When I was pregnant, I spent a lot of time talking with other moms about what to expect. I read lots of pregnancy books and put a lot of effort into adjusting to and learning to enjoy those nine months — and it was really helpful! I had an anxious pregnancy and learning from the women around me what was normal and what might not be was a great thing for me.
I used to look like that?
But one thing I didn’t do was spend much time giving a lot of thought to the postpartum period. It sounds like an obvious miss, in retrospect — I was concerned, for instance, with what my body would do when it came time to lose the weight, but I didn’t give any thought to what recovery might be like. And I think that gave me a lot of shock in the first two weeks or so of Will’s life.
After a 22-hour labor and pushing a small human out of my body, of course there was some healing to be done. But because of my lack of preparedness, I was surprised by how much labor and delivery took out of me, and I was also surprised by a lot of the emotional and psychological changes that came along with my new-mom status. It turns out, though, that apparently everything I experienced was completely normal — I just didn’t know it!
First, I didn’t know (on a deep level) that I would feel like a crazy person for at least ten days. I knew, of course, that the “baby blues” existed and that huge hormonal shifts occurred immediately following birth. Still, I was surprised by how different I felt. I don’t know if I can articulate it, but it seemed to me that the things I had been thinking and talking about before Will’s birth had been replaced by a loud sound of wind. I had a lot of trouble answering questions and making decisions. It felt so strange to come home to our familiar house, be surrounded by familiar people (and cats) and yet have everything be completely different. Whereas before Will was born (and even before we came home from the hospital), I thought I would want to jump into normal life (“normal”???), get out of the house, and just fully immerse myself in my new-mom life, once we were there I had little interest in doing anything other than sitting and staring at my baby. If someone else was holding him, I was content to just sit and stare at the wall. It was like my mind was completely blank.
Another thing I didn’t expect was that I had zero appetite for about the first ten days. I don’t know why this surprised me, as my appetite’s usually the first thing to go during overwhelming situations, but it did. All I wanted to eat (and really, all I could tolerate well) was cereal and apricots. I spent my first few days as a mom kind of ignoring my lack of appetite, but once I accepted the fact that I really only could eat about five things, and that I didn’t want to try to eat anything else, it got a lot easier. And obviously this has passed since I am eating real food again. (I knew I was on the mend when I wanted a salad.)
The third thing that surprised me was my anxiety. During our first week or so home, it was through the roof, and at first I didn’t understand why I couldn’t sleep and why I had such an upset stomach. It didn’t strike me until later that what I was experiencing was anxiety — exactly the way I always do. It wasn’t so much anxiety about taking care of Will; I felt pretty confident about that. It was more an abrupt realization that we couldn’t go back. I was thrilled to be a mom, of course, but the reality came crashing down pretty hard and it took me a few days to adjust. I think some (or a lot?) of this was hormonal, too, because I found my anxiety was usually at its peak during the evening hours, as though it was cycling at predictable times.
Luckily, I had this to look at and focus on:
I can’t get enough of this face.
Fortunately all of these things have passed and I feel mostly like my old self. I am definitely more emotional than I used to be, and I cry much more easily than I ever have, which is weird! I’m assuming that it’s the hormones still adjusting themselves. But that being said, I am really glad to be done with that phase of postpartum life. At least next time, I’ll have a better idea of what’s coming.