I know everyone’s postpartum and parenthood experience is different, and it could be that what I’ve described as mine in this series won’t resonate with anyone else. But I am so curious how it’s felt to other moms – because it is just so big and difficult to delineate. As for what postpartum looks like for me – I kept thinking about it in terms of a photo.
More specifically, I imagined a beautiful photo of me and my baby girl (apologies to my husband) underneath a tree in floaty white dresses: the picture of love, simple happiness and devotion.
But I imagined how that photo would feel like such a lie. Except that it’s also the truth.
And that’s because trying to describe postpartum always has me thinking of a line from the book The Perks of Being a Wallflower: “I am both happy and sad and I’m still trying to figure out how that could be.”
I think the reality of postpartum and new motherhood can’t fully be captured in a pretty, staged photo.
But nor could it be understood through another picture I’m capable of imagining. This photo would show me, in a silk robe stained with spit up and the two wet marks blooming where I’ve leaked from nursing, holding a baby with her whole face crumpled into the saddest frown you’ve ever seen, eyebrows red and furrowed, shrieking at her tired mom in anything but delight.
They’re both true images. And they both wouldn’t tell the full story.
That’s what always leads me back to pen and paper (metaphorically) — when I’ve got two free hands (even when I get around to writing, I’ve often got a baby slung across my chest in a linen carrier while I jiggle her around to prolong a blessed, merciful nap).
SO much of motherhood has felt like the most natural thing in the world. And yet there are also aspects that are foreign and (sometimes bitterly) surprising: How you can feel isolated from people who can’t possibly understand this new life, and even sometimes from people who do. How little anxieties can spiral into constant worry about your baby. (That’s something I could never have prepared for — the gut-wrenching worry. The agony of wondering whether you can or should trust your instincts.)
How each day can feel brand new, for better or for worse.
One day, I was looking at my new, soft curves in the mirror of our tiny, grossly-lit apartment bathroom and I thought to myself: I really love my new body. I like my widened hips and my newly soft and stretchy belly-skin.
And then, more recently, after a morning of too-short naps and baby spit up on a pretty silk robe (remember this not-so-make-believe image?), I stood in front of that same mirror, staring into my own tired eyes as they filled with bitter tears. I watched myself disrobe, noting the small belly pooch that’s stubbornly stuck around, my unkempt hair hanging knottily over paler-than-usual shoulders (time in direct sunlight is hard to come by right now), and I spoke mean, internal criticisms to myself. I looked at the dirty mirror and despicably messy tile floor and felt that I wasn’t doing anything — anything at all — right.
I only thought it for a few minutes, thank goodness. And true to the me I have always been, I had a brief-but-satisfying cry and let it cleanse me.
Because the thing is, I’m a good mom.
I’m the same person I was before (as much of a paradox as that feels sometimes in this brand new life). I care so very deeply, but I sometimes fail to meet my problems with actions.
And that’s okay.
I love being a mom. There are days in flowy dresses and the most soulful, joyful connection with my daughter and my little family. The photos I used to illustrate this blog post actually do represent the truth. Because there are some days just as beautiful as a staged photograph.
But more commonly, there are moments. There are moments that beautiful all the time.
And there are days in extra large t-shirts, and gross, tired, emotional moments too.
And I really, really and truly, don’t want to miss any of it. I am just so acutely aware that this is merely a season in my life. It’s a season that, like youthful, seemingly endless summer vacations of years past, does eventually have to end. It is heartbreakingly brief.
I still find such humor and joy in absurd moments, even as an ever-worried new mom. It has served me well, as there have been many sleep-deprived or merely novice mistakes. Like when I accidentally trimmed off half my right eyebrow while my baby was crying and I decided (purposely, though absentmindedly) to even them up by trimming off half of the other as well.
I got a true kick out of that mistake. Because guess what? They’ll grow back.
And in the spirit of lessons learned through trial (and often) error, in my next post I’ll share a few pregnancy/postpartum notes and tips I jotted down during the past three months. It’ll be a more practical and less abstract type of postpartum post than this and my previous one.
Thanks for reading! I hope for you a good night’s sleep always and the chance to drink your coffee each morning at its intended temperature. ❤
And if neither of those things sound valuable to you, you’re probably not a mom but I hope them for you anyway, because just know that those little luxuries that you don’t yet know are luxuries are true delights once they become rare.
And isn’t that just the way of the world?
Appreciate your season, whichever you’re in.
That’s all. Xo.