My Postpartum Promise by Jen

I promise to take care of myself. To rest, drink water, and eat all of the calories I can comfortably consume. To not feel guilty about putting my feet up & asking for help.

I promise to feel my feelings. To not judge myself on what I should be doing and to just accept myself, right where I am.

I promise to cherish my squishy belly. To adore it just as much as when my baby was in it. To not wish it away or to want it to go back to “normal.” To talk and think positive thoughts about my body. To purposefully speak self-love so my children can hear it too.

I promise to give myself grace. To not compare myself to others.

I promise to enjoy my sweet newborn baby and all of the cuddles and quiet moments that won’t be here forever.

I promise to re-evaluate my needs constantly. To acknowledge that I am recovering and to be gentle with myself, even when I feel great. And especially when I am feeling tired, slow, and low on energy.

The Kid That Put Me Back Together by Jen

I always wanted to be a mom. Like, I remember being in 5th grade, day dreaming about adopting a baby & being the only 10 year old responsible enough to take care of a child. I would draw floorplans of what my house looked like, where the playroom would go. Ridiculous right? But it’s true.

So when I was pregnant with my first baby, I cherished EVERYTHING. I was blessed with a healthy pregnancy, textbook labor & delivery, and a beautiful baby girl.

Two years later, same story, but even easier labor, delivery, & recovery. I was on a roll right? Life was gooood. And I knew how lucky I was.

Then I got pregnant with my third. Pregnancy was great for the most part & I was preparing for my very first homebirth. I spent hours visualizing, reading my birth affirmations, & walking around the house pretending to be in labor so that the girls knew what to expect. My homebirth was more than I could have dreamed of. In all honesty, I thought my life was perfect.

And then 36 hrs postpartum set in & I felt funny. Recovery wise, I was a picture of health. But I was staying up all night, staring at my new baby, holding him, and apologizing to him. Red flag, yes? It took me three months to figure out I was struggling with postpartum depression & anxiety.

I had heard about PPD, known some acquaintances that had dealt with it, but I wasn’t really educated on it. I thought it happened to people that had other issues going on. People like me, that dreamed of being moms their whole lives, they just didn’t get PPD. (Yes, I am aware of how ignorant that was.)

Part of the reason I didn’t know I had PPD was because I had only heard stories about mamas who couldn’t bond with their babies. I was the other extreme. I didn’t want to share my baby, couldn’t see a world where there was a place for him, didn’t want to leave him ever.

I spent a good six months in counseling & being as open as possible with where I was at emotionally. I had amazing family and friends that held me up when I just couldn’t do it for myself. My dark days became fewer and I started feeling like my old self again when my third little was about 15 months old.

And then, darkness came again. I got pregnant. I was happy for about a minute and then it went straight to terror. Everything I had just battled my way through, every fear about doing it all again, was front and center. I couldn’t be excited about this baby because I was so scared to struggle again. And because I couldn’t let myself feel excited, I felt resentment and guilt for not having all of the “right” feelings. What a vicious cycle.

My fourth pregnancy was rough. I did my best to distract myself. I would try to focus on one thing to be excited about but it didn’t last long. Shopping for baby clothes, planning a nursery, picking a name. The joy would come & leave just as fast. I was so angry that this didn’t feel like the other pregnancies.

Then there was the homebirth part. I had always loved labor. Genuinely, looked forward to the process of bringing my baby earthside. Unfortunately, I didn’t even want to think about it with my fourth baby. I would start to & stop myself. I would tell myself horrible things that robbed me of any happiness about labor.
“You have had three amazing experiences, there is no possible way you can have another one.”
“You might as well check into a hospital because you will be lucky if your baby is breathing when he comes out.”
“You will end up getting transferred. You have put too many negative vibes towards this baby. The energy is all wrong.”

It all came to a head when my baby was overdue and my feelings came pouring out. My husband listened & tried to understand. He said all the right things & that just made me angrier. I shared everything with my midwives & they got it. They said things I could relate to. They shared success stories of mamas that walked this path & came out the other side in to light. For the first time in my pregnancy, I had hope. Too bad it came at 41 weeks.

And then, my baby was on his way. With no warning, no signs of labor, it just happened. Intense contractions, 4 minutes apart, it was go time. I knew this time needed to be different. I knew I needed to focus on me, on my baby, on good energy. I felt like laboring alone. (So not me.) I didn’t invite a photographer. I didn’t tell anyone what was happening. I didn’t wake my kids up. I walked through our quiet home, in the middle of the night, by myself. I felt peaceful. I was relieved. My midwives came around 2:30 am. I was checked shortly after they arrived & found out I was an 8. I was stunned. I started to doubt myself. I had been enjoying this labor, but it was nothing like my others. I pushed out my own negative thoughts and reminded myself what my midwives and I had discussed earlier. How this labor doesn’t have to look a certain way for it to be right for me. At 5:38 am, the biggest joy & relief came. Rudy was born. I stared at him with so much gratitude. He was healthy. All of those dark moments in my pregnancy, all of the horrible words I spoke to myself, it didn’t affect him. He was perfect. And in that moment, I forgave myself.

He is a week old now. I keep looking for signs. Signs that this time is different. Signs that I am different. I broke a glass bowl yesterday. My two year old was on the counter, Rudy was napping, and glass was on the floor. My first reaction was to reassure my two year old everything was okay. As I bent down to sweep up broken glass, it hit me. That moment would have broken me when I was postpartum with my third. It would have overwhelmed me. I smiled and felt on top of the world as I finished cleaning up. My dad came to visit during the day and I had to go pick up my girls from school. He offered to watch my 2 year old and Rudy, since he was napping. I thanked him & went on my merry way. When I got in the van, I realized I wasn’t worried. I hadn’t felt the need to tell my dad a handful of instructions in case Rudy woke up. I didn’t picture myself dying in a car crash and leaving my children motherless. Again, I was reminded how different this is. How different I am.

I keep referring to my third baby as the one that broke me, and that Rudy put me back together. And to be honest, that is how it feels. And for the first time, I have been giving myself permission to be okay with that. I am not a failure at motherhood because things weren’t always my made up ideal. I am not less because I had dark days or feelings I couldn’t understand. If anything, I feel like I climbed a mountain. I have gained so much in my struggle. Deeper understanding of myself, empathy for others, close friendships that were built by being honest with where we were at or had been. It is strange to walk through it all – the sadness & fear – and come out grateful for the journey. But that is where I am right now. Incredibly grateful.