I love being pregnant, but I have this almost dread about postpartum. It used to seem like a bad word to me, being forced out into the world as a “normal” (non-pregnant) person again, with leaking breasts and even more responsibility than before.
Third time’s a charm, I guess, because I am loving this post-pregnancy time right now. For me, it was realizing I need to view it differently, and use my resources (both past experience and all the new things I am learning now) to really turn things around and find a way to love this time.
Now, I see it as even more special than pregnancy in some ways because it means finding a way to create the first calm, loving space for my baby and my body outside of pregnancy.
One of the most crucial things I think I have learned about “postpartum” is that it can be this wonderful middle ground between pregnancy and “real life.” I never looked forward to it because I was seeing it as just the cessation of being pregnant, which I always love and miss. But I have the choice (more or less) to either throw myself back into reality head first (which is what I have always done) or find a way to relish this new land I am in.
Being an independent woman, I’d never really asked for too much help after birth, figuring that it was my job to take on everything new all at once. And although that is what I will do eventually, I’ve asked for help this time. I really did some thinking the last few weeks of pregnancy in order to prepare-I didn’t want to feel sad, and depressed and overworked and tired and sick like I did last time. So, I simply made up my mind that I was going to spend at least a week in bed, naked with my baby. I told my husband beforehand that I needed to do that, and what it would be like for him while I did. I made a promise to myself to not run around, or even pick dirty clothes up off the floor. And although I haven’t, this break has provided me with so much enrichment and self-reflection that I didn’t count on, instead of simply sitting here bored like I thought I would be.
I am learning to love my body this time too. It’s certainly not the way it was after the first time I gave birth, but it’s pretty amazing nonetheless. There is an amazing, inspiring book for after-birth reading that I just hope every woman can buy and keep for after she has her baby. After the Baby’s Birth, by Robin Lim, is worth it. It did not make an impression on me while I was pregnant, but it is not for pregnancy. I am so glad I kept it around and took it out after the birth. Whether you have just had your first baby or not, the information in the book is much needed and probably unknown or forgotten by most women. This book is written in such a gentle, warm way and provides a kind of spiritual basis for looking at the postpartum time, along with practical ways and tips to make it easy and enjoyable for the body. One of her suggestions, the “postpartum belly pack” was really helpful to me. Not only did it feel good, but it encouraged me to take the time to thank my body for it’s work, and to help it (very slowly) start to heal as gently as possible.
As I cuddle skin to skin with my newborn daughter, we take in each other’s calm because neither of us is going anywhere. I look down at her and I realize that postpartum is this amazing gift that is given to us after we have a baby. It is not a gift that our culture respects, and so there is so little support to squeeze every moment out of these days. But I have reclaimed it for myself this time, and I am so thankful. She will never be this way again, and I will never have this kind of time with her again. And instead of feeling rushed to get my body back, I see it as a whole new journey and part of the life cycle that I need to respect and honor.
Birth is amazing, but so is after-birth. Honor your baby, and your body by loving what there is to love about each miraculous moment. No one will give you the permission, so you have to take the opportunity to do this for yourself. I doubt you’ll regret it.