Well. We made it through the first month of parenthood (and almost through the second)! This post is a little bit of an update, and a lot of information. Hopefully it's helpful for mommas, support people, marriages, and the community surrounding new moms. I am writing this far enough removed from the first month to see clearly, but close enough that I still remember some of the things your mind blocks out. Skip over whatever you don't need or pass it on to someone that might be able to use it! I settled on skipping my birth story and going straight for postpartum, as this has been the most surprising part of the journey so far.
*Disclaimer: this is about my experience after a vaginal delivery and what helped me, it may not be at all what others need. I also want to be clear that I am aware that I'm blessed to even be able to walk through this journey. With that in mind, please know I am carefully walking the line of being honest and being mindful*
Our First Month
The first month was a lot like walking through a pitch black park. Imagine it. You've been in the dark before, but this time, you can't just lay there. You have to navigate, feel around, let your eyes adjust slowly while running across the grass, and keep a human alive. Over time, you learn that the park is just as beautiful as it would be if the sun was shining, but you have to train your eyes to see the beauty in a new way. A friend told me that the sun always rises again, and I held onto those words every day (thank you Lili). I experienced the darkness knowing with full hope that it would not be dark forever, and I always counted on the sun rise to bring light to my heart.
In my lowest moments I would crawl into bed when Lucia was asleep (knowing she would wake up 2 hours later) and I would sob. I would repeat the words, "I can't believe we chose this" ... Then, a minute later Brian would find me crying tears if joy as I scrolled through pictures of her on my phone.
Brian and I kept our expectations to basically survival mode the first four weeks. Babies are a 24/7 job but there's also mom's recovery: medicine, meals, sleep, sitz baths, and mental processing of what is happening. Somewhere in there, we had to check in to make sure we still liked each other.
While I feel like I have experienced 7 lifetimes in just a few weeks, the hardest thing for me was experiencing my own physical recovery WHILE trying to learn everything that comes with the baby. I don't think I could have done it without 3 things:
1. Brian encouraging verbal processing and then being equally as honest with his feelings.
2. Other moms reaching out to share their experiences.
3. PEOPLE. I never felt alone, even if I felt like I was drowning. I adopted a "yes" mentality to needing help from people and I'm better for it.
One by one the days pass, the confidence rises, and the love grows.
Added 5/21 *Brian reminded me today that the thing he heard me say the most after we came home from the hospital was "no one told me about this part". I was completely taken off guard by the process of recovery. I guess I knew in my head that I would be sore, but I didn't really give it a lot of thought. I understand now that no one told me because they didn't want to scare me. So this cushion of words is to give you time to decide to skip to the next paragraph or not... Okay, here we go.
I left the hospital with a low blood count that caused me to faint from standing/walking/sitting on the toilet. This is not the norm, but it's what happened to me. So I knew coming home that I would be limited in movement and wouldn't be able to hold Lucia while standing for a while. Laying down, I felt okay but I leaned on Brian completely for everything (see support person cheatsheet!) Once that started getting better, I started really noticing just HOW sore I was. Recovery would have been hard but okay if I could have slept for weeks and not gotten out of bed until I felt better. I think this is what made it harder, my pre-baby instinct said "stay in bed until you feel better." Thats how it goes when you have the flu or a stomach bug... but THAT'S WHAT WAS SHOCKING. There was a baby. Right there. Needing me. This meant that I needed to sit up for feedings- ouch. Get up to change diapers- ouch. Get water, shower, change clothes, go to the restroom- ouch, ouch, OUCH. The days were long and slow and I was so ready to just be healed. So I reached out to a momma friend and asked about her recovery time thinking she would confirm my two-week expectations. She said, "6-8 weeks" and I cried big tears. But that helped me play the long game. I didn't wake up every morning expecting to feel better, I wasn't surprised by the tears that fell every time I had to go to the bathroom, and I started celebrating small wins instead of expecting instant healing. I told myself that healing is slow for a reason. I searched my heart for meaning and savored the moments where I forgot the pain. I learned to take care of myself in a completely new way and prayed for patience. Take heart, healing comes. Even now, 8 weeks into motherhood, I. am. still. healing. And that's okay.
I had 2 husbands for those first few weeks... Brian and Google. Google can't massage me, but he had all the answers and he stayed up with me through all the late nights. Brian was there at 3 am to make me laugh at the fact that we used to stay up this late FOR FUN. What luxury. And then right before we would fall asleep, we'd whisper to each other:
"I miss you."
"I miss you, too."
