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 from my 4th postpartum time 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, Maeve was born 12.16.2016
2 Days Postpartum
I’ve been making and posting lovely, heart-melting photos celebrating Maeve and her beautiful presence in our life. But these photos, like most, don’t tell the whole story. They don’t tell you how many times I cried today out of irritation, overwhelm, anger or unexplainable sad feelings. They don’t tell you how much my tail bone hurts or how many hours I’ve gone without sleep, nor how lonely I felt for today while also wanting to be left alone. They don’t tell you how I can’t remember how many wet diapers she’s supposed to have today or how I resented her long latch-on times that immobilize me for 45 minutes at a time, nor how desperate for a shower I was beginning to feel. But all of that rests between the tender moments and squishy newborn snuggles. It’s all par for the course of postpartum days. Especially milk day, when the same hormones that usher in the milk also open up the floodgates of hot wet tears. So this is me, keeping it real, though not without hope. This too shall pass, and I’ve gone through this just enough times to know that the commingling of complex contradictory emotions is an inevitable and rich part of being a mother and a human being
A new day, following a better night for Maeve and me. This morning a filmmaker friend came by and shot some footage for a wee little Fresh 48 film of our little family, a film which I am 100% sure will have me in tears when it’s complete. Maeve and I ventured downstairs for the first time as part of the filming, and are enjoying a little bit of time by the fire wrapped snug in her knit blanket from our friend Sara. Today, all feels right with the world.
One peeling-faced, cross-eyed and gorgeous newborn girl + a big bowl of chocolate raspberry placenta ice cream = a real postpartum party! (Yes, my friend made me homemade chocolate ice cream with raw placenta and raspberries in it!)
There have been a LOT of times during this postpartum lying-in season when my head yells at me to get up and go downstairs and help out with the bigger kids or the food prep or a laundry switch-over because I can hear the crazy down there: the restless activity of the kids punctuated by screeches when they hurt or offend one another, combined with the mounting tension and impatience in Tim’s voice. I KNOW how demanding it is to keep on top of three kids and a household all by yourself, and so I feel guilty leaving him to shoulder all of that (he is getting some help from my mom’s frequent and long visits and the aid of our community and our meal train). This voice will tell me I’m being selfish or lazy or such a princess. And yet. I remember the traditions all around the world of taking rest very seriously for an average of 40 days. Even if you feel pretty good physically.
I remind myself that there has to be wisdom in this if it’s something that almost every culture does or has practiced through most of time. I know that in these quiet moments alone behind a closed door with Maeve, she and I are synchronizing with one another bio-physically and emotionally. I am learning what her cries and sounds mean and what her sleepiness cues are and how she likes best to be held. She is learning to regulate her body temperature and breathing as she lies in or near me around the clock. She is learning what love feels like in her most basic primal brain, deep in her bones.
And so I’ll stay up here as much as I can. Though we won’t be able to take a full 40 days, Tim and our village are willing to sacrificially bear a heavier load in this season so that Maeve and I can re-enter the world with strength and reserve, and confidence when the time comes. This is the most meaningful gift I’m being given this Christmas.
Confession: this morning Maeve and I left the house. My tailbone needed adjusting so it seemed a worthy exception to the 2-weeks-at-home rule. We arrived and the wait was longer than I anticipated and strangers were interested in my baby and a couple of them poked fun at her middle name. And during the adjustment I felt a couple significant gushes of bleeding (lochia), which had all but ceased before today. Then Maeve cried all the way home because she was hungry but I didn’t want to linger longer in a busy waiting room to nurse her. So I was nearly in tears by the time I got back home, regretting having gone out too soon.
Mamas, our bodies and our babies and our emotions will clearly communicate boundaries to us if we will listen. We need to get better at honoring their wisdom. Now I’m rooted in the couch with Maeve who is forgiving and smiling sleepily against my chest.
And for myself: lunch and s bath soon, I hope. But for what it’s worth, my tailbone DOES feel better!
I look at this image of Maeve swaddled and laying in her beautiful Moses basket, sound asleep by the softest plush pink fox, and I see love. I see her angel-kissed eyelids. I see the person we knew God wanted to add to our family. I see a blessing and gift. I see flashbacks to the beautiful birth story we so recently experienced together, the best one I could have imagined. I see the love of our community who gifted her with that basket and that fox and that onesie she’s wearing and the blanket she’s laying on.
AND. I see hallelujah I get a break from constantly being on physical contact with her. I see the chaos of a messy home we can’t keep on top of because we also have three other children ages 5 and under who have cabin fever and are very hard to parent right now. I see Tim’s strained face and my own melancholy that seems like it shouldn’t be here right now. I see significant dreams that are being laid to the side because this little person needs me so intensely and so physically, and will continue to need me in that way for quite a while. I see the cold and grey outside, keeping us indoors and making the world feel super small.
Life with a newborn is maybe one of the most extreme examples of living in ambivalence, of heightened joy and heightened stress, commingled and inseparable. I want to be faithful to report both the shadows and the light, even when the pictures appear at first glance to be pure sunshine.
In the weeks following birth, hormones do crazy crazy things, some plummeting abruptly to new lows… plus others reaching higher levels than ever. And because hormones are so tied in with emotion, it’s a wild ride. Add to that recipe Winter and the accompanying SAD, and a few other stressors… and it means that some moments (some entire DAYS) the scales are tipped heavily toward the depressive and melancholic side.
I knew that the timing of Maeve’s birth would leave me vulnerable to these familiar old demons, and so I’ve tried to intentionally keep a few protective and preventative tools in my tool kit for this postpartum season.
Pictured here: a book of affirmations to endure hard times (a wise gift from Charis), a homeopathic blend for postpartum blues, and motherwort tincture. Super cute doll by my SIL Lisa and nieces!
Not pictured: various essential oils (frankincense, serenity, geranium and Gentle Baby), b-complex, vitamin d3, placenta pills, and fish oil. Also prayer and baths, sleep, and sometimes tears.
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