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Postpartum…

In our childbirth class this weekend, our fantastic teacher, Kathy Killebrew, posed the question: what does postpartum mean to you? Of course all of us were thinking of the big D word: Depression. Because I’ve struggled on and off with the ole’ regular kind of depression for 15 years, I am a little scared that I might be dealing with the mommy version within the next few months. The flip side is that I also feel like because I’m very aware of this possibility I am more prepared take steps to treat it head on.

But I was surprised when our teacher said, “I know everyone here is thinking of depression, because that’s what our culture says postpartum is.” She went on to explain that while it’s important to be aware of depression symptoms , what postpartum actually is, is just a period of time – 6 weeks – after your baby is born. This is meant to be a time of hunkering down and feeding and bonding with your wee one. In other cultures, women look forward to postpartum for most of their lives because it is a time when they are waited on hand and foot while they have the space to connect and love on their lil nugget. Sounds good to moi!

I love this new take on postpartum. While  it’s super important to have an open dialogue about potential depression and the challenges that come with a new baby – lack of sleep, feeling overwhelmed, hormones going cray cray – I have found that I’ve been inundated with these warnings, sometimes even bordering on threats it seems, while I have yet to hear anyone give me a truly clear understanding of what this time really like – and I’d like to know all of it! The good, the bad, and the funny!
Then, last week I received an email from my friend – actress and improvisor Katie Schorr, who just had an adorable lil guy named Sly:

katienSly

She wrote this email from the front lines of postpartum when he was just 3 1/2 weeks old. I think this sums up all of the aspects of new motherhood so beautifully and makes me feel like I really have a sense of what’s coming. Even though… yes, I know, I know, I won’t REALLY know until I’m in it… This is the closest I’ve gotten and I wanted to share it with y’all:

We are three weeks + a few days in and I feel exhausted, in love, confounded, calm, terrified, and generally hazy. There aren’t any patterns, is what I’m finding with Sly, and looking for them only makes me crazy. He’s totally internal right now, absorbing stuff but mostly dealing with being a tiny human, and I’m realizing I can’t expect anything civilized from him. That said, he is fairly civilized, just gets inconsolable unless I feed him nonstop. The hardest part so far for me has been accepting how tethered to him I am. Breastfeeding came fairly easily to me, but it is really tiring and you do need to eat and drink a ton to keep your energy up while doing it. Eating for two is for real!! Also, he is starting to cluster feed and it feels like, how will I ever do anything ever, all I am is a leaky faucet of breast milk?! He just fed from 5pm – 7:40pm and only stopped because I had to take a breather. I’m not saying this is the universal experience – I have several friends whose kids just didn’t like to feed that much and it was totally normal and they were scared by it, but now, their kids are hearty and healthy. But if your baby is hungry like the wolf, please know that I had/might still be having that experience. 

I feel like the Day 3 baby blues everyone talked about actually hit me in Week 3, which has just ended. It was abated by taking nice hot showers and eating a lot and drinking a lot and getting helpers to come over and relieve me so I could do those things or nap. Nap! 30 minute naps have been saving my life! I wake up feeling lighter, truly. I also feel like it is a delicate balance between having people come to help you and relieve you and also having time as a family of three, which is sacred because it is so cool and freaky and lovely. We overbooked in the beginning and are now pulling back a bit. As I write this, I could say a thousand things and I have only been a parent for the length of a single session of summer camp. 

The Happiest Baby on the Block stuff has so far worked really well, except when it doesn’t (at 4 am).

The physical recovery after labor was really hard the first two weeks for me. Bleeding and soreness and feeling injured made me want to cry once a day. But now, I am feeling SO MUCH better. I felt really hopeless about my ability to recover at the beginning of last week and like I would never be able to have sex again and like I would never stop bleeding. And then, a couple days ago, I just started to feel a whooooooole lot better. Not sure how sex will work, but it doesn’t feel impossible anymore! 

Have I said anything coherent? I have been going out this week with Sly in a woven wrap on me and it is so liberating. I walked a total of 8 blocks and got a pedicure and manicure (one handed nursing is idiotic but I did it and my nails are RED!) and ate French fries at a French cafe. Huge! It makes the nights of little sleep bearable because I am taking some small amount of care of myself and can stare at my nails at 3:30 am.

