What is Post Partum Like?

One of our Red Leaf Brand Ambassadors, Annika, recently gave birth to a beautiful, healthy son. Today, she is walking us through her post partum experience and journey into motherhood! Enjoy her guest post here at redleafnutrition.com, and check out her personal blog, Growing Gracefully for more lifestyle content.

No one ever talks about how the same age that your baby is, is how long it’s been since you gave birth. Duh, right? Birthdays are anniversaries of the date of your birth. But think about it — when you celebrate your birthday, you are celebrating yourself. How long you’ve been alive. All that you’ve accomplished. You probably don’t think about the sacrifices your mom made and what she did to get you earthside.

SO. Let me say it again. The same age your baby is, is how long it’s been since you gave birth. The same age your firstborn is, is how long it’s been since you became a mom. If you’re nursing, the same age your baby is, is how long you’ve been breastfeeding. (I know this is nuanced – you may be a mother to a baby who is not earthside, to a foster child, to an adopted child, in a kinship situation, or in any other number of ways. I am just sharing to the situation that I know, and specifically about the context of being postpartum after a birth).

The day this blog goes up, my son is now 15 weeks old. It’s been 15 weeks since I gave birth. It’s been 15 weeks of breastfeeding. I am 15 weeks postpartum. I AM 15 weeks postpartum. Post partum is something you ARE, not something you have. 

I’ve heard so many people describe post partum depression and post partum anxiety as HAVING post partum. 

You ARE post partum, you can HAVE post partum depression and/or post partum anxiety.

I think mothers feeling the need to shorten these to having post partum really shows how taboo society makes it to talk about these things. To acknowledge that a birth of a sweet, perfect, precious baby is not just that. But that it is also the birth of a mother. The birth of a whole new person.

So, whenever someone asks me how I’m doing lately, it’s difficult to explain. I’m doing well – I’m healthy, my baby is healthy, I love being a mom. However, I am at the same time a whole new person. I’m going through a complete identity shift. It feels like it’s been forever that I’ve been a mom. But in reference to my whole life, 15 weeks is not long at all. I am 1,287 weeks old (I googled this lol). I’ve only been a mom for 1% of my life. When I say this mom thing is new to me, I mean it’s NEW.

It’s weird having another person who entirely relies on me to have his needs met. My schedule is not my own. With nursing, even my body is not my own. 

None of this is to complain! It’s just to try to illustrate the weirdness and newness that is post partum. Hopefully this helps draw a picture to my friends who are not mothers, and hopefully to my friends who are mothers, this makes you feel seen. I love my son so much and am so happy to be a mom. And I’m so thankful for the ability and opportunity to nurse him.

With this weirdness and newness that is motherhood, I feel like there is almost this deeply ingrained line in my life’s timeline – before becoming a mom and after. WHO I was and WHO I am now. What I did with my time before and what I do with my time now. How my priorities used to look and how they look now. My ability to relate or my lack of ability to relate to groups of people then and now. 

I think there is value in just feeling your emotions, observing your thoughts, and thinking through situations. So, this post wouldn’t be without value if I weren’t to draw any lessons from it or if I weren’t to give any tips out of my experience. However, I have this platform to share my experience with others, and by doing so, hopefully help others out of my experience. 

SO. I want to share some things that I have learned during this post partum time period, and I hope that it can help other moms new to post partum, more experienced moms to help them feel validated in their post partum experience(s), and those who have not experienced post partum to understand what their loved ones are going through.

Tips I would give to someone experiencing the post partum time…

Pay attention to what makes you feel like you.

I hope that post partum, you have moments when you just feel like yourself. I hope you feel happy and comfortable. I remember driving home from my 6 week post partum visit. I think that might have been the first time I had that feeling of feeling myself again since giving birth. I was driving home by myself (I think that was also for the first time post partum?), drinking iced coffee, and listening to throwback 2000s music. In the moment I realized how I felt good. If you don’t have moments where you feel like yourself, try to remember what brought you joy before. Whether it’s reading a book, listening to music, getting lunch with a friend, going on a date with your spouse, or something else, try to make a little time for one or more of those things. And be okay with the fact that how that thing looks may be different now. That’s okay!

Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to get back to the “old you.”

