I walk into the 6-8 week checkup and get the standard checklist of questions…most centered around the newborn I’m holding but then I got a zoned in….”How are YOU doing?” Kudos to all 3 of my OBGYNs for actually asking this. I hear some sadly do not. I’ve answered as authentically as I could which is “Good, tired, happy, adjusting.”
You take 9 months to grow this being and then one day they go from inside to outside. I’m always reeling in that miracle for a good 3-4 months. How is he really here now? Look at his face. I dreamed what it would look like and now I see it before me. How did we have our family before him? He’s forever a part of our unit now and I cant imagine life another way.
There’s the new baby bliss, the getting lost (literately) in piles of laundry, the night time wake ups, and then the demands of the other children that you’re trying your darnest to meet. But I feel like my head is still above water because the support is there. People expect me to still be adjusting and are usually quite gracious when my preschooler shows up late, with mismatched socks and no coat in the dead of winter.
I work off adrenaline those first few months.
Then around month 4 it starts to wear off and I’m left with the accumulation of several months of life-change hitting me (what feels like) all at once
For this reason, I’m here to share something I don’t hear folks often speak to : stages of postpartum. I’m talking beyond the “4th Trimester” and into the following months, maybe years, afterwards.
For me personally, this falls under 3 levels of postpartum :
The initial postpartum : which is month 1-3
The settling in postpartum : month 4-6
The post-nursing stage : 1-2 years (depending on the kiddo!)
The stage I’m currently in, month 4-6, is when I get hit with a certain kind of heaviness : feelings of irritability, helplessness, and the sinking sense that I’m one step behind on just about everything. And the falling behind part clips me most because I’ve learned that in this phase there is really is no AHEAD. The most I can hope for is to keep up with the current flow, but there is no getting ahead for me.
I often feel hard on myself. Why can’t I be more calm and present? Why is my son smacking applesauce in my ear while I’m trying to read making me feel like I want to go She-Hulk?! Why can’t I look at my body and see all it’s done, instead of critiquing the changes I’m left with postpartum? And then after these thoughts, let’s add on an extra layer by being hard on myself FOR being hard on myself.
This is the grappling reality of where this stage leaves me. I’ve seen it happen after each of my 3. But this time I’m doing things differently.
This time I’m removing mystery.
I don’t crinkle inward and hope someone will identify and unravel the knots in my soul.
Rather, I muster up the gumption to tell someone, to bare my feelings.
I say, “I’m trying to meet the needs of everyone else. I have needs too. Can we start here with ____? This is something that I would really love space for/care in.” I have the guts to ask.
Deep down I want to be the one others ask for, not the one asking, but this “settling in” stage of postpartum is a season to lay down that pride. To allow myself to provide margin that has been missing for going on a year now. To claim back my body in the spaces I can safely do so.
It is a gift to give to others, but if we never allow ourselves to receive, then we are potentially denying that gift from someone else. And what is more refreshing that someone showing their own humanness? Truly. May we have the humility to allow our own needs to be known and receive the ways others rise up to meet them.
So maybe some of you mamas find yourself somewhere in these lines. If so, my hope and prayer is you feel a little less alone today knowing that for me postpartum is a carried-out journey : taking necessary pit stops, blisters on the soles of my feet, and learning to adapt to changes in terrain along the way. It’s one I’m navigating now and likely will be for years to come.
Mamas, I see you.
I have grace for you.