My last thing – ask for help before you think you need it. People want to help, but most need direct orders. Give them direct orders! Request gelato! Make someone hold the baby and take a hot shower. If someone gives you advice that makes you feel bad, tell them visiting hours are over and you need bonding time with your babe. Easier said than done, but the more direct I am with everyone, including myself, the better my days are. 

New parenthood is a shitstorm of insanity and wonder. I am calm right now and feeling bright and in love with the men in my house. Three hours ago, I went and ate alone in the kitchen and cried while my family was in the other room, watching Sly swing.

~Katie

Isn’t this awesome? I love it. It doesn’t sugarcoat the huge challenges but after reading it I’m not filled with a sense of dread – if anything I’m even more excited to meet this lil lady and go through this special time with her and Andy, Ruby and Ramona, figuring it out as a family. I think Ruby’s really going to be good at diaper changes…

Thanks for reading – and a huge thank you to Katie for expressing what no one else has been able to. Laimemoms/Laimedads ~ please leave your own thoughts/feelings about new parenthood in the comments!

with love,

elizabeth

15 Comments!

O-Shen Christ says:

You won’t have any problems with depression because you have a wonderful husband to help you and support you to make all the difference in the world

OnePCWhiz says:

When my wife had our son, she was in labor for close to 24 hours. Once he was delivered I was so excited that I ran on pure adrenalin and didn’t realize how tired I was.

I stayed up for the first bath, got to change his first diaper, saw many relatives who came to visit us in the hospital.

When my brother and his 2 boys came to visit I started bawling like a little baby. I couldn’t believe I had no power to stop it.

Luckily, sleep was all I needed. I can’t imagine what the feelings of PPD would be like.

As far as feeding a newborn, the breast pump was a life saver! We were able to freeze a lot and that makes for easy feeding when Momma wasn’t up for it.

Good luck and take care!

Christina says:

O-shen, that is a nice sentiment, but the nature of depression is that it emerges from the body, and then the mind creates narratives around it. A great husband and support group help you deal with post-partum depression, but they can’t prevent it. It seems to be a roll of the dice with some heritability, at least in my unscientific experience.

Darren says:

Not to toot my own horn but I am a great and supportive husband but after the birth of our first son, my wife battled severe postpartum depression. Through medication and counseling she was able to eventually over come it. After she lost her second pregnancy late (27 weeks), she battled it again. After the birth of our second child (3rd pregnancy) her doctor knowing her history immediately put her on medication which she was able to come off of rather quickly and avoid another go around with depression. It’s so much more than having support and being prepared is the best approach.

Skippy Cooper says:

About three months before I got pregnant my depression was so crippling that I would think about and stew over the idea of committing suicide DAILY. When I got pregnant, I was depressed with how my body was was changing, especially with a history of anorexia and exercise bulimia. I was so scared that I’d have problems with depression after having my daughter.

I was lucky to have my husband help me, and I definitely also felt like being aware of these feelings helped me come up with a plan for when I would inevitably get depressed. Depression hit me most when trying to breastfeed. Don’t let anyone tell you it’s super simple – for some, it can come quite easily, but for myself, it was extremely difficult and frustrating.

There will probably be times when you’ll feel like you might not be able to do this – whether it’s nurse, wake up every 3 hours in the night, or parenting at all – but just know that you and Andy are loving people to not only one another but to others, and you are the best parents that this baby could have. Every decision you make, you know that you’ll be making each one with the baby’s best interest in your heart! I could go on and on about this, but I don’t want to leave a book-long comment. But, girl, if you wanna talk, reach out! :)

Lori F. says:

No matter what stage you find yourself in, realize that it is a stage and it will pass. They don’t breastfeed 24/7 forever, they don’t stay up at night forever, and it does get easier. I have no doubt you will enjoy even being in the most ridiculous of situations, laughing and crying at the same time. Best of luck, I’m so excited for you!

Erin says:

This is supreme advice, in fact with my 2nd I would chant like a mantra “this will pass, this will pass” at all hours of the night. I would just add that things seem to change every 2 weeks with babies- we would often say “if it’s still happening in a fortnight, then we’ll see what we can do about it”. Often by then the sleep/behaviour issue had often resolved itself.

