The sacred postpartum period is one of the most overlooked journeys of parenthood.
We put so much focus on the birth, planning out how and where we want to birth.
Will it be a hospital birth?
Do we want to go public or private?
All the drugs?!
Every question a valid and important one. Birth is a life-changing and truly unpredictable experience.
But it’s the start line, to yet another life-changing and unpredictable experience. The postpartum period.
Our postpartum period was so different to what we could have ever thought or predicted.
Look at this amazing little person we created from scratch! He’s so gorgeous and perfect and we could sit and watch him all day long.
But also, how the hell do we get him to stop crying?!
Should he be sleeping for longer periods of time like we were told he would?
How do we even function are 4am in the morning?
Why can’t we put him down?
Will we ever shower without having the baby monitor in the shower with us? Scratch that, maybe we’ll just bring the bassinet into the bathroom...
But the baby in my mums group is so chilled, what are we doing wrong?!
Oh the Mum guilt! And probably the Dad’s guilt too, I'm sure!
The questioning of every aspect of our own journey, the comparison, the stress and the anxiety it can cause. Following your own instinct is important, but it is also confronting and scary, so much so that we often push it aside and take on someone else's judgement instead.
I often, now look back – hindsight is a beautiful thing! – and wonder why I wasn’t told to surrender to the process of the postpartum period, the same way we surrender to our bodies during birth. They’re both unpredictable experiences and should be supported as such.
To embrace our journey for what it was, ours.
The book The Postnatal Depletion Cure by Dr Oscar Serrallach explores how different cultures support mothers in this sacred period of time, which I've found incredible fascinating. A time that is nurtured by their loved ones. The nourishments of particular foods to help support healing and milk production and traditional practises that see rest for a set period of time as a necessity of becoming a mother. Something it seems the western world has all but forgotten. Throwing parents into the deep end from day one and telling them it's time to swim, when they've never stepped foot into the water before.
And us parents can be the worst culprits.
Feeling as though we need to be doing more. Getting fit, going to that mums group, cleaning the house, cooking the right foods, entertaining baby in an educational way.
If you want go out and socialise, do it!
Want to go for a walk each morning, go for it!
Want to sit on the couch all day in your pjs, binge watching tv and learning how to breastfeed, just bloody do it!
It's your journey, respect that. The time will pass anyway.
Part of our birth preparation involved birth affirmations. Seeking them, creating them and printing them out to be seen everywhere both before and during our birth. I believe affirmations to be a powerful element of our mindset and at some stage before I gave birth, I decided to write a letter to my postpartum self. This letter was just a bunch of dot points in the notes section of my phone. So simple and so effective. I looked back on it many times in those first few months. I also laughed at my pre-mumma self a few times too! Oh how I had no idea what was about to take place!
But it reminded me that it was OK to feel what I was feeling. It was OK for things to feel tough, we we’re learning and growing as parents for the first time. And our little man? He was growing and learning to! A reminder to myself that nothing lasts forever.
Most important of all, was I told myself in those notes, that I wasn’t alone. Because we’re never alone, even when we feel like we are. Even at 2am in the morning rocking that babe and falling asleep standing up, ready to cry from exhaustion - or like me, very much crying from that exhaustion!
We’re not alone.
It's called the fourth trimester for a reason. Give yourself the space to heal and grow.
I personally recognise the postpartum period as being much longer than the generalised three months.
It took us a good 12 months to fully navigate our way through parenthood and come out the other side as a new couple, a family. We had many ups and downs. Every time we thought we had it figured out, it would all turn upside down again!
So Mum and Dad, take these moments to surrender to these changing times and allow yourselves to navigate the new waters of becoming parents.
Be kind to yourselves.
It's your journey. Both together as a family, and individually as people.
You're not alone.