Jack turned six months old yesterday (!!!), which means I am six months postpartum. It’s been a wild, amazing, unbelievable journey. Being a mom is, hands down, my favorite job I’ve ever had. I feel a true sense of honor that I get to be Jack’s mom!! While I could gush about how much I love him and how sweet, cool, funny, adorable, and lovely I think he is (hehe), I thought this was a good time to do a check in about the postpartum experience.
I wrote about how challenging I found the first two weeks, and a lot has changed and a lot has happened since I wrote that.
I think the biggest, positive change has been physically feeling better. Even though all of my friends had said that my own physical recovery would be challenging, it still surprised me how hard it was. It took so much longer to heal than I anticipated and it got to the point where I wondered if I ever was going to heal. But… one day, I just was! It was truly an overnight occurrence. I think it was around the eight-week mark when I finally stopped bleeding. Looking back, it seems like those eight weeks were just a blip, but I remember at the time feeling like that was going to be my reality forever. Maybe this is TMI, but I’m going to share anyway, but the nurse at the hospital told me explicitly to not look down there and warned me that I was more swollen than what was considered normal. Obviously, that made me take a mirror and look the first day I was home from the hospital. It was traumatizing and I should have listened to the nurse but curiosity got the best of me. I was horrified and it sent me into a spiral.
I am still coming to terms with the idea that not only did becoming a parent change me as a person, my physical personhood (is that a thing??) changed as well. My body is not, and will not, be the same ever. I might get close, but I’m forever changed. This has also been harder to accept than I anticipated. I think in large part, it’s (unsurprisingly) a control thing. Jack hasn’t been able to take a bottle so he has been entirely nourished by my own body and while I love breastfeeding more than I can even describe, it is all-consuming and I feel like my body is not entirely my own. And then to look in the mirror and not totally recognize my physical self, it’s been hard.
With that said, I have to say that I am proud of my body and what it did and I try every day to give thanks for what it did.
THE EMOTIONAL ROLLERCOASTER:
I still feel like the best way to describe this whole experience is that it’s a rollercoaster. There are ups and downs and loop-de-loos, but for better or for worse we are strapped in and just going along for the ride!! That’s how I’d sum up how it’s been emotionally. For the most part, it’s a thrill– just like that rollercoaster. I love motherhood in such a profound way that sometimes I feel sad that I didn’t have children sooner. I’m grateful and overjoyed for every moment. There are days when I count the minutes down to bed time and feel like I’m surviving moment-to-moment, but then I put Jack down to bed and immediately long for him again. I’m exhausted and tired and often overwhelmed, but I love being a mom.
The challenge for me hasn’t been motherhood necessarily, but more trying to figure out how to balance everything else that needs to get done outside of caring for Jack with my work and doing things for me too. It’s forced me to reprioritize a lot of my life and I’m, for the most part, okay with that. I was recently telling a friend who is expecting her first baby soon that I don’t “dread the hard parts.” I think about so many things I’ve done in my life (school, rowing, even socializing) and how pretty much everything was a mix of good stuff and things I “dreaded” but that came along with it. I don’t have that feeling with motherhood… I feel honored to do it all. It’s the rest of my life where I struggle to make it fit into the limited resource of non-mothering time.
The place where I struggle the very most, though, is with my own rigidity. It’s become my catch phrase when dealing with anything that outside of my control that, “I’m not a regular mom, I’m a chill mom.” The reality is that I’m not chill and I desperately want to be able to control every single factor in every single aspect of life generally speaking… let alone parenting. But especially in parenting, you have to give up control quite a bit. And I struggle with it on a daily (if not hourly) basis. I try so hard to go with the flow and most days I do end up having no choice but to go with the flow, but it can make me spiral internally. Working on it… and I hope if I say I’m chill mom frequently enough that maybe it’ll start to be true 😉
A WEIRD, HARD TIME:
Somewhere around the four month postpartum mark, I started to relive the delivery in great detail. It was like a movie in my mind that played over and over again. I was having nightmares about it and almost like… phantom labor pains. I think I had blocked out so much of the actual labor and then dove headfirst into figuring out how to be a mom and take care of Jack that I hadn’t had time to fully process what happened. As a result, it all came flooding back to me seemingly out of the blue. Looking back on that time, I was pretty stressed from work deadlines and Jack was also starting to teethe so he wasn’t sleeping great and I’m sure both of those things played a contributing factor in addition to make a drop in hormones. All I can say is that it was really hard to relive it all and to relive it all in such great detail. It was bizarre and, in a way, it felt almost more traumatizing than actually giving birth? I kept finding myself thinking of all the ways it things could have gone wrong. I was reliving my experience through the lens of, “wow, you just got lucky, this could have ended terribly in these 245 ways.”
WHAT HAS SURPRISED ME:
I’d say that every day I have something new that surprises me. The biggest surprise, though, came just a couple of months ago. After having such a tough go with pregnancy, I had secretly been thinking that I might be one and done. I hadn’t voiced it out loud to anyone because for so long I dreamed of having more than one child since I loved having a sister so much. But that pregnancy rattled me to my core. But then I was giving Jack a bath one night in December and I had a very, very clear thought that I couldn’t wait to have another baby. I had been so convinced that I didn’t want to go through another pregnancy, even after Jack was born, that it took me by surprise to have such a strong, clear thought that I definitely did. (To be clear, this won’t be happening any time soon!)
MY FAVORITE MOMENTS:
I started to write a list of my favorite moments, but I could go on forever…. that first wakeup in the morning when Jack smiles soooo big that we’ve come in to “rescue him” from his crib; seeing him learn a new skill; watching him interact with friends and family; finding out he’s grown when a favorite shoe suddenly doesn’t fit or a snap doesn’t reach the other; all the bath times. My favorite favorite though I think are the middle of the night nursing sessions. When he’s extra heavy and snuggles a little deeper than usual. There are no external distractions and it’s quiet. He’s been rubbing his hand on my chest or lightly patting my arm. And then, when he’s done, I spend a few lingering moments with him in my arms and just whisper into his ear just how much I love him. I know he’ll never remember it, but I try to soak it in as much as possible because I know infancy is so fleeting.