A few postpartum truths...
Reuben is two years old now and I have never really spoken about my birth experience, sure I wrote a birth story but I never really wrote any posts with the emotion and thought behind them if you know what I mean. I feel like a lot of people (like myself!) don't talk about a lot of the realities of childbirth. Sure you hear of women often speaking about their traumatic births or their wonderful births, but what about afterwards? It's not always a bubble of content with your fresh-out-the-womb bundle of joy. For me, anyway, there are a lot of things I've never spoken about and I thought that I'd jot down my post-birth reality...
A traumatic birth doesn't just include the gory bits.
Traumatic births are different for every woman, there isn't a measure on it. Mine probably sounds like nothing to some women who've been through so much more - but for me it was quite the scary experience. I had a vaginal birth but Ru's head got stuck and I couldn't push him out. I was prepped and wheeled into surgery with forceps out and surrounded by a whole lot of people ready to give me an emergency c-section. Whilst I ended up being able to push him out in the end, with a little snip below, the whole birth experience was still super scary for me! I mean you know, it would have been nice to stay in my cosy birthing room on my comfy bed, but things don't always pan out that way when pushing a small human out. My actual birth experience wasn't even the most traumatising part for me either. I feel like it's something nobody really speaks about, but I'm mostly traumatised by the weeks that followed. I barely remember Reubens newborn days. I feel like I took hardly any pictures and the ones I did take are just a bit shit to be honest. I have barely any videos of him as a teeny tiny bundle.
I just feel like the entire first couple of months are a complete and utter blur. I was recovering from an episiotomy, some might read this and think it's nothing, but to me, the recovery was probably the most painful thing I've ever been through. Contractions? Giving birth? A breeze. The recovery from being cut downstairs? Not so much. I couldn't sit down for weeks without being in agony, the painkillers I was given barely took the edge off. I had to painfully sit with my eyes squeezed closed whenever I needed to pee (yes I also tried the bath trick but there's only so many times you can run a bath just to wee in with a newborn) it was just awful. Most of what I can remember from Ru's first couple of months in this world is just pain. I try not to feel guilty about the lack of pictures as it's not like I don't have any, but the entire thing is just so traumatic to even think about.
Some of us suffer in silence.
I think the trauma post-birth actually affected me far more than anyone realised. I didn't eat properly for about 4 months after having Reuben. During this time I was living at home so I still got dinner cooked for me by my parents and that was the only meal I ate a day for months. If it wasn't for them I probably wouldn't have eaten a thing, I only forced myself to because someone had gone to the effort of making me a meal. I completely lost my appetite and I couldn't really understand why? It wasn't even that I was just too busy to eat being a single mum to a newborn baby, I just didn't want to. I thought there was something wrong with me and in the end it just became my normality to barely eat. I think the pain of my episiotomy was so intense that it kinda made me lose my appetite entirely and after that it took me so long to start eating again. I never made a fuss about it and I don't think anyone actually noticed but it's only now that I realise just how much I suffered with the trauma. I feel like this could have been a bit of postpartum depression and I just wasn't aware of it.
Not every woman loses their body confidence.
I wouldn't say I was entirely happy with my body. I still have a bit of a jelly belly from being pregnant and I definitely still have baby weight to lose. I felt so ugly after having Ru, even my coat would barely zip up and it was huge. What I can say is though, is that it hasn't really phased me in the slightest. I don't care about my body in the way that I used to. If anything, since having a baby I have gained confidence in my body, not lost it. I used to hold my stomach in if I was bloated, now I just let it pop out because who cares? I used to avoid certain clothes if they showed my curvy bits, now I just wear them anyway. I'm not in love with my body but I'm content with it. I've learned to accept that this is what I look like after having a baby. I haven't lost the weight because I'm a single, working mum and finding the time to workout is last on my long list of priorities. This is me. I have all the time in the world to get fitter when Ru is older, and if it takes me a bit longer to lose the extra weight I'm okay with that. I don't have to love my body but I've learned to accept it.
There's too much pressure to recover quickly.
I was out and about quite quickly after having Reuben, I had this four day old newborn and he had a bit of jaundice and needed sun on his face. We went out for a walk into town to get out the house and I could barely walk because of my stitches, my crotch was absolutely killing me. I had this pressure to be focusing on my newborn when actually I should have been focusing on myself just as much. I ended up in hospital with a womb infection a week postpartum, we were stuck in there for six whole days. The recovery from birth should be a slow and steady process, it shouldn't be rushed, and there needs to be far more awareness about the risk of postpartum infections too. I had no idea what was wrong with me until I googled it and saw the warning signs.
Breastfeeding isn't for everyone.
I wanted to breastfeed, badly. It was known as the best thing for your baby and I wanted to give my baby the best, I felt like it was my duty as a mother. But it didn't work for us. Reuben struggled to latch, nobody helped, and I was in even more agony on top of recovering from an episiotomy. We switched to combination feeding about a week in I think, maybe two? It's a blur. After going into hospital to be treated for my womb infection, I was put on two drips, one in each arm. I couldn't really move them without being in pain and got no help feeding Ru. It was at that point I decided to switch to formula completely I think as I had enough going on without the added stress of breastfeeding. I honestly wish I'd gone with formula from the start, I needed that help so badly in the first week. I feel like there's too much pressure to breastfeed when the reality is, not all of us are cut out for it.
You'll figure it all out eventually.
Motherhood is really hard, especially for the first time. It takes time to figure out what works for you and your baby, and there are so many things you'll do with your first that you won't bother doing with your second. I don't have plans to have more kids but I know I'd formula feed from the get-go if I ever did. I know I wouldn't pressure myself to be up and about so quickly after pushing a small human out of my vagina. And I most definitely wouldn't push aside anything I was struggling with as there is help out there and if you need it, you should take it.
Have you had a baby and not spoken about a lot of the postpartum period?