My Postpartum Journey
Updated: Mar 12, 2019
I think it’s important for us, as women, to share our experiences. Too often, women’s healthcare & medical challenges are minimized and ignored. There is often shame and embarrassment associated with the many challenges women face in the postpartum period: anxiety, depression, pain, pelvic health issues, urinary incontinence etc. This leads to the majority of these issues NOT being resolved, and women being left to suffer (often in silence) with them. I think the only way to change that is to start talking about it more. It’s nice to share happy things on social media, but what’s more powerful is when a community of women get together and share the tough stuff as well. This fosters community, awareness, and support which in turn facilitates advocacy and change. So, here is some of my journey (still in progress). It may not be as wonderful, beautiful, scary, hopeless, or painful as another woman’s experience, but it is mine and it matters. Your journey matters, too.
I had an uneventful, unmedicated, hospital birth. My labor was 10 hours from start to finish. It went as smoothly as I could have imagined at the time. However, this did not prevent the baby blues from creeping in when Ella was 2 days old on the morning we were getting ready to leave the hospital. I remember feeling overwhelmed, and I couldn’t stop crying. I will always remember the kindest nurse, who had only just come on for her shift 30 minutes prior, who sat and talked with me for an hour. She assured me that I wasn’t alone, and it was normal to feel this way.
Fast forward to arriving home with our new baby. I was so relieved to be back in my own space, and I had a surge of energy. The day I got home, I cleaned the house and did laundry. I wanted to make sure everything stayed super clean for Ella. I felt great! The next day, however, I felt like I had been hit by a bus with increased pelvic pain and excessive bleeding. This was my body telling me I overdid it. I made an effort to cut back on the activity, but I didn’t follow the advice I received from so many mothers telling me to “sleep when baby sleeps”. I constantly felt anxious and wired, and I couldn’t relax to fall asleep when Ella was napping. The nights were rough since Ella still hadn’t sorted out night from day. All of this combined with my poor sleep hygiene habits (I was sabotaging myself from getting rest) meant I was seriously sleep deprived.
As time progressed, my anxiety worsened. I became obsessed with keeping the house orderly and clean, more so than ever before. I had no patience with my husband, and I felt rage at him over the smallest issues. I also remember having a lot of intrusive thoughts of accidentally harming my baby. These thoughts scared me, and I felt like a horrible person for having them. I would often feel this sense of dread and sadness thinking about terrible things that may happen to Ella when she got older, knowing that I couldn’t protect her forever. I loved her so deeply, yet also wept at the magnitude of that love, knowing that it would eventually cause me pain. I was also stressed, anxious, and overwhelmed because Ella was a challenging sleeper. I felt so much pressure to get her to “self-soothe”, sleep in her crib, and be on a schedule (because I thought that was what normal babies did) that I hardly enjoyed snuggling with her those first few months.
Physically, I was exhausted and had severe pelvic pain the first couple of months. I was not eating a balanced diet, and the foods I was eating added to my fatigue. I was not getting the nutrients my body needed to properly heal or support my mental health. My pelvic pain and bleeding lasted longer than I thought they would. I had a difficult time adjusting to all of the changes my body was going through, most of which I never even knew to expect. Sore nipples, engorged breasts, hair loss, excessive sweat, and even differences in body odor were among changes I experienced. I didn’t have a great understanding of how long I should have rested after childbirth or how to return to activity, so I went through several cycles of easing into activity, then doing too much, and taking several steps backwards because my pain and bleeding increased again. I had no knowledge of how to support and strengthen my pelvic floor.
As I started researching some of my own challenges and experiences, I realized that I wasn’t alone! As women, we are not being given the information we need to facilitate optimal healing during the postpartum period. Furthermore, this information is not easily accessible to most of us. It’s a constant battle of peeling back layers and navigating through inaccurate information before you get to the good stuff. Every expectant mother should be empowered with this basic, foundational information, but instead, we are treated as passive participants in our own childbirth and postpartum experience. I knew I needed to find a way to share the ESSENTIAL information I learned with expectant and new mamas. That’s why I created Prepared Postpartum, an online postpartum recovery course. Check it out & see for yourself!