After giving birth, it was kind of surreal waking up to a new reality where I became a mother and I now had a child to take care of, I had to be there for her all the time, I am her source of nourishment and have to do so as many times as she required. Sounds like an obvious part of becoming a mother, but living it is a whole new reality that I had to get adjusted and used to over time, as I guess most new mothers have to do, and I’ll share more of how this postpartum experience went for us.
I explained in my previous blog how much of a shock it was that the very ‘next day’ after giving birth, I was feeling just ‘fine’ and didn’t take time to sleep throughout the day and eat properly and how that second night with Minerva felt like a nightmare where I was ‘losing it’ as in not being able to keep myself awake and feeling as if I would just ‘leave my body’ if I closed my eyes, that was a scary feeling for sure. But fortunately I realized soon enough how I had to truly take care of myself in order to be able to take care of our daughter. And this is then that principle of being the best for me first to be able to be there for others, similar to why in airplanes they ask adults to put the mask on themselves first before doing so for their children, I hadn’t understood why this is so since my instinct would have been to put it on the child first and then the adult, but! Lol if plane loses pressure and adult passes out, then there’s no life for the child nor the adult.
I essentially had to eat a lot more considering I started breastfeeding and this is also – of course- entirely new to me and something I hadn’t really considered or integrated in my system so to speak, simply because of how much of my focus was on the ‘birthing process’ and being able to do it, that I didn’t pay as much attention to ‘what comes afterwards,’ which I realize was a form of shortsightedness on my side.
During those first days I sure was sore in the whole pelvic area involved in giving birth, fortunately I didn’t tear but still, all the genital area is swollen and even if I wore those iced-paths after birth to ease the pain and swelling, this lasts for a couple of days and it became uncomfortable to be sitting on the bed, which I did for most of the time.
To me the most challenging thing was starting to breastfeed and finding a posture for it and being able to have a good latch as well. Sitting on my coccyx was very uncomfortable as well and that’s essentially what I would do to breastfeed, I was getting the hang of how to carry Minerva – and I can say, I am still earning – and it was overall challenging how to position her and she was very demanding of wanting to eat all the time, which became also something I couldn’t really fathom at first, I thought it would be once every few hours but there were days when she was stuck on my breast for hours without end. We found out there are these growth sprouts where they eat more or suck more to prepare the breasts for a larger milk demand and so production, but this was quite a load on me at first. I kind of pictured how my days would go with having to constantly feed her. This isn’t the case as much for now, but she sure demands it quite frequently and I’ll explain why.
It was quite frustrating the first days when I only had colostrum and it seemed she was already demanding more and that’s the first time she cried in fact – after her first crying at birth – which made me feel quite powerless about being able to change the situation and my partner resorted to soothing her with the swaddle technique and sleeping with her on his chest while I was still recovering from lack of sleep.
Then another uncomfortable thing emerged when the milk started ‘coming down’ as they say and my breasts got very full and my nipples were really sore from all the improper latching which was Minerva just biting them a lot, even if she doesn’t have teeth. So yes, I had some minor scabs and I was worrying if this would be the way my breasts and nipples would feel for the rest of our nursing – which I intend to do for a couple of years at least. Thankfully it wasn’t like that. I was advised by the midwife and my mother and sister to give myself some really thorough and rather painful at first massage on my breasts during the shower with hot water to unclog the milk canals so to speak, and that worked. It sure was painful every time that Minerva would start eating and I would eat my pain out because nipples were sore and at the time I would still feel contractions while she was eating – this is due to the uterus going back to its original size and position and the sucking assists with that – so, yes, it wasn’t a comfortable or easy time, but I kept at it with knowing that this too shall pass, and this became quite a helpful point to be aware of, which my partner would bring up every time I would go into despair about this kind of things happening.
Another challenge is that it was quite a shocker to me getting out of my usual ‘routine’ where I enjoy getting things done and had my schedules and things I would have ‘gotten to’ by certain time in the morning, and… of course the first days this is just mostly impossible to do. With going to sleep either super late or waking up throughout the night to feed Minerva and also with the times when she just didn’t sleep for some hours during the night, I would wake up ‘late’ – in my terms – as in 9 am or so and then it would be a thing to just get to have some breakfast, while feeding Minerva most of the times – yes, it became a food chain so to speak where my partner would feed me and I would be feeding Minerva, and then she would fall asleep after eating and I recall those moments where I was just wearing my pajamas the whole day and having Minerva on my lap – well she is on my lap as I type this, well, half of her since she is 2 months old as of today – and me having this worry and sense of ‘life passing by’ and ‘not getting anything done’ and having this desire to be ‘doing stuff as usual’ while actually realizing and telling myself: “No Marlen, that phase of your life is gone for now, life has changed for you, your most important job is to take care of Minerva.” This was also reminded several times throughout the days by my partner, who became my emotional stability support in this time and I’m really grateful for him being by my side all the time.
