When your newborn baby is placed in your arms for the first time, there is truly nothing that can prepare you. No matter how many books you read, no matter how many people you speak to, no matter what advice you get, there’s nothing like the experience of your own postpartum. I have already shared Sofia's birth story and that she was so tiny when she was born. I knew that she was going to be small but I didn't realise just how tiny she would really be, like a little doll. So tiny, yet so strong.
While we were still in hospital, we were woken up every three hours around the clock so that I could breastfeed her and then pump to help with my milk supply. I really disliked pumping, it was uncomfortable and time consuming. I remember developing a blister on one of my breasts because of all of the sucking (and also a latch that was less than ideal). One thing I wish I had done before having Sofia is more training around breastfeeding. I also thought that you had to always feed sitting upright, it wasn't until three months postpartum that I discovered the beauty of the side-lying feed. Game changing!!
What surprised me most once we took Sofia home was the feeling of utter exhaustion, knowing that I would never get more than 2-3 hours’ sleep at a time. No matter how hard you've worked in the past, nothing compares to that sheer exhaustion of keeping another human alive. We were so lucky to be living with my parents at the time who took such great care of us. My mum took 6 weeks off work to care for me after my c-section. They cooked for us, cleaned for us and even got up at 3am after Sofia's feed to take her for a few hours so we could sleep. I also had the help of a postpartum doula who offered a food delivery service, so I made sure I was nourished.
We didn't have any visitors until Sofia was about 2 weeks old, and then it was only close family and friends who all wanted to hold Sofia which actually made me feel really uncomfortable and next time around I would set stronger boundaries around this, some people came over wearing really strong perfume that rubbed off on Sofia and made me really uneasy. I also had my midwives do home visits every couple of days for the first two weeks and had the help of a lactation consultant.
I did my own version of the first 40 days and spent most of my time snuggling on the couch with Sofia, watching Netflix and reading.
My postpartum period was really special and I felt quite calm, centred and happy. Even though I was bone- tired, so tired, in fact, that I almost talked myself out of attending my local Mother’s Group. Attending this group was so helpful for me. Although I was pretty happy in my postpartum bubble, I did start to feel a bit lonely and the days felt quite long, especially when Luke went back to work, and I really craved connection with other mothers going through the same thing. It also helped that most of us were breastfeeding so we could all get together at a café and breastfeed, which is something I felt a bit self-conscious about initially. Now these women are some of my best friends and we have a really strong bond.
Initially it took a lot to get me out of the house and the excessive planning that needed to go into leaving the house made me feel anxious. I am a highly sensitive person and I realised pretty soon in motherhood that getting out of the house was really good for me but that I couldn’t be out for super long stretches during the day. One social outing was enough and then I needed to retreat to my cozy, dark room with my calming oil diffuser where I would feed Sofia and we could both rest. I am still like this today, if I have too much on my plate in one day I get really overwhelmed. I wasn’t like this before becoming a mum so matrescence has obviously made my nervous system more sensitive to overwhelm.
My postpartum story is ongoing, I don’t believe that postpartum is a 6-week process. It is a forever process. Over time, my intuition has become stronger and I have become more confident as a mother. Looking back, there’s not much I would change about my motherhood experience. I acknowledge it is ongoing, it is messy, it is joyful, it is stressful and it is beautiful on so many levels. This has been one of the most transformational times of my life.
So, my advice to you is to go slow, there is no rush to get back into “life”. It’s also normal and healthy not to enjoy every single moment, to question your identity as a mother and to have moments of grief as you say goodbye to the version of yourself that you knew so well before becoming a mother. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, although I know it is hard to do. The more specific and direct you are about what you need as a mother, the easier it is for others to help.
You deserve support and nourishment. You deserve to be happy.