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Bouncing back to regular life post-partum: why I'll never do it again

I had a serious punch-in-the-gut introduction to being a mom. After nine months of a healthy pregnancy where I peacefully contemplated the miracle growing inside me (see: Pregnant Women are Smug), life was probably gleeful at the opportunity to give me a nice reality smack.

Delivery left me with a fourth degree perineal tear (if you don’t know what that is and have a strong stomach, look it up), so I couldn’t walk or sit, or really move at all. Breastfeeding hurt SO MUCH and the baby wasn’t latching right. I remember lots of tears, both the baby’s and mine.

Because we're about honesty here, I had to show a picture of me, a 36-hour-old Baby G, and The Snarl that is my hair.
Because we’re about honesty here, I had to show a picture of me, a 36-hour-old Baby G, and The Snarl that is my hair.

Despite being a total mess, I had a rising urge to impress people by “bouncing back” after delivery. Strong women conquer childbirth and get back to regular life. Isn’t that the kind of thing women are praised for?

“Look at her, hair and makeup all done. She looks great. And to think she just had a baby!”

“Wow, your house is immaculate. And to think you just had a baby!”

“She’s already back into her Cross-fit routine. And to think she just had a baby!”

“She’s coming to the potluck and bringing the new baby. She even signed up to bring her famous homemade chiles rellenos, and she’s volunteered to help with cleanup.  And to think she just had a baby!”

To all these voices, externally and internally, I say curl up and die.

Physically and emotionally recovering from delivery and bonding with the new baby is ten thousand times more important than having dunned up hair, an immaculate house or showing up to social events. Childbirth is natural, yes, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a hugely traumatic event for the body – fourth degree tear or not.

Other cultures seem to honor postpartum recovery and baby bonding more than the US. Balinese mothers are not allowed in the kitchen for seven days after birth, and mothers in China and Mexico take a month to rest after delivery, according to a recent Daily Beast story.

I pushed back my urge to get back into “regular life” successfully after Baby G’s birth – for a little while. After about 10 days of intensive breastfeeding practice and painstaking care for my birth injuries I thought I had it all under control. So I started going shopping, attending family events, going to church, cooking and taking day trips.

It was a bad idea. I was fatigued, but I pushed through, thinking that’s what a strong woman would do. I developed a kidney infection from not taking care of my body. A few weeks later, I developed mastitis for the same reason. So painful and so unnecessary. 

Look at us, cozy and snuggled up together in blankets and a fuzzy robe. Why did I think this had to end so soon?
Look at us, cozy and snuggled up together in blankets and a fuzzy robe. Why did I think this had to end so soon?

Next time around (God willing), I plan to follow the advice I read on the Internet and scoffed at before Baby G was born: spend a week in bed, a week on the bed, and a week around the bed. Even if that means asking for help to care for older children. This is not only for my physical and emotional well being, but it’s a chance to slow down and cherish the sacred times of holding my teensy newborn baby. So much of the mother/baby relationship is established in those constantly suckling, skin-to-skin moments in the first weeks.

This is difficult for us women with type-A, busy, need-to-be-approved-of-and-admired personalities, as blogger Stephanie from Keeper of the Home writes.

It’s not our fault, ladies. Our culture gushes over us for shutting up, getting up and showing up. It helps too if we’re easy on the eyes.

With the next birth, I hope to impress no one. In fact, if people judge me and are wholly unimpressed by me, then maybe I’m doing something right. Maybe I can even get the peanut gallery to think or say something like this:

“She had a baby three weeks ago and we haven’t heard from her since. She’s probably being super fat and lazy and just laying around with her baby.”

We can’t change society’s attitude toward postpartum recovery and baby bonding overnight. But we can start by giving each other – and ourselves – a break.

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38 Comments

  1. isaac on October 14, 2013 at 11:05 am

    Just looked up fourth degree perineal tear and asked my wife about it. OMYGOD! My wife has a little one on the way too. Now at least no matter what injury story some dudes are telling and trying to act all tuff…you can 1 up them.

    • creatingmom on October 14, 2013 at 11:27 pm

      HAHA yes, I would not only one up them, but scar their minds. Not such a bad idea actually. Good luck with your wife’s delivery. The husband plays a huge role during childbirth. I’m sure you’re up for the challenge!

  2. isaac on October 14, 2013 at 11:05 am

    Just looked up fourth degree perineal tear and asked my wife about it. OMYGOD! My wife has a little one on the way too. Now at least no matter what injury story some dudes are telling and trying to act all tuff…you can 1 up them.

    • creatingmom on October 14, 2013 at 11:27 pm

      HAHA yes, I would not only one up them, but scar their minds. Not such a bad idea actually. Good luck with your wife’s delivery. The husband plays a huge role during childbirth. I’m sure you’re up for the challenge!

  3. Lauren on October 14, 2013 at 4:20 pm

    LOVE this! You’re so right.

