I was not sufficiently prepared for being postpartum. Honestly, nothing could've truly prepared me for the onset of motherhood, as each woman’s experience is unique, but I was so focused on pregnancy and childbirth and all the things I “needed” for the new baby, that I had failed to arm myself for the tumultuous period immediately following my firstborn’s arrival. What I learned, though, was that there were things I was only able to get away with when I was postpartum. Erratic behavior, obsessively joining through parenting forums, and chowing down a second dinner? Yeah, they were all suddenly acceptable.
I’ve never been one to ask people for help, fearing it would make me appear weak (I know, I know). But if there is one point in your life when you have carte blanche to ask for whatever you damn want, it’s during the postpartum period. No one batted eye when I requested almond croissants, or a very specific amount of ice in my drink. Just a warning, though: don't get to used to this treatment. When I tried to pull this sh*t a year later, my husband thought it was the best joke ever.
So while you’re living that postpartum life, here are the things you can only get away with right after you've had a baby:
Wearing The Same Shirt Day After Day
I mean, why soil another set of clothes when I could just keep this spit up-stained shirt on and save myself some laundry? It’s not like I was dressing for the baby, or dinner out, or even myself. This was the one time I could remember in my entire life where my appearance was nowhere near the top of my list of priorities. After all, there was a new little person who demanded all my time and attention.
Wearing No Shirt At All
As a breastfeeding mom, I was constantly lifting my shirt up to nurse. And during periods when my newborn was cluster feeding, what was the point of even wearing a shirt at all? Given that the heat was cranking in our New York City apartment at levels I couldn’t lower, it made the most sense to walk around in sweats and a nursing bra and not bother with the rest of it.
Ordering Take-Out More Often Than Usual
No one in my house, especially me, expected me to do any cooking once the baby was born. And as much as my partner did to keep the house running while I sat pinned under a constantly hungry baby on the couch, meal prep was usually pushed to the back burner. Though we are generally frugal with our household budget, we made an allowance during those first few weeks at home with a new baby to order in. Besides, shrimp shumai beats opening a can of watery chicken noodle soup any day.
In addition to eating take-out more frequently, I was a lot looser with my diet postpartum. There just wasn’t the brain space to plan meals. We are not big junk food eaters anyway, so I knew I wouldn’t go off the rails bingeing on crap. But a pickle and turkey slices for breakfast because that was what I could grab at that particular moment with the one hand I had free while the other was holding the baby? Sure.
And by “breakfast,” I just mean the first meal of the day, which might not have occurred until early afternoon, when I finally had a minute to eat after a morning of catnapping, nursing, and trying to make pediatrician appointments. I knew it was important to fuel myself regularly, since I was exclusively breastfeeding, but it was taking a while to set a schedule for both myself and the baby. I just had to make peace with myself that it wasn’t all going to come together immediately and eventually (read: a few days before my maternity leave ended) I was eating regular meals at regular times and I could start to see the glimpse of a somewhat “regular” life in the distance.
Saying ‘No’ Unapologetically
If there is a time to be an absolute b*tch, it’s when you’re in labor and right through the postpartum period. After that, people might not give you a pass, since, according to your patriarchal, work-obsessed culture, women just need a maximum of 12 weeks to recover from childbirth and acclimate to life with a totally dependent human living with them while resuming their regularly scheduled life duties. The postpartum period is for not answering emails, letting calls and texts go unanswered, and not smiling at old ladies when they coo at your kid. Having to respond to the world, in a pleasant way, took too much of my energy when I was postpartum. I had limited reserves and I needed them for my baby and for myself. I didn’t have much to give anyone else, except a succinct, and genuinely heartfelt, “Thank you” when they helped us.
Though my memory hasn’t improved now that I’m years postpartum, it was only after just having a baby that I truly got away with being forgetful. It was understood that I had too much on my mind to remember where my keys were, or if the mortgage got paid (not that the bank would have forgiven me, but at least my husband would have).
The tiny, impossible buttons on the tiny knit dress your relative gifted the baby. That no washing machines are available in between nursing sessions and you have no more clean burp cloths. Those. Daytime. Telemarketing. Calls. It was as if the world was conspiring against me when I was postpartum, and life’s tiny annoyances were blown out of proportion due to my exhaustion and rollicking hormones during those first few months of being a fragile new mom.
Crying At Everything
The postpartum period was an emotional one for me, as it was for most new moms I’ve met. I was elated, then sad, then anxious, and then excited to be a mom again. With all the ups and downs, I was more susceptible to having my heartstrings tugged. Waiting for the elevator made me cry. Looking at my baby’s sweet sleeping face brought tears to my eyes. I choked up at every commercial. Episodes of postpartum sobbing was the new norm.
Talking To Yourself
During maternity leave, I talked to my newborn constantly, knowing full well my monologues would go unacknowledged by her. What I was really doing, if I permitted myself to think about it, was talking to myself. I had to work out all the scary, exciting new feelings swirling around in my new mom head. Three winter months holed up with just a baby during those stretches when no one dropped by could be isolating and chatting her up — in the form of these pep talks to myself — was a way to navigate the darker parts of the postpartum period.
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