Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Guarding my postpartum

"As long as the baby's in diapers, and you're up in the night and your breast is being called upon by that person, you're postpartum." -midwife Raven Lang in Mothering the New Mother

Image credit: morguefile.com
I've always felt like a late bloomer when it came to just about anything I've ever tried in my life. Postpartum has been no different. Some women can leave the hospital wearing their pre-pregnancy jeans. Not this girl. Some women are ready to hit the gym two weeks after having a baby. Nope. Not me. Many people are returning to work around six weeks after having a baby. That's mind-boggling to me. They seem so put-together, so ready to get back to work, so amazing and strong. Maybe it's because they have no choice. That's all the time many working women get to recover from childbirth. Some people get no time off. Some people get more.

I'm self-employed, so I can take all the time I need after I have a baby. The drawback to being self-employed is that if I don't work, I don't get paid. A perk is that, for the most part, I am in charge of my own schedule.

After the experiences I've had with my first two babies, and especially after my second baby, I'm making more of an effort to prepare for my postpartum time with this third baby. I read an article this morning that reminded me that 1 in 7 women experience postpartum depression. 1 in 7. You probably know someone who has experienced it if you haven't yourself.

"We go from offering pregnant women our seat on the bus to snarling at them for clogging up the footpath with their prams. We make them feel uncomfortable for breastfeeding in public and want to ban their crying child (and therefore them) from aeroplane travel and cafes. And then for good measure, we shame them for not losing their baby weight fast enough.

It's hardly surprising that one in seven new mothers experience postnatal depression." (Edwards)

Honestly, motherhood has made me kind of a hermit. At least on the inside. I crave social contact, but I am scared of being judged by people who don't know me. I worry when I go to the grocery store that I'll be judged if my children cry. I worry that I'll be judged if my baby gets hungry while we dare go out to eat. Even though I fed her before we left. And even though I fed her again in the car before we went in. Even though she isn't old enough to take solids and refuses to take a bottle if I'm around. I worry that my kids will act their ages, and I'll be judged for it. Even though I am doing my best to teach them right from wrong. So to avoid the harsh glares of people I don't know and will never see again, I just stay home most of the time. And feel lonely and forgotten. And invisible. And feel like I'm exactly where society wants me to be. Not around them.

And on top of that, I felt this enormous pressure with my last two children to have it all together and to look like I knew what I was doing. The longer I am a mom, the more I realize, I have no idea what I'm doing. I just try stuff, and it happens to work a lot of the time. And a lot of it doesn't work. All I can do is keep trying.

Image credit: morguefile.com
Even though I felt the pressure to get my body back in shape, I just didn't have it in me to do anything about it until my first baby was a year old. After my second baby, I wanted to prove to myself that having two kids wasn't going to stop me from being awesome! I took six weeks off from teaching flute lessons, and I started attending births again when my baby was about four and a half months old. I started running again around that time. I also started preparing for my Birth Boot Camp training. When my baby was around nine months old or so, things got really hard for me. I would wake up every morning crying. Just crying that I was awake. Crying that I opened my eyes. Crying that, "I can't do this. I can't do this." It was all too much for me. I felt so isolated. Many times I looked at my phone, scrolled through all the people in my address book, looking for someone to talk to. Anyone.  And I threw the phone away crying because there was no one. I was alone with this. I kept trying to tell myself to put on my "big girl panties" and just deal with it. It's life. Deal with it.

And it wasn't just the crying, but I felt so much rage all the time. I can't really describe what that is like, but this article does a great job of explaining it.

So here is what I am planning for after this third birth to hopefully ease this postpartum transition of mine.

I'm asking my husband to be my postpartum advocate and to guard my space after this baby is born. I'm probably going to need a week before we have any visitors. I know around Day 3, when my milk is coming in, it is really hard for me. I don't want the pressure of having to try to have a smiley face, and inevitably failing at it, while trying to entertain visitors.

I'm going to attend a few of these local postpartum support group meetings after school gets out to see if they will be helpful to me. I'm not sure if I have ever felt anything that would qualify as true postpartum depression. I don't know. I've never sought help. I've never felt "enough" to seek help, if that makes sense. I just know that it's incredibly hard. Just so hard.

I'm going to allow myself that entire year to recover from childbirth that I know that I need. The Couch to 5K can wait a year. Walking is good enough. Maybe most people can get back to the gym within weeks. Maybe most people can get back into their pre-pregnancy jeans within nine months of having a baby. But with that whole late bloomer thing, I'm not even going to start trying until my baby is at least a year old. I know I can wait that long and still do it. Because I've already done it. I can do it again.

That's about all I've thought of so far. Hopefully I'll be able to come up with more ideas about how to guard my postpartum over the next few months.