Saturday, September 03, 2011

these post-baby days

I've decided that I'd like to post this here instead of just writing about it somewhere else, because if anyone wants to give me feedback, I'd be glad for it. I also want to be transparent about the difficulty of the "baby blues" days of postpartum life, even though of course these days are nothing like the days would be of someone who truly has postpartum depression. I'm not even attempting to suggest that my struggles are comparable, but I just need to process them, and, fortunately, upon this third baby, I think I understand a little bit better why I feel the way I feel and what things are upsetting to me (despite the fact that I know the bulk of it is hormonal and will poof itself away at about one or two months postpartum).

First off, let me say that I don't like hormonal things. I don't like to blame a mood on something I can't control, or to complain of being sad or weepy or irritable because of "hormones." And yet, I know that it's a very real phenomenon. It's real to feel a certain way during pregnancy because of all the hormones coursing through to help the baby grow, and it's normal to feel a certain way after birth because of the hormones that get your body back to "normal," start breastmilk flowing, and get you bonding with your baby. So, I know intellectually that hormones are doing things that cause me then to feel a certain way, like irritated one moment and weepy the next and nostalgic for the worst parts of pregnancy the next.

Here are some things I think I've figured out this time about what's going on in these post-baby days:

1. I feel a certain sadness the further away I get from the day of the birth. I have felt this all three times, and it always baffles me, because labor is painful and not that much fun and is just all the way that the baby gets out. But in the postpartum days, admission to triage is tinged with warm, glowing light; the moments of clenching my husband's hand during contractions makes me a little spritzy with tears; the nurse's kind words to me seem something I can never repay. And, of course, the moment the baby actually enters the world seems to be so wondrous and beautiful that I wish to relive it over and over again. Now, that last bit is real, because the moment of birth IS so momentous, and I think that's the thing.

There are lots of experiences in life that we can replicate (true, things are not the same each time; every moment is unique; I get that, really I do, but I still maintain that in some ways we can replicate certain moments.) You cannot replicate a birth. It is a stand-alone moment that will never happen again. You can remember it; you can tell others about it, but you know that it is not going to happen again. There will never be another singular moment when you meet your baby for the first time, and realizing that in the postpartum days is a little rough.

2. In the postpartum days, I want things done NOW. This mostly causes friction with my husband and me. He doesn't understand why something must be done RIGHT NOW when it could be done tomorrow morning. But for me, there's some kind of all-consuming urgency about needing to fold the laundry right this minute, or empty the dishwasher, or put the baby swing together. I don't know what the urgency is about. I guess it's some sort of lizard-brain drive to make sure that everything is ready for my baby, so that no matter what she needs, it will be available.

3. I worry about giving my other children enough attention, while simultaneously being frustrated by their loudness, roughness, and into-everything-ness. I love snuggling the two-year-old, and I miss snuggle time with her. The four-year-old is already a handful, but even more so when there isn't as much attention to give him directly. And the baby just looks so tiny in contrast to these giant children stomping around my house!

I think this is enough for now. The realization of why I'm so nostalgic for the birth-day of the baby was helpful for me, as I've always dealt with this in the immediacy of the postpartum days and I haven't always known what to do or why I feel that way. I remember with Jack (4yo), I actually wept over the loss of feeling him move around my belly during pregnancy, even though of course I was so glad to actually have him OUT, and with me in person, and I had longed for his presence intensely all during the pregnancy. I suppose there is a certain grief that we go through as moms as we get used to having the baby with us instead of inside of us, and it takes time (and some hormones adjusting) to realize that we are so grateful that they're here instead of inside. I mean, seriously, we don't want to put them back in the belly!

If you've read this, thank you, and any feedback you have or anything you'd want to share about your own experience of pregnancy and the postpartum period would be helpful. I'm going to attempt to post more often during these days, to get some of these feelings out while they're acute, and before the hormones change and I'll be in a totally different place (which will also be its own blessing.)


Jan said...

I remember missing my baby in the womb after birth. Of course, there was nothing better than being able to hold and snuggle her, but I really missed the one-ness of pregnancy.

Blessings on you and your family during these days following your newest arrival.

Stephanie Anthony/She Rev said...

My now 4 year old, then 3 year old and the youngest in the house, seemed HUGE when I brought #3 home. HUGE. I think you are spot on with this. For reason I wasn't really plagued with the worry about spending enough time with everyone, but I think that's because my kids have always been unusually independent anyway. I know it's a very real one for people.

For me getting started with breastfeeding was a struggle all three times, so the worry about failing my babies was hues around that topic for me.

Blessings on you!