I thought I was prepared for baby number two. I've done the whole "deliver a baby, go home, navigate the fourth trimester, learn how to take care of a newborn, struggle to get my 'body back,' return to work and so on" once before. I survived 7 months of no sleep. Grayson never slept for more than 2-3 hours at a time until he was close to 8 months old. I watched many friends with two kids appear so put together and so with it. I knew this time around wouldn't be easy, especially with a toddler at home, but I had no idea just how hard my new reality would be.
I experienced very significant tearing due to the size of Max when I delivered him. While I was at the hospital I was clearly in denial. One of my best friends who visited me remarked how great I looked and was doing, despite me telling her what I went through. It gave me confidence that I was just fine. But it was a show. It wasn't until I got home that things got real.
I could hardly walk. I couldn't get in and out of bed. I couldn't climb the stairs. I couldn't lift Grayson. I couldn't bend over. I couldn't even go to the bathroom. I was bleeding heavily. All I had for medication was Motrin and Tylenol.
The first full day home I powered through. I was so happy to be in my own house, with my Mom and Ryan by my side. On the third day I took a walk two short blocks to the pediatrician's office. I was taking the smallest little steps, shuffling my way, so slowly. Oh my gosh I thought. This was a bad idea. And it was. That night I hit rock bottom.
At the time I knew my hormones were dancing wildly through me, but still I couldn't rationally get my mind together. We were at the dinner table and I could hardly even sit on my bottom because the pain was so intense. Max was wailing loudly. Grayson was refusing to eat for the third time that day. He was spinning his utensils on the table over and over. Each swirl of the metal hitting the wood felt like a hammer pounding on my exhausted head. Dramatically I pushed my chair back and left the room in a flurry. I didn't even turn on the bedroom lights, I just sobbed into my pillow uncontrollably in the pitch black room. I could hear Ryan telling Grayson that "Mommy was really tired and needed to rest." This made me cry more. Then my Mom came upstairs. Her kindness is that of an angel and just her presence in the room made my sobs deepen.
I was crying out of exhaustion. I hadn't slept since before Max was born. I forgot how hard this was. I was crying out of pain. Everything on my body hurt. I was crying out of fear. Will I heal? Will my body be normal again? It wasn't like this before. I didn't know what to do. The nurses really didn't talk this through with me. How could I be home and "functioning" when I couldn't even walk around my house? I was crying out of frustration. Record high temperatures in the last few weeks of pregnancy kept me from doing much. Now once again I was on house lock down. I needed to get out of here. It's not in my nature to be stuck at home. I wanted to be that Mama who was out and about with her kids right away, looking as happy as can be.
Literally everything seeped out of my body that night, as of course it needed to. I needed to cry it out and acknowledge my reality before I could move on and get living. Postpartum Depression and the Baby Blues are a real thing people.
I remember meekly heading back downstairs a few hours later and talking to my Mom and Ryan. The rose colored glasses came off. Neither of them seemed surprised this was happening. It was like they expected it. I guess I was the only one who was pretending. Ryan then cautiously told me all the things the doctor apparently explained while he was stitching me up. I seriously had not heard him say a word of it. As I mentioned in Max's birth story, I was so engrossed in my new baby, I neglected to listen to what was being said around me. I won't go into detail here, but it was pretty bad and I needed at least a good 6 weeks of recovery before I would start to even feel "normal again." My mind was blown.
I texted a wonderful friend who I knew also had a difficult delivery with her first child. She talked me through what I was experiencing physically (and mentally) and gave me lots of useful advice. We talked candidly about the most intimate things and in the end I no longer felt alone. I'm so grateful we were able to have that conversation. Guys it really helps to talk it out. If you know someone who needs a listening ear or could use helpful tips, reach out. I can't urge you enough. My friend saved me that night because it was the start of when things turned around for the better. I felt reassurance that I wasn't alone. If she could make it through, so could I. And I have. It's been more than five weeks now and every single day I'm stronger and feeling more like me.
My First Child
This was a big one. For two years and eight months Grayson was my only child. Although I worked, my schedule was flexible and I was primarily home with him during the day. He was the first person to make me a Mama and my life revolved around him. He was my little baby. Until he wasn't. Now he was a big brother AND starting nursery school, all in the same week. There was a lot going on.
Nothing could have prepared me for how big Grayson would seem when I got home from the hospital. Who was this huge KID?
Suddenly his temper tantrums were even less cute and his whines less tolerable. All of a sudden I wanted him to snap out of it. Here in my arms was a newborn who was allowed to cry and be needy, not my walking, talking "big" kid. It didn't help that Grayson is at that age where meltdowns are frequent and emotions are really big. Bad timing. We all expected him to suddenly behave better, but why would he? Of course he didn't understand. There was a lot of yelling, frustration and moments I'm not proud of.
A few nights after my epic breakdown I put Grayson to bed for the first time in a while. He was in a new pattern of bedtime stalling. (Asking for water, more books, more lights, more hugs, then tears, etc) I tried to patiently follow through with all of his requests. As I sang him one more verse of Twinkle Twinkle, he clung to me the tightest I've ever felt. We were locked in his embrace, somewhere in the confusing middle of babyhood, toddlerhood and motherhood. He said, "Mama, I'm sad." And I lost it. I mean really lost it. I held onto him as tightly as I could and started to openly cry. And so did he. In the midst of bringing home my new baby I lost sight of how much my first baby still needed me.
I put Grayson into his bed and crawled in with him, still crying. I held him and told him it's okay to be sad, but that I loved him so much. But in a flash he had moved on. He said his I love you's and asked for more water. And just like that our moment was over.
No one told me how deeply I would feel all of these little moments in these first few weeks. Just like all pregnancies and labors, everyone has very different postpartum experiences. This is mine. It was not easy at first. It still is not easy. But with every challenging moment comes some clarity. (Like right now, both boys are napping, at the SAME TIME and I feel like SuperMom. A SuperMom that knows this will only last for 5 minutes.)
I don't have things figured out yet and I probably never will. But I do know that even if someone had told me what to expect this time around, I never would have really understood.
If you have one baby, two or more - just never forget that you're not alone. Us mamas always need to help each other. It does take a village. Without my family and friends I would be so lost during a time that the world tells you is so special and fleeting. Of course it is a special time, but with that comes moments that feel quite the opposite and that's okay. It's going to be okay.
Now more than five weeks in I'm able to leave the house with both kids (plus dog) and I'm pain-free. I'm craving real exercise (more on that next time) and planning my slow but triumphant return to teaching. My focus feels like it is on a track I'm excited about. I'm happy (and fortunate) that right now my biggest worry is where to find a toddler sized, cute Triceratops Halloween costume. Help? Suggestions?
Any other Mamas out there go through something similar? Or did you have a totally different postpartum experience? Leave a comment and please share. I bet there are lots of women out there who would welcome the comfort of knowing they are not alone.