Over the years, I have shared in a rather raw form about my postpartum journeys, often with the hashtags of #takebackpostpartum or #honestpostpartum.
Here below I offer a smattering of those posts — in no particular order — collected in one blog post, to paint a portrait of the multifaceted adjustments that a mamababy dyad goes through in the first days and weeks together.
For reference, Gilbert was born 10.29.2022
Day 3 Postpartum
🌱I’m like a newbie all over again when it comes to changing the diapers if little boys.
🌱My entire pelvis aches today as if it’s been through a massive workout, which I suppose it has been!
🌱Baby’s skin is peeling, requiring gentle application of jojoba and herbs.
🌱My milk came in overnight, slow and even and without a corresponding emotional incident.
🌱ReBalance and Pain Potion are good companions for postpartum mothers. CBD oil too.
🌱The siblings wanting turns holding baby is both the sweetest thing and overwhelming to manage.
🌱I have an appetite again and actually WANT to eat. Hallelujah. My little dorm fridge and a snack basket help with between-meal hunger.
🌱Our chiropractor and the midwife both came yesterday to look us over and tend to us.
🌱My Postpartum doula comes today ti make me an herbal bath and prepare infusions and a dinner, etc.
Most things in life are a both-and, not an either-or.
With a house full of robust children and a body yet tender from giving birth I am BOTH blessed to the point of cup-overflowing AND overwhelmed and overstimulated in this tender postpartum time.
Since our children aren’t schooled, we are all 8 of us here together most of the time, finding our way in a freshly-expanded state. Sometimes the emotions are big – the kids’ and mine and my husbands. Sometimes it’s so sweet I could cry. Sometimes I want everyone to go away (and a couple of days ago I got that wish for several hours and it was exquisite).
I think that a big part of moving contentedly through this life is an ability to embrace the both-and of whatever life season or circumstance we find ourselves in. Knowing how to simultaneously acknowledge the challenges and celebrate the incredible gifts is the key. They always come in the same package!
Lord, give us eyes to see the gifts that come packaged up with our challenges and trials.
Lord, thank you for accepting our emotional responses to the difficulties that accompany our deepest joys.
You are a God of nuance, the God of both-and.
Deep thoughts from a lying-in mother of 6.
A proper lying-in period isn’t possible without support.
In past generations the mother’s mothers and aunties (and, for wealthy women, servants) would step in to run the house, mind the older children, and nurture the new mother. But because our mothers and aunties these days often live far away or are still working or caring for older relatives, the burden shifts to others.
In my case, it’s mostly my husband. And we’re “lucky” he can have two weeks to stay home with us and bear the weight of all of this while baby and I stay tucked away in our bedroom doing our own important but quiet work.
In our country, most men don’t get more than a few days of paternity leave. Two weeks, maybe. Then they’re back to work, like it or not. So we have to use the time we have purposefully.
I’m more grateful than I can say that Tim truly understands the importance of a rest period after birth and thus he pours himself out cheerfully to serve me, care for the kids, manage the house, etc. He perseveres because he values it, but it’s absolutely costly to him. Of course he’d rather be resting with us, snuggling his new son. Of course he’s weary as he extends himself to tasks/work that usually aren’t his responsibilities.
Sometimes it’s hard to receive the care, because I see him stretched thin and want to make it better for him. But soon enough this blissful time of resting, healing, bonding and adjusting will come to an end and I’ll slowly work myself back into the fray with him and release him in increasing increments back out into the world and the work that waits there for him to do.
All this to say: shout out to the dads/husbands who get it, and who sacrificially step in to protect their woman’s healing time. Men who learn how to mother the mother are pure gold.
I also have support from my mom, who is generously carving out chunks of time to support us through our transition and a postpartum doula who comes 6 hours a week and does “mother nurture” for me. We’ve pieced together a pretty good set-up and I’m grateful.
How about you?
I am a mother to six. Let it sink in.
This little human sprawled across my lap was just seven days ago encased inside my own body. What a wonder.
I’m invited again to die a thousand small deaths in order to make room for him. Hard and holy work, this.
We’ve been in our bedroom entirely, snoozing when sleepy, eating when hungry, cuddling as much as we can muster. Once we went and sat a while in the unseasonably warm November sun.
I aim to be laying down for a chunk of each day, to take pressure off my sore tailbone and relieve my weak core from too much strain as organs readjust their positions and muscles relearn their former shape.
Each day my older kids have come in to coo over or hold the baby. They assist in doing small tasks or bringing me needed items upon request. Their jubilant energy feels like “too much” after a while and I ask them to leave. It’s nicest when one child at a time comes in for a visit. Watching them fall in love with their new brother…. Nothing beats it.
Gil lost his cord stump on Day 5. His skin is still peeling a lot and it’s hard not to pick at it. He poops a LOT, and often when I’m mid-diaper change. 😖
We’ve had a few rounds or tandem nursing sessions with Agatha. She didn’t ask for milk for four days after the birth but has resumed her interest now.
My mom has been very present and intentional this week, a delightful change from our experience during our Postpartum of 2020 when anxiety around Covid kept her at bay. She brings meals, cleans rooms, and takes the kids on an outing.
Between newborn care and rest, I did the work of writing our birth story, naming the baby, and writing about the meanings of his names. These felt like secondary labors about which I also had urgency to complete
Emotionally, I’ve been extremely stable. No tears of joy or sadness; just a contented, quiet heart and a still mind.
Physically, my pelvis aches and my core feels unstable. But engorgement hasn’t been as extreme or painful as my past experiences, and all the tissues of my yoni are in tact, not swollen, and pain-free (hallelujah).
The hunger is unreal.
