Disclaimer: I’m not sugarcoating this, sweethearts.
Oh, the fourth trimester! One of the most unique experience’s in a woman’s life — an undignified time of many bodily fluids, night sweats, hormonal mood swings, a squishy empty baby belly, and so much more. I want to give every newly-postpartum mama a big hug and tell her it’s okay, and that everything will get better. Because it does!
When I first had Lilly, I tried to temper my expectations so I wouldn’t be too disappointed or unhappy. I expected to have some degree of postpartum depression, to be sleep deprived, to be pretty jarred by a lot of crying/screaming, and to never see my pre-baby body again.
The reality of my situation was different. I was sleep deprived, but Lilly slept a glorious 5 hours the afternoon we returned home from the hospital once we got her in her Rock & Play sleeper (and I finally got a little bit of REM). I was acutely aware of my own baby’s voice and crying (it’s amazing how different their voices are! and how you inherently know your own baby’s — the way we are evolutionarily wired blows my mind daily!!!), and as much as the little grunts and snorts did keep me awake the first couple of nights, I found myself comfortable soothing her and wasn’t so frazzled. (Granted, a week or so in, I was definitely at home rocking her in her glider while she screamed nonstop, crying to myself and wanting to just go back over to my parents’ house. But we’ll get to that later.) As for my postpartum body, I was shocked at how quickly my uterus seemed to shrink back down and weight start to fall off in the first two weeks (and admittedly got over-confident and assumed I’d be back to normal in just a couple more weeks’ time)… but then I was irritated and annoyed that it didn’t continue at that rapid speed in the weeks that followed.
What I didn’t expect AT ALL was how different (than me) Drew would process the whole having-a-baby thing, and how much conflict that would ensue. I mean, I’ve loved this man since I was 18! For eight years of my life, he had been my best friend, my partner, my complement, my other half. How he could not comprehend everything that was going on my in head and heart and body was just unfathomable to me! But I didn’t even know what I was going through… every new stage was uncharted waters for me. It was like God gave me a brand new brain the minute they handed my baby to me, and I had to suddenly figure out what that meant as far as who the heck I was now and what to do.
In those first weeks, Drew’s coping mechanism for a huge life change was to maniacally re-organize our bedroom. This drove me absolutely up a wall. I have never been one with a huge knack for home organization, and when life gets super stressful, it’s the first thing to go for me. So as we’re dealing with a new baby who cries and eats for an hour at a time and won’t go to sleep when it’s bedtime, you can imagine I couldn’t give a sh*t if I tried about moving the towels from the linen closet to the armoire. He left me to rock the baby and literally closed the door to our bedroom, turned on the TV, and watched it while he moved towels around and folded his clothes over and over again. (Hence the glider crying and wishing I lived at home with my parents because they ACTUALLY HELPED WITH THE BABY.)
(Let me give due credit and say, Drew was helpful in those first days. He was quick to change diapers for me, grab pillows and burp cloths when I needed to feed her, always took over burping duty, and much much more. He took off two weeks from work for paternity leave — one week he was actually able to focus on the baby and adjusting to our new life, and the second he spent locked up studying to pass his final CPA exam to provide a wonderful life for our family. I acknowledge and TREMENDOUSLY appreciate all of his efforts, especially now that we’ve found our groove as parents. He is a wonderful father and husband. This is just written from my crazy-person perspective as a new mom. So take it with a grain of salt.)
Part of my coping with crazy mood swings and lack of sleep resulted in a tendency to critique literally every single thing Drew attempted to do around the baby. Lovely, right? On Mother’s Day (as I irritatedly reamed Drew in my mind for not saying “Happy Mother’s Day” until my parents did or getting me even a card that morning), Drew was buckling Lilly into her carseat on our way to my grandmother’s house, and didn’t put the overhead handle back or something silly/minor, and I curtly snapped at him: “What the hell are you doing?! Here, let me do it.” Unsurprisingly, he did not take it well. He muttered something along the lines of “I’m never going to do anything for the baby if you keep criticizing the way I do EVERYTHING,” and I ignored him and made him pose for photos.
Things came to a head later that day when we got into a huge fight on the way to his parents’ house, and he made a comment along the lines of “I don’t even know why I’m working so hard to support a family that doesn’t even want me around” — which also did not go over so well. I cried and yelled at him that I needed some “f_____ grace” and was just trying to navigate through a difficult time. I told him I didn’t know what I was doing, I was trying to figure out what life looked like with all this change, I was nervous about him going back to work the next day (and us not staying with my parents for their added support), and I didn’t even know how to spend my days with a newborn while trying to heal from the traumatizing physical experience of childbirth. He suggested I clean our house.
I’m assuming you know where this is going?
I killed him, right then and there.
Just kidding! I definitely wanted to, but I let him live so Lilly wouldn’t have to grow up fatherless. But I understood why God’s design involves a marital bond before you have children, because if both of us could’ve hit the highway and gone our separate ways at that point of time… umm, it would be very tempting.
We fought and cried some more but finally at least COMMUNICATED what was going on and why we were hurt (in so many ways). It paved the roadway for us to heal with a little more time and yes, grace. Ever so important grace.
I had to have grace with Drew for not going through the same brain-rewiring life-altering transformation I experienced becoming a mom. I had to have grace with Drew for feeling lost and like he loved this little tiny human, but also like she stole his beloved, fun wife away who might never return again. I had to have grace with Drew for working his butt off, working full time while studying to pass the final part of the most difficult exam he’s ever taken, in the midst of interrupted sleep and a huge life transition.
Drew had to have grace with me for going through a personality change where I had no idea who I had become or what to do with it. He had to have grace with me for not being able to physically do what he’d like me to do or even what I would have liked to do, because I would be in intense pain from just going up and down stairs a few too many times. He had to have grace with me for not knowing what I was doing with my business, and dealing with huge projects that were crashing in on me when my plans had fallen through. He had to extend grace to me for going through a zillion crazy physical changes — a new lumpy body that perplexed and annoyed me, boobs that suddenly became boulder-sized and painfully hard as rocks that had to be iced down and pumped and smushed in a “hamburger hold” into a tiny baby’s mouth, a bizarrely potent sense of smell and the accusatory remarks that accompanied it, and more.
So honestly, the most important thing to arm yourself with postpartum is beaucoups of grace. The peri bottles, granola bars, nursing bras, baby gear, and all of that are really great, but the thing you really need is grace. Grace for yourself, grace for the baby, grace for your partner, grace for this humbling, beautiful, life-rocking transition.
And the good news is, around 6 – 8 weeks, Drew and I started liking each other again. It wasn’t so hard anymore. I wasn’t so mean anymore. Drew finished his exam and became a CPA! Lilly started sleeping 5 – 7 and 6 – 8-hour chunks of time. We got in a groove of taking care of baby. My May clients were happily married, one way or another. My body started to look more familiar (still different, but not so alien-foreign). We went on a few date nights and had a vacation planned! Of course, right around that point of time we had to face the news that I had type 1 diabetes and not just temporary gestational (and Lord, that was a whole ‘nother battle for Drew and adjustment for all of us…), but at least the baby thing got better!
So keep this near your heart, new mamas- and daddies-to-be:
3 To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
2 A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
3 A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
4 A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
5 A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
6 A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
7 A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
8 A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.
And this too shall pass. Much love!