You know the one where you’ve had the baby and everyone just seems to forget that you just had a fucking baby?
Your body is a wreck. You’re bleeding. You’re exhausted. Your tits and nipples hurt like you wouldn’t believe. You’re surprisingly hungry all the damn time. Your house is a mess because you just-pushed-a-baby-out-of-something-that-can-only-expand-to-ten-centimetres OR you just had a major surgery. After all that, you then have to deal with people trying to come see you, people you may not even be that close to. Bringing you foods you probably don’t like and, once again, ignoring you because all they really wanna do is take pictures of the baby to say they saw the baby.
So, yeah, welcome.
I’ve been in the fourth, and now fifth, trimester recently. I’ve done an extensive amount of Googling during this time. Why isn’t he eating, why is he eating too much, why isn’t he sleeping, is he sleeping too much, etc. But the one thing I have spent too little time Googling was information for myself.
The Fourth Trimester
(The Fourth Trimester is after baby but pre-going back to work).
One minute you have a baby all nice and snug in your belly, you can feel the little boy or girl kicking you sweetly every once in a while, you’re bloated like a whale and waddling like a penguin. You pee every time you sneeze (even if you just went) and you’re too uncomfortable at night to sleep.
Then, some wise guy hands you a screaming slimy baby like you know what you’re supposed to do next. When the doc handed my little boy to me, I remember saying hi (and crying) and then like are you taking him cuz he’s nasty.
But really, you’re given no instruction, no how-to book, yet here’s a little human that you’re to care and take care of for the next 18 years (but really it’s the rest of your life). Good luck?
You might take a couple of classes before the baby arrives but that’s more prepare you for having the baby, not for what comes after. I took a birthing class, which turned out to be pointless because we had to have a csection, a CPR class, and a breastfeeding class (this helped a little in the beginning).
Not a single one told me what to do when I got home from the hospital and every time I peed it felt like someone was burning the inside and outside of all of my bits. That you can barely wash your feet because the muscles in your abdomen have been fucked to all hell (csection, remember?). That it would take me almost 2 weeks to be able to walk upright without looking like the Hunchback from Notre Dame.
I’m not talking about taking care of the baby here, that was a walk in the park. Baby cries or fusses you do one of three things: feed, nap, diaper. When they get a little older you play with them more and incorporate teething toys. Done. Easy.
Babies get to take naps whenever and wherever they like. Nursing = nap. Pooping = nap. Nap = nap. Easy.
Oh, but Jennifer, just sleep when the baby sleeps. Fuck. You.
My child didn’t take long naps in the beginning (or ever), he’s always been a 30 minute to an hour type of guy with several hours of awake time in between. Yeah, I know, newborns sleep a lot. Well, mine didn’t. This was fine for the first 3 months of his life because I could take at least one nap when he napped and didn’t have to worry about working. Now? Not so much.
The Fifth Trimester
(The Fifth Trimester is considered to start when mom leaves baby to go back to work. It brings it’s own new trials for mom and baby to adapt to. It’s not easy to leave the little person you spent nine months growing, then birthing, and then carrying for in the most intimate ways. Lauren Smith Brody wrote a book called The Fifth Trimester: The Working Mom’s Guide to Style, Sanity, and Success After Baby – I would recommend this book to new moms).
This is when things cranked up to ten for me. I spent four days back at the office before we were sent to work from home (Google: “2020 Coronavirus”). If the virus hadn’t come to pay us a visit and we weren’t working from home, I think I would’ve gone crazy. Literally.
A few weeks after going back to work, my son began to sleep regress (normally last 2 to 6 weeks, my ass). Up until that time he had been doing a great job of sleeping in his crib. No more. The only way I was able to get sleep (maybe 4 or 5 hours a night) was to kick my husband to the spare bedroom and sleep with the baby in my bed.
That lasted a week until my husband came back to the bedroom so he could help out at night, which meant the bed was that much more cramped (we got a King sized bed a month later).
Still, we had to continue co-sleeping or else we’d have to listen to a crying baby and not get sleep. Co-sleep vs some sleep? We took the former (doctors and scientists say that’s bad, I say sleep deprivation is worse).