This season of life is grace in action. Grace for mistakes, grace for each other, grace through learning, grace for your thoughts, and grace from above. I was so disappointed in myself when I would cry at feeding times, I was humbled when Brian had to change MY diapers, and I was surprised when I couldn't say I was in love with my daughter until week 4.
Even now, I am still reminding myself to own this story. I'm learning that grace is found in honesty with yourself and others. Motherhood has been the hardest thing I have ever done because it's ongoing and can't be mastered through planning. It has challenged everything I believe and has forced me to be present. I pray for one days worth of patience and cling to the smile of the one who has stolen my heart.
Still, my heartbeat's words remain the same: "march on my soul, march on."
I asked moms to share and give suggestions from their month-one experience, I have compiled them below with some of my suggestions. There's a little bit for everyone.
hey there mama, you just had a baby... here are some things you may feel
-You might feel trapped. Once you do the feedings every 2 hours a few times, it sets in... this is EVERY TWO HOURS. It feels a little daunting, but have some grace for yourself. It DOES get easier, and eventually is a good time to bond with baby.
- You might not feel totally connected to your baby, remember love grows
-Breastfeeding- you might feel afraid for the next feeding
- You might mourn the time you used to have doing things you love
- You might not realize how one tiny human's smile will change your life
- physical healing is real and taking care of yourself takes time
- You might feel like you want to go back in time, or fast forward ... but trust me, you don't want to miss this
- Physical romance might be the farthest thing from your mind
- Some nurses are just the worst, and some are angels from heaven
- You might walk around the house without clothes on for a solid 5 weeks
- You might long for connection, but not want any visitors. Boundaries are super helpful for everyone. We took the first month to step out of church, work, and social settings. It was a hard, sacred time for us to learn to be a family.
- You never knew every private part of yours could hurt at the same time for so long. You might want your physical pain to go away. Healing is slow, but you WILL heal.
- Hearing about people waking up every 120 minutes and doing it yourself are COMPLETELY DIFFERENT
- You might need connection with your spouse. We vowed to make out everyday for a month, it helped!
- Mental health is something to be chased down hour by hour. Make yourself a mental health menu with things that help you keep your head above water, and pick three a day no matter what. Here's mine:
Mental Health Menu
Take a hot shower
Pray on the ground
Put makeup on
Change clothes (even if it's into a new set of PJs)
Spend time in the Word
Eat a chocolate
Write in journal
husband, mom, friend, anyone directly helping the new mom
- know that momma is not herself
- be a listening ear
- remind her she's doing great!
- the better she is cared for, the better she can care for baby
- Brian found it daunting to anticipate needs, so we made a cheatsheet for him:
CHEATSHEET FOR SUPPORT PEOPLE:
Has momma taken her medicine?
Does she have water in front of her?
Are there snacks ready for her next feeding?
Is the bed made?
Has the trash been taken out?
Does she have clean clothes- specifically underwear, bras, nursing pads.
Does she have an ice pack ready? (you know, for her lady parts)
Have you spoken words of encouragement to momma?
Have you written letters to leave around?
Is the living room picked up?
Has she done a Sitz bath today? Can you get it ready for her?
How you've asked her what she's thinking / feeling?
close friends who want to help without getting in the way
We had our meal train done through Favor, and we loved it. While we wanted to see our friends, we could never anticipate how the day would go. Friends, momma can't even walk. She is scared and bruised, and she's learning. She needs some grace. She's not herself, but she will be again. Every message is a message she holds close to her heart. Don't forget her, I promise she hasn't forgotten you.
How you can help:
Meals!!!!!!!!! I can't say this enough. We didn't need groceries for a full moth because our people rallied and it was a game changer
Send care packages (ideas below)
But by far the greatest act of love to my heart in this season... when friends regularly asked me how the day went. My days was consumed by number of poops, feeding times, burps, my own pain level, little wins... things that no one would be interested in. So when people asked, and I got to share the "boring" things, I felt immediately connected to that person.
Recovery must-haves my suggestions (all linked!):
Briefs underwear- size large. wear them proud.
Breast shell - these change everything! when your nipples feel like they could fall off these make sure nothing can irritate them.
Witch hazel pads - just yes
Pads - and lots of them!
Nursing tanks - I thought I only needed one... I'd go with 4 or more!
Real body expectations - really. celebrities are liars.
Target pjs - short sleeve shirts with buttons AND soft?!
The Bible App - for late night feedings when you are desperate for patience.
Baby Tracker App - (for feedings, naps, pumping...shareable with support people!)
Suggestions from other moms:
(email me or comment if I missed something!)
I'll always go first to make space for your story.