As a new mother, I had a knack for giving the impression that I didn’t need help.
My village lives on the other side of the globe, so it was borne out of necessity, but I wonder if it was more than that. As new (or not so new) mothers, I wonder if we feel as though we’re letting ourselves down if we show that we’re vulnerable. Are we falling short if we admit that we simply can’t do this alone?
That we have one hairy leg because our survival strategies have devolved into shaving one leg one day, and the other the next. And we forgot the second leg…for a week. That we eat breakfast for dinner on a semi-regular basis. And that if one more well-meaning person tells us (as if we’ve forgotten) that we really need to take care of ourselves, we’ll scream.
Because, before becoming mothers we were used to feeling productive. To meeting deadlines. To getting the job done and feeling like a valued team member.
But motherhood shatters that reality. And although it’s bittersweet, thank goodness it does. It softens us. Slows us down. Stops the treadmill of a results driven society, forcing us to reassess what we truly value in this one short life of ours. As parents, we need to redefine success in the context of a journey, with a destination we will never see.
The idea of a couple growing a family in isolation is new to human society. What we need, in the absence of our families and tribal support systems, is postpartum doulas.
Each of my postpartum experiences was different. For one I was largely dazed and happy, for another I felt upset and overwhelmed, and during one I was losing touch with reality. What they had in common was that I felt unanchored. Adrift. Lost in a sea of beautiful dreams and haunting nightmares that I felt obliged to keep to myself.
Surely this is just how it is. You struggle on, alone. Your triumphs are yours alone. Your grief and anger is yours alone. If you felt you could share, no one could understand anyway. Motherhood is a box.
For many of us, this is how it feels to enter into motherhood for the first or fifth time. You go to your box, sort yourself out, and occasionally over the next few months you’ll venture a peek outside, save up for a short staycation. But mostly, you are the box. You need the box and boy does the box need you.
(click link above to read the entire article on mothering.com)
If you’re questioning the rightness of your desire to pick up your baby when he cries, or lie beside him as he falls to sleep, read this.
“He’s got you wrapped around his little finger.” “She’ll never learn if you do whatever she demands.” “He needs to learn to self-settle.”
These are phrases every new parent is inundated with by well-meaning strangers. Despite the journey to becoming parents being one filled with much anticipation and joyful excitement, we live in a world that seemingly undervalues normal physiological behaviour in babies, and places way too much emphasis on the quest for them to be independent in their own entities. We are warned of creating “bad habits” with our children by being there for them when they need us, and we are chastised for wanting our babies in our beds near us at night time or for feeding overnight.
Creating a new life is not an overnight process, as we all know. Women’s bodies work hard to provide a safe and nurturing environment in order to grow a baby. The nine-plus months, or 40(ish) weeks, of pregnancy are split into three trimesters, each about 12-14 weeks long. Many women will track the milestones of their unborn babies in the womb as the weeks and trimesters go by, as well as the seemingly endless changes to their own bodies as their little one grows. Less talked about—and planned for—are the few months following the birth of your baby, often referred to as the fourth trimester, which is an important part of your pregnancy experience for both you and your baby. While you might be preoccupied figuring out how to care for your in-the-flesh newborn or getting your birth plan in place, it’s just as important to understand what your body will go through after the delivery and how you will need to care for it. To help address this special (and intense) 12 weeks post-delivery, we’ve rounded up some must-read tips to help a new mom navigate the beautiful and brutal fourth trimester.
A few of my friends had new babies this spring, and while looking into their wide, shell-shocked eyes, I remember what it’s like to have a wriggly tiny life in your arms. Everything seems chaotic and hazy and wonderful and exhausting. Here’s what I’d tell those new mothers…
First off, the first thing I would say — which is 10,000% true — is, IT GETS EASIER.
A reader left the loveliest comment years ago: “Bless you, new moms. If you’re trying, you’re doing a great job.”
Here are a few posts that may help during the first year:
7. 8 questions to ask a new babysitter. Friends have sometimes lamented that they can’t leave their baby with a stranger. But this person is only a stranger until you meet them. At least in our experience, a nanny will soon feel like a beloved new member of the family.
“How old is your baby?” asked a woman not much older than me as I tossed four bars of chocolate into my grocery cart, two of which would be my reward for getting the baby to sleep that afternoon.
“Almost 3 months,” I responded, blinking in the harsh light and quickly rubbing my eyes to check for crust, after remembering I hadn’t looked in the mirror before leaving the house—again. It wasn’t until someone spoke to me in public that I realized that in rushing around like a lunatic getting the baby ready, I didn’t even give myself a once-over.
The woman nodded sagely and said, “Ah, you’re still in the 100 Days of Darkness,” before commenting on how cute my baby is.
One Hundred Days of Darkness—I’ve thought about it often since.
Other mothers have gone before you. Other mothers will come after you. There is a sisterhood in our postpartum experience. If we allow it, our lives will be forever changed. You are not alone. You are never alone.
When the balloons have deflated. When the flowers have died. When everyone has gone home. Then what?
Postpartum. It’s sometimes called the fourth trimester, but if you’ve never had a baby, or you’ve never been in my social circle, you might not know that.