Why am I telling you about this? Because the loss of sleep over time, after working and not being able to take a nap or have an easy day began to take a toll on me.
Doctors mention Postpartum Depression offhandedly. You take a little survey after having the baby at a checkup about 3-4 weeks after baby is born and then, just like that, no one ever mentions it again.
I haven’t had a doctor visit or even a call from the hospital since 4 weeks postpartum. No one has reached out to see how I am mentally. Once the baby isn’t in your belly, everyone stops to care about you. You become invisible.
My PPD (Postpartum Depression) kicked in one week when the baby would sleep for a couple of hours and then wake up and then would sleep for a couple of hours and then wake up. I had the darkest thoughts I’ve ever had by the time a week had gone by. Once I finally confessed to my husband, he told me to sleep in the spare bedroom for a night to recover. It helped, tremendously.
I’ve only been slightly worse than normal once since and that was when I was trying to get him back in his crib. He’s still not comfortable sleeping alone. I think he’s comforted knowing I’m close (he’s also going through the only mom) and he gets colder when he sleeps in his crib. So, we put him back in bed with us. He’s happy, he sleeps, I sleep, and I’m happy.
There’s been one person who has been concerned about my mental state and it’s only because I told her how terrible I’d been sleeping. Like I said, once the baby is out, you become invisible.
No one talks about the dark parts of postpartum. All we see are the cute pictures of the tiny toes, and noses, and feet. Their first smiles, eating food for the first time, the first bath. All of the good things that come from having a newborn. We don’t talk about how often we wake up in the middle of the night to soothe or feed a baby, we don’t talk about the stretch marks (they’re there, trust me). Or the postpartum pooch, or diastasis recti, or constipation, or getting mastitis, or leaky boobs, or sex after baby, or any of the nitty gritty shit that happens post-baby.
And that’s really frustrating.
Because there’s so much pressure to being a great mom, the “perfect” mom (eye roll). With the likes of Kate Middleton exiting the hospital each time glowing, not hunched over, beautiful, poignant… Perfect. That doesn’t bode very well for every real mother out there. I mean, what’d she do? Push for 0.2 seconds with 5 contractions, wipe away the thin line of sweat and then put heels on? Come on. Her experience is 100% not relatable, yet women look at that as the expectation. Man, fuck the people who make us feel like that’s the expectation.
Some women are in labor for an absurd amount of hours before they meet their little one and some even labor and THEN have to have an emergency C-section. That sucks so hard. But we don’t talk about that.
When you’re pregnant, all of your media sites pick that up because we’re being watched constantly and robots are taking over the world. But seriously. So your Pinterest is showing you all of these tips to follow with a newborn and all of the cutesy clothes you know you won’t fit into and the matching robes for mom and baby. All of the baby ads that show wide awake moms with perfect hair, perfect house, and the happy baby in their arms. Not real.
And here’s why we see fake propaganda: no one wants to bear the thought that being a mother is damn hard and has some gross stuff to it. We want to turn a blind eye and focus on the wee cute baby. We don’t want to think about labor or breastfeeding or bleeding or constipation. It’s just too gross. And we’ve allowed our society to be totally okay with it!
The only way to get people used to pregnancy and postpartum experiences that women go through is by talking about it. We need to stop shielding the world away from real life and what we go through just to have one baby.
We aren’t animals that birth in a barn, lick the baby up and go on our way. We are humans giving birth to little humans and we need to be treated with respect and have our experiences acknowledged.
Our bodies are a war zone after baby, our hormones are a wreck, and yet everyone seems to think that we can handle a new little person no problem. It’s a lot of work, it’s a lot of patching ourselves up and figuring out how to be okay with the new Mom Bod we’re sporting.
It’s not so easy to go, “baby’s here and all is peachy!” when your internal world is falling apart because of the ongoing fire inside of your brain.
We need help. We need to express our emotions. We need to share our experiences because each one is valid and needs to be told.
And, when people shy away from the topic, we need to push them to have those awkward conversations until they’re not taboo anymore.
So here’s to all you mommas, you’re kicking ass.