, on the other side of childbirth, it’s increasingly difficult to remember that. Where there was something wonderful, now there is nothing. It’s a bizarre kind of emptiness that’s hard to shake. Fat deposits seem to redistribute across my stomach, hips, and thighs daily, my face is inexplicably puffy one day and not the next, and every time someone takes a photo of me I have to fight back tears when I see it. Also, to quote a friend, the postpartum period is “a really leaky time” …as you can imagine, this does not add up to feeling in any way attractive. My brain knows that I look fine, that I just birthed a human, and that my body is just doing its thing as it adjusts- my emotions are just taking a while to catch up, and that’s OK.
6. My Unhealthy Obsession With Snapchat Filters
If you have offspring, you will understand.
7. Wanting to Eat All The Things, All The Time
I didn’t have too much in the way of pregnancy cravings, so I had all these illusions of eating an almost perfect diet during this time… but damn, breastfeeding has turned me into a bottomless pit. I am starving all the time and as a result have very little self control when it comes to food. My little piggy is guzzling my calories away to the point that I am rarely not hungry, which means I eat what I can, when I can- super healthy or not.
I think at the end of the day it’s important to remember that everyone has a different experience. In the weeks and months immediately following that time you pushed a human being out of your body, anything goes- just take care of yourself and your little one the best you can and try not to sweat the small stuff. <3