It's Absurd To Expect Postpartum Moms To Be 'Ready To Go' In 6 Weeks
As of today, it’s been six weeks since my son was born. This is when most birthing mothers in the United States are considered “healed.” This is often the end of maternity leave for working moms. This is when we have our (first and only) follow-up appointment with the OB-GYN after having experienced immense trauma to our body.
These have been the hardest six weeks of my entire life, physically and emotionally. There is so much about this experience that no one ever prepares you for—partly because we live in a society that undervalues women and their health, partly because it’s considered taboo to talk publicly and candidly about the harsh realities of childbirth and post-partum life.
Yesterday was the first day I didn’t have to wear a pad in six weeks, because I had finally stopped bleeding. I still wear my mesh hospital underwear some days because I just want to be as comfortable as possible. I’m afraid to inspect too closely what I look like now after tearing and being cut and getting stitches. I finally ditched the cleansing water bottle and started wiping fully about a week and a half ago, and it was terrifying. I still have hemorrhoids that won’t go away, so even though I’m not bleeding vaginally I’m still bleeding anally. Up until a couple weeks ago, I couldn’t even enjoy the nicer weather because I couldn’t walk right due to persisting pelvic and leg pain. I still feel pain and discomfort in places I can’t even properly identify. (What the hell is a perineum, anyway?) I can’t even fathom using a tampon, let alone having sex.
And those are just the physical parts.
On top of that, there was the surge of hormones those first two weeks that had me weeping every day, wondering if I had made a huge mistake and if I was really cut out for this. There was the panic of not feeling bonded with my baby immediately because no one ever talks about how it doesn’t always happen right away. There were the intrusive thoughts, like envisioning myself tripping and falling and his head hitting the floor, which prevented me from feeling comfortable holding him while standing up for nearly a week. (I still have those thoughts.) There’s the despair of anticipating another sleepless night and of waking up in the morning exhausted with the entire day ahead of me wondering how I’m going to make it through hours that feel like days until my husband comes home and I’m no longer alone trying to keep a newborn (and myself) from crying.
Things don’t feel as dire as they did in those first few weeks. I’m learning to adjust to this new normal. I have a few amazing friends who are also new moms who I’ve texted with almost daily and learned that I’m not alone in any of this. I’ve been going to weekly support groups where it’s further reinforced that everything I’m going through is NORMAL. Everyone’s experience may not be like mine, but a lot of people’s are.
Women, and especially mothers, are expected in our society to be martyrs who silently endure. It’s uncomfortable to see these harsh realities publicized and normalized because it bursts those bubbles of carefully curated perfection by forcing people to acknowledge that sometimes even the things that are supposed to be the most beautiful and sacred in this world (childbirth, motherhood) can frankly really suck.
And that’s okay. Life is complex and we all contain multitudes and two seemingly contradictory truths can exist simultaneously: I can love my baby and also really hate many parts of this experience. I can marvel at seeing him grow and change every day while also secretly wishing that I could hand him off to someone else for a few months until he’s less fussy and sleeping better.
I don’t know how I’ll feel another six weeks from now. Honestly, that feels like years away. But I’ll keep talking openly about my experience, the good and the bad. And hopefully, eventually, the former will outweigh the latter.
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