Reading back on my previous answers while pregnant, they’re more or less the same: “Selflessness”, “Strength”, and “Love”. HOWEVER the level of which these words mean and feel are heightened immensely.
SELFLESSNESS in the sense where we truly surrender ourselves to someone else. Where the needs of someone else often comes before our own.
STRENGTH — I knew motherhood would be hard, but I never realized HOW hard it would be until I was in it. We tap into the unknown, entering a new chapter in life titled “Motherhood”. There’s no rule book or instruction manual, but there sure are a lot of opinions and unsolicited advice that can make us question our own choices and abilities as we navigate being a new parent. It truly is the hardest thing I’ve ever gone through and the strength required to simply make it through each minute, hour, and day far surpasses any limitations on my strength that I thought previously existed.
LOVE — a love for another human being that’s practically indescribable, and one only another mother could ever understand. While motherhood is without a doubt mentally and physically challenging and exhausting, the love that’s rooted in it all makes everything so worth it.
My birth experience was both everything and nothing I expected or imagined.. all at the same time. I thankfully experienced what I would call a short labour and delivery — I woke up to what I assumed was my bloody show around 5:45am, and contractions began at 6am. I called my midwife as soon as I felt contractions and let her know they were getting stronger and closer, and she completely disregarded it. I didn’t feel right about waiting, so my hubby drove over like a mad man (movie style) over to the hospital. I was essentially fully dilated by the time I got to the hospital at 7am with JUST enough time for an epidural, started pushing around 10am, and we finally got to meet our healthy and beautiful baby girl earth-side by noon.
I had a vaginal delivery with minor intervention via vacuum and a second degree tear, and immediately developed a fever after delivery which left me on antibiotics in the hospital over the next two days.
In addition to this, I started to experience a rash on my body around week 36 of my pregnancy, which progressively got worse and worse leading up to delivery. My midwife and doctors didn’t think much of it, most not even certain what it was, often times disregarding it, though quick to say the only “cure” for it would be to deliver. As soon as I delivered at 39 weeks, the rash broke out to every inch of my body, including my face, and was covered in ice packs from head to toe to try to relieve the discomfort all while recovering from a vaginal delivery, a fever, sleep deprivation like I’ve never experienced before, and figuring out how to breastfeed and being frustrated and confused why my milk wasn’t coming through.
My experience was far from perfect, it was quick yet complicated. I was also in complete shock of my new reality, which didn’t sink in until I had a crying newborn baby in my arms. All your life you’re led to believe that as soon as you meet your child your motherly instinct will kick in, that you’ll instantly connect and bond with your child, or that breastfeeding comes naturally. In some cases this is true, however in my experience it was far from that. It was unknown territory and extremely scary, and the scariest part was that I had to let go of all expectations and control and allow myself to learn as I go.
Some things I’d probably share with expecting and/or new moms:
- Birth plans are nice to have, but allow plenty of room for flexibility. You truly never know what can happen and/or what to expect until you’re in it.
- Allow yourself patience and grace - not only did you just birth new life, but you yourself are being reborn into a completely new being. Give yourself the time you need to heal, set your boundaries, and know that it’s totally okay to ask for help. And when times are hard (and they will be), try to remember that this tiny human is also learning and experiencing everything for the first time too.
- Ensure you have a strong bond with your primary care giver — your putting all your trust in their hands during this life-changing time.
- Lastly, you know your body the best. Trust your intuition and gut - you and your body will know what to do, how to do it, and when.
Postpartum was hard. People share a lot about the first, second, and third trimesters, and often times there’s so much excitement surrounding them — but rarely do people share and talk about the reality of the fourth trimester. Because of this, I feel that many mothers feel alone, like their experiences aren’t normal, their feelings aren’t valid, or sometimes perhaps feel like they’re failing.
Between healing, learning how to breastfeed or supplement feed, learning to bond with a newborn baby, experiencing a new dynamic in your relationship with your partner as you both take on new roles, and learning to love and accept your new postpartum body is A LOT to go through at once, all while on maybe two hours of sleep if you’re lucky. To anyone who says it’s easy is either simply lying or a magical-unicorn-super-human haha.
Although, out of everything I experienced postpartum, the mystery rash — which I came to learn after seeing additional doctors, a dermatologist, and a naturopath days after I was released from the hospital was a combination of PUPPPs, pregnancy eczema that flared up from hormones, gut health, and stress, and hives all throughout my body just because — was by far the most challenging thing to manage postpartum. My body was healing from the delivery itself too but I often forgot about everything else and didn’t feel the need to take pain meds — rather I was dosing up on antihistamines and lathering myself in ointments, lotions, and creams (including Naetal) to help relieve the discomfort. The rash ended up going down about 6 weeks postpartum, but was left with scars and discolouration, especially through my abdomen, that I’m learning to love and manage til this day.
I try to practice self-care as often as my daily schedule allows. The Naetal body serum and belly butter were perfect additions to my skincare routine especially while dealing with the rash and caring for a newborn. I also try to move my body as much as I can through Spin and Pilates which took me about 7 months post partum to get back into. I’m now almost 9 months postpartum and only recently started to feel like myself again. I find there’s so much pressure to “bounce back” and that the postpartum period ends 6 weeks after delivery, which in my opinion is an unrealistic expectation for many. Whether you’re 6 weeks, 6 months, or 6 years postpartum, allow yourself the time you need to heal, recover, and find yourself again.
Photo: Cheyenne Shamei
“Everything has changed, and yet, I’m more me than I’ve ever been.” — Iain Thomas
Every aspect, decision, and action in my life is considered with my daughter and family top of mind. And while it seems everything has changed since my pre-baby life, it’s led me to be the most true and authentic version of myself. It’s allowed me to assess (or perhaps re-assess) my values, re-set my priorities, and determine how I want to spend my time and energy going forward. And while all of that looks different than before becoming a mom, I feel truer to myself than I ever have.