Gracie from Australia
Recently I sent an email to my very best friend. I couldn’t remember if she had met my 18-month-old son. We live in different countries, and whilst I knew that she had seen me pregnant on a visit home, I simply couldn’t remember spending time with her after my son was born. As it turns out there were numerous occasions over a couple of weeks before she flew out that we were all together. The “baby brain” of early motherhood got to me, muddling my recollections of time, place and people. The postpartum period is so overwhelmingly rich in emotion that for me it has become a bit of a blur.
When I fell pregnant I was living in Brazil. After the nausea had passed I headed back home to work for the duration of the pregnancy. My partner stayed behind, he would join me for the last few weeks of the pregnancy and we planned to travel back to Brazil six weeks after the due date. I moved back into my parents’ house, also shared by my pregnant sister and her husband.
My niece was born shortly after I arrived home. I was present for most of her birth and lived with a newborn from four months pregnant until my own son was born. This was an experience that helped me a lot. I learnt how to handle and care for an infant, practiced various settling techniques and witnessed some postpartum trials as my sister recovered from a serious haemorrhage and struggled to build her milk supply. My little niece was born with silent reflux and for a few weeks of her early life cried desperately with pain for endless hours until we discovered what the problem was. It wasn’t an easy first few months for our family and I think that by the time my delivery came around I was fully expecting a postpartum nightmare.
The birth of my son was an eight-hour, uncomplicated homebirth, which left me absolutely shocked by the power of birth, but comfortably in my own bed with my family there to support me from the first postpartum hour. The expectations that I had for a difficult baby and the reality of my calm son left me in a very positive state for my postnatal recovery. Knowing how tough infants could be, I felt very blessed to have been given a son without health problems, who by his nature was relaxed and a good sleeper. I never felt overwhelmed or isolated.
I had a truly blessed first six weeks. My sister gave me massages and emotional support. My parents never expected me to help with the washing, cleaning or cooking unless I wanted to. My partner was essentially on holidays, able to dedicate all his time to caring for me and our baby and cooking us amazing food.
Our daily visits from my midwife for the first couple of weeks were invaluable. During a bad night with a screaming baby hungry for milk but unable to latch onto my breast I didn’t despair. I knew that at 9am my midwife would be there to show me some techniques and tools to help him feed successfully. I was soon shocked by the quantity of milk I produced, I had to use breast pads for almost 6 months, and suffered from both mastitis and a blocked milk duct in the first few weeks. My son, almost two, still breastfeeds, although fortunately my breasts have regulated themselves!
When our son was six-weeks old we packed up and moved back to Brazil. By that stage I already felt healthy, confident and able to travel, and our son slept the whole 30-hour trip back. After seven months away I had forgotten most of my Portuguese, I had no friends in Brazil and this was probably the more difficult time for me. Luckily my parents-in-law were extremely supportive during my acclimatisation.
For me, the combination of living with the support of extended family, having my partner focused solely on me, ongoing visits from my midwife, and prior experience with a newborn, made those first weeks of adjustment to motherhood probably the easiest they can be. It is by its nature a very rocky period full of hormones, emotions, fears and sleep deprivation. But, with the right circumstances the weeks after birth can be an opportunity to grow into your motherhood comfortably, supported, loved and guided, and emerge from the blur a confident Newborn Mother.
Nourishing Newborn Mothers eBook
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Ayurvedic recipes to heal your mind, body and soul after childbirth.