First Year Postpartum Thoughts... (And birth story - fair warning!)

This is a long one, so buckle up.  I have the utmost gratitude if you can make it to the end.  I just needed to get my one year postpartum thoughts down on paper.  If for anything, to have something to look back on and reflect in the years coming.  And maybe you can also relate to some of these experiences in your own postpartum journey.  Let us know in the comments.  

I would be lying if I said I wasn’t sitting here the day before Thor’s first birthday trying to figure out where I can find one of those 1st birthday banners and a 1st birthday candle, if only to take at least one picture for him to have when he is older.  I am not one for party planning and most social situations give me anxiety, so I try to stay away as best as I can.  However, today I feel compelled to at least do a little something to celebrate HIS big day.

But before I do that, I'm actually going to go ahead and celebrate MY big day.  

Because the truth is, having a baby is hard.

This FIRST year has been a year of FIRSTS for me.  

I remember a year ago, being a full 42 weeks pregnant, and going in for an induction because there really were no signs of labor (that I knew of).  The first night and day we shot for a successful induction, and failed to progress at all.  In fact, the “induced” contractions to me felt just like the Braxton Hicks contractions that I’d been having for the last four weeks...so nothing new there.  We set up another induction for day 2.  Another fail.  At this point, there wasn’t much more we could do.  The doctor did say he would let me go home for another three days if I wanted to (but at this point we would be spanning on 43 weeks, risky to say the least).  I remember being so tired and hungry at this point.  I felt mentally challenged and frustrated.  I felt like there was something in my gut telling me that things were off.  Something told me that this little guy was not going to come.

And I was right.  After we decided to have a cesarean section, the doctor let us know that little Thor indeed had a birth defect; a short umbilical cord.  With a short umbilical cord, there is no way for a baby to drop and progress.  I’ve never been more thankful for modern medicine and my obstetrician.  (And I'd be lying if I said I was OK with having a C-Section.  At that time, in my mind, it was the worst possible scenario.  Since then, I think our birth was exactly how it was meant to be.)

Another first for me - surgery & PAIN.  I had no idea what to expect and how hard the healing would actually be.  Turns out that pain medicine actually makes me physically ill.  So now I’m puking with a fresh abdominal incision.  Now THAT was fun!  All of this while trying to get a tiny little human with screaming pipes like an organ to latch onto my ladies. How are you even supposed to sit up?  Not only having had your abdominal wall separated for the past 10 months, but now you’re supposed to have enough stability to keep posture, hold a baby, and then attempt to teach them to latch on correctly!  Woooo Who!  Buckle in tight!

Another first for me - breastfeeding.  Take all of the classes you want.  But in my opinion, this can only be learned by experience.  The pain, the frustration, the worry, the initial awkwardness of it all. I learned so much from breastfeeding.  Patience, perseverance, and the ability to eventually stop worrying so much about what the damn baby was eating!  I also met some of my closest friends at a local breastfeeding support group.  Moms who were in the same stages as we were, with babies that seemed to be having the same ‘problems’ and concerns.  I always say that the ladies I met there literally SAVED MY LIFE.  I have nothing but the utmost respect and an unconditional love for them and their lovely souls.

Another first for me - postpartum anxiety and depression.  Like I said previously, if it had not been for the ladies at BF group, I’m not sure I would have made it through the first year in general.  I think a separate blog post about this topic alone is needed, so I won’t elaborate too much here.  I feel like you always hear about postpartum depression, but not often does anyone talk about the anxiety.  The anxiety I had postpartum was extremely debilitating; I often questioned my ability to take care of a baby or myself.  I found myself wanting to pull off my own skin and often times just going unconscious from panic.  Needless to say, although I thought anxiety would be the bane of my existence, my marriage, and my friendships, it actually had the opposite effect.  I ended up having to do a lot of internal work and self improvement that I’d been putting off for years; I had to make hard changes mentally, emotionally, and physically.  I had to establish boundaries for myself and others.  It is a constant work in progress, even at this stage, but my relationship with myself, my husband, my family, and my friends is so much kinder than it ever has been.  I’m not sure I would have been able to make these changes without having to be extremely uncomfortable first.

