I gave birth to a human being 22 days ago. I’ve chosen to stay home and have a lying in period.
Little did I know that this would cause so much grief and be something for which I’d have to fight.
I hear that every family is different. Some go out with a new babe the next day. Some wait 40 days. Some, like in the country of Finland, take 9 days.
If I were all spunky and healthy and feeling whole I could see how perhaps I could choose one of those other options.
It happens to be that I was blown open. Wounded. Hurt. I, like many women, tore during my birth, and therefore had 3 stitches. I hear I’m lucky. My tears were only of the first degree.
Even so, I still was in massive pain. I’d wake up in the morning and take ibuprofin immediately. Then, I’d go to the freezer to get the frozen pads so I could ice my yoni.
I was wearing a diaper for the first two weeks. I was leaking milk everywhere. Sure, let’s go have a coffee date! Say whaaat?
To each her own, and for every family, I get this is a personal choice. For me, I didn’t feel like leaving the home was an option at all. I was healing. I needed rest. I was recovering and learning to breast feed.
I had a new baby and I was syncing with her, trying to be present, and curious about her needs. Desiring to keep her close, warm, fed, happy.
In any breaks I got, which were close to none, I would eat some food quickly, down some water, try to remember my vitamins.
On a good day, I’d brush my teeth or get a shower. On a bad day, I’d be unbathed, in pajamas, with leaking fluids all over the place.
For me, this was fine. This was the way it was, right? No sense in resisting. Besides, I realized the gravity of the situation- I just birthed a human days before. Give me a break, right?
I heard from people around me that I should get up. Get dressed. Put on some make-up.
I was told I should take her out, stop hiding her away. What was wrong with me, was I depressed?
Postpartum depression is a very real thing. And I had the checklist and warning signs. I’m a smart, strong cookie. I’m aware. I was checking myself and in communication with my mom, my midwife, and my therapist. I reach out for support and solid feedback.
I wasn’t experiencing postpartum depression.
Yet, there’s a normal phase after birth called, “the baby blues.”
I don’t know what the text books say about that. Here’s what I say:
When a woman is pregnant for 9+ months, her whole life changes. Her body grows, she may have complications. High blood pressure. Sickness. Swelling. Heartburn. Extreme fatigue. Difficulty sleeping.
In this culture, she’s expected to carry on, perform, look pretty and do her job.
After growing this being, this woman goes through labor. This could be short or many days long. It’s the deepest, hardest journey I’ve ever encountered.
It ends in pushing, or having cut out of you, a new baby being.
Then, you’re recovering. Your hormones are fluctuating. You may be ripped open, torn, bleeding and in great pain. Your life as you knew it is now over. You’re devoted to the welfare of your new babe. It’s hard to eat. To drink. To stand.
And, we’re called upon to look pretty, be on top of it, be a good mom, be happy, get your body back, just be glad you have your new babe, all healthy.
And it’s true. Healthy baby = good thing.
And, what’s with the rush to get women to return to “normal?”
This is symptom of a sick, patriarchal culture that doesn’t honor feminine rhythms. It’s tragic.
There are many years in which my daughter and I will be busy. Off to school, work, practices, meetings…off to the races!
There’s a wee-window here in which I can heal and connect with my babe and set the secure foundation for her future, for her life. Her brain is forming, the neural pathways, of either stress or calm, are being laid like cement, paving her future.
And I, in my first mothering endeavor, which was to rest and have peace and calm, was called to fight. I had to put a stake in the ground and be questioned, over and over again, about my mothering.
I imagine that this may be the start of what motherhood is like…being a fierce mama bear, protecting my young, setting strong boundaries, being judged.
I know it’s good to bend. And I didn’t want to compromise on this. I wanted time for my own heart and mind to heal. I needed only those people around who I was okay with seeing me as I was.
If you required me to have make-up in order for you to be comfortable, then you weren’t the kind of guest I desired.
Now, I’m almost one month post-birth. I get dressed, some days. I’ve only left the house twice. Baby has not been in public yet. The truth is, I’m protecting her aura. Giving her 40 days to be only around a special chosen few. She’ll have her whole life to be exposed to the un-grounded energy or heavy expectations of others.
For now, I’m enveloping her in the energy of love, as that’s what she needs.
Not to mention that I’m breastfeeding round the clock, so I don’t know why I’d pack the car and bags and head to the local coffee shop to breastfeed awkwardly in public.
I’ve had a handful of friends over to be with us. It’s interesting, some of my closest friends are no where to be seen. Motherhood can be a lonely place to be. And, I get it. If you’ve never had a kid, you don’t know. If you have one, you’re busy.
They say it takes a village to raise a child. In this modern day, I say it takes strong women, fierce boundaries, and balls of steel.
So, take it from me, what a new mom needs is permission. Permission to be however she is. Permission to rest, heal and go slowly. Most of all, she needs to know that it’s okay if she never gets back to normal, because my friend, she never will.
She too, is born anew. Life is forever changed. Hold space for her as she fits into her new shoes. Gently join her, as she plants her feet upon the earth, and learns to walk again.
In honor of the great mother,