    I was so unprepared for recovery after my son’s birth. And then we moved two weeks after he was born, so instead of “sleeping when the baby sleeps,” I unpacked boxes because I was embarrassed when visitors came over. WHAT WAS I THINKING?!

    I started to feel more normal months and months after my son was born, but to be quite honest, my body has never felt the same.

    Thanks again for sharing. 🙂

    • creatingmom on October 14, 2013 at 11:25 pm

      Holy crap, moving at two weeks post-partum?! I would like to read about that experience.
      I know, so much of the stuff I did I thought I felt up to at the time, but looking back I say “What was I thinking? She was two weeks old!”

  4. Lauren on October 14, 2013 at 4:20 pm

    LOVE this! You’re so right.

    I was so unprepared for recovery after my son’s birth. And then we moved two weeks after he was born, so instead of “sleeping when the baby sleeps,” I unpacked boxes because I was embarrassed when visitors came over. WHAT WAS I THINKING?!

    I started to feel more normal months and months after my son was born, but to be quite honest, my body has never felt the same.

    Thanks again for sharing. 🙂

    • creatingmom on October 14, 2013 at 11:25 pm

      Holy crap, moving at two weeks post-partum?! I would like to read about that experience.
      I know, so much of the stuff I did I thought I felt up to at the time, but looking back I say “What was I thinking? She was two weeks old!”

  5. Lauren Markman on October 15, 2013 at 3:41 am

    As a mom, it is so hard to let others take care of you for a change, but you totally deserve that special bonding time! I agree that the U.S. seems to have less flexible maternity leaves than other countries – all the more reason why I cherished every moment I was home with my son. (The floors could be vacuumed later – at least by the time he started crawling, right?) And, I love that picture of you with your 36-hour old girl. When she is older and looks at this picture, she’ll see how her mommy was still glowing with happiness to meet her daughter, even after an exhausting delivery.

    • creatingmom on October 15, 2013 at 11:36 pm

      Lauren, I know – my nature is to not accept help, so I had a hard time letting friends and family do chores and errands for me. But I was too tired and in too much pain to stop them and it turned out to be such a blessing. Our pride can get in the way sometimes of what is important.

      She’ll either enjoy the picture or she’ll say something like “You put that picture on the INTERNET? Gross, Mom.” haha

  6. Lauren Markman on October 15, 2013 at 3:41 am

    As a mom, it is so hard to let others take care of you for a change, but you totally deserve that special bonding time! I agree that the U.S. seems to have less flexible maternity leaves than other countries – all the more reason why I cherished every moment I was home with my son. (The floors could be vacuumed later – at least by the time he started crawling, right?) And, I love that picture of you with your 36-hour old girl. When she is older and looks at this picture, she’ll see how her mommy was still glowing with happiness to meet her daughter, even after an exhausting delivery.

    • creatingmom on October 15, 2013 at 11:36 pm

      Lauren, I know – my nature is to not accept help, so I had a hard time letting friends and family do chores and errands for me. But I was too tired and in too much pain to stop them and it turned out to be such a blessing. Our pride can get in the way sometimes of what is important.

      She’ll either enjoy the picture or she’ll say something like “You put that picture on the INTERNET? Gross, Mom.” haha

  7. Thursday headband giveaway | Creating Mom on October 17, 2013 at 11:02 am

    […] stage, I’m still trying to figure out what it is that you guys love to read. So far, “Bouncing back to regular life post-partum: Why I’ll never do it again” has been your favorite post, but “Nine wardrobe items I’m OK with never wearing […]

  8. Thursday headband giveaway | Creating Mom on October 17, 2013 at 11:02 am

    […] stage, I’m still trying to figure out what it is that you guys love to read. So far, “Bouncing back to regular life post-partum: Why I’ll never do it again” has been your favorite post, but “Nine wardrobe items I’m OK with never wearing […]

  9. Emily @ My Love for Words on October 18, 2013 at 4:26 am

    Thanks for sharing your story at the Lovely Ladies Linky. I’ll be sharing this on my fb page today. 🙂

    • creatingmom on October 18, 2013 at 8:03 pm

      Thank you!

  10. Emily @ My Love for Words on October 18, 2013 at 4:26 am

    Thanks for sharing your story at the Lovely Ladies Linky. I’ll be sharing this on my fb page today. 🙂

    • creatingmom on October 18, 2013 at 8:03 pm

      Thank you!

  11. Paula W on October 18, 2013 at 11:01 pm

    Ya I had a similar situation with my delivery. I didn’t tear, but they had to cut me an episiotomy and I couldn’t sit for weeks. And if I did sit, getting up was even worse. Did you have this happen to you? All the blood would rush back in when I would get up, and hurt like crazy. I think it was all those nerves. I don’t think mine was near as bad as yours, but he took like 15 minutes to stitch me. I’ll have to tell you about the trauma of the suction cup another time. I have mentioned your story to other moms. You are my trauma story… like “You have it good compared to my friend, so stop your wining!”