Another first for me - no sleep.  Like any coach, you try to practice what you preach.  For years, I coached performance and I can tell you that I always harped on SLEEP.  Sleep is a free recovery bank deposit and everyone needs to take advantage of it!  And like the adherent athlete I was, I always tried for a good 8-9 unbroken hours a night....until I COULDN’T!  For the first 6 weeks postpartum, we could only get 45 minutes of sleep at a time.  This was completely foreign to me and a feeling I will never be able to describe.  I had to find ‘rest’ in my mind, as I physically could not get rest, and this is something I had never experienced before.  When awake most of the night, I found myself researching how marines could fight in battle sleep deprived.  That is how I felt, a lot of the time.  This is how mama soldiers power through.  Find the rest and peace in your mind, when all other parts of your body feel empty.      

Another first for me - loving all of my humans unconditionally.  I think this is something that all first time mothers and fathers feel.  Once your baby is born, for the first time, you feel unconditional love for something that is yours, something that you created, something that is unique and individual.  I also found an unconditional love and gratitude for my husband and all that he does for our family.  Not that I didn’t love him before or when we got married, but this is a new type of love that grows when your relationship is truly put to the test.  You either sink or swim.  I’m glad we ended up swimming, but damn those were some hard times.  I can truly say now that at 1 year postpartum, I love my husband and I love myself, my true self, more than I ever have in my life.  It is a total win win.

Another first for me - being truly UNAPOLOGETICALLY ME!  No more shame.  No more guilt.  No more trying to be someone else for other people.  This year I decided that I AM WHO I AM.  It is a beautiful feeling.  I am going to strive to be my truest self and expose that unapologetically.  This is a huge transformation for me.  I’ve had these thoughts my whole life, but have always attempted to repress them in hopes to make everyone else happy.  I’m through with that.  We do what we need to do to keep ourselves and our families afloat.  If that means boundaries, make them.  If that means speaking up, you’ve got to talk.  If that means doing the hard work, you must start chipping away.  Siren song of the counter culture, here we come!  I couldn’t be more excited to keep living this way.  Sorry, NOT sorry!

Another first for me - saying what I’m really thinking.  Again, why did I wait so damn long to speak my mind?  I know that my words have value, even if they are different or hard to say, or even hard for other people to read.  One of the biggest root causes to my postpartum anxiety, besides not sleeping, is not communicating the thoughts that I was having.  I now know that I just have to say the words.  Let them out!

Another first for me - realize that life is a constant change and working every day to get more comfortable with the uncomfortable.  I always loved being comfortable with the comfortable and quite honestly, resented change.  I had no choice after baby.  Life got uncomfortable.  EXTREMELY UNCOMFORTABLE.  What I could change was my reaction to the feeling.  I’ve worked on this for a very long time and I’m still a hot mess most of the time, but knowing that change is inevitable and accepting that is truly freeing.  Much easier said than done.

Another first for me - deciding to do WHAT I TRULY LOVE & BELIEVE IN.  Coaching.  Coaching My Way.  Being a mama.  Coaching Mamas.  Coaching in what I believe.  That is what StrongMoms Barbell Club is all about.  I’ve partnered up with a great friend of mine who is the mama of three beautiful girls and she has been the guiding star through this postpartum and start up of SMBC.  I am absolutely thrilled to be coaching moms with her and cannot wait to share more of what we have in store for 2018 with you all.  I wanted to start StrongMoms Barbell Club when I was pregnant, but it didn’t truly blossom into its beauty and true form until postpartum.  I think I needed to experience birth, postpartum, and motherhood before I truly could become a great coach to mamas.  

If you made it this far, thanks for hanging in with me!  I hope that you can relate to my experiences, or maybe learn something from my mistakes,  and know that you are not alone postpartum.  There is nothing like the experience of motherhood.  Even though it is the most challenging thing I’ve ever done (way harder than Olympic lifting!), I wouldn’t change any of it for the world.

I hope that I can teach Thor some of the lessons that he has taught me in the past year.  I truly want him to know that he is loved unconditionally and I want more than anything for him to have the ability to thrive and be the individual he truly is.  Whatever that looks like, for him.  Here’s to the next great year!

Cori McDougaldComment