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As a first time mom, they say your delivery and recovery is worse than with subsequent pregnancies. I definitely hope this is true. It has been almost 8 weeks since this little beauty entered the world and I’m struggling to hold on to every precious minute with her. As I reflect on how quickly the past few weeks have gone, I feel torn between wanting to watch her grow and wanting her to stay little forever. Anyone else know that feeling?
The background on my phone is the photo my mom snapped right after she was born. I look exhausted but glowing with joy. Tim is staring down at our little girl with the biggest smile on his face. I will forever hold that photo close to my heart. It completely describes how I felt then and how I feel looking back on her birth. It was one of, if not the hardest thing I have had to do…yet worth every second of pain. Despite the hardships we have faced over the last couple weeks, she has brought more joy and love into our lives than we ever thought possible! However, despite the incredible joy and love, there has been a lot of healing taking place as well. I want to be transparent, so this post may not be for everyone. I will be discussing my physical, mental, and emotional healing and how life has changed for me postpartum. If you don’t to hear all the details, speak now or forever hold your peace…or just skip past the sections you don’t like. It doesn’t bother me, but for the people that want the truth – here it is.
This photo was taken almost exactly 7 weeks after her birth. I was disappointed by how quickly I wore out, just walking the trail. I think this partly has to do with the fact that I was still bleeding at that point in time. No one told me that I might still be bleeding this long after having a baby! I assumed that 6 weeks was the latest and that you’d get cleared around then to return to all normal activities…this was not the case, at least not for me. They cleared me for light workouts, but I was told not to lift weights or have sex until I hadn’t been bleeding for a full week. Ugh. The frustration has been pretty noticeable, especially over the last week or so. I’m ready to go back to the gym and get back in shape but my body is just starting to catch up to my mind. I’m ready to be back to normal.
But wait…what is normal? I’m not even sure what my “normal” is anymore. It’s all new. I have stretch marks on my hips, a soft pouch on my lower belly, and my underarms smell worse than they have in my entire life. Hormones? Detoxing? Who knows. Hoping that part at least will go away when I stop breastfeeding as I’ve heard it often stems from that. My menstrual cycle will not be “normal” for a while, or so I’ve been told, so I’m not sure what to expect when it comes to that. I think maybe “exhausted” is my new normal. The first two weeks were hard. Really hard. They don’t tell you that breastfeeding isn’t natural! I assumed it would be a breeze. Mila had a slight tongue tie, which was addressed immediately, but we still had some major problems for the first two weeks. Cracked, bleeding nipples, and an unhappy mama. Things are better now and I actually enjoy that bonding time…but for the first couple weeks, I wasn’t sure if it would get better. I went through childbirth with zero painkillers – no epidural, yet when she would latch on I about went through the roof! In my next blog I will be talking about some of the things that saved my nipples during those first few weeks.
And nursing wasn’t even the hardest part. The day after delivery, I felt like I’d been hit by a truck. Muscles I didn’t even know I had hurt. My back hurt so bad it felt bruised when I would lay on it. Since my tears were so extensive, the recovery “down there” was longer and harder than average. I could not put my legs together completely, and for this reason I had to sleep flat on my back for the first 4 full weeks. For someone who is only a side sleeper, this was torture. I couldn’t get in and out of bed or use the bathroom/shower without help for probably the first week or so. I’m not afraid to admit that for the first week or two I walked like an old lady that crapped her pants. I used my Boppy pillow more for sitting than for nursing because it was the only way I could sit without pain. I remember many times where I just cried because I wanted to enjoy my baby but my own healing was keeping me from even sitting and nursing her (I pretty much only nursed laying down for the first week). I cried many tears during that first week. Tears of frustration, tears of pain, and also tears of joy. The recovery has been a long process, but so worth it. I did have a period of what they call the “baby blues”. The huge hormonal changes caused me to be overly emotional and really sad sometimes. Those first two weeks were truly difficult and I wish I’d been better prepared. Maybe if someone had given me an idea what to expect, I would have. Which is exactly why I want to be so transparent with all of you – in case there is someone out there who needs to know these things.
It took the full 6 weeks for me to begin feeling back to normal, although the bleeding was on and off up till now (8 weeks). I had very little bleeding, it just seemed to drag on forever. After the first two weeks or so, I was able to do more things on my own again. Nursing was easier, and I was starting to actually enjoy being a mom. The first two weeks were just a whirlwind of visitors, sleepless nights, cracked nipples, and rookie mistakes. I am so beyond grateful for the wonderful support system I have. My husband was so patient with me, getting up and bringing her to me every time she needed to eat so that I didn’t have to get in and out of bed. My mom stayed for an extra week after her birth to help me with food and getting my strength back, and my good friend Jenna gave up sleep and time to help us with whatever we needed.
Now at 8 weeks, I’ve come a long way. My tears are completely healed, minus some scar tissue I will have to work through. I now officially fit into pre-pregnancy shorts! I have been walking the trails near our house recently but am planning on returning to the gym to start light lifting soon. I think I will still do the trails though… I have always found walking/running to be more fun when you’re outside. A treadmill is kind of a buzzkill. The funny thing is that I wrote part of this blog a few days ago and as I finish writing it tonight I am currently recovering from mastitis. Ugh. I was hoping to never get it, but here we are. It’s my fault – I got lazy with pumping and my diet. I’m still eating a pretty strict diet (without calorie limitations) while I’m breastfeeding to help us both stay healthy. I think that is part of the reason I bounced back so quickly, even after such a traumatic delivery. (If you haven’t read my birth story yet, you can find it here).
Overall, the one thing I learned quickly is that you have to give yourself some grace. You’re healing from one of the most traumatic events your body will go through. You’re also learning how to be a mother at the same time and, in my case, still trying to be a good wife. There are a lot of demands on you and you have to forgive yourself. You will make mistakes…its inevitable. The important part is that you and your baby are ok!
To happy mamas,