  12. Paula W on October 18, 2013 at 11:01 pm

    Ya I had a similar situation with my delivery. I didn’t tear, but they had to cut me an episiotomy and I couldn’t sit for weeks. And if I did sit, getting up was even worse. Did you have this happen to you? All the blood would rush back in when I would get up, and hurt like crazy. I think it was all those nerves. I don’t think mine was near as bad as yours, but he took like 15 minutes to stitch me. I’ll have to tell you about the trauma of the suction cup another time. I have mentioned your story to other moms. You are my trauma story… like “You have it good compared to my friend, so stop your wining!”

  13. Denise on October 19, 2013 at 12:43 pm

    I never felt the pressure to get back to normal. I’m not sure if that is because I’m a Type-B person or because I was 39 when I gave birth (a scheduled c-section) to my first born. It could also be that since I’ve had a lot of experience recovering from time in the hospital, I expected to take things slow and listen to my body (instead of my head). It is unfortunate that our culture seems to push women to do like you did. Women need time to heal, recover, and bond with their babies.

    Found you via the Turn it Up Tuesday! Blog hop that I’m co-hosting! Thanks so much for linking up with us.

    • creatingmom on October 20, 2013 at 7:43 pm

      Denise, that is so cool to hear. I have to say, I did not feel any pressure from family or friends – if anything they were telling me to take it easy. I think the pressure came from within and my pathetic need to please. I think it’s awesome you listened to your body, we should all take your example.

      Turn it Up Tuesday is a great blog hop, I am so touched that you stopped by my little blog. 🙂

  14. emycooks on October 21, 2013 at 8:56 pm

    I am sorry you had a hard time. It is good to learn about birthing and not everyone is ready for the after effect. I am glad for all the coaching and I was fortunate to have my mom with me and I cherish every moment with my baby. And I was bless to have one and would love another but seems I may have to look at alternatives.. Just enjoy it all with your next baby. Consider yourself bless to have another and enjoy all the help. It is only time you will be helped in that way… God Bless.

    • creatingmom on October 21, 2013 at 9:04 pm

      Thanks, Emy. I guess I am just assuming I’ll have another one – and who knows if that is really possible. I should say IF I am blessed with another one, I will rest and enjoy. Thanks for stopping by!

  15. emycooks on October 21, 2013 at 8:56 pm

    I am sorry you had a hard time. It is good to learn about birthing and not everyone is ready for the after effect. I am glad for all the coaching and I was fortunate to have my mom with me and I cherish every moment with my baby. And I was bless to have one and would love another but seems I may have to look at alternatives.. Just enjoy it all with your next baby. Consider yourself bless to have another and enjoy all the help. It is only time you will be helped in that way… God Bless.

    • creatingmom on October 21, 2013 at 9:04 pm

      Thanks, Emy. I guess I am just assuming I’ll have another one – and who knows if that is really possible. I should say IF I am blessed with another one, I will rest and enjoy. Thanks for stopping by!

  16. […] I wanted to thank Natasha at Epic Mommy Adventures for choosing my post about post-partum recovery as the “best of the best” out of 137 entries at her blog hop last week. I’m […]

  17. […] I wanted to thank Natasha at Epic Mommy Adventures for choosing my post about post-partum recovery as the “best of the best” out of 137 entries at her blog hop last week. I’m […]

  18. Ashley on October 22, 2013 at 2:09 pm

    I have an almost 2 month old and wish I would have followed this advice instead of being concerned about keeping the house clean, doing laundry and cooking! Total Type-A personality. I’m going to miss the opportunity for afternoon snuggles with my daughter when I go back to work next week.

    • creatingmom on October 22, 2013 at 2:15 pm

      Not yet 8 weeks? You still can milk that post-partum rest. So you have to go back to work, but you can still enlist the help of family and friends for laundry and housework. It’s tough going back to work. Check in with me and let me know how it goes.

  19. Ashley on October 22, 2013 at 2:09 pm

    I have an almost 2 month old and wish I would have followed this advice instead of being concerned about keeping the house clean, doing laundry and cooking! Total Type-A personality. I’m going to miss the opportunity for afternoon snuggles with my daughter when I go back to work next week.

  20. […] out Carly’s blog over at Creating-Mom.com. She recently posted a great blog about her birth experience and recovering from her own birthing challenges. Check it out and give her some […]

    • creatingmom on November 3, 2013 at 6:35 pm

      Thanks, Paula! Love your birth story.

  21. […] out Carly’s blog over at Creating-Mom.com. She recently posted a great blog about her birth experience and recovering from her own birthing challenges. Check it out and give her some […]

    • creatingmom on November 3, 2013 at 6:35 pm

      Thanks, Paula! Love your birth story.

  22. […] out Carly’s blog over at Creating-Mom.com. She recently posted a great blog about her birth experience and recovering from her own birthing challenges. Check it out and give her some […]

  23. […] out Carly’s blog over at Creating-Mom.com. She recently posted a great blog about her birth experience and recovering from her own birthing challenges. Check it out and give her some […]

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