Like any other expecting or first-time mom, I did a ton of research during my pregnancy – research that mainly consisted of watching endless labor and delivery vlogs or reading about what to expect postpartum. …and, if I’m being honest – well, you can always count on that here – I wish I never spent so much time watching those vlogs. Why? …because, I had so many expectations about how labor and delivery could go from hearing other women’s stories and my birth experience ended up being so much easier than I expected it to be. (Post coming later.)
…however, this post isn’t about my labor – rather, I wish someone would have been raw with me about the things you may experience during what I call “the fourth trimester,” which I can gratefully say gets better each day. So, here are five lessons I’ve had to learn on my own during my postpartum recovery.
1. Baby blues is like PMS on steroids and there’s nothing wrong with you if you experience them.
For the first two weeks after Leo was born, my emotions must not have received the memo that I had just given birth to a beautiful, healthy baby boy… because, I was crying (correction: sobbing) at random intervals during the day (my poor husband) without an explanation or a clue as to why. Those spontaneous moments of tears are what are called: baby blues. Long story short, our bodies spend nine months storing up a shit-load of hormones – and, when the baby is finally here – those hormone levels take a nose-dive and exit our bodies all at once, which obviously throws everything out of wack.
2. Two words: breastfeeding contractions.
Also known as after-pains, I wasn’t aware that breastfeeding would feel like I was going to go into labor all over again. The contractions or cramps that occur during the first few days of breastfeeding are caused by the uterus contracting and beginning to shrink back to its pre-pregnancy size. The pains are temporary and completely normal, albeit uncomfortable.
3. You may be healed on the outside, but not the inside.
Even though Leo is 9-weeks old, I am still struggling with this reality. Sure, you may arrive to your 6-week postpartum check-up and the doctor may clear you to resume your normal pre-pregnancy activities. Sure, you may feel a lot stronger vs. how you felt right after giving birth. However, your body took 9-months to grow a baby and needs another 9-months to fully heal – on the inside – and, you should give yourself grace to accept that it’s going to be a journey before you are able to fully feel like yourself again. I recite this mantra to myself every time I look in the mirror.
4. Lack of sleep can sometimes mean no sleep.
I thought it was annoying when people would tell me to “rest up now while you can before the baby gets here.” Though irritating to hear, it is true. Unfortunately, our bodies are not like deep freezers and we can’t just store up a ton of rest ahead of time to pull from when we need it later. Consider bouts of broken sleep or all-nighters to be your new worst enemy when you have a newborn until your baby has the ability to sleep through the night, which, in some cases, still doesn’t equal 8-hours.
5. Phantom cries are your mind’s way of playing tricks on you.
It may sound crazy, but I could swear I heard Leo crying when he really wasn’t. After finally getting Leo down for a nap, I would hop in the shower – and, within five minutes, I would hear him start to cry. However, when I would hop out to check on him, he’d be sleeping peacefully. …and, this cycle continued whenever I would vacuum, watch TV, or start the laundry. According to the Internet, it’s a mother’s instinct and we’re programmed to be “tuned in” to when we feel our children are in the slightest bit of danger. I’m not sure if the phantom cries will ever go away, but it’s nice to know I’m not going insane.
Being a mother is no walk in the park. There’s not an automatic switch of blue skies or rainbows and you don’t get a parade with a full-on marching band once you’ve got your stitches and your baby in your arms.
…but, it’s emotion: real, raw, honest emotion. I’ve never felt so much real emotion until I gave birth to Leo; the kind of emotion that you can’t run away from. You have no option to avoid it – you have to feel it… all of it.
…and, it’s beautiful.