Co-sleeping is a thing to adjust to again, both the strange positions it requires me to twist into and the attuned vigilance over his breathing and hunger cues leading to frequent wakings to check or attend.
The meal train hasn’t been as magical this time as In the past for a family of 8 is expensive and intimidating to cook for! I get it. Instead, we’ve had some gift cards and carry out and that’s awesome too. No one is even close to starving to death, and the burden of nightly cooking has been alleviated. Grateful.
We haven’t had many visitors at all, mostly family and our various “helping professionals.” I’m grateful to have had a quiet solitary first week but leading into week two I am feeling more desirous of short visits, so will probably pursue setting some up.
Day 9 POSTPARTUM
The sun is shining and the days are warmer than one would expect for the time of year and my skin is hungry for its kiss.
I have glimpses — through my iPhone-hosted conversations with friends — of life moving forward, marching on. Fun adventures, people to see, places to go, meaningful work to attend to.
My tailbone is sore and stiff from sitting on my very old bed. My body aches in strange places from its attempts to accommodate the sleeping and nursing form of my small babe.
The restlessness is beginning to set in.
It happens every time for me at about the week mark: the mind starts to expand to include the consciousness of other parts of life (home, children, school, relationships, work) that need tending and the impulse to get up and attend to them starts to grow. The stiff body desires more movement and a little more space in which to expand.
One feels, almost, pinned down by the sleeping infant with the sweet-smelling head and the confines of the walls of the lying-in room.
I have studied and understand the myriad benefits of the first forty days spent in rest and nurturance, quietness and connection. My firstborn plunged me into that paradigm with brute strength — a freak sciatic injury during an extended pushing stage rendered my pelvic floor crippled and my right leg with shooting nerve pain. There was nowhere I could be beside the bed. I was defeated.
Yet every birth since then, I have chosen this practice of 2 weeks in, on, and near the bed, cloistered away from normal responsibilities even when I have felt like a million bucks and probably could have jumped back in and hit the ground running. I have chosen it because I believe in its long-lasting benefits (physical, mental, and emotional).
But I will be honest about the fact that sticking to it can get really hard. I want to crawl out of my skin. My body rails against this stillness. My mind spins with things I fear are being neglected while I’m tucked out of sight upstairs. There’s so much tension going into the second week.
I have ventured downstairs for a period of 2-3 hours each of the last few days. Mostly just to sit in a different scene. But yesterday I also did tasks. And then my bleeding picked up.
The body is not ready for what my mind thinks it is ready for. They aren’t synched up just yet.
So back to bed, back to a locked door and children kept at bay. Back to naps and books and laying looking at the ceiling while a baby snoozes on my chest. Back to receiving and entrusting and waiting and healing.
This isn’t meant to be a burden that shackles. It is meant for our good, sisters. Hang in there. It will not be regrettable.
14 DAYS POSTPARTUM
Today our little Gil is 2 weeks old. We celebrated with a take-out breakfast feast from our favorite diner around the corner, inclusive of cinnamon rolls literally bigger than my face.
Gil is a sweet baby and mostly laid back but prone to some crying spells that seem to be related to gas (both ends), for I’ve started him on a protocol shaped by the findings of muscle testing courtesy of a dear friend trained in the modality. As of his weigh-in on day 10 of his life, he was already a bit more than a pound above his birth weight. His head smells a bit like the newborn magic, mingled with the odors of the armpit in which he nestles when he sleeps at night.
Two weeks also marks the end of my lying-in, sadly.
The transition from a lying-in period to a new normal spent back on my feet, outside the sheltered sanctuary of the bedroom, picking up the responsibilities of daily motherhood and homemaking once more (with a newborn in tow) is one that always leaves me feeling nervous.
With my first born it was rather terrifying. The more children we have, the harder AND easier it gets, somehow. Now I know what to expect, I know that “this too shall pass,” I have some veteran tricks up my sleeve and older kids who can be helpful in meaningful ways, and I have mastered the art of lowering the bar. And yet, it’s also harder because SIX KIDS means more of EVERYTHING. More big emotions, more relational dynamics, more needs to meet, more mouths to feed, and more developmental stages to parent through.
(Have I mentioned that I’m still in a bit of denial about the fact that I’m a Big Family Mama? Like, how did this become my life? I feel rather like an imposter).
And the last two days of lying in were rather abruptly and unceremoniously truncated by an unexpected home repair which – like so many home repairs – turned out to be much more extensive and time-consuming than predicted, taking my husband up on a ladder for the better part of two days, unavailable to be the primary on point adult with our older kids, and forcing me downstairs into heavier-lifting roles than planned on.
Week 3 postpartum is looking a lot like this:
☀️Unapologetically sitting around holding a sleeping or nursing baby even when there are plenty of tasks I could-should be doing. (Cos this part is sooooo fleeting and I’m not gonna miss out on it!)
☀️Sipping hot beverages and looking out at snow that I have not gone out in yet (and won’t until next week) but which the big kids are mightily enjoying frolicking in.
☀️ Wearing the same milky loungewear or maternity clothing for days at a time (I mean the more the clothes smell like mama, the more comforting for baby, right?)
☀️Accepting help and presence from my lovely postpartum doula and my mom, and receiving meals from caring friends (or carry-out or the freezer stash) as much as I can.
☀️Starting a note in my phone titled Back To It where I brain dump every task and work-related item that I’ll soon enough have to give attention to, and doing some of the smaller items on that list, as I’m able.
Eeeeeaaaase back in.
Keep the bar low.
I made a 90-minute workshop (complete with a workbook and link library) on planning a really great postpartum, The First Week After Birth. I hope you’ll check it out. It’s cheap!
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