Last Thanksgiving I was only 6 days postpartum.
At 6 days postpartum, my milk had just recently come in and I was still trying to get the hang of breastfeeding. I wasn’t yet comfortable trying it publicly and still struggled to get my baby to latch correctly.
At 6 days postpartum, I was deep in the throes of hormonal hell, experiencing sharp contrasts between drenching sweats and whole body, teeth-chattering shivers. My hormones had just dropped (from the equivalent of taking 100 birth control pills a day down to literally nothing in the span of about 48 hours!). I was a wreck, extremely weepy and emotional. I learned firsthand that week how real and intense the baby blues are. I also felt the most intense love and maternal instincts kick in and a need to hold and protect my baby.
At 6 days postpartum, I still mourned the end of our special time as just the two of us while she was inside me, and wanted to literally scream at anyone who wanted to hold her, or make any comments about her like “wow, she sure sleeps a lot”, or “I can’t wait until she is older and interacts with us more”, or even if someone talked about their own excitement about her finally being here. I really wasn’t ready to share her. It felt like even though we had our own special history together, I was only just beginning to know her. I just wanted everyone to go away and give me the space to do that.
At 6 days postpartum, I was physically and mentally drained, still recovering from 34 hours of a natural, drug-free labor. It was a truly life-altering and grueling experience, as we discovered that her head had turned sideways, causing me to feel radiating pain down my back and pelvis. 6 days later, I was still recovering from a vaginal delivery that left me with a second degree tear and stitches after hours of pushing, and was still was unable to sit properly. My body felt foreign to me – I still had a big belly despite having had the baby already. I didn’t even know how to process all the changes my body was experiencing.
At 6 days postpartum I was full of anxiety about literally everything, running on adrenaline and two-hour chunks of sleep. I was unsure whether she was eating or sleeping enough, whether she was warm enough, or maybe too hot? If she was swaddled correctly. The list could go on and on. I checked her breathing constantly, placing a finger on her chest while she slept. I watched her closely in the middle of the night when I should have been sleeping myself. I watched my husband’s every move, worried he might do something wrong. I was so scared of losing her to SIDS or some other circumstance that felt out of my control.
At 6 days postpartum, I still didn’t feel ready to be totally alone with her. I was nervous I wouldn’t be able to handle everything by myself. I leaned on my husband and my mom for support but struggled to tell anyone else what I really needed, and didn’t know to speak up or advocate for myself. I felt overwhelmed and small. And at the same time also like a complete badass who had just created and birthed a human from my own body! – it was a complex, mixed bag of emotions.
This Thanksgiving, all I could think about was that I wished I could go back to that time, give my 6 day postpartum self a hug, and tell her that it’ll all be ok.
If I could go back in time, I’d tell her…
The hormones will level out. You’ll still have some mood swings, or get more emotional than you used to, but the intensity of emotions you are feeling now is only temporary. I promise. Really.
Breastfeeding WILL get easier, in fact, you’ll make it past a year of exclusively breastfeeding! You will form an even deeper bond with your baby the longer you go. (You’ll actually discover that she has lip and tongue ties and after a quick procedure when she’s around 3 weeks old, you’ll begin to enjoy it much more.) It will continue to be a long, winding road between this point and making it to a year, but you’ll persevere, you will reach that far-off goal you set for yourself, and you’ll be damn proud of yourself for getting there.
You won’t lose all the baby weight. At least not by one year. But it also surprisingly doesn’t really bother you. You still struggle to feel at home in this new body of yours some days, but you also have a profound new respect for your body, and all women’s bodies for that matter. You still provide for your baby with your body, and that’s the most important thing.
Those early maternal instincts you felt so strongly have set you up to be an incredible mother. You will protect your baby, keep her alive, provide for her in every way she needs in this first year and beyond. She is now a happy, healthy, silly, sweet, thriving (and oh so mobile and talkative!) one year old. She knows she is safe in your arms, and feels that safety so much that she is comfortable exploring the world and other people around her. You’ll still feel a fierce need to protect her, both physically and emotionally and won’t be afraid to stand up for yourself and speak up when you feel uncomfortable (let’s be real, this is always a work in progress, but you’ve sure come a long way in one year).
You’ll learn to ask others for help, and will come to truly appreciate the times when you can pass your kid to someone else. In fact, you’ll even start to appreciate her forming relationships with other people in her life. Your heart will melt a little once you finally hear her say the names of her grandparents or your brother for the first time. And don’t forget about “Dada” — Cuteness overload.
Your heart will continue to expand with every new milestone, as trivial as they each may seem. You will be more proud of this little person for blowing a kiss, taking her first steps, saying “bubbles!” or correctly identifying her nose than you ever thought possible. You will celebrate each of her wins as one of your own.
You’ll learn to function on even less sleep than you had while pregnant. (I know, it didnt seem possible did it?). It will be a rough year in regards to sleep, with such a wide-eyed FOMO child, but you somehow learn how to function despite the lack of sleep (and sadly those two hour chunks are still a pretty regular occurrence…)
You’ll begin to set new boundaries for yourself, in your relationships and at your work. This was always so hard for you! Nothing like having a baby to make you totally rethink your priorities and get your booty out of work in time for daycare pickup so you can have as many minutes as possible to play and snuggle before bedtime.
You’ll finally pursue a new career path! Thats right, you finally took the plunge and started your health coaching career with IIN, and somehow you survive while going to school, working a full-time job, being a present mother, providing for your baby, being a partner to your husband and more. If I’m being honest, it’s rare that all of these areas will feel super satisfied or stable at the same time – it’s a constant juggle and a thing you’re still trying to navigate a year later, but you are a rock star and somehow you make it all happen.
If I could go back and hug that 6 days postpartum emotional mama, I would say something I have been trying to remind myself of daily: