Postpartum: Why Its More Than Just The First 6 Weeks

We’ve come home, bonded, and established nursing. We’re back to driving, cleaning and errands. When weeks begin to turn to months, especially at the 6 week point, the pressure is on to let go of our birth experiences and move on. We are expected to be completely healed and back to our daily grind full force. We’re cleared to exercise and should be focused on getting back into pre-pregnancy shape. People around us start checking in on us less and we put pressure on ourselves to be back to “normal”. This pressure is only stronger by our society’s obsession with post baby celebrities in their slinky dresses and Instagram models posing with their newborns in body shapers and full glam.

Yet, I don’t feel normal. I had a harder delivery and slower recovery this time and I don’t feel “over it”. I just got to a point where I’m almost totally pain free and besides the occasional stroll I haven’t started working out. The world may have forgotten but my body hasn’t as it continues to feel  the twinges of muscles repairing themselves from surgery, the ache of streams of milk, and my noticeably weaker knees. I’m still sporting my linea nigra , stretch marks and a fresh red scar. I still feel emotional about having a newborn. But I’ve reached the 6 week mark! I’m not “postpartum” anymore. Why don’t I have it back together by now?

When I was pregnant I used a week by week pregnancy tracker, asked my midwife a million questions and googled every little symptom. Yet up until today I had neglected to brush up on anything regarding the post-partum period beyond my c-section recovery.  This was not due to me thinking that I know it all by the third time around. I just got so wrapped up in the baby that I forgot all about checking in with myself.

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So what did I learn on my quest for knowledge? That the postpartum period doesn’t abruptly end at the 6 week mark, but consists of 3 distinct phases:

The Initial or Acute period- This is the first 6-12 hours after your baby is born where you’re potential for complications is higher and you’re monitored closely by the hospital or midwife.

The Sub-acute period- which last 2-6 weeks, when you are more stable but still recovering from delivery. This is what most people think of as “postpartum”.

The Delayed period- According to an article on The Journal of Prenatal Medicine website, this period can last up to 6 months! The article states:

“This is the time of restoration of muscle tone and connective tissue to the prepregnant state. Although change is subtle during this phase, it behooves caregivers to remember that a womanʼs body is nonetheless not fully restored to pre-pregnant physiology until about 6 months post-delivery.”

No wonder I don’t feel normal again yet, I’m not! The article goes on to say that in some ways we may never be back to our pre-pregnant state and certainly, our lives are changed by our little ones forever. Yet, once the baby comes Earthside we’re encouraged to show as little evidence of carrying a child as we can. We’re told to get back to work, tone up and erase the marks left on our bodies as quickly as possible. As if it’s something shameful.

We shouldn’t be ashamed. We should be proud of all of the ways in which motherhood has changed us, body and soul! Though sometimes I struggle to appreciate my postpartum body, it has done amazing things. These lines and scars are symbols of sacrifice and strength. This vessel has co-created with God. Its loved, housed and grown my family. It continues to nourish myself and flourish my baby. When the temptation to rush back to some false sense of normalcy comes I need to remind myself to take it slow. To be less eager to shed these signs of pregnancy, these physical memories, and to fully appreciate them for the beauty that they represent.

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Did you feel pressure from yourself or others to get back to normal after baby? Share in the comments below!

❤ Cait

Boobs Traveler

Last year I got an extraordinary gift! My dad paid for a ticket for my youngest daughter and I to come and visit him at his home in Florida! After a long New England winter I was more than happy to accept! I was excited to go but a bit nervous to leave the other half of the family up north while the little one and I enjoyed the fun and sun. I pushed back the guilt. I deserved a little rest and was determined not to get in my own way.

The day came and we made it to the airport. In the spirit of saving money I attempted to pack light and avoid checking bags. I also decided that the stroller would be too clunky compared to my comfy baby wrap (which she loves) plus, it freed up my hands. We didn’t have long until boarding time but it was a 6 am flight and I desperately needed a coffee. I waited in a long line for a $4 coffee I practically had to make myself and my babe was starting to squirm. “I’ve totally got this”, I thought to myself as I rushed back to the gate.

So there I was stomping through the airport, and what a sight I must have been! I had baby snug in her carrier on my chest, a hiking backpack filled to the brim on my back, a cross body purse on my hip, and an over stuffed diaper bag on my shoulder. She was crying and fussing and the let down feeling let me know what she was in need of. So I stopped for a moment and did what I knew I had to do; I pulled out my breast and let her feed as I continued with all of my gear still in tow to the gate. I had my reservations about feeding in public before. I had hid under blankets and stood in toilet stalls but during this trip all of my hesitation disappeared. My baby’s nutritional needs were much more important than my misplaced shame or other people’s perceptions about what was or was not appropriate.

Sure, I got a few looks but, I realized that most of the hang-ups I had were coming from within myself. Most people didn’t notice, didn’t care or gave me a knowing nod of solidarity or a smile of support. Once we were seated in the plane (me in the middle seat of course! Just my luck!) baby had fallen asleep and I was glad to have some time to exhale. The flight from Boston to Florida is thankfully short just about 3 hours. As we ascended the baby inevitably woke due to cabin pressure affecting her ears. The best way to relieve that was to cause her to swallow by feeding her and I did so without reservation. Hey, it was either see the boob, or hear the babe! If you have ever been on a plane with a crying baby you know that it was an easy choice! No one cared and I didn’t expose any more than the model on the cover of the magazine the woman next to me was reading.

When it was finally time to deplane the man that was sitting to my left helped me to get my carry-on and over stuffed backpack down from the overhead storage. I strapped my baby back to my chest, and he helped me put the backpack on my back while saying, “Wait a minute! You’re going to carry all of this yourself!? Are you sure you can really do that?” and I turned to him with a grateful smile and proudly exclaimed. “Yes, sir! I am a woman! I can do anything!” And we can, sisters! We can put aside our hang-ups to do whats best for our children, we can tenderly feed and comfort our babies and remain strong enough to carry the weight of our baggage. We can be soft and strong and fearless and amazing! Just as we were created to be!

What are your most memorable breastfeeding moments? Share below!

❤ Cait