Category Archives: pregnancy

Bodies, pregnancy & birth: “Bouncing back”

Me & baby M, 6 days postpartum

On evening #2 postpartum I had a strange sensation & a thought. I was listening for M’s burp to come, but instead felt my own body shifting back to its previous order. It’s as if my intestines were settling down with a big sigh, my body literally re-ordering itself. I really started to think about what my postpartum body is, would be & should be. While society has come a ways in discussions of the postpartum period & postpartum bodies (both with humor & sincerity), we still have far to go.

So much of what we think about postpartum bodies has to do with weight. It’s no news that our culture is obsessed with women’s weights & for some f’d up reason, we’re almost more obsessed with weight after giving birth than at any other time in a woman’s life. At a time when we should be so proud of our bodies for building & sustaining life, we’re pressured (or allowing ourselves to feel pressured) to change our miracle makers. Women deserve a big ol’ break from the body (self-) talk postpartum, not new demands.

As if taking care of a newborn isn’t enough. As if recovering from birthing isn’t enough. As if reorganizing your innards isn’t enough. As if making breast milk isn’t enough. As if taking a damned shower isn’t enough.

But really, the weight issue is just the tip of the iceberg. It’s the socially accepted code for talking about women’s bodies. What we don’t talk about are all the other body issues that come with postpartum. Losing control over basic bodily functions. (If we’re honest, this includes not only peeing, but also pooping, farting, sweating & crying… Did I miss anything?) Dealing with new bodily functions we can’t control either. (I’m talking about you, leaky boobs!) Worrying about having (good) sex again. Having newborns, then babies, then toddlers, then children who still think of (& treat) our bodies as extensions of themselves. 

Postpartum body issues are about more than how we look to the outside world. And we don’t necessarily have a good way of talking about all this yet. Heck, no one talked to me about the health of my pelvic floor after I had my son over seven years ago, not even my midwife. And certainly no one warned me that I’d still feel “touched out” sometimes by my child seven years later.

In terms of bodily integrity, somehow, having a foreign body growing inside me for nine months has paled in comparison to postpartum (& motherhood, generally…). And it doesn’t help that the healing portion of the postpartum period lasts so long. Feeling bed-ridden for days & then housebound for weeks is hard, especially on the heels of an active pregnancy (heck, I was at work the day before I gave birth!). 

What I came to realize in those early days (as I sat around, nursing around the clock & try to catch fits of sleep here & there…) is that postpartum is such a contrast to the powerful experiences of pregnancy & birth. Suddenly, after growing a human child in my womb, after pushing that baby out with blood, sweat & tears (not to mention other bodily substances!), there I lay, needing help getting out of bed! 

We need & deserve help in the postpartum period. We need to heal & recover. We need to put our bodies’ energies (what little we have left, that is) toward nourishing ourselves & our new babies (& keeping us both alive!). We need to keep our sanity & put a check on those baby blues (not to mention dealing with full-blown postpartum depression). When my mom told me that no one stayed around to help her after she brought me & then my brother home from the hospital, I felt so sad & angry that new mothers have been (& continue to be) so underserved at such a vulnerable time. 

It’s obviously different for each woman, but if I’m honest, part of the reason the postpartum period is so hard is that it is, in some ways, a let down. After giving birth, we need help not only walking to the bathroom or getting dinner on the table… We need help feeling normal & important. We need support in so many ways.

Sure, I may be crazy in love with the new little person in my life, but it’s a bummer to feel so weak & out of control in those early weeks following birth. When my mother in law & husband brought me breakfast in bed the first few days after giving birth, I felt special. When my mom made me an herbal sitz bath, I felt loved. 

Mothers need to “bounce back” mentally before even getting back to a more-or-less functioning body. Fitting into my pre-pregnancy jeans is just not a priority, even if I am starting to work on being more physically active. Feeling some sort of normal is a priority. I’m lucky to have had the help of family getting there.

A few days postpartum, I sat in the bath admiring my soft belly. My uterus was still painfully shrinking back to its former size. My belly button was a weird inny-outy blob & my beautiful linea negra still adorned my strangely pigmented & deflated belly. My abdomen was a bit uneven, as if somehow my liver were now crooked. Or my small intestines we balled up on one side. My nipples were practically scabbed over & slathered in nipple cream. This is ok, I thought to myself. This body, today, is wonderful!

Now, 10 weeks later, I sometimes think that if I put baby girl down in the bassinet for her nap, I could exercise. Some days I do put her in the stroller for a proper walk. Most days I just hold her tight. I don’t need my body “back” right now. My body is all that it needs to be in this moment, even if that means I’m a human pillow for an hour or so.

Advertisements

2 Comments

Filed under Breastfeeding, Feminism, Living, Mothering, pregnancy

Letter to my as-yet unborn daughter 

Big brother’s picture of baby, mom, T & midwives on baby’s guess date.


Dear baby girl,

I am officially in the final days of what is likely my last pregnancy. With you! This means you will be born so very soon. Last night, I dreamt of your birth & it was amazing. I know your actual birth will be even more amazing… I woke up & you weren’t in my arms but you will be on your true birthing day!

Despite the darker days of uncertainty I’ve had during this pregnancy (sometimes doubting that I’d ever get to meet you), I’ve enjoyed every minute of nurturing you in my womb. I was worried when I was pregnant with your brother, but for different reasons—born of inexperience & naïveté. I worried about you because I knew too much. 

Still, nothing has been more miraculous than feeling you wriggle around in my belly. Feeling you changing inside me & growing stronger, week by week. 

And now that your birthing day is just around the corner, I am relaxing & letting myself be excited to meet & hold you. I’m talking to you more (though never as much as your sweet brother, who I am convinced you will recognize by voice immediately after you’re born). I’m allowing myself to think & daydream about the person you will be on this side of the womb. 

I fear I won’t want to let you go once you’re here. Ever. 

But there are others who are so excited for your arrival. You, who they’ve never felt the way I have. Who nonetheless love as if they had carried you these past 8 1/2 months. Your dad, who pats & kisses my belly every day & takes such good care of us. Your brother, who is so ready to sing & read & talk to you face-to-face. Your loving grandparents & aunts & uncles & cousins & dear friends. 

With birth, I will have to let you go. Even if just a little bit. Which is perhaps why I’ve loved being pregnant so much. I’ve had you to myself all these months! 

When I look at your brother, who is so fiercely independent, I realize that birth will be your first act of independence. 

I’ve been preparing for this birth, but so have you! And, really, it’s your birth, not mine. I’m not exactly on the sidelines, but together our bodies will be working to bring you into this world. 

And as flawed & sometimes horrifying as this world can be, my instinct is to keep you protected inside me. Where you are safe & near me at all times. But only out here can you help make this world a better place. I know you will. More love & more loving can be nothing but healing. Even if it’s just in our small corner or neighborhood. I can feel your love already. 

Soon, others will feel it too. 

Love always,

Mom

Leave a comment

Filed under Miscarriage, Mothering, pregnancy