Megan says:

You are already ten steps ahead of the game in that you’re thinking about these things are you are ready for them. I was not and was hit with a hefty dose of the baby blues and postpartum anxiety. Here’s the thing, all of those things that your friend mentioned, the things that make you feel human again, will totally help. Make yourself a crappy day box, NOW. Put a bunch of things in there that you can take out when you’re having a bad day: a new nail polish, a giant chocolate bar, a scarf or cute necklace (because you might hate your clothes when you’re in the in between stage.) When it gets to be too much – to the box! Present for you! Your support system is so obviously miles wide. You’ve got this.

Michelle Johnson says:

What lovely words she wrote! (And YES Happiest baby on the block is fantastic!!) It is so true – those first few weeks are such a haze…full of love, joy, emotion, exhaustion….what’s lovely about the childbirth experience is that you and your little one will find a balance and rhythm that is all your own. She will learn your cues and you hers…I sort of felt like motherhood those few weeks/months was like an ocean – there is a motion to it all, this sort of tide that comes in and out, this feeling of drowning at times and then in the same moment this utter feeling of peacefulness, calmness and beauty….

My only advice would be that if you are depressed to ask for help and get out of house!! :) I struggled with extreme postpartum depression but was too embarrassed to ask for help….I wish I could do that part over….but I’m grateful I came out the other side relatively unscathed. ;-) I wish I could have asked for help earlier than I did rather than trying to do it all on my own, and I should’ve got out of the house more…I was so nervous about taking the baby out on my own that I really ended up hurting my self more than any “germs” I would’ve ever exposed him too….

My only advice is to listen to your instincts! Mommies have this incredible deep down instinct when it comes to our babies….you know what is best for her, you and Andy! Don’t listen to unsolicited advice – find that those great mommy mentors who you trust and ask them, but let all the others fall to the wayside. :)

And what was also hard for me was I had this entire plan for our birth and after (I wanted all natural and ended up with a c-section, I wanted to nurse for at least a year, due to unforeseen circumstances it lasted 12 weeks…etc, etc, etc) – I have learned so much about letting go….it has been such a wonderful life lesson that I will truly cherish – I don’t have control and need to let go and live into life. :)

You will be an incredible mom who instill in this little girl a sense of being, a sense of worth, she will know she is loved and has value and can be anything she puts her mind to….I bet you she’ll have a wicked sense of humor!! :) love you friend and here if you ever need advice or an ear to just vent too! xoxo

Stacey says:

I’ve got just 20 days until my due date, so I really appreciate this post! Elizabeth, you remind me of myself sometimes when you talk about control and planning, and that’s the one thing that’s made me nervous for my journey as a first time mom. So one day I had this thought and shared it with my husband: Embrace the chaos. That’s our only plan. If I tell myself that my world will be turned upside down (in both good ways and less than convenient ways), I figure it has to make it a little easier to adjust on the other side.

I’ll echo what another commenter said as well – my girlfriends have all told me “everything is a phase.” (not sleeping much, feeling overwhelmed, the terrible 2s, etc.) Reminding myself of that will hopefully help me remember that there is a light at the end of every tunnel.

Buckle up, baby! We’re in for quite an adventure!

Ashlee says:

I’ve never faced depression, so take this with a grain of salt. I did have postpartum EMOTION with my first two. Everything made me cry or rage. “Oh, you just spit up everywhere right when I buckled you in and we have to be at the doctor’s office in 15 minutes and your appointment was 5 minutes ago because I’ve already changed you TWICE?” Uncontrollable sobbing. “Oh thank you babe for bringing me a sandwich, wait, wth? YOU KNOW I HATE MUSTARD! YOU NEVER LISTEN TO ME!”

Anyway, I don’t know how hippie(!) you’re going with the natural birth route, but with my third baby I encapsulated the placenta and took the pills for the first month. I swear I was a different person. My mood was stabilized, my bleeding was better, and I made more milk.

Just a thought!

Ashlee says:

And dude, get an awesome wrap or carrier that you can nurse in. Splurge on a good one. Just like Katie said, it’s SO liberating to feel like you can get things done for yourself while keeping baby close.

Skippy Cooper says:

Yes! Moby wrap was great for us! I really wish I had used it more, actually!

DT says:

As with most stuff for newborns and infants, look for used. Babies outgrow these things so quickly that they’re often in amazing condition. Also, don’t assume one sort of baby wearing device is the absolute correct one. With both our infants, my partner loved the wrap. Then, when they got older one loved being in an outward facing carrier and the other in an inward facing carrier. That’s a good reason to go used: if Teddy seems not to like one, you can always give the other a try.

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