When it comes to delivering babies, I've got my bases covered. My first child was a C-section and my second popped out (through considerable effort) the old-fashioned way. While the differences between the two recoveries — from duration to areas of pain to types of pain — generally speaking it's always a bit of a journey, and there's one thing I ignored that could have made recovery easier. So, so much easier.
Now, I'm not someone who likes to say "journey" unless I'm referring to a literal voyage, but I do think it's the right word when you're talking about recovery from childbirth. For one, you've just been through something big, and you're on to something even bigger. After all, you're a mother now. Your life is never, ever going to be the same again. Your transition into motherhood and figuring out what that all means, mentally and emotionally, is going to take weeks, months, and even years to wrap your head around. There are some days, six years in, where I sit back and think, "Oh wow, I'm a mom. How the hell is that possible? I'm pretty sure I was studying for my A.P. US History exam five minutes ago." The emotions alone make this "a journey."
But physically? Girl, please. You've just either squeezed a mini-person out of your most intimate of spaces or you've been cut open and lived to tell the tale. Either way you're an epic badass now, and after I gave birth I felt that badassery surging through my veins.
Both of my recoveries were actually pretty great, and I credit that general fact entirely to luck. I wasn't doing backflips out of my hospital bed or anything, but I was up and about pretty quickly both times. After my C-section, nurses at the hospital remarked upon how nimbly I was able to move around my room. My results, they assured me, were not typical. After my vaginal birth, I was playing with my toddler in my backyard (while wearing an infant) days later. A passing neighbor talked about this fact for months.
Now, something you should know about me: I'm an approval junkie. I thrive on praise and love positive attention. So defying expectations and hearing people marvel at my ability to "bounce back" made me feel proud, even haughty. It boosted the power-surge I already felt through having given birth and my fortunate recovery. "Yeah," I thought, "I'm doing great! I'm tough! I'm invincible."
And this is when the other shoe drops.
Because even the most "badass" person under the best of circumstances needs time to heal. I was so caught up in how not bad I felt that I ignored the fact that I still needed to take it easy and, fun fact, not taking it easy will absolutely catch up with you in the end... and it will hit hard.
Fueled by hubris and mom guilt, I once again ignored the fact that my body had been through an extremely rough ordeal and needed to rest.
After my C-section, I was so determined that I was "recovering well" that I pushed myself far more than I should have. I cleaned my apartment daily. I cooked. I took the (good) advice of "walk every single day" to mean I should try walking a full mile with the stroller. While I fortunately never injured myself (I easily could have) I hit a point where I was just so tired. And it wasn't the exhaustion of having a newborn.
My body was sick of my decision to remain stubborn and demanded that I chill. I listened. I thought, "Man, I probably could have been doing better faster if I'd just taken it easier." I thought "Live and learn," and then I had another baby and forgot. Whoops.
In my defense, I figured, "OK, my first baby was a C-section. Those recoveries are notoriously harder. This one popped out of my vagine: I can tough through a lot more!"
Instead of easily enjoying a good recovery, I pushed a good recovery into bad territory. The result? That ice pack had to stay nestled between my legs for way longer than it would have if I'd just relaxed a little bit.
To this day, I don't know what part of "this baby popped out of my vagine" made me think this would be a walk in the park.
If I overdid it after my C-section, I super overdid after my vaginal birth. Fueled by hubris and mom guilt, I once again ignored the fact that my body had been through an extremely rough ordeal and needed to rest. My postpartum pace quickly proved unsustainable. In under a week my body smacked me down once again, furious that I had taken advantage of her good work. Instead of easily enjoying a good recovery, I pushed a good recovery into bad territory. The result? That ice pack had to stay nestled between my legs for way longer than it would have if I'd just relaxed a little bit.
I'm done having babies and can't learn from this experience anymore, but maybe you can: please, please realize that recovery is a journey. It requires, time, intent, and effort. Don't feel that taking the time to sit and rest is lazy or an indication that you're weaker than you are. When it comes to recovery, rest is a powerful, an important action, and worth all your vital effort.
Make the effort, because your body has been through a lot and it deserves it.
Check out Romper's new video series, Bearing The Motherload, where disagreeing parents from different sides of an issue sit down with a mediator and talk about how to support (and not judge) each other’s parenting perspectives. New episodes air Mondays on Facebook.