I had always wanted to be a mama.
When I became pregnant for the first time, I was sure this was going to be the best thing EVER (uh, after the first trimester, right?). I had been a preschool teacher for nearly ten years. The whole parenting thing was going to my gig. And I was certain I was best trained for the job.
Not only was I certain of my parenting abilities (which, by the way, have all gone out the window four kids later), I was confident in giving birth too. I studied everything birth and baby related: how to avoid a cesarean, every birth option available, and the safest car seat, stroller, and nail clipper on the market.
Actually, I became inundated with the science of birth. I dived into more than just mama blogs including scientific journals, clinical research, and cohort studies. I read every book, and practiced every recommended technique available.
But I had completely forgotten something massively important.
Sure, I had some heavy duty pads. And an herbal sitz bath blend my midwife insisted I have on hand. These two items made up my entire postpartum care.
Where It All Went Wrong
And then it happened. I didn’t rock the birth like I thought I would. I fell apart about three centimeters in into a contracting puddle of tears. I roared and cried my way through seventeen hours of raw birth.
And pushed out the most amazing joy of my life (only after declaring I was done and I didn’t have to do it anymore…not exactly how things work).
It took me nearly two weeks to be able to walk straight.
I cried when realizing that the advice to shop for a nursing bra after your milk came (day three for me) wasn’t going to happen.
I didn’t sleep for a month because I kept processing my birth experience and that later transgressed into a fear of my son not breathing in his sleep.
I struggled with exhaustion, diaper explosions, bleeding nipples, the guilt of co-sleeping vs. crib, and just about every decision on the planet seemed to be swirling in my head.
I felt like a burden to my family. They’d say “Come on Maranda. You’re two weeks in. Why can’t you do this?” I didn’t understand why everything was so difficult.
Not only did it take me a significant time to heal physically, but my emotional self fell completely apart.
My deep and loving relationship with my son, the soul gazing moments we shared in the beginning, were long gone. The only thing we shared were tears; his of typical baby needs and mine of complete overwhelm.
I had fallen into postpartum depression.
About six months postpartum, I made my son a promise to get ME back. I didn’t know what had happened but I was determined to find my way out so I could be best for my baby. It didn’t take me long to figure out what went on.
I spent nine solid months preparing for one of the most profound and intense moments of motherhood: labor and birth.
I spent zilch time (nada, nothing, nil), on preparing for the critical weeks after birth that would shape my health and my relationship with my child for life.
The Forgotten Postpartum
Why, in all my studies, did I completely miss postpartum? How is it that I didn’t prepare for this time, and in the process, my health completely fell apart? Don’t women do this all the time?
Turns out, my story is fairly similar to millions of mamas. MILLIONS. Say what?!
Postpartum is such a raw and emotional time. And somewhere down the timeline of history (more like HERstory), its sacredness became a secret.
Women moved from small tight-knit communities to individual homes in the industrial era making women move through this time alone.
Men took over the role of birth, medicalizing the process and stripping away the spirituality and the importance of the birth of a mother.
Generations began to forget, eventually never knowing what truly happens in postpartum. And ultimately, we mamas began suffering in silence after having a baby. Certainly, no one else experiences such intense feelings in postpartum but me (WRONG).
So the silence continues. And the long forgotten wisdom of postpartum goes on unused and undisturbed. And our cultures’ mothers go on suffering in quite tears.
The Secret to an Amazing Postpartum
Eventually, about a year after my studies of postpartum, healing, and self-care, I found myself again. I wasn’t the same person however, as I had been changed by motherhood and the perils of postpartum depression. But I knew something that most women didn’t. And I was determined to share it with others.
An amazing postpartum is actually fairly common in many cultures.
Standard practices are put in place to help a new mama and baby heal and bond together through ancient healing practices, common sense, and an unyielding support team. By the third trimester, the childbearing mama has a plan in motion, and a community supporting her in it.
In more Western societies, these practices don’t really exist. After 24 hours of giving birth, a new mama is sent home and expected to make an appointment with her provider in six weeks.
Six weeks before she speaks to someone about her birth. Six weeks before she gets any further advice or guidance. And in that sixth week, someone will put their hand in her, accessing her cervix and uterus, and then declare that she’s back to “normal”.
They might ask her a few questions about postpartum depression. And then send her on her way, making her think that she’s no longer postpartum because she’s back to her normal self.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
The truth is that postpartum is deeply and unequivocally a sacred rite to motherhood that can profoundly affect you for the rest of your life. The first few years after birth are what shapes your health and bond with your baby forever. The truth is that is takes effort in pregnancy to plan for such a time as postpartum.
And the planning begins by first asking yourself the right questions. What is it that you want? What will help you heal? Who needs to help you in your journey?
The beauty of these questions is that you can ask them no matter where you are in your postpartum journey.
If you are 3 months in or 6 years in, these questions can help you check in with yourself and evaluate how you are doing.
And more importantly, the answers to those questions can provide you with the means to start healing your body.
Getting a clear picture of what you want and how you will approach this period and your health will help shape your ultimate motherhood experience. Get your vision straight. Gather your materials. Get your support team in place. And when things happen without a hitch (or even when the unexpected comes into play), you’ll have what you need to make the best of postpartum.
Here are just a few questions to help you plan a better postpartum, no matter if you’re pregnant or 6 years post childbirth:
- How am I feeling at the moment?
- What does my body need right now?
- When was the last time I got a nutritious meal, a good sleep, a friendly ear to hear me, and a nice hot shower?
- What can I do right now to feel good?