Sometimes I scroll through online forums where moms chat and ask questions. I’m curious about people’s birth, baby, and postpartum questions. It really helps me get an idea of what people need support with and gives me ideas for what to share here on New Mama Project. Something I see many new moms asking questions about is physical recovery, both immediate healing as well as long term postpartum body changes and adjustment. And many moms ask by inquiring about what other moms in the group have experienced. It’s normal and OK to want to hear others’ stories and experiences, but sometimes I think a crucial piece is missed when we ask about what others have experienced in an attempt to figure out if our own experience is normal or OK.
You see, when we ask for others’ experiences, we can’t help but compare or wonder why we aren’t healing as quickly, losing weight as quickly, feeling more energetic, etc. There’s no way to know every detail about another person’s life, and the snippets we get don’t paint the whole picture. Responses from others about their own experiences can be helpful, but they can also cause us to bypass something so vital – listening to our own bodies.
After I had my first baby, who was born by cesarean, I pushed it in terms of getting mobile again. I tried to take a walk outside a few days after coming back from the hospital and I just wasn’t ready. I knew other moms who had done this so soon post cesarean and I figured I should be able to as well. And after my second was born, I felt like something was wrong with me because I was unpleasantly blindsided by the challenges I had healing from a vaginal birth. Everyone told me that healing from a vaginal birth would be so much easier than from a cesarean and I couldn’t figure out why that wasn’t my experience. If I had just honored my own body’s process and responded to what my body was telling me, I wouldn’t have spent so much time worrying and wondering.
After my third was born 5 months ago, I was doing pretty well. I had made plans during pregnancy that allowed me the freedom to stay upstairs and in bed almost exclusively for the first couple weeks after he was born. This was good. As long as I took it easy, I seemed to be recovering pretty well. At about 6 weeks postpartum though, after a somewhat busier day of running around with my kids, I started bleeding a bit more heavily. I called my midwife and she told me what signs to look for in terms of needing to go get medical attention. And then she gently reminded me that the bleeding was my body’s way of telling me to slow down. So I listened. I slowed down again. I let myself off the hook and found restful ways to engage with my older kiddos.
I see so lots of mothers out and about mere weeks, sometimes even days after giving birth. And I think that’s OK if the mother feels happy doing that. But I worry that sometimes we feel pressure to get moving and get back out there sooner than our bodies (and our hearts and minds, probably) are really ready. It’s OK if you feel like you’re the only one recovering slowly (you’re certainly not). And it’s OK if you don’t leave your house for a bit. Most importantly, it’s OK to listen to your body. Turn off the surrounding noise and really listen. Your body will tell you what you need to do.