During pregnancy, I wondered what life would look like postpartum. Would it be different? The same? Somewhere in between? After being house-bound with my new baby for so long, there came a necessary point I needed (read: craved) a break. Of course there was hesitation in leaving my baby for the first time, but I knew if I didn't get a break, I was going to break. There are some things I wish I'd known about my first postpartum night out that might've prepared me a little bit more for the wide range of emotions I was about to go through, though, because it's a lot.
When I was pregnant the first time, I remember thinking, "Will this ever end?" because, let's face it: once you hit those final, uncomfortable months, it feels like forever. It's only natural to start daydreaming about getting back to some kind of normal, whatever that is, which includes going out. Our first night out post-baby, my partner and I planned to go see a band we knew. It was a reunion show of sorts, the space filled wall-to-wall, and while it was a habitat I loved being in before pregnancy, it was something completely different after. I was different after.
One thing I wish I'd known about that initial outing is that it would be wildly different than all the times before baby, and to assume otherwise would lead to disappointment and/or frustration. In my case, it was both (and then some). Pregnancy, labor, and delivery changes a woman. It changed me, that's for sure, and I have to say that change was for the better (mostly). Here are some things I wish I'd known before putting myself back out there, to minimize the pain of it all.
It's Not Going To Be The Exact Same
Before I left the house that first night, I had all these ideas about how it would go. In my mind, because we were headed to something familiar, I really believed it'd all feel like it did before pregnancy. Nope. Not even close. If anything, I felt like more of an outsider than ever before.
Over time, yes, my attitude changed a bit about what it means to go out without my kids but, for the most part, it hasn't been remotely the same as it was all those years ago. The funny thing is, I'm OK with it.
I'll Worry Endlessly
I made an intricate list for our sitters (in-laws) to instruct them what to do and when and how, almost as if my mother-in-law had never raised a child before. It gave me assurance my baby would be OK, though what I hadn't anticipated is that maybe I wouldn't be. While I know I needed that time out of the house, I didn't realize how strongly I'd feel about leaving my baby with someone else for the first time. It was all I thought about, it consumed me, and it almost ruined the evening.
I know she was in good hands, but still. There's no time a mother doesn't worry about her children, especially when it's the first time she's away from them. What I wish someone had told me then, was that it's normal. I was attached to my baby (and rightfully so). Even with postpartum depression (PPD) that interfered with our bond, I couldn't bear the thought of life without her. Honestly, that one night felt like a lifetime.
Others May Not Understand
I distinctly remember being in the middle of all these people who were singing along with the songs and thinking, "What the hell am I doing here?" I felt displaced and uneasy in a crowd by this point. My postpartum weight was still higher than I was used to, making me uncomfortable in my own skin (a terrible feeling), and my partner and I had endured some relationship struggles. With all of that, I imagine people thought I was standoffish or unfriendly. What they didn't understand (some of them) was this amazing thing I'd been through changed me in ways I couldn't verbalize. While I wanted to be there, I also kind of didn't.
I Might Not Enjoy It
When I think back to this one night, I was trying so hard to piece together parts of my past so I'd feel more like myself again. But the thing is, I wasn't myself so why would it be the way it used to? If I had accepted the night would feel differently from the beginning, the bar wouldn't have been so high. I set myself up for this disappointment.
What I wish I'd realized then, is that tastes and interests change. Couple that with lack of sleep and depression, and it's literally going to be a disaster. I didn't have to love going out to watch bands at that point in my life. It didn't make me less than; if anything, it made me a better mother because I could differentiate what I wanted in my life, and what was unnecessary.
Hormones Are Still Adjusting So Be Easy
I was really hard on myself. I thought by making these plans, trying to be my "old" self, and going through the motions, I'd have a good time. What happened instead, of course, was that I grew frustrated with myself for not having fun, for missing my baby, and guilty for ever leaving the house at all. I was hyper-focused on these things which, in turn, ruined my night. I wish I'd known my hormones were still trying to balance, to go easy on myself, and however possible, have at least a little bit of a good time — whatever that meant at the time (which, to be honest, might've been a solid nap).
Postpartum is different for everyone and it's difficult when you're also navigating PPD because you're really not yourself. That first night out wasn't great and kept me from doing again soon after but eventually, parts of my "new normal" emerged and I found a version of me who wanted to try it again. Only this time, I listened to the new me and did something I knew I'd enjoy, like going somewhere where someone could simply cook me a nice dinner.