We all have our light bulb moments. Everyone’s moment will look very different but when it happens it's hard not to LISTEN.
I've had a few big light bulb moments since having children. The most significant being at around 8 weeks postpartum, when according to some, the postpartum period is ticked off, yep, that’s right, done and dusted! However I still felt like I was in the thick of it. I WAS in the thick of it. I was exhausted, had already had multiple experiences of mastitis and was NOT coping particularly well. As someone who prided herself on her independence and ability to handle anything, this had not been my game plan. But the truth was, I hadn't really had a game plan, not for my postpartum period anyway. Both hubby and I had done our preconception care, I'd looked after myself throughout pregnancy, was fortunate to have the most amazing midwife and birth support, but aside from planning to babywear and freezing a few meals I hadn't really thought about those crucial six or so weeks postpartum. I hadn't considered what I wanted them to look like, nor had I really considered how we were going to manage as a new unit.
By the time I realised I needed help I was not in the best place to actually find that help. I was barely functioning to be honest. I occasionally got out to meet my beautiful antenatal group. They knew that I was doing it hard, but even then I put on my best ‘everything is fine’ face, a face that has actually done me very little good as a mother. Thankfully a dear friend called my bluff and passed on details of an organisation that provided basic postpartum care and told me in no uncertain terms to give them a call. These are the kinds of people we need in our lives, or at least I did. I was not good at asking for help. I suspect I’m not alone, am I?
Of course, having not planned ahead, it took another 4 weeks before the postpartum company had any availability. So, at 12 weeks postpartum, the point when everyone in the outside world assumed that we had everything ‘sorted’ and that I had got to grips with motherhood, I was just starting to get the support I so desperately needed.
Was it the knight in shining armor I needed? Errr, not exactly. We’d requested someone twice a week and there was no one available to do two days so I had two people assigned to me. Two people I’d never met before, who didn’t know me, my family or my home, who were seeing me at my most vulnerable, and trying to support me. Life was so disorganised, it was difficult to know what to ask them to do, where to start. But we did find our way and after a couple of weeks, our flow….. just in time for them to be moved off on to another job and another woman was sent instead. SIGH. Two weeks and one white load of washing turned pink later, that women decided to leave the country (seriously, was I THAT bad, haha) and that was the end of my postpartum support for a good while. It wasn’t perfect, but I won’t pretend I didn’t hold out for those visits each week and value the slightly random meals they would produce from my poorly stocked pantry. What it did, however was light a spark as to how postpartum could be.
Reflecting back on my journey through pregnancy in to motherhood for the first time, I’ve asked myself what I would tell my younger self if I had my time again. There are of course so many things, but one of the biggies for me would be to plan well for postpartum. I can understand entirely why, as a soon to be first time parent, we get caught up in pregnancy and planning the birth and preparing for baby to arrive, why we invest in pregnancy and birth and in fancy cots and prams and baby carriers and change tables, and, and, and…. ,but we ALSO need to plan for the arrival of the new mother with as much thought and care if we want the transition to motherhood to be one that isn’t filled with overwhelm and utter exhaustion for so many new mums. We need to understand that the process of becoming a mother is not dissimilar to the process of adolescence when hormones, bodies, identity and relationships all shift. Anthropologist use the term Matrescence to describe the process of becoming a mother and I think we could do worse than adopting this term much more widely. As the quote goes...
“The moment a child is born, the mother is also born. She never existed before. The woman existed, but the mother, never. A mother is something absolutely new.” Osho
Yet we expect new mothers to step into her new role with little support and little acknowledgment of the change in her that is occurring. We focus on how quickly we can get ‘back’ to everything. Back into shape, back to exercise, back to keeping house, back to work, As women we find ourselves flooded with things we shouldn’t do throughout pregnancy. People are concerned with what we eat, that we don’t exercise too much, that we don’t overheat and the list goes on. When it comes to the woman postpartum the same should be true, but sadly, it isn’t. Not for most of us anyway.
I know the value of postpartum care because I lived that crucial time without it. Don’t get me wrong, my husband was amazing, as were the people close to me, but that’s not what I am talking about when I talk about when I talk about postpartum care. I didn’t understand the level of support I needed to grow as a new mother. I didn’t know how to ask for help and I didn’t really understand the kind of help I needed, and I know I’m not alone in this. It was my experience through postpartum that drives me to do what I do now. I aim to share the knowledge that I gained through my postpartum period and the knowledge I subsequently gained as I strove to better understand the transition to motherhood and how the postpartum period COULD BE. Postpartum care is NOT a new idea. As I’ve said before, many, many cultures have been doing it much better than us for decades, our own cultures approach to postpartum care has changed quite significantly, our view of motherhood has also changed, and I’m not convinced that overall it has been for the better. We often think of postpartum as something that lasts 6-12 weeks and then is over. But it is so much bigger than that. Think about it, in some ways, as mothers we are forever postpartum, aren’t we??? but it is that crucial time after the birth that can set ourselves up, either to thrive as a mother and as a woman, or to experience depletion and struggle. It was a late realisation for me, and I’m still working through some of the fall out of my postpartum experience some three years later, but as they say, when we know better, we do better. So here I am, doing better, and hoping that in doing so I can help other women to step into the journey of motherhood feeling more prepared and supported that I enabled myself to be.
Until next time...
I’m Anne, Mum of two, Postpartum Doula and Yoga Teacher specialising in Pregnancy and Postpartum Yoga. I run Postpartum Preparation Workshops and Yoga Classes on the Sunshine Coast alongside In-home Postpartum Support and Yoga for new mothers who don’t want to settle with exhaustion and overwhelm being their introduction to motherhood. You can enquire about or book my services by e-mailing email@example.com or click here: