It's easy to see how quickly our culture diminishes how difficult it is to recover from childbirth. I mean, maternity leave isn't a vacation filled with baby snuggles. Growing and birthing a human is a huge ordeal and, after it's over, you don't go back to feeling "normal" right away (or ever). To make matters worse, while you recover you have to care for a tiny human while existing on nothing but caffeine and the distant memory of sleep. That's why there were two tiny things I did for myself every day postpartum that probably didn't seem all that important, but ended up making all the difference in the world.
The first tiny thing I did, at least this last time around and after having learned a thing or two during my previous postpartum experiences, was allow myself to heal. When I say "allow," I really mean, "force," because I am so bad at self care, you guys. The first couple of months following the births of my older two children were some of the hardest of my life. Made worse, I think, by the fact that I totally didn't take good care of myself and I definitely didn't allow myself to heal. This time I tried a different approach. I took things slow and ignored the voice in my head telling me I wasn't doing enough. It's taken me having three babies to realize that when you have a newborn, enough means being enough for them; nothing more. Enough is not measured in ounces of breast milk, miles run, pounds lost, or even whether you got the mail today.
I, like so many new moms, put serious pressure on myself during the first few months after I had my babies. I was going to be a "perfect" mother, and that meant breastfeeding exclusively, losing the "baby weight" right away, keeping a spotless home, and training for a half marathon (I'm not joking, you guys). I was so focused on meeting an unrealistic set of expectations that I failed, big time. If you think about it, it's no wonder that I thought I had to do it all. When celebrities have a baby almost all of the "news" is focused on how quickly they "bounced back," completely ignoring the fact that it probably took a strict diet, a personal trainer, a full-time nanny, and some sleep to make that possible.
Enough is not measured in ounces of breast milk, miles run, pounds lost, or even whether you got the mail today.
I wasn't sleeping, eating, and I spent most days feeding the baby and pumping around the clock. I ended up depressed and anxious all of the time, up until I cut myself some slack, accepted that nobody's perfect, and got some help for my postpartum depression. So, as a result, I ended up feeling like crap when I should have been giving myself a high five for being a human-growing badass. Period.
This time around, I was forced to take things slow due to an injury and a traumatic deliver, that left me unable to walk, let alone work out or try to lose weight. Much to my surprise, and despite my injury, recovery was so much easier this time. Who knew? I know I had to learn that lesson the hard way.
I took things slow and ignored the voice in my head telling me I wasn't doing enough.
By giving myself a chance to recover physically, I started to feel better emotionally, too. It's amazing how interconnected our bodies and minds are. I gave myself a chance to rest, recover, and take things at my own pace. With each day, I was able to do more and I seriously started to like myself more. Not for being perfect, but for being me, and I am totally a hot mess.
The other little thing I try to do every day is take a selfie. I know, it's so tiny you can't help but wonder just how important it really is, right? But there's something about the act of documenting these moments, and yes, posting them on social media, that allowed me to fall back in love with myself and, perhaps more importantly, allows other moms know that I'm not perfect and they don't have to be either. When you have a baby, it's so easy to sit on the sidelines while pictures of your baby fill up your phone and albums on social media. I do that, too, but I also turn the camera around, at least once every day, to find some love for this new face, body, and version of me that lights up my son's face when he sees me. It's so important, because healing after childbirth is often physical and emotional, too.
With each selfie I take, I've started to see and acknowledge the mother that I've become.
I never used to take many selfies. I kind of thought they were silly. Besides, I hated the way I looked, and the last thing I wanted to post on the internet was a picture of me with dark circles, freckles, or the lines that have started to appear on my forehead and at the corners of my eyes.
When I go through photos from after my first two babies were born, there are so few pictures of me. I honestly can't remember much from those intense days of no sleep, depression, and insecurity that went so fast and so slow at the same time. I do, however, remember hating the way I looked. I only took one or two photos during the first few months with my babies.
...I also turn the camera around, at least once every day, to find some love for this new face, body, and version of me that lights up my son's face when he sees me
This time around, my focus on healing includes learning to love myself. I took the time to recognize that my postpartum body is still my body, and my postpartum face is the face of a badass, with its lines, freckles, dark circles, and pregnancy "mask" (which looks like a mud-covered butterfly kissed my cheeks with its wings).
It hasn't been easy. Healing from childbirth has been a slow process, full of ups and downs, amazing successes and complete failures. This time, though, I've allow myself to heal, trying more and more each day to find a new normal for this amazing postpartum body, and with each selfie I take, I've started to see and acknowledge the mother that I've become.