Let’s real talk for awhile. I’m going to super overshare about my postpartum journey. So if you don’t want to read about “girl problems,” just close this window now. But if you are a mom, or you have a mom, or if you know a mom I urge you to continue reading. Because I’ll bet out of all the moms you know, someone is feeling or has felt like this before. Maybe right after having a baby. Maybe a few months after. Maybe years later. But if and when they ever feel like this, I bet they would love it if you could even try to understand their experiences. Because labor and delivery isn’t where our journey to motherhood ends. Not even close. And no mom wants to feel alone (except maybe when we’re hiding in a closet to eat our favorite snack and don’t want to share).
Truth: I think the postpartum period, aka the “fourth trimester” is even tougher than being pregnant.
I am one of those lucky women who feels awesome when she’s pregnant. I exercise throughout my pregnancy. I feel strong. I gain a healthy amount of weight. I feel confident. I keep up with my regular activities (minus drinking some wine). I generally feel happy. I am grateful for this. This is probably why I was open to getting pregnant so soon after having my first daughter (hello, two babies in 15 months!).
But postpartum is a whole other story. The fourth trimester only technically lasts three months, and since my second daughter will be five months in just a couple weeks, I guess I don’t fit in this “box” anymore, but I have been in such a funk lately and I’m going to blame some of this experience at least partly on my own personal postpartum journey.
Six weeks after Josie was born I was cleared by my doctor and told I could resume my normal life. My new normal life. I was super overwhelmed by the two children I was rearing at home, but I passed the psychological questionnaire they give you (ie. I didn’t have postpartum depression), I had finally finished bleeding and my incision was healing nicely so yeah, I was told to carry on.
Having just had my first baby fifteen months before I was prepared for the gauntlet of my least favorite symptoms, or so I thought.
I was expecting my bad B.O. I smell so bad after I have kids. I sweat like crazy. On my chest and my armpits. And no, this is not because of my all natural deodorant. I literally think my body has me sweat like a maniac so my kid can smell me from a mile away. Along with every other poor soul within that mile radius. I change our sheets twice per week. It’s so gross, but I was ready for this. I have accepted this.
I also wasn’t shocked to get my period two days after my postpartum checkup. Yes, despite the fact that I’m exclusively breastfeeding, I am one of those lucky women who doesn’t get a break from Aunt Flo for six months or more. And to add insult to injury, I bleed super heavily and irregularly. So heavily that my doctors thought I was still experiencing postpartum bleeding after I had Isla. And so irregularly that I have had my period 6 times in the last 20 weeks since I welcomed our littlest beauty into this world. I was kind of ready for this too, though I forgot it sometimes interrupts my workout routine because I feel like garbage. And I am trying to accept this (okay, I’m actually just praying this bleeding gets lighter and more predictable).
Additionally, I was prepared for the loose ligaments and tender joints as the hormone relaxin works its magic in my body and keeps my body parts more relaxed as I breastfeed my baby. I was ready for the fatigue from night feedings and sleep training. I was ready to lose my hair by the handful. I was ready for the extra skin and cellulite. These symptoms are shit, but I was ready for them.
Yet, there is one major symptom I’ve been feeling lately that I was NOT expecting. This postpartum period I feel sad. And in this one major way, my postpartum journey has been so different than last year’s and the depth of this new unknown territory can sometimes be hard to navigate.
While I find motherhood so fulfilling and beautiful, while I laugh with joy with my daughters, while I don’t have trouble getting out of bed in the morning or doing work during the day, and while I’m not sad every day or every moment, I’m still sad!
Reflecting on this emotion, I don’t think it’s all due to my having a baby or two in the last couple years because let’s face it–this has felt like the longest winter in years–but do I do think it has something to do with my hormones and the crazy ride my body has churned through like a champ? Hell yes! And for that reason, I think it’s worth acknowledging. Because I know from talking to my mom tribe, I’m not alone. Many of us are experiencing all of this, and more, and if you feel like this YOU ARE NOT ALONE.
Like with many other things in mamahood, we maybe can’t be ready to feel all of these feels, but I’m learning there are other ways we can be ready to cope. Because this emotion can be totally normal too, and it doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with you, or that you’re doing something wrong, or that you love your kids any less than the bubbly, happy mom at playgroups. Or that you can’t be that bubbly mom, and still be sad sometimes too (that’s totally me).
First and foremost, if you’re worried and think your feelings are debilitating or you’re considering harming yourself or your children, you should talk to your doctor. But if you find that you’re feeling more of this “funk,” that I’m referring to, there are some natural ways you can cope and help yourself too and slowly, I’m finding these things are helping me feel better and so I have to share.
One huge way you can help yourself is with self care. Yes, I know motherhood is overwhelming. I know you have babies and a significant other, and maybe pets and other family and friends you’re taking care of. But if you’re forgetting the most important person you should be taking care of–YOU–take a look in the mirror and reflect on how you might help yourself too.
My brother once told me I’m the biggest advocate for self care he knows and this is a compliment I cherish. It’s something I remember when I am feeling sad and need some self care myself. It’s the reason I’m trying so hard to keep digging deep for the happiness that normally comes so naturally to me. Sometimes taking care of ourselves is what we need to feel a little better. And after I took some time this morning for a solo run (something that makes me feel better), I knew I had to share these intimate details about my postpartum feels.
Some of the best ways to care for you might be meditation. Or exercise. An appointment with your favorite manicurist or at the spa. Or maybe it’s a nap or a cup of coffee out somewhere by yourself while your spouse or a babysitter takes care of the kids. Maybe it’s a date night. A girl’s night. Maybe it’s all of these things!
But whatever it is, DO IT. Because if making room to take care of me is making me feel a little better, it can make you feel better too. And I’m hoping sharing way too much of this intimate info might help someone else feel a little better too. Though who else is hoping the arrival of permanent springtime will help too? 🙂