As the months pass by since baby M was born, I’ve gone through a range of emotions and I know that most new moms can relate. I’ve felt elated, I’ve felt sad, I’ve felt beautiful, I’ve felt strong, I’ve felt exhausted, I’ve felt ugly, I’ve felt fat, I’ve felt thin. The list goes on and on. I know a lot of it is hormonal changes and my mind sometimes playing tricks on me, but that doesn’t negate the feelings in the least. Couple all of this with lack of sleep and there is certainly a recipe for disaster.
Being that this is my third time postpartum, I look back and really wish I had written myself a letter after J was born to hold onto for future postpartum experiences. After J was born, I definitely had my emotional moments, but he was my first and life was much easier caring for one baby than it is now, caring for three children at once. It took a full three months before I started to lose any of the additional baby weight I had gained. In those three months, I was almost angry at myself for not losing weight fast enough and I felt ashamed. I had trouble seeing that those extra pounds were part of the beautiful journey to becoming a mother.
I knew after J that I wanted more children and as soon as B was born, I told my husband I definitely wanted another baby down the road. I just didn’t feel our family was complete yet. Now we have baby M and I am so happy he is a part of my family. If money were no object, I could certainly see myself having more children, because I truly love the baby stage (even if I do complain sometimes!). I had a health scare many years ago that almost robbed me of my chance to have children, so for me, having not one, but three healthy babies is a true blessing (When we have the time and a bottle of wine, I’ll tell you all about it.) I no longer feel like our family is incomplete. If M is my last baby, that would be alright by me. I feel fulfilled. But, on the off chance, life blesses us with another baby down the road (or as a helpful guide to my cousins, sister-in-law, and BFF’s when it’s there turn for this blessing) here’s an open and honest letter to my postpartum self:
“Dear postpartum body,
I know we have a love-hate relationship right now and quite frankly, hate has been winning out. That definitely seems shallow and superficial, but the lack of sleep is f-ing with my rational side and I am having trouble channeling the love.
When I look in the mirror, I see a horror show from head to toe. My hair is falling out in the shower. My eyes have big dark circles underneath. I swear, it looks like I’ve been punched – repeatedly. My skin is dry and for a while there I had a rash all over my neck, chest, and thighs. My breasts are heavy and hanging lower than usual. My belly feels flabby and my hips sit wide. My ankles that were never swollen while I was pregnant, now seem a bit puffy.
And it’s not just the physical appearance that’s weighing me down (literally!). My mind isn’t as sharp as it was just nine months ago. My short-term memory is shot. I feel achey. I feel physically and mentally exhausted. I have zero patience and my temper flares easily. I feel like the walking dead. I am overly and irrationally emotional – in fact all this self-loathing is making me cry.
So, in an effort to remember if we’re ever here again, I am writing this letter to remind you that this too shall pass. It always does.
Take a deep breath and look in the mirror again. Look slowly and carefully. And I want you to remember what it felt like to have small hips and a flatter belly and to be well rested. I want you to remember how you felt in those moments – in those moments how you envied every woman pushing a baby stroller. Don’t forget how you longed to hold your own baby in your arms. And don’t forget the journey you embarked on to get where you are today.
It wasn’t easy. There were scares. You were sick. You were tired. You were overwhelmed. There were indulgences. But there were moments when you felt like the most special woman in the world because your baby was growing healthy inside of you. You radiated from within and everyone around you could see your happiness gleaming out of your pores. Your hair was luscious and your bump was round.
You spent nine months growing your baby and it will take time to get you back to where you want to be. But you must remember, you will never be the same. Your breasts will never be as perky as they were when you were eighteen and that’s okay. You nursed a baby. Your belly may retain a little pooch or it may be flatter than it was before. You will sleep again no matter how far away that moment seems. And as soon as you are sleeping again, you might actually miss those late-night moments with a newborn cuddled to your chest. Your heart will be filled with an unconditional love.
Pick up your baby and stand in front of the mirror. See his smile. He thinks you are the most amazing and beautiful person on the planet. Look at yourself through his eyes. Look at his smile. You created that.
In the moments when you are feeling low, read this again and remember you are more beautiful today than you’ve ever been before because you’ve discovered your inner mama-goddess. You are strong, you are resilient, your love knows no bounds.