This blog post is probably the one that’s taken me longest to write. It’s been floating around in my head for a long time, but whenever I sat down to put my thoughts into words I struggled to convey them clearly and would end up leaving it in the draft box until my next unsuccessful attempt.
I want to talk about my life postpartum. It’s been close to two years now, so it might seem rather random that I’d choose to do this now. At first, I intended for the angle of this post to be solely related to postpartum physical health. But as I wrote and rewrote it, the rationale behind it kept changing. It’s only now, 2 years later, that I’ve finally found the real message behind what I want to say.
Before I start, I feel I need to include the biggest disclaimer I’ve probably ever written over here, because this is an incredibly sensitive topic for many mothers and women and I want to tackle it with the greatest empathy I can muster. Firstly, I am NOT a postpartum health professional. I’m just a woman on her own postpartum journey. Secondly, and more importantly, there is not a single day that goes by that I am not extremely appreciative of what my body has done for me.
Take a moment to read the words pasted over the awkward photo of me wrapped up in a towel.
Because in that paragraph are words that I will always repeat to any woman who has just come out the other side of a pregnancy.
“I’ve given myself enough time.”
These are huge, weighty words for me.
Mental health comes first.
When Kate was 20 weeks old (that’s around 5 months) I decided that I was ready to take the next step in my postpartum recovery. That’s when I took the towel pic. I say ‘next’ and not ‘first’ because my ‘first’ step was to process what on earth had just happened to every single fibre of my body/mind/soul when I became a mum. This took five months…and those five months were intense! Most of the time, I ate whatever was at an arm’s length whilst I breastfed Kate, celebrated managing to shower and constantly laughed off the remote idea of having some time to invest in myself. And even if I had time to myself, all I wanted to do was sleep, of course.
During one of the rewriting sessions of this blog post, I was going to leave this whole section of my postpartum story out because it seemed to me like the preamble to the real postpartum recovery. Some months later, when I sat to rewrite yet again, I realised how foolish it would have been. Mental health comes first. And during those five months I was most definitely recovering. I needed all that time to understand the hormonal and emotional changes that being a woman in postpartum recovery brought with it. I needed to grow in my love for motherhood. To look at my daughter’s face and feel like her mother (newsflash, this isn’t always automatic). I needed enough time to adjust.
‘Enough time’ is relative of course. My version of ‘enough time’ happened to be five months because it naturally took that long for me to learn how to care for Kate and myself at the same time. It took me that long to realise that I can love her better if I love myself too. That my parenting is not insufficient because I invest some time in myself.
Every new mum searches for some kind of guideline…when can I start doing the things I used to? My advice would be to spend some time learning who the “new” version of yourself is. To then embark on the journey to discover what the “new you” wants and how the “new you” does the things the “old you” used to do.
“I’ll never get my prebaby body back.”
The culturally prevalent idea that you can return to what you were before pregnancy is a huge stumbling block when it comes to owning your postpartum-ness.
After giving birth you physically cannot return to a pre-baby body, because you are now postpartum. And for as long as you live and breathe, you will ALWAYS be postpartum.
I’ve got to admit that when I took the towel photo, I didn’t really believe this.
I wanted, so badly, to believe it. But it was a surprisingly hard pill to swallow. A part of me wanted to physically feel like my old self, knowing full well that I wasn’t her anymore.
The bits that sagged, the bits that stretched. The hair loss, the lack of bladder control, the sweats, the stitches and not to mention all that went on with my milk creating region.
It was a lot to take in. A lot to accept. A lot to love. The emotional and hormonal rollercoaster combined with all of this made me long for what I once had, regardless of how happy I was being a mother.
It took a long time for this to change. For me to understand that instead of longing for the old, I needed to fall in love with the new. In many ways, it is still an ongoing process as I become ‘newer’ each day I grow older. Fancy play on words there.
“Self-love, hard work and grace.”
It’s been almost two years since I started my life postpartum, 17 months since I started the journey back to physical health through exercise and exactly one year to the day since I changed the way I approached nutrition. There was no quick fix in the cards for me. Those closest to me know how hard I worked to carve out this me-time. I worked out wherever and whenever I could. Sometimes during Kate’s painfully short naps, other times I’d lug my equipment to my parent’s house and steal a half hour of babysitting (I still do this by the way…both the lugging and the stealing). There was endless food prep, copious amounts of planning and lots of sweaty selfies sent to my supportive sisters.
At first they were all sacrifices. But slowly and surely they turned into habits. I won’t be going into the nitty gritty details of all that I did and what I continue to do, but I often speak about it on Instagram and am always happy to answer questions.
Now, here I am, at the tail-end of a period of self-love, hard work and lots of grace. I say ‘end’ but I don’t have any intention to stop. You see, I’ve been reconditioned. The reasons I started this journey are not the reasons I’ll be continuing it. Sure, there has been physical change…but it pales in comparison to what this year has taught me about myself. I see beauty in what I previously sought to change and see every opportunity to take care of myself as a blessing too good to pass up. Where I once feared investing in myself out of guilt, I now see it as one of the things that makes me better able to love those around me.
Most importantly though, I wear my postpartum badge with pride and honour, knowing full well what it costs…and just how priceless it is.