Dear Outside World,
We are doing well, aside from the fact that I could not tell you what day of the week it is, although I do know it is 6:53 AM. We, my sweet boy and I, have been up since 5:37 AM. What started out as a simple feeding, led to diapers – yes, with an “s,” as in plural, AND gas, and well, here I am. He has found his way back into a blissful slumber, but for me, it’s too late to go back to sleep. We are are venturing out to join you today – headed to the Science Center to be exact. The third of three actual outings thus far this summer. I have decided to write you while enjoying a cup of coffee in the sweet, fleeting silence before the house erupts into excitement for the day’s outing.
I’ve meant to write for weeks now, but we’ve been immersed in the all-consuming 4th trimester for a solid six. It’s a place, in case you are unaware, governed, not by time or days of the week, but by feedings, diapers, and naps. A place where the rising and sinking of the sun blur from one rotation to another. It’s our private little bubble wherein the same 24 hour period my heart swells with such gratitude that I am not sure it can contain it all. My body aches such exhaustion, which I can only describe it as painful, while the frustration of not knowing this new little person’s need brings tears to my eyes. And I long for nothing more than to join the world in sleep as to put the “day” behind me.
To be clear, this is not an SOS; I am tapping out. My life, while far from perfect, is in a sweet chapter for my family. A chapter in which gratitude, undoubtedly, occupies more space than frustration. What I am writing about, however, is awareness. To bring to attention that we don’t reach six weeks postpartum suddenly restored to our pre-pregnancy lives, plus one (or more!).
It’s been six weeks since my son came into this world via a quick and uncomplicated labor and delivery. Physically speaking, I spent first two weeks carefully monitoring my abnormally high blood pressure and tackling less than optimal breastfeeding challenges head on – involving appointments and check in’s for both baby and me (read: less than restful). At three weeks I was able to put away my big girl diapers. Now, by six weeks, my breasts leak, and as sleep deprivation is catching up with me, I am exhausted, at best. And just this week, I got the green light to begin rehabilitating structural core strength. Vanity aside, this is in efforts to alleviate back pain, and fully heal my body from growing, carrying, and ejecting (we’ll discuss my birth story another time) a human being.
Mentally and emotionally speaking
I am just beginning to fall deeply in love with his fresh little person – who now looks at me with recognition and smiles. We are firmly connected and when apart for too long I feel anxious. I have to relearn how to adult within our new normal. Specifically, the logistics that go into cooking, cleaning, paying bills, grocery shopping and caring for myself and other children. In addition to attempting to nurturing my marriage and not become isolated from the world, all feel foreign to me. Each week I am convinced I have it figured out only to be reminded the next week that our developing little boy will keep us on our toes for almost a year (or longer!). And most importantly, that nothing I figured out last week matters this week.
As both sides of my support system went on simultaneous vacations and I ran out of freezer meals this week, real life came crashing in on me. The truth is six weeks postpartum doesn’t feel that terribly different than four weeks at this stage in the game, it’s all still a blur. I have been incredibly fortunate that as a working mom I was able to take 12 weeks (albeit, six of it was unpaid) with my oldest and have been self-employed since then. That said, I am painfully aware that many of the 61% of the working mothers are expected to return to work at six weeks. Or earlier! My mom, for example, a military spouse and banking professional (whose husband was deployed to war!), went back to work at five weeks postpartum (which might be generous)! Five. Weeks. I was six years old. We had no support system. That’s incomprehensible to me now.
I am only half way through the 4th trimester, and it’s going as smoothly as possible.
We are happy, healthy, and lifted up daily by a safety net of support. We are not, however, operating at 100%. And that’s OK. I won’t ramble on global parental leave statistics or ask you to change your voting behaviors, but I do leave you with a call to action – let’s have some compassion, shall we? As friends, neighbors, and employers I implore us to have compassion for the new mothers in our country.
Let’s understand her body is still healing, she is not sleeping, and might still be mastering how to feed her new baby. Anticipate that she still needs help and let her know that no one expects her to be June Clever or Clair Huxtable six weeks into new motherhood -regardless of how many children she has. The truth is, the only thing more unbelievable than being supermom within six weeks, is being expected to leave her newborn and function at 100% in the workforce.
Meagan, new mom of 3
P.S In true mama fashion, I’ve put together some of my favorite postpartum pictures for you.
Soaked nursing pads for days.
And starting my day with sweet words of encouragement from my toddler:
“Mama, you smell disgusting” – Elena, 3
The view from stuck under a sleeping baby isn’t half bad.
Sleepy mornings are the standard.
A six-week growth spurt means I am tethered to the couch.
Mayhem has ensued
And There. Is.
But we are and finding our way together which is what the 4th Trimester is about.