To me, those first days felt eternal where I was just waiting for some sleeping time, being able to take a shower and toilet and hurry to get out to a hungry Minerva once again. I couldn’t fathom how much she would be demanding to eat, which was a constant thing for her. We decided to apply the free demand way based on understanding that it is about feeding the baby but also creating the bond with the mother and having that physical contact and connection through breastfeeding. So, with this, of course doing anything else became a challenge as well, and so my life was ‘reduced’ to doing the basics like eating, going to toilet, showering and mostly staying connected to the world through the phone because, yep, being at the computer is still a complicated thing to do for the most part.
This is where I had to realize that this apparent reduction was in fact the most important thing I had chosen to do and it became a challenge because I’m mostly this constantly moving ant that wants to “be productive” and “be doing stuff all the time” and this became a complete halt to most If not all of that, considering I didn’t even have to do the usual chores because of being recovering. My partner became my helping hands and body, along with my mother and father so, I’m once again grateful for them and making my time easier. I sure would have done things differently as I look back into that quarantine. I would let go of my anxiety to “be doing something” and just surrender to just Being with Minerva… I sort of would do it but my rather sickening sense of “duty” became a mental obstacle for this.
At times it was even like hard to comprehend that this wasn’t a temporary thing, motherhood. I had to go assimilating during those first weeks the fact that this is a lifetime commitment and this wasn’t going to be ‘something I do’ but something I Am now, which is a mother. I even had a hard time to say “Now that I’m a mother” out loud for the first time as well. But, as with any new thing, any new habit or new relationship, it is a matter of time to get used to it 🙂 and I consider I’m doing better at it.
I had to often remind myself that I chose this, I decided to own the decision to have a child as I’ve explained in past blogs, but of course I hadn’t really probably considered to what extent it would ‘permeate’ my life – perhaps this was some nativity for me, but I embrace it since it’s part of how I also give myself the courage to actually do things or take on challenges as well – and now I understand it is a complete point of focus and occupation in that sense, a wholeness, a becoming. Whenever I felt overwhelmed by it, by being constantly ‘demanded’ attention by Minerva and having to feed her all the time, I stopped saying – when my partner would handle her to me- ‘she wants to eat more?!’ to simply saying “come here to eat!” because my question was coming from a starting point of disbelief but also of just not wanting to do it ‘again.’
Now, here what was also playing out is that I hadn’t fully ‘surrendered’ to my new place and occupation in life. I was still kind of ‘hoping’ to have some time for perhaps writing or doing some recordings or going to the computer etc.… and it took quite some time – and perhaps I still am working on this – to not be having the ‘next thing I want to do in mind’ while I have to be with and feed Minerva, because that’s what creates the ‘suffering’ so to speak. I was reflecting on that this morning and it reminded me of Buddhism and how they say that desire is the origin of suffering, and in this kind of situation that falls into that definition. If I am constantly desiring to be ‘doing’ something else or going somewhere or having my shower or wanting to go to swim etc., well that creates a constant un-fulfilledness that does affect my ability to be truly HERE and embracing my time with Minerva fully, which mostly means a complete slowing down and halt, something truly challenging to me to be honest, but working on it as well.
Another thing that added the sort of experience of feeling ‘trapped’ is that I couldn’t go downstairs for over a week, so it was mostly a stay in bed type of situation right after birth, going to the toilet – which sure is painful the first days- dealing with the bleeding, the soreness in the nipples, having some constipation as well and on top of that being sleep deprived, yep, a recipe for disaster in my body, but then also kept in mind this is part of the process, it’s not forever and this too shall pass.
I am eternally grateful as well for the support that my parents gave us during the quarantine. I was also apprehensive about this, I wanted to ‘help’ and do house chores or clean or whatever but nope, I had to once again and for the first time just be grateful for the support and embrace it, accept it and I had to kind of brainwash myself about this, that it was ok for me to essentially ‘do nothing’ because of having devoted a lot of my time to assist others… yep, I am aware this was perhaps unnecessary, and I could just decide to embrace and be grateful for everyone’s support, from my relatives and their visits with some presents for Minerva, my aunt’s food, my mother’s food and place to stay as well as my father who is the real powerhouse behind it all, and my partner becoming like a personal assistant to hand me basically everything and giving me belly massages and checking out the healing of my sore genital area etc. This whole time made me realize how difficult it must be for single mothers or mothers that don’t have this network of support either physically or financially and this became one of those thoughts I would dwell on, realizing how much support every woman that gives birth in fact needs to be able to Fully be there for their child, and in stable emotional state as well, which is super important for the child as well.
