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On Postpartum

I'm been thinking a lot lately of expectations after having a baby.  Of course, there are the most basic expectations of feeding/changing/clothing your baby, but there are a lot of expectations for the mom, too.  In an effort to help new parents adjust, a lot of books/websites/blogs seem to try to overcome the expectation of doing basically anything for a while after the baby is born.  They say to let housework and cooking slide, to refuse visitors, and to take as much time to sleep and rest as possible.

I know these are all suggestions intended to help the parents (especially mom) recover well.  The thing is, I just don't agree.  By ignoring normal expectations, I think these well-intentioned recommendations cultivate a different expectation - one of just sitting around and doing absolutely nothing.  And maybe that works for some people, but it doesn't for me.

After Nat was born, I really loved him, of course.  But for a week or two there, it was a little weird.  It was odd to have this new person in our family, one who'd been inside me for so long.  One who was so utterly dependent on me and trusted and loved me so much.  I did love him, too, but I didn't immediately feel that overwhelming love that many moms talk about.  And I felt guilty that I didn't.  I wouldn't go so far as to say I had PPD, but I definitely had some baby blues for a week or so.

I remember the first day we went outside after he was born (other than coming home from the hospital, of course).  It was a gorgeous day and we just went on a walk around our neighborhood.  I was still in my pajamas.  And I felt some pain while walking.  But by the time we came back, I felt like a new person.  There was still life outside!  I remember feeling so much more settled that afternoon, and starting to love my sweet little baby all the more.  Thus was the beginning of making the best little buddy and a better friend and deeper love than I ever could've dreamed.

With Carina, I maybe pushed it physically a bit.  We came home from the hospital the day after she was born.  We went to a birthday party 3 days later, and walked around the National Book Festival the day after that.  We didn't skip a week of church.  The thing is, I wasn't trying to be supermom or show how cool I was for tackling all these things right away.  I was doing it solely for ME.

Because sure there was a little bit of physical pain and discomfort if I walked around too much (although not a lot).  But emotionally, I felt so much better than last time.  I bonded with my baby so much sooner.  And while I think that has a little bit to do with her being the second baby and me anticipating and loving motherhood even more, I think it also had to do with me allowing myself me time, too.  While I'm an introvert, or perhaps because I'm an introvert, I need deep relationships and interactions.  I need to feel involved and included.  I need to continue doing things I enjoy.

So I guess what I'm saying is that maybe the expectations for new moms shouldn't be to let go of everything you enjoy, but to focus on what is most important - ONE of which is your new baby, but not all.  No, I'm not going to deep clean my entire house right now, but it makes me feel better and more settled and happier to vacuum and cook a basic meal.  It makes me feel better to get dressed and go outside.  For someone else, that could be the total opposite.  Maybe someone else doesn't get stressed by dirty sheets, and I often wish I were that person.  But I'm not.  Someone else might take great joy in sitting and watching movies for two weeks straight, and I totally think they should do that.  But I would go completely stir crazy.

Of course I think we should spend time with and focus on the needs of our new babies.  Of course I think we should accept help when offered (I, personally, LOVE when people bring us meals - it seems like such a tangible act of service and I am always so so grateful and feel so loved).  But I also think it's okay to focus on who we were as people before our babies were born, and make time for some of those things in our lives, too.

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9 comments

  1. I totally agree with you on this. Letting things go by the wayside makes me feel yucky and less like myself. I also need some "me" time! It keeps us moms from going crazy. :)

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  2. I completely agree! It was so hard with my last being a c-section, I am just so excited this time around to be able to get back to normal right away. Thanks so much for this!!

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  3. Thank you for sharing this! I so appreciate when people give real and heartfelt thoughts of this process, because while contemplating someday babies, losing me is a little bit of a fear... And sometimes I feel like it's not okay to say that. This helps my own expectations - and I can totally see that knowing yourself and taking time to be you can make you a better mom.

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  4. Thank you thank you! These are my feelings (and my experience) after having my baby. I had to learn to shut out those suggestions from others and do what felt right for me because I enjoy getting up each day, making the bed, getting dressed and doing make up, etc. After feeling sick during pregnancy for so long I needed that normal life back. It really has helped me feel happy and also connected to my little one as I show her that it is important for mom to do stuff too.

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  5. I'm glad to hear that you're in touch with what will keep YOU personally the happiest and help you bond most with your little one. It's so great that you know yourself and can treat yourself rightly...and awesome how much you've learned since your first one :)

    <3 Cambria
    jupefashion.blogspot.com

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  6. I really appreciate this honesty, and I think it is right on. I was way too serious about that advice to just "let everything slide" when I first had Easton and I agree, I think it added to me feeling depressed. I felt so much better when I would do at least a few things that were "normal" for me. I hope I can remember that whenever the second one comes along!

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  7. Lovely post, and I definitely agree with it. A certain amount of resting and down time is good, especially during the first few days, but after that I'm just itching to get back in the kitchen and bake something (or at least go outside to get the mail!). It does make me appreciate the breaks I take much more, though.

    P.S. Ever since you mentioned it I've been DYING to make those apple cider doughnuts! Apparently, my highly suggestible mind never got over the pregnancy cravings...

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  8. Such a good post. Not a lot of people share postpartum thoughts. I think all women go through a period of emotions. Blogging about it, and sharing your experience, certainly helps everyone cope.
    Glad you are doing well. And gain, your babies are beautiful.
    Girlie Blog Seattle | Cheap Makeup Reviews

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  9. While I'm totally impressed with you for wanting to be out and about right after you give birth, it's not for me. I definitely need down time where I don't have any expectations for myself to cook, clean, etc. I always love taking a few weeks off after I have a baby! I think it's very refreshing after the trauma/exhaustion of giving birth.

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