We've all heard the jokes about how busy new moms are. You know, the anecdotes that end with mom begging someone to hold her baby for five minutes so she can take a shower. If you're newly postpartum you're probably realizing these jokes aren't jokes at all. Showers are still vital for me 15 months postpartum, and it's not because I'm obsessed with being clean. Of all the things a postpartum woman really means when she says she needs a shower, that's probably high on the list: that it's really not about taking a shower at all.
After having all three of my babies the first thing I wanted, no needed, to do was shower. Not only did I feel an urge to simply clean off the messiness associated with labor and delivery, but I felt a need for an existential cleaning, too. You know, a moment for me to "get back to neutral" after experiencing the most intense expending of mental, emotional, and physical energy I've ever endured. I couldn't really articulate that at the time, though, so my request (read: demand) for a shower was all I made abundantly clear.
The truth is that postpartum is an indescribably complex time filled with the relentless emotions associated with transitioning into a new phase of life. Sometimes I might be able to ask for what I need or talk about what it all means. Sometimes, I guarantee you, I won't be able to talk about it at all. Sometimes I might not even know what's going on with me. So when I'm postpartum and I say I need a shower, here are all the things I've actually meant:
"Leave Me The Hell Alone"
Seriously. I just spent nine months, give or take, growing another human inside my body. Everywhere I went, that growing human was with me, too. I have never needed alone time more in my life.
"I Can Smell Myself"
Sorry, but there is some funky sh*t that comes out of your body when you give birth. Stuff shifts. Smells change. I'm not used to it yet and I need to clean it off, preferably as soon as humanly possible.
"I Want To Meditate"
Honestly, where the hell else am I going to be able to do that ever again for the next 18 years? Oh, nowhere? Well, then the shower it is, my friends.
"Please Keep The Children Out Of The Bathroom"
I know they miss me, and that's super adorable and stuff, but I think they can survive the 10 minutes it will take me to shower. Besides, can we talk about teaching boundaries?
"I Need To Cry"
Crying is cleansing. I might need to grieve the fact that I no longer have the baby in my belly, which can surprisingly lonely. I might have the baby blues and need to cry for no reason, or want an alone-time-cry (which is fundamentally different). Then again, maybe I just need a good cry after the otherworldly experience that was labor and delivery. Whatever the reason, I need to cry alone in the shower.
"I Totally Have My Sh*t Together"
Sometimes I just need everyone to think I've got it all together. Yes, even when I'm falling apart. Honestly, that's when showers are the most beneficial.
"I Need Some Pampering"
When you can't afford to go to a spa, take a long, hot, uninterrupted postpartum shower. Trust me.
Showers are phenomenal when I need some sensory destimulation. New babies are always touching, crying, sucking, pooping, and nuzzling, and after a while it truly does get to be too much. A shower is a fabulous break from the overstimulation of a newborn.
"I Need Space From My Baby"
I'm at peace with this, but a lot of new moms feel a ton of guilt for wanting some space, even if it's just for five minutes, from their new baby. So don't make a big deal out of it and just hold the baby while mom takes a shower.
"I Need To Feel Like Me Again"
What it really boils down to, dear reader, is that us postpartum moms really just need to feel like ourselves again. Carrying a baby, birthing that baby, and then becoming the single most important thing in that new baby's world is really intense. I needed a moment to breathe. I needed to take some space to ground myself in my new reality and tune back into the me that I am now that I'd been through arguably one of the most intense, perhaps traumatic, experiences of my life.
Saying "I need a shower" is a socially acceptable way to tell others that you need space.