I bring this point up as well because it is at times very easy to say ‘I can do this alone’ and I realized I couldn’t, not this time and it is in fact one of those times when we do need ‘a village’ – as they say – as support to walk through this initial time of getting acquainted with one’s child and walking through the body discomfort that motherhood starts with.
I also had a hard time being able to ‘feel happy’ as such for most of the time. Sure, I felt in moments quite grateful for being able to hold our child in hands, to the point of tearing up a bit. But I also cried at times for feeling inadequate, feeling as if I lacked the ‘motherly’ attitude that I would watch, read or hear other mothers express when talking about their own post partum or motherhood experience, I couldn’t really relate. Also with various situations where I would feel that my partner was more ‘apt’ at taking care of Minerva than me, being more ‘up for it’ and caring or tenderly doing so and how I felt that I lacked that. Well, I talked about it with him and he once again expressed how this was a perception of mine when comparing myself to others, that I should rather embrace my unique way of expressing love to Minerva which maybe isn’t with acute voice talking and that sort of thing, but with a genuine sense of care and disposition to be there for her and with her. I am still walking through this and embracing this aspect in me, as well as continuing to create that point of expression with her which also comes with more ease now that she interacts more with us in the sense of laughing and blabbing and understanding more of our gestures. It sure is nice to see how she smiles when waking up and knowing I’m there ready to feed her.
This also reminds me of how relationships are built and how to me it makes sense to get more into this new relationship in my life as time goes by and how it is OK if it isn’t an immediate ‘click’ as they say. My mother also pointed this out how I only smiled several days after she was born, I did feel like a zombie for most of the first week due to the physical strain and tiredness, but also because it was still hard to assimilate the fact that my life had completely and totally changed for real this time. This is also a key point for me in my life and process, to realize how ‘selfish’ in fact I had been when it comes to doing MY things, MY life only and yes caring about others and supporting others but ‘at specific times’ and then being able to do and be wherever I wanted.
Several times I had to be reminded that those times were, well, over and gone and that this was a new phase in my life. Yes, I I had to be reminded this, that perhaps ‘should have been obvious’ to most or many, but not to me in those moments where I felt as if the world was just going to ‘pass me by’ as I was laying on a bed feeding my child for endless hours and just hoping to get some proper sleep in the night. It sure doesn’t sound fun and I don’t mean to scare anyone because this is entirely MY experience. It sure isn’t easy for most people to get used to having a newborn at home to take care of, but I am also sure that some may have a better attitude about it than me, lol. I know because my partner is that kind of person that was super happy and laughing at having to change the diaper after we just had put a new one, or having to wake up at night and get her to sleep because I was just ‘out’ by the time, and washing her dirty clothes and doing all of those things that, well, perhaps a lot would see as a chore. I learn a lot from him, still am, and I’ve been realizing how we experience things based on how we decide to Perceive them.
He decides to perceive what I would think as a nuisance or a chore with humor and enjoyment, and that surely lightens up everything when in perhaps in a different situation, having a partner with my ‘similar character’ probably would have been a recipe for disaster and perhaps I would have sunken deep into some kind of depression. But thanks to him I didn’t sink that low.
I probably felt depressed for all of the reasons I cited above, it mostly had to do with saying good bye to my old life – yes, even that of being pregnant which as I explained before, also became a ‘comfort zone’ to me because I could still be out and about and do whatever I wanted to – and embrace this new phase which I knew was a definitive out of my comfort zone situation, and one that I know is the one I actually needed in order to further my personal development, which to me translates into personal expansion and growth, and that comes with challenges, obstacles, difficulties, etc. So, I focus on embracing this new life now and not reacting to it with frustration, but embracing it as part of the process that it is. My partner explained how this is the moment she will need us the most in her life, how she totally depends on us and how later she will become more independent and no longer require us to be there All the time with her. Again, as obvious as this can be, it was supportive to realize this as well in moments where I sure felt trapped.
One of the interesting realizations was about breastfeeding and getting to see how much of a central piece in this whole motherhooding it is. In our case, the challenge was – and still is to an extent really – having too much milk. So, we couldn’t understand why Minerva would get so frustrated while being sucking my nipple and seeing that yes, I Do have sufficient milk because it’s spilling out all over, so, why is she so upset?
