post-partum post mortem

It’s more than a little crazy to me that just 4 months ago I was waddling through life looking like this:

With this big ol’ belly hanging down to what felt like my knees, and Natalie inside struggling to find the room to kick me in the ribs and hiccuping away 24/7:

Now here I am, four months post-partum, and finally feeling up for a real-deal blog entry about the mind-and-body mania that is the “fourth trimester.” Here are my (rather lengthy) thoughts and reactions to all the stuff that comes with just having birthed another person.

1. The emotional roller coaster: Oh, the baby blues. And the baby…. pinks? reds? yellows? I’m not sure what the “happy” color equivalent would be, but having a baby is a major up-and-down emotional experience with intense highs that feel like my heart might explode from all the freakin’ cuteness that is Natalie, juxtaposed with some of the most intense bottoming-out moments that feel like the rug has been pulled right out from under my feet. I feel really fortunate not to have struggled with true post-partum depression, but I definitely experienced my fair share of the baby blues. As much as I had read about what to expect emotionally upon giving birth, I was still pretty unprepared for what it would actually feel like to simultaneously be filled to bursting with love for my new baby and also be physically unable to stop crying at any given moment. My emotions in the first 6 weeks of Natalie’s life were especially overwhelming and unpredictable, which I attribute partly to hormones, partly to major lack of sleep, partly to the fact that those were the least interactive and “rewarding” days of babydom, and partly because… well… parenting is tough and how is anyone supposed to just dive in without some challenging moments? The emotional roller coaster has leveled out considerably in the past month, and I feel like we’ve entered a more consistently fulfilling and happy time with Natalie now that she is so smiley, active, and engaged. It definitely helps that my body has somewhat adjusted to this constant state of exhaustion, and that I am much less hormonal!

2. The body issues: Throughout my pregnancy I promised myself that I would give my body a 6-month “pass” while I was breastfeeding wherein I would cut myself some slack and not obsess over getting back to my pre-pregnancy weight and shape. This, I have learned, is easier in theory than in practice. I’m doing my best to just let my body continue to shift and shrink as it naturally wants to, but it’s not always an easy mindset to have. I’m definitely past the point of the baby weight just melting off on its own, and still have about 10 pounds hanging on for dear life that will take some concerted effort to lose. Standing in the way of that effort are an intense love of ice cream and some major exhaustion that gets in the way of doing much exercise beyond taking a daily walk with Natalie and Mikey. I’m trying to stick to my original plan of just focusing on eating well for the sake of breastfeeding and not for weight loss, and will probably give myself a bit of a jump start in a month or so when I think we’ll be starting the weaning process. I hate being one of those women who is obsessed with weight and body image, but I definitely have my moments of feeling like I can hardly recognize myself in the mirror because of how much my body has changed after pregnancy. But, as long as I’m a feeding machine I am trying to step outside of my desire to look a certain way and remember that my body is still not yet entirely my own, and in the meantime it’s more important that Natalie have a happy, healthy mom who spends time playing with her and not obsessing over a mirror.

3. The whole “I’m someone’s mom” thing: The jury’s still out on this one. I’m getting there, slowly but surely, but still have moments when I think I must be crazy to think that the universe has trusted me to be Natalie’s MOTHER. When she was born I experienced all these intense protective and loving urges that felt kind of instinctual, but the label “mom” is something that I am really only beginning to feel comfortable with. For some reason it feels quite natural to say that Natalie is my daughter, but to say that I am her mother makes me want to giggle a little because it seems kind of ridiculous to call myself that. I’m sure as time goes on it will become more natural to identify myself that way, kind of how calling Mike my husband stopped feeling so silly after a while (well, kind of… it still feels a little silly calling him that!).

4. What’s been the hardest: Oh, boy, there have been lots of hard things. The lack of sleep definitely tops the list, which I knew it would. I love sleep. LoveLoveLove sleep. And only getting 4 hours of it at a time often feels like it’s slowly killing me. It’s also been tough to accept that some things just have to be put to the side for the time being–I can’t be showered and well rested and caught up on phone calls and emails and have a clean house all at once, especially when Natalie is pretty much a full-time job in herself. That has meant that my sometimes obsessive need to clean and organize has gone the way of the dodo (at least for the foreseeable future); our house is now babyville, and Natalie’s toys, diapers, clothes, carriers, playmats, etc. etc. etc. are permanent, uncleanable and unorganizable fixtures of our decor. I am also much more likely to be in sweatpants and a ponytail, playing on the floor with Natalie with my phone nowhere to be found and a half-written email on the computer screen. I’m hoping I’ll better learn to balance it all as I get more practice, but in the meantime please consider this my apology for taking days to call back and subjecting you to pictures of me in my pajamas because I didn’t have the energy to put on a change of clothes.

5. The best moments so far: For all the hard moments, there are at least as many incredible moments these days. My favorites so far: the moment I first held her, after being wheeled into the recovery room; the look on my parents’ faces when they came to meet her for the first time; her first smile (and every subsequent smile since!); my maternity leave mornings when Mikey would put her in bed to sleep a little longer with me as he got ready for work; seeing her all dressed up for Jay and Amelia’s wedding being passed around from friend to friend; when she finally rolled over after all that practice; her first giggles, which seriously are the cutest sounds in the world; and there are countless others that should be on this list. There are lots of times when Mikey and I will look at each other and realize that our little family is having a moment, one of those special times that will stay imprinted in my brain and on my heart through the years to come, and there is simply not enough room in the blogosphere to include them all here!

6. I couldn’t live without: Okay, so obviously I couldn’t be doing this without Moo. He is, hands down, the absolute reason I have not gone completely insane in these past few months. He has been an amazing stay-at-home-dad this summer, and truly does everything he can to make my life as a mom easier. He gets up to bring Natalie to me in the night to nurse, soothes her back to sleep when she’s fed, changes way more than half of her diapers, and even after spending all day alone with her doesn’t hesitate to take her with him to run errands when I get home from work so I can have an hour of uninterrupted, blissful alone time. I absolutely could not get by without him, and nothing makes me happier than seeing him with Natalie–she smiles more for him than anyone and lights up whenever he comes in the room. Aside from my loving partner (and my mom, who has done everything she can to keep us fed, rested, and sane since Natalie arrived), there are definitely some gadgets and gear that have made life easier. I think I’ll devote a separate post to all of that stuff at a later date when I am not feeling so wordy…

This was a long one. And no baby pictures! I promise to have a post of more reasonable length, complete with pictures of Natalie & our Flagg family reunion up very soon!


3 thoughts on “post-partum post mortem

  1. Your blog makes me feel, literally, awestruck. You two are amazing – no surprise there – in your reflection on what it all means and adds up to, this parenting gig you've got. I have to say, I come here sometimes just for a dose of the life and energy you (in your half awake state?!) put out.

  2. two words in regards to #2: BIKRAM YOGA. you will feel emotionally, spiritually and physically stronger, not to mention weight just melts off. You are a beautiful person, i love reading this and I am so lucky I know you.

  3. Beautiful post Hilary. I love your honesty. Your blog is helping me in so many ways to prepare for pregnancy (someday). You and Mike are such beautiful people inside & out, I love you both!

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