Sitting down to publish a blog post about my postpartum experience as a first-time mom has taken me 12 weeks (nearly a fourth trimester!), and has coincided precisely and unsurprisingly with the first morning that I’ve awoken from a true full-night’s sleep since my daughter was born.
She slept ‘through the night’ for the very first time two night’s ago, and then repeated the miracle for a second night last night, knock on wood. (No, seriously — I’m going to need you to stop reading for just a moment and find your nearest piece of wood and go give it a good rap for me… Thank you, carry on.)
The reason this particular morning is the first I woke up refreshed enough to get out of bed before my daughter and type out this post (despite the fact that two nights ago is when she graced us with her first full-night’s sleep) is because that first time I woke up at 4 a.m. and couldn’t get back to sleep, leaning over her bassinet every half hour to see what she was doing.
And that, to me, is postpartum in its conflicting, paradoxical little nutshell. (That, and the disordered nature of thinking that’s come to define my ‘mom brain,’ which is already present in this piece of writing.)
So, with that being said – I want to share different facets of my postpartum experience between today’s post and my next few posts as part of a postpartum series. Things like: what it has felt like to love as a new mother, what postpartum looks like for me and some tips I’d give now that I’m living on the other side of pregnancy, birth and recovery (I refuse to call it advice, because no one should give that to a new mom unless she explicitly asks for it. *Shifts weight into hip, crosses arms over chest and narrows lids, steely eyes and confrontational stance in full force*. She’s probably doing her best, okay?
One of the craziest things about becoming a mom has been realizing a completely new kind of love. It was nothing like what I expected, and it’s different than anything I’ve ever experienced. So different, in fact, that I find myself wondering sometimes if other moms have possibly felt this same way, or whether my experience is unique to me. It’s not something that I can explain very well — so I imagine if anyone else has felt it too they would’ve struggled as well. Perhaps it’s like a secret that can’t be understood until you’ve become a mother? Like a club you have to join in order to be told what it’s all about? That sounds rudely exclusive (and I don’t mean it to!), I just am trying my best to parse out this strange feeling and how elusive it is.
It’s like this: When you fall in love, or even are actively in love with someone, the emotions and sensations that go along with that love are very particular – you can pinpoint what it feels like to fall and how it feels to swoon. It’s described by all fairly similarly and ubiquitously. When you think of a new crush or your beloved, it will set butterflies loose in your belly. It’s euphoric, an addition to life that can set your heart ablaze.
I imagined meeting my baby for the first time would be sort of like falling in love. I mean, everyone describes it as such a profound experience. And it is profound.
When I saw my baby emerge from within me for the first time, I immediately started crying at the sight of her face. And it was because she was here, she was finally here. She was beautiful, and I recognized her at once — even when it had been so impossibly hard to picture her in my belly. Feeling her pillowy soft, wet skin as I pulled her out of me and onto my chest was and is completely indescribable. I will never forget it.
And yet, as I said, I cannot describe it.
It didn’t set loose those familiar butterflies, but activated something… overwhelming. I can’t compare it to anything else I’ve felt or even imagined. It was something akin to absolute awe – the kind that really won’t let you paint its picture with words; an awe separate from joy and perhaps closer to fear. But yet, it wasn’t fear — not really.
This love, the love that I’ve experienced postpartum, isn’t like falling in love or even being in love. And I think that’s because it’s so ever-present in my mind and heart. It is lodged in there immovably.
I had a baby, and in the weeks since her birth, I haven’t had a full thought cross my mind that didn’t somehow also include her face — like a blimp with a banner trailing after it, interrupting the sky.
She is never out of my mind. It has been such an active love – the most active love. I haven’t spent more than a few hours in the past three months where I wasn’t actively caring for my daughter, which takes away the daydream quality that I associate with other types of love and affection.
I love her completely, but in a way that doesn’t require, and even defies, thought or words because it is just that visceral in my daily life. It is dutiful. It’s not an idea to circle back to and smile in giddiness, but rather something that has changed my everyday, and my entire heart. My whole person is now tied together with another; my identity has shifted to include my daughter in a way that was effortless, and yet has required so much of me. Loving her was not even a thought. It just was.
Now that my daughter is 12 weeks old, though, I can feel myself “falling” in love with her more, somehow, every day. I learn new things about her personality constantly; notice little features that resemble me or her dad, and I feel that familiar, heart-bursting sensation. But it’s the kind of love that makes your heart actually ache, it’s just that big.
And somehow, even when I’m exhausted and my husband and I have finally gotten our daughter down for a nap or to sleep for the night, we find ourselves spending many of those baby-free moments looking at photos and videos of her on our phones, missing her presence even after we’ve agonized over her cries and that stubborn, willful ability to thwart sleep even when she needs it.
It’s a confusing and consuming, heavy and beautiful love. It’s messy, and it’s impossible. It’s natural and it’s fearful. It just is.
I’ll continue with the second part of my postpartum experience in an upcoming blog post and some tips I want to share from the past 12 weeks. ❤