I kept postponing this post… for a lot of reasons. But it’s time now. Before I forget too much.
After the baby…
As a new mom– as a totally fresh, still bleeding new mom– the first thing I did when I finally got a moment to myself was cry. It wasn’t a single, picturesque little tear down my cheek, but rather a shuddering, (though stifled) heaving sob.
It was my first night back from the hospital. My mom had come over to help me. She offered to hold the baby as I showered/got ready for sleep, so I handed her my little bundle and limped to my room. The lights were off, like all the other thoughts in my mind, as I slid onto my bed and lay prone on my stomach for the first time in over 5 months. I had imagined this moment: I used to like sleeping on my stomach, so I imagined the comfort I’d feel at being able to again lay on my tummy. But, alas, what comfort? I just felt bloated and full. Why wouldn’t I? I was still bloated and full. Then, as if on cue, the baby began to cry.
I remember rolling onto my side, wondering if I should rush hobble outside. She cried as she had cried the past two nights at the hospital. A helpless little cry that was as cute as it was forlorn. She was hungry, or cold, or lonely, or wet. And I’d tried to feed her and comfort her, but nothing seemed to work. And in that dark room, as I listened to her crying through my closed door, I cried too.
I cried because I was tired. I cried because I was overwhelmed. I cried because I didn’t know if I could help that little baby I’d so rashly brought into the world.
I didn’t go outside. Instead, I quietly cried in my bed. I cried as I undressed. And I cried in the shower.
Then I went outside and held her and she was perfect and fine.
I’ve cried a lot these past seven months. Sure, a lot of it had to do with my fluctuating hormones, but the pregnancy hormones didn’t make me crazy– they just made me more honest. They made me too tired to fake it. If I was sad, I cried. If I was angry, I cried. If I was happy, I cried. And in a lot of ways, it felt really good to cry with nothing to hide.
And, with time, of course, things got easier. Until I found myself crying less. Until I found myself laughing more. Laughing at Aria’s new discoveries, her developing habits and personality, her noises and smiles and laughs and screams. (And yes, I even laugh at her (fake) cry.)
But there’s so much more to “postpartum recovery” than crying less.
I don’t know why it’s so hard to talk about the physical recovery. I remember just shrugging and saying “it’s okay” or “it’s getting there” when people asked how I was doing. And I knew they cared and that they would do what they could to help, but I just couldn’t bring myself to explain how I really felt. There’s just too much.
The immediate trauma of birth is astounding. Having lived through it once (with the marvel if modern medicine), I can see why so many women have died and still die from it.
Mine was an “uncomplicated” vaginal delivery. A long labor, yes, but no major issues. I pushed for two hours and she was born healthy and pink.
But pushing for two hours left me with two second degree tears, some undisclosed number of stitches (I didn’t ask), and hemmroids.
My god. The hemmroids. Even just thinking about them makes my bum hurt. I’ve had hemmroids before but these postpartum hemmroids were like nothing I had experienced or could have even imagined. I felt like my bottom was falling out. Pooping was terrifying. Any degree of pushing felt like I was passing glass. GLASS. But, at the same time, I felt like I had no control– when I had to go, I had to go.
And oh the blood. I didn’t see the blood I shed during delivery. (Though K did and he doesn’t like to talk about it.) But all the blood after was… difficult to manage. I bled pretty heavily for about 8 weeks (and lightly for a other 5). But an ultrasound confirmed that there was no remnant tissue so it was “okay.” Just incredibly annoying. Much like the inability to sit for any prolonged period of time. (Open wounds on and around your bum = severely unpleasant sitting experience.)
Breastfeeding was a different kind of challenge. I was not prepared for the pain of breastfeeding. Yes, I knew it would hurt (thank you YouTube and all the Mommy bloggers), but just how much it hurts can never really be conveyed. I would describe it as sandpaper rubbing against your nipple. Nonstop. Sandpaper.
After about three days I wanted to give up so I tried pumping. The milk came out pink due to all the blood mixed in with it. Apparently that’s fine– some mommy blood along with breastmilk won’t harm baby, but it’s damn painful for mommy. Literally, blood and sweat to feed my child.
I was producing enough milk to feed Aria so breastfeeding became a mental challenge: Take a breath, let her latch, grit my teeth though the initial shock of pain, then try to relax. It only hurt in the beginning and only for the first three weeks (so they promised), so I decided to keep at it. Then, like magic, at about three weeks postpartum, it stopped hurting. 🙂 #victory
But breastfeeding is hard, even beyond the literal physical pain of it. It’s exhausting. It feels like all my energy, and fluids, are getting sucked out. When she starts eating, I suddenly become extremely thirsty. On days I forget to drink enough water, I’m so dehydrated I can barely function. In fact although I’m still breastfeeding, it’s led to severe dry skin. K looked at my face the other day and frowned. “You look diseased,” he said, concerned. I shrugged, “I guess I am. It’s eczema, exacerbated by the breastfeeding.” (It looks really bad. I’ve taken some photos, but I’m not ready to share yet.)
Breastfeeding is hard. It gets easier, but it’s never just easy.
I guess that’s what being a parent is like: It gets easier, but it’s never just easy.
There are better days, there are worse days. There are days I cry in the dark, careful not to wake my baby; and there are days I laugh with her and kiss her till she squeals. There are days I want to quit; there are days I don’t want to imagine a life without her.
Honestly, there’s a lot I’m not quite ready to talk about– about the real physical recovery and mental struggle of being a new mom, and I might write about that later. But, sometimes it’s okay to let yourself forget some things. Sometimes, it’s better to just remember the highlights. Life moves too fast to linger on the past. Sometimes.