Looking back at pictures of myself as a brand new mother is still surreal. Those first nine months after Phoenix was born seem so dreamlike. My transition into motherhood began after he arrived, instead of during my pregnancy. There was nothing I could have done during pregnancy to prepare myself for what was to come. When I found out I was pregnant, I would read everything about babies and childbirth. I worked really hard to save money and prepare for his arrival. I knew I wanted to be home with him for at least 8 months or so once he was born. The whole nine months was filled with waiting until the next appointment so I could hear his heartbeat again. My favorite memory while pregnant is when I first began to feel him move, it literally felt like butterflies in my stomach.
My Postpartum Journey
When my son was born, we had just relocated to a new city. The unfamiliar territory and life shift was intense, but things were moving so fast that it didn’t matter. Sometimes I look back on that chapter and wonder what was going through my mind, and how I processed so much change. I’m sure a lot of energy derived from excitement and motivation to be good parents. His dad and I were excited to start our family and spoke a lot about what he may be like. We couldn’t wait to lay our eyes on him. I remember when we found out he was a boy, his dad was ecstatic.
Our son’s entry into our lives was tiresome, but blissful. I was in labor for almost a full day, and so relieved when he arrived. The car ride home was the longest one ever. He cried every time the car was still at red lights. I remember how hard it was to get him to latch on. The whole experience of breastfeeding and getting him to latch was ponderous for me. The pumping and the emotional rollercoaster of producing and providing physically was pretty intimidating to say the least.
The first couple of days were peculiar having him home. That adjustment and newfound responsibility is oddly beautiful. I was so out of it from the delivery process that I didn’t even know exactly what I was feeling or what time of day it was. I would just hold him and stare in disbelief that he was finally here. The automatic shift from woman to mother was a euphoric 72 hour process of my mind and heart trying to keep up with what my body had been through.
I remember pumping and getting a little bit of colostrum and being so happy. Somehow, his dad accidentally spilled it. I wept so hard and he could not fathom my frustration. It was in that moment that I understood the gravity of my responsibility as a mother. That it would be a thankless job and I’d endure a lot alone, even though I had a partner. This concept has been a constant in my life, now more than ever as he has become a toddler. The work of a mother is truly never done.
Breastfeeding and Pumping
Breastfeeding and pumping is still a triggering topic for me. If I close my eyes and concentrate, I can still hear the sound of the pump machine. I’d sit in my rocking chair for countless hours while the rest of the house slept, trying to get as much milk as I could. There was a significant amount of mom guilt swirling around the concept of breastfeeding. Guilt that I preferred pumping over latch on. Guilt from hating this aspect of mothering altogether. I stuck with pumping and became kind of obsessed with how much milk I could fill our freezer with. It always left faster than it came. Motherhood became more rewarding after this phase of delirious nights and constant milk production.
I was the first of my friends to have a baby, so I didn’t have a ton of support in that way. Most of my influence was my social media mom friends, who were all posting breastfeeding pictures, looking so relaxed and graceful. It was very nice though to acquire a group of women who were supportive even if we had never met. A lot of those same women are still a support system for me, and some I have had the pleasure of meeting.
Losing My Baby Weight
I was pretty determined to lose my baby weight once I had Phoenix. I waited the suggested 8 weeks after he was born, but as soon as my doctor cleared me — I began exercising and eating clean. Everyday I would wake up at 6am and run around my apartment complex. Then every evening around 7pm I would walk with Phoenix in the stroller for at least an hour. Eventually, I lost the weight and gained back my pre-baby confidence. It was important to me to not let myself go after pregnancy. I had gained 70 pounds while I was pregnant with him. People ask how I found the energy to get up and workout like that. My consistency came from lack of control in other areas of my life. The one thing I did have control of was my workout regimen, so I really indulged in this form of self care.
Postpartum was a dark road for me. There would be multiple days that went by without anyone calling or checking on me. There would be many days spent in the house without going anywhere or seeing the sky. I remember when I finally went back to work and began to have a normal life again, I was so anxious to drive. I remember when a trip to Target was a real treat, I was so excited to go anywhere. Transitioning back into being social with other adults was amazing. My appreciation of independence increased dramatically. After the excitement of my new baby passed, it was just us for a long time and I learned how to cope with that.
Now I realize how important that time of solitude was. In that time I learned what kind of woman and mother I was. I learned so much about my son and fell in love with our relationship. I learned what it meant to accept and persevere. I gained an immense amount of patience during postpartum. Much of the pride and value I see in myself today was born in that chapter of my life. At that time I had to really sit with myself evaluate my life. Nowadays, I am thankful for the quality time that I get with my son and value peace and quiet at home.
A New Phase of Motherhood
I am in a new phase of motherhood now. The current stage requires me to be selfless and present. I am now required to be understanding of how a toddler receives the world. My job as a mother is more physical and messy. My rewards and joyful moments are greater and more consistent. My postpartum days represent the sacrifices I made for my son and myself. I see myself, and all mothers as warriors. What mothering requires of you is ever changing. I am introduced to a new version of myself every time my son grows and needs new things from me.
Here are a few words I want to pass along to a new mother with postpartum woes. I just want to say hang in there. This too shall pass. You will not feel, look or be like this forever. A beautiful transition is ahead of you. Trust your instincts and you will always make the right decision. Ask others for help and prioritize your health. You are not alone, there are other women who are going through the exact same thing as you. Your baby is a miracle and you are the chosen one.
If I do experience another childbirth, I will definitely take a more gentle approach in regards to postpartum self care. Like Roki Prunali says in her latest Postpartum article, “I believe taking time for yourself is just as essential as being present with your newborn.”
In the picture above, we had gone to the museum when my grandparents came to town to visit. Kehinde Wiley had an exhibition that we were dying to see. I was so happy to do my hair and put real clothes on. I remember walking about the museum while feeding my baby, looking at the art and holding him close. This day was so beautiful, and when I realized that there was light on the other side. This day showed me that I could be a mother and individual at the same time. It reminded me to enjoy the present moment because I won’t be able to hold my son this way forever. Most importantly, it was confirmation that I was made to do this.
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