7 Real Reflections on the First 3 Weeks Post-Partum
Last night, I ended up in the bathroom sobbing uncontrollably on the toilet for five minutes. The baby wouldn’t settle, I felt overwhelmingly exhausted and the pain from the haemorrhoids that had been torturing me for the past week was pretty much unbearable. Five minutes of tears on the toilet was all I needed to release the pent up emotions of the previous 21days, and I returned to the bedroom much more relaxed and mentally prepared for another night of broken sleep.
The reason for all this?
I gave birth to my third child three weeks ago. That means I’m now exactly halfway through what they call the ‘fourth trimester’ — the 40 days after giving birth which encompasses your recovery, healing and adjusting to life as a new mother.
It’s funny how, as a woman, you so easily forget the toils and troubles of pregnancy, childbirth and the recovery period — I guess that’s why so many of us end up doing it again. That doesn’t detract from the fact that it is one of the most challenging experiences you can go through as a human being, because, for me, it most definitely is and it certainly shouldn’t be overlooked.
Being right in the thick of the fourth trimester, I’ve been experiencing a lot — physically, mentally and emotionally — and while I’m in this place, I want to capture as much of this as I can. As well as soaking up those sweet beautiful moments alone with my newborn, sniffing his head and cooing over his beautifully perfect little toes, and while trying to navigate the, at times treacherous, waters with my seven-year-old and four-year-old, it has definitely been an interesting experience thus far and one I don’t want to forget (well… at least some parts of it).
These are some honest reflections 21 days into my third post-partum journey and adjusting to my new life as a mother of three: for those who have this to come, for those who may never experience this and for those who may have forgotten.
Physical recovery may take you longer than you initially expected
My pregnancy this time around was much different to the previous two. I think this was mainly due to the pandemic and not being very physically active. I felt pretty much trapped in my body throughout the entire pregnancy, whether it was due to extreme nausea or other bodily aches and pains — which is why, in a way, I couldn’t wait for it to be over.
For some reason, I got it into my head that once baby had arrived, I’d be back to my old self really quickly — how naïve I was! The body has been through so much over the last 9–10 months and there’s no way it will just go back to normal straight away. The post-partum period, especially the first six weeks, is such a delicate time, and what I’ve learnt is that there is no such thing as ‘bounce-back’. This idea that once baby is born everything will return to normal needs to be eradicated.
Let your body heal. Let yourself recover. And don’t rush anything. Just as nature took it’s time in growing and nurturing the new life inside you, let nature take its time in healing your body.
It all goes so fast
It really does!
When you’re in it — and you’re exhausted and beaten up and wondering just how you’re going to get through it — you somehow do get through it, and suddenly it’s months later and those early days are all just a distant memory.
Everyone says that time moves by so quickly when you have children — and although it doesn’t feel like it at times, it really does. Try and enjoy those early days as much as you can — they really don’t last long.
There is enough time and space to do everything you want to/need to do — just not right now
I started my Medium writing journey mid-way through September 2020. I had a great first month and a half, and then the pregnancy and exhaustion like I have never felt before completely took over — so in being gentle with myself, I dropped the guilt and told myself I would get straight back to it once the baby was born.
Well, now approaching the latter days of January, I have a half a dozen unfinished articles sitting in my Google Drive, my social media accounts for my writing and my small art business have been kinda neglected, and I still haven’t managed to put away the Christmas tree.
But you know what? I’m learning to drop the guilt now, too. I know that everything I want to do will get done, at some point or another — just not right now.
Right now is about being present with my baby and other children, present with myself and allowing myself time and space to become accustomed to my new life. My projects and my businesses are massively important to me, but right now my focus and attention need to be elsewhere, and that’s okay.
People who haven’t been through it themselves, just won’t understand
How do you explain to someone outside of yourself what all of this is really like? I don’t think you truly can.
Pregnancy, labour and childbirth and the whole experience of motherhood itself are such life-changing events, yet because they’re also one of the most natural parts of life, we don’t really speak about how impactful, and in some cases traumatising, they can be.
They can also be extremely lonely, especially when there are not many others around you that have been through those experiences themselves. This time around, some of the people in my life who I thought would have been in touch, haven’t even sent across a simple “how are you doing?”. I try not to hold expectations of anyone and I also know we’re currently in a global pandemic, so I won’t allow it to bother me.
But for me, it also shows that not many people in your life will understand what a deeply delicate time this is because they haven’t been through it themselves. And that’s okay, too. What’s most important is that you have some kind of support system in your life — whether it’s your partner or your journal or even Medium.
Watching other womens’ post-partum vlogs is NOT a good idea
A couple of weeks post-partum and I ended up down a ‘mummy vlogger’ YouTube rabbit hole; watching video after video from women who had just had babies but seemed to have absolutely everything together. And you know where this is going, but watching those videos made me feel like absolute crap.
Why didn’t I have my energy back the way they did?
How did they even get the chance to film, edit and upload the video I’d just watched, when I’ve struggled writing this post for the past 2 weeks?
Why did their bodies look like that when mine looks like… this???
Just like with the majority of content on social media, nothing is really real, so to hold yourself up to someone else’s portrayed online reality can be really detrimental to your own emotional and mental well-being. Place your focus on your own journey, let yourself feel what you’re feeling and go through what you’re going through without the pressure to be anything but yourself.
Everyone’s journey is unique – and this is yours and yours alone.
This is a massive opportunity for self-growth
I’ve been on my own, quite intense, spiritual journey for almost a decade now and I’m grateful that I naturally look to the blessings and the lessons in my life experiences — especially in those that I find difficult or toilsome.
I’m not afraid to admit that motherhood has been one of the hardest experiences of my life, while equally being one of the most beautiful. Motherhood is being out on the battlefield, stripped naked and bare while you are broken open again and again and again until there is nothing left but for the light to enter and transform you.
In these days of my third post-partum journey, I am truly realising how much strength I have as a woman, as a human being and as a mother. Tending to other human beings and putting their needs first, above and beyond everything else, even when you feel broken and exhausted and in pain yourself is an experience that will give you strength and resilience like nothing else, and also show you the true extent of the unconditional love you possess.
I know the person I will be after this time has passed will be someone I could never have been without this experience. As difficult as I’ve found everything this time around, I’m so very grateful for it all.
Love will always get you through
And we end with this final reflection — so very cliché, but so very true.
In the latter stages of my pregnancy, during the labour and childbirth process, and even now in the post-partum recovery stage, the following words have brought me so much comfort and strength:
My Lord is with me. He will guide me through. ~ Qur’an 26:62.
For me, God is Love – and Love will always get you through anything. I truly believe that anything I encounter in this human experience is to help me to become the best version of me that I can be, and these words remind me that God is always with me and within me and where there is God, anything is possible.
And then there’s the love we have for the little humans that come through us; the closest love to the love that God has for us, that we ourselves can give in this life. And it’s that love that gets us up for night feeds and late-night nappy changes even when we feel like we have nothing left to give.
Love will always get you through. Believe that.
The post-partum period is challenging in so many ways yet filled with so much beauty, growth, love and peace. When you’re in it, it feels like its forever, but when it’s over, you realise just how quickly it all passed.
If Gods plans for my life match with my plans for my life, this will be my last baby and therefore my final ever ‘fourth trimester’.
As much as I may have had a little moan about it all, I am grateful for every part of this journey as it’s all moulding me into the person I am to become.
I send so much love and strength to all new mothers on this massively important journey and I just want you to know that you — we — have got this. We’ve got this. Keep going.
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