My postpartum journey
When you fall pregnant, you are told all about what baby items you need, what birth courses you should take and are informed of all things "preparing for baby to arrive". What you are not informed of or prepared for, is the postpartum journey. I found myself dealing with things I did not even know happened, that none of my friends who had babies had spoken about, or I even thought to ask, and I was completely blindsided by the postpartum recovery and 4th trimester.
If you read my birth story, you would know that I had a very fast induced labour that resulted in Kaia not breathing when she was born and me tearing quite badly. I had heard about tearing and knew that was something I should expect but I expected the healing to be straightforward and to be getting back into exercise and my normal routine by my 6 week check up. That did not happen... Instead, at my 6 week check in, I had to be injected, cut open and re-stitched as my healing wasn't going to plan. I was back at square one at 6 weeks postpartum and told to come back at 8 weeks. At my 8 week check in, I still had not fully healed and had silver nitrate administered and told to come back at 10 weeks. At my 10 week check in, I had one more round of silver nitrate and was told that by 12 weeks I would be fully healed and cleared to finally start light exercise and other normal activities. I went into a dark space during these 12 weeks. I was blessed enough to not have postpartum depression or "baby blues" but instead I became quite depressed with my recovery. I was so sure I would be back to "normal" at 6 weeks, that when I went back to square one and then had another 6 weeks of recovery, it really took its toll on me. I picked up a lot of weight in these 12 weeks. I was eating my feelings and unable to even walk without pain. I got into quite a funk, all the while being in quite a lot of pain. My recovery was so hard on me that I have quite a lot of post traumatic stress heading into my second birth. Not about the birth, but about tearing and what my postpartum recovery may be. I am terrified of going through those 12 weeks again. I know that this is not your average women's recovery and I am hopeful for a different recovery with baby number two.
Another aspect of postpartum that is not spoken about nearly enough, is breastfeeding. Breastfeeding is painted as this very natural and "comes easy" part of motherhood. Hardly anyone speaks about how brutal it can actually be, and how it can be the furthest thing from natural. I think that more women don't speak about it because it is made out to be this natural and simple task that is actually so complex. You almost feel like a failure when it is so hard or you can't get it right. It can be quite a lonely journey.
There are so many ways to feed your baby and I was aware of all the options but I was desperate to breastfeed. It is just something I really wanted to do, so I tried to do as much research as possible, as well as make sure I had access to lactation consultants post birth. A lot of books or people talk about once the baby is placed on your chest, they will start nuzzling to find your breast and latch on. That was not the case at all for me! Kaia was not very interested in latching or drinking and the first five days of her being alive were so stressful. As a new mom, you are so worried about your baby gaining weight and getting enough nutrition, so them not drinking or latching becomes a mental battle. I tried every position possible to get her latched. When it would get closer to feeding time, I would start panicking and stressing about what was to come. Kaia was so hungry, I had SO much milk and we could not figure out the latch or position. It became a bit traumatic for me. Thank goodness my sister was with me for my first 10 days postpartum. Having had four children of her own, she assured me that this was normal, kept me calm and reassured me that it was just a dance and took time to figure out the steps. If it were not for her, I think I would have given up on day 3. By night 5, we had a breakthrough. Kaia finally latched and started guzzling down milk and that night she woke almost every hour to cluster feed and make up for lost time :) I was so exhausted, my nipples were raw but I was so grateful that we had our breakthrough and found the rhythm to our own dance. That rhythm grew to the most beautiful journey of 17 months of breastfeeding. Those moments feeding her are ones I will forever cherish but it was HARD to get there. So much harder than I imagined it would be.
One funny story about my postpartum journey - I had no clue that night sweats were a thing for women postpartum. Right before Kaia was born, we got a new bed with these fancy new sheets. When Kaia was born, I was waking up drenched in sweat. I was literally drenched having to change my clothes multiple times a night and I was convinced that it was the new sheets. I would complain to, Jay about these awful sheets and how hot they were and that we needed new ones. Only to find out that it was just the night sweats, which by the way, are awful. Who knew... clearly not me :)
Being a first time mom, having a baby was always going to be a big adjustment but I expected the "hard" to be the lack of sleep, the dirty nappies, the new way of life. That part of becoming a mom was actually a breeze, it was the postpartum recovery that was so hard for me. The tearing, restitching, long recovery, the hemorrhoids, the pain, the severe cramps while breastfeeding, the night sweats, engorged breasts, cracked nipples and the heavy emotions that come with it all. Those aspects are what made the fourth trimester so tricky for me.
I am so privileged that I got to experience it all and that I am fortunate enough to have a child. I would do it all over again for the gift it gave me, BUT I do wish that we spoke more openly and honestly about postpartum and how hard it can be. I wish we normalized and educated women more and that there was more help and resources available for women in the fourth trimester.
My postpartum experience has left me quite terrified for baby number two arriving in March and that is okay. I am going to try doing things differently and I believe that I am more prepared this time round.
But if you struggled or are struggling postpartum, I just want you to know, you are not alone!
Until next time.