Well, after doing some research in La Liga de la Leche or La Leche League we found out that her symptoms were probably because of me having too much milk, having a strong ejection causing her to choke essentially, that’s why she has to come off of the nipple repeatedly if starting to feed from the ‘other’ nipple after having drank most of the first one, which we also read could take up to 6 hours of feeding with the same one to ’emptying it out’, which contradicted a common belief of having to feed from one breast and changing to the other in the next feed, which wasn’t working for us.
I’m still doing the several hours feeding with the same breast and only changing after some hours or after I see that she is truly getting upset from perhaps not getting the amount she is expecting once she starts feeding. As my partner and I would conclude, breastfeeding is quite an art in itself, lol, from the various positions that one can use, the latching, the amount of milk, the ejection of it, the density that it goes having during the different stages of development of the child and of the milking process in itself, it’s quite an amazing and complex thing and I recommend watching the series ‘Babies’ on Netflix that explains more about this as well, but one can dive deeper into breastfeeding topics in La Leche League as well.
I am still getting used to Minerva simply getting frustrated and sometimes acting rabidly lol when eating, yes, like getting too desperate or frustrated when the ‘thicker’ milk doesn’t come out yet, or when she sucks with so much force that the ejection is even faster and stronger, and me facing the discomfort of soaking my clothes with drops of milk and sometimes spilling it all over Minerva, all because of at times having too much… yep, I thought this would resolve in some time, but it hasn’t, so, I’m embracing it and realizing that as my partner says, nature might have a reason why things are the way they are with our bodies and so, this is the one feeding challenge I face with Minerva. If anyone has any hacks or tips for this, let me know!
So yes, the image of a peacefully feeding baby with their mother is just not my case as much lol, perhaps only at night – a bit because even then she does these funny sounds that lol sound more like a drunk man sipping on his last drink before going home, which is hilarious now, but surely doesn’t ‘fit’ into what I thought would ‘be like’ to feed my baby in this aura of peacefulness where they just with ease fall asleep… nope, this is like a constant push and pull type of situation and yes, it can be hilarious to see her getting pissed at the breast for not giving it ‘what she wants’ but, I can’t really regulate the situation, so it’s one of those things that I have to embrace as is.
This is also something worth sharing because sometimes we might have this very ‘angelical’ view related to motherhood or breastfeeding specifically, and then it is then to realize that reality works differently and it doesn’t mean it’s ‘wrong’ or ‘bad’ or ‘I’m doing something wrong’ type of situation either. Each child is different, each mother is different, the nature of both is different so, any point of comparison is really out of the window.
Another challenge was becoming a mother in the eyes of my mother and doing things that she didn’t agree with. We kind of knew this ‘clashing’ would happen based on how we know she deals with babies and the usual fears around taking care of them, so we went and are going through this and yes, this is also a cautionary tale because things can escalate at times when it can be hard to hear words like ‘you really don’t know how to care for your child!” – or something alike – in one of the most vulnerable moments in women’s lives when being in the post partum time – or calling us out for being ‘inconsiderate’ for example in the amount of clothes we would attire Minerva with and that becoming a problem for her. We had to stand our ground and it does still happen that my parents think we are deluded about things, but this is part of becoming parents ourselves and if we make mistakes, owning them and learning from them. But following someone’s’ raising ideas out of fearing conflict is just not our style, so this was something to add on to the ‘list’ of challenges I experienced in these so-called quarantine that well, we got to spend at my parent’s house and we are super grateful for the support, but we also wanted to finally get back home to have less of a policing around us when it comes to how we decide to take care of Minerva.
This is also cool to share because usually our parents will have different ideas and information on how babies operate so to speak,they were raised in a different time, with different information and so on, so we don’t judge them, we understand them and their sense of care linked to fears, but it then became our duty to inform ourselves on the way we want to raise our child and so have sufficient information and common sense to share our ways and actions that may differ to how they would do things.
Slowly but surely, they are realizing that these are different times, new things have been discovered and a lot more has been opened up with regards to taking care of babies such as co-sleeping, carrying them around in our arms for most of the day, allowing them to eat whenever they ask for it, not leaving them crying to make them ‘adjust’ to something, etc. So, yes, it may create a lot of tension with some relatives – depends on ‘how much’ they are ‘married’ with their paradigm and ideas of how to raise children, but it is also necessary as a breaking point to leave it clear that we will do things differently and that it is not antagonism or some kind of rebellion or a stand off towards other people’s ways, it is simply how we decide to do things whether some like it or not. And sure we are also not blind to realizing we might be wrong, but then we will have a physical consequence or outcome to demonstrate how we were wrong, so that we can change or adjust our current ways.
I frankly don’t know how things would have been if I had been entirely alone with Minerva and my partner would have had to be out most of the day. He prepared his finances sufficiently to be able to spend all the time with us for the first months and now with this whole coronavirus thing, it might have