You aren’t a completely new person now. But a lot has changed. Don’t expect everything to look the same as before. You have a new person in your life. To that baby, you are their WHOLE world. You want to build that bond with your new baby. To do that, things will HAVE to look at least a little different. How your time is spent is entirely different. Also your perception of time will be changed with how your sleep is now different. Don’t feel like you need to go back to your old body or what you used to look like. Don’t feel guilty for not spending as much time with others outside of your family as you used to. Don’t feel guilty for changing your mind about your interests or priorities. You don’t have to change everything, and some things will still look the same. But also embrace how things are different now!

Talk to others about how you’re TRULY feeling.

Have at least one person to talk to about how you’re truly feeling. You don’t have to overshare or give everyone the 100% truth when you’re asked how you are. But please don’t keep it to yourself how you’re feeling. Your hormones are changed and your brain is chemically different after having a baby. Baby blues, post partum rage, post partum anxiety, and post partum depression are all possibilities. If you experience any of these, or something else mentally or emotionally, please find someone trusted to talk to about it. This person may be your spouse, a parent, or a close friend. And/or don’t be afraid to get outside help from a professional. And don’t feel guilty for needing or wanting to. You can have an amazing support system and still want or need help from an outside, unbiased, professional source.

Vocalize your needs.

This is very similar to the last point, but stands on its own. Not only should you make sure to talk about your feelings, but I suggest trying to also vocalize to others what you need. If you need someone to bring you a meal, say that. If you need someone to come over and watch your baby while you take a nap, say that. If you don’t want to let your baby go but need help with chores, say that. If you’re feeling touched out at the end of the day and need your space, say that. It’s always important to set and enforce boundaries with those in your life. But when you are physically and emotionally healing and drained, it’s even more important to not only set boundaries, but to also be able to explicitly ask for what you need help with, or say what you don’t need help with.

Have something for YOU.

The last piece of advice I have is to have something that is 100% for you. When you’re in a relationship and taking care of a baby, or even multiple children, so much of your energy is focused on meeting others’ needs. AND you may even be back to work before you feel like you’re ready. AND that job may also be service- or others-oriented like teaching, nursing, or otherwise. It’s so important to have something that is just for you. For me, since my 6 week post partum visit and getting cleared, this has definitely been physical activity. Most often that’s me going to work out at a studio called Spenga. But sometimes, it’s also going for a walk or doing at-home workouts or yoga. This is definitely part of taking care of myself, but it’s something that I also ENJOY and look forward to. During that time, I can focus on just what’s right in front of me. When I go to workout, I get alone time in the car on the way there and back home. While not as frequent, blogging is another thing that I have for myself. What is that thing for you that YOU enjoy? Also, related to this, I try my best to make sure I’m taking care of myself. I take my meds and supplements every morning, make sure I’m eating every meal, consuming water every day (although I’m working on drinking more!), showering, and taking care of my skin. These things may sound simple, and maybe easy. But the things that are easy to do are also easy not to do. And some of the first things to slip to the wayside when you’re focused on keeping another human alive. Don’t let these things slip. If they do, don’t get down on yourself, but pick them back up. You need to take care of yourself first before you’re able to take care of anyone else.

This is shared from a place of having experienced birthing one child, and mothering that one child for 15 weeks so far. So, my reference point is the change that comes from having 0 children to having 1 child. But there is also tremendous change that comes with each additional child into a family. The new child could be another baby you birthed, or a foster child who days ago you didn’t know but now they are a part of your family, or a child who you are now responsible for through kinship care, or otherwise. Whatever your family looks like, you are seen. With children, with babies, with altered family dynamics, comes change.

Post partum is not easy. Change is not easy. But a new family member is so worth it. You can do it. If you’re going through a hard time, you will see better and brighter days. If you’re on the other side of the hard part, I hope you can see how far you’ve come. If you haven’t had children but want to, don’t let the unknown of pregnancy, labor, delivery, and post partum (or fostering or adoption or kinship care) deter you. If you don’t want kids, that’s okay too. But I’m sure someone you love has little ones in their life who you can pour love on, and you can support that person through raising their little ones.

I hope this was helpful to you in whatever stage of life and family-hood you’re in. I’m happy you’re here. Yes, happy you’re here on my blog page, but also happy you’re HERE – on this earth at this point in time. Feel free to reach out if you need support or a listening ear during post partum or during a time of transition in your family. I would love to support you and to pray for you.

Thanks for stopping by! Hope to see you around!