Recovering your self

Almost three weeks after Tara was born, I finally summed up enough courage to share with Agam that I think I am having hot flushes at night. I was ignoring the topic hoping that it will soon resolve itself. Just like the severe pain in my ankles finally disappeared after the first week. And these two were not the only two changes that I experienced as a first time mom after delivery. For example, did you know mammary glands are all over your body, so when the milk comes don’t be surprised if you feel some interesting bulges. There were many more. Some more painful and prominent than others. But I self diagnosed and self cured them or simply ignored them. All this happened while I was taking care of this new born child who was completely dependent on me at the time.

To my comment regarding hot flushes, Agam responded, “Yes Dr Shin said that they are common.” Did she? I didn’t remember. I wonder what else she might have said that I did not hear because Tara was crying or because I was busy figuring out how to sit up in bed without hurting myself. I remember thinking at the time, if only I could keep standing I’ll be in much less pain. And so I did, from time to time. But you cannot feed a baby while you are standing. Definitely not eight hours after labor. Regardless, the truth is that it was only after three weeks of suffering and fear that I finally voiced my inconvenience. And this is me, who can speak her mind out without any fear at all times.

This left me wondering about all those who don’t voice their inconveniences. And how unjust the world is to the mother, immediately after the child is born. I admit that the misery is self imposed to a certain extent. But I am sure there is something that can be done about this. And if I keep silent about it, I will also join the unjust world.

Before Tara was born I gathered knowledge on a variety of topics. But I did not ever look into postpartum recovery. May be the child birth classes were an opportunity, but we decided not to take those classes and go with the flow. And hence I was quite clueless of what my body was experiencing and all that it was going to experience postpartum.

Our society is also unjust, we do baby showers and gift registries. But we don’t list the items that the mother will need for her recovery and feeding in those registries. All the games people play are all about the baby. How about some advisory sessions with the experienced moms in the circle instead?

All the friends and family have tons of advice for the child, but none for the mother. We all simply forget that for a first time mom it can all be a very intimidating and more than that a very lonely experience. After the child is born, almost all conversations that a mother participates in revolve around the child. How is the child doing? Is she sleeping well? Is she fed on time? Is she cheerful or despondent? But we never ask how the Mom is feeling? How is she coping with this new change in her life? How is her body healing? Does she have some fears or pains she is not sharing? Is she feeling depressed about how suddenly her world has changed? I had a few, namely three conversations where people actually asked me how I was doing. 3 amongst 100 or so. (May be I am just not a lovable person :P) And I will never forget the people who asked me how I was doing. In those days of vulnerability, I felt like I found some anchors. It felt beautiful to hear the words.. “are you feeling yourself?” from a colleague. Yes, I was feeling myself and I am so glad you cared. Because truth is that I was here even before the child was. And my relation with you is older than the one you will share with my child.

One of my super mommy friend warned me about how it can be quite challenging and I loved the fact that she confided in me with the details of postpartum hormonal imbalances. She was one of the very few who did so. Almost everyone else glorified parenthood and made it sound way more simpler than it really is. And the fact is that anyone who has gone down the path of becoming a parent knows that it will be challenging. But it is important that new parents share their true experiences with their friends and family. Not the glorified versions of “oh it was a breeze”. And Been There Done That Moms – come on, grow up and face it – you have to help your fellow first time moms. They need your empathy. And they need someone to tell them – “if you feel like just talking to someone, I am here for you.”

I resolved in the first week after I delivered Tara to never ever feel shy of sharing any details about my pregnancy and delivery experience with anyone. Especially the first time moms. They need to know that it will be difficult and lonely. And that they will have to step up and take care of themselves, because no one else will. You have to take care of yourself since your newborn’s well being depends on your well being. And that is not the only reason you have to take care of yourself. You have to get back to the world and face it in a few months. And the preparation for that starts from Day1. Don’t postpone it.

In the first week I started reading voraciously while Tara would feed. Since I did not have to hold a bottle for her, she was on her own and my two hands were free. So I read a lot and also very actively socialized with friends on Facebook. It was a good way to kill time while Tara latched and unlatched and slept in between feeds. For someone like me it was perfect way to feel my normal self – do what you love and talk to people 🙂 May be that does not work for you. But find something that you can enjoy while your baby feeds or sleeps. And prep for long durations of time when you cannot get up from one place. 

Of course the unjust world was even more unjust to me. I was told that I am the first mom to have posted on Facebook a few hours after delivery and that I am catching up on all reading I could not while I was working and that I make it seem like I have plenty of time on hand (indirectly saying what kind of a mom are you) to read articles on FB and LinkedIn and G+. Well all I can say to those people is this – ” try sitting for an hour in one place with someone gnawing at you constantly, and you will also become a social reader ;)”
So dear first time moms – here is what I want you to do –
  1. Read about postpartum recovery
  2. Have your mom or someone who cares for you limitlessly by your side when you deliver
  3. Share with your spouse or friends or family how you are feeling or if you have some concerns with your recovery.
  4. Get used to the fact that no one else cares about your health and well being as much as you do. And don’t forget that one for life.
  5. Find a hobby that you can pursue while your lil one takes her time to grow up through the first month.
  6. Don’t be afraid to take breaks when you need them. I was lucky to have a husband who asked me to take a break from time to time while he took care of the baby. 
  7. Enjoy your baby. They won’t be tiny for long. And for your to enjoy them you have to feel good about yourself. So once again focus on your recovery. You don’t want to remember those first week weeks as the uncomfortable ones.
  8. Pamper yourself. For me pampering was to drive to the nearby bakery and get my favorite desserts for the family. For you it could be something else. But plan for it before you have the baby.
  9. And don’t care about the world expects a FTM to do. You are not here to please them. Just because you had a baby three days ago does not mean that you don’t like to catch up on the latest David Brooks article. Sometimes it is the habits that we loved pre delivery that drive us towards sanity. 
  10. And lastly don’t expect anyone to follow up with you about your health. You are nothing but an instrument that delivered happiness. It’s ok. You are blessed to be that instrument. And your second blessing is now in front of you (or will soon be in front of you) thriving :))
Happy Motherhood. Yes it is beautiful. No it is not easy.

1 thought on “Recovering your self

  1. Very rightly pointd out by you – 'everyone focusses on the baby and mum can often get ignored'.
    I have my theories about this. I think there is a cultural mindset amongst many (especially society) that the 'right' thing to do is to always focus on the new arrival. I was always aware of this and had to consciously work to keep my attention on both, mum and baby. As a professional, I know potential harm that can happen when mother's needs are not met. I can say that here in the UK, this has been recognised (finally!) by range of professionals (GPs, midwives, nurses, health visitors, psychologists) and over the past 6-8 years, there has been lot of focus on this. I have just recently completed interviewing 30 mums (20 weeks or more pregnant and up to 10 months post partum) to listen to their experiences of care. I can hear you loud and clear. Hopefully, you have the support you need around you – from family, friends and healthcare 'experts'.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s