I gave birth to our beautiful baby girl, Lyla Denison Green on May 20th of this year. Like many first time parents, I spent a good chunk of my time reading books about pregnancy and labour. I even read about parenting, co-sleeping, baby-wearing, breastfeeding, baby led weaning….the list goes on. I felt like I was doing everything I could to get the best first step for my babe. I asked some moms about postpartum, but most just shrugged and said it’s not so bad you will be back on your feet in no time. Little did I know…
May 19th came around. My water broke and then began the 20 hours of contracting every 2 minutes with 2 full hours of pushing before I got to meet my baby girl. The experience was exhausting. Never before in my life had I felt so primal and connected to my body. I remember having moments of doubt and fear but overcoming them when thinking that women all around the world are doing this with me right now or have done this before. I also had a great support team.
The first night was amazing – I gave birth to her in our bed so I remained there with her. I was focused on learning to breastfeed and spending a ton of time skin to skin. The adrenaline pumping through my body made me feel on top of the world. I was on such a high and remember calling my parents and in-laws to tell them the amazing news of our girl, full of pride and joy. Thom, my husband, was such an amazing support during the birth and I had never felt so connected to him.
Day 2 is when everything changed for me. Suddenly the adrenaline was gone. I was exhausted from being up for almost 3 days straight. My body hurt everywhere from labour. My hormones were changing rapidly and I started to feel really sad…And not just sad, I felt ashamed that I felt sad. The postpartum period is the part we DON’T talk about and the part that really opened my eyes. My midwives did tell me that I may feel more emotional but with a ton of other information about Lyla, so I wasn’t really focused on the information about me. They also told me no walking or doing stairs for at least a week. As someone who needs to get out of the house everyday, this was really difficult for me.
As I tried getting up to go to the washroom, my body ached. I had grade 1 tearing that was stitched and hemorrhoids (I had read it was possible but I didn’t think it would happen to me…). My milk was coming in and I had two new cantaloupes on my body that ached. I refused to take any medication because I didn’t want to affect nursing or Lyla. I felt myself getting frustrated at Thom for the silliest things. Why didn’t he just know how to take care of me or when I was hungry without me telling him! I just didn’t feel like myself anymore…
At this time, I called my mom and had a very important conversation (and in all honesty, I didn’t know how important it was until later).
We talked about all the changes I was feeling and the pain and asked her why she didn’t tell me about how hard the postpartum period was. I was prepared for how difficult the “marathon” of labour could be but not this! She quietly listened to me and then said, I didn’t tell you because I didn’t want to scare you about how hard it really is…
We all talk about the labour being the hard part but no one talks about after birth. I then said well if I would have known, I could have been more prepared. Her parting words were, “I remember saying the exact same thing to my mom after you were born.”
Now I don’t know if any other moms have had a similar conversation but I found it crushing. Obviously we are all experiencing the struggle but why are we not talking about it??
I was blessed to have help. Thom, my parents, my sister, my brother in law, my in-laws all came to support us through the first couple of weeks while I navigated my new life and new body. At the end of week one, I went for my first walk because I was going stir crazy. I had never been in the house for a full week ever and it was driving me crazy. I learned pretty quickly that walking all the way to Shoppers was TOO FAR. My ego told me I could handle it – I was thinking so many other mothers do this right away… I felt inadequate as a mother and that I was failing to give her the life she deserved.
Week two was just as difficult. I would go downstairs a couple times throughout the day to get out of my bedroom. My pain was still intense and I was still riding the rollercoaster of emotions and feeling inadequate as a mother. I couldn’t help around the house or cook. There was no way I could work and spent time crying everyday. On top of this, I was starting to have issues with nursing and feeling intense amounts of pain that made me cry while feeding my girl.
During week three I learned that Lyla was lip and posterior tongue-tied. No wonder nursing was so painful! She was still getting enough milk and growing like a weed but I continued to tough it out. I did get her tongue-tie cut which was extremely traumatic for me. Talk about guilt! Why was I doing this to her…just so I had less pain…? It was a completely ridiculous thought but it was how I felt at the time.
Something amazing happened at the end of the third week – I was able to go for a walk around the block without pain. I was nursing without crying and I had one really important conversation with my cousin Kristina who lives out West. We were texting back and forth as we sometimes do at 1 a.m. while I’m up feeding Lyla. She asked me how I was feeling and I was talking about how I just didn’t feel like myself. She talked about how she was just starting to feel like herself and her babe just turned two. But then she mentioned something important about how even if she is feeling like herself, it was her new self. She alluded to the fact that we are never the same after going through birth and the beginnings of motherhood.
It hit me hard.
I had changed by going through all of this and it was time to embrace my new self. My new body. My new life. Talk about a light bulb moment!
I tell you all of this because I think it is time we normalize our birth stories and also realize that the postpartum period is very important in a mother’s growth. We need to stop hiding it from new moms and be there for each other. It really is less scary when you have support.
By 6 weeks, I went for a hike, the tearing was completely healed (along with my hemorrhoids), breastfeeding had started to feel good (even if I still have some days of pain but its minor in comparison to what I felt before) and I have given myself the grace to understand that I am not inadequate as a mother. Lyla and I are both learning and will continue to learn together. And best thing is, she has no idea if I’m doing it “wrong”.
This is postpartum and it has been the most amazing period of my life (and the most difficult) with the most amount of self-development but I honestly wouldn’t trade it for anything.
My baby girl is doing amazing and I feel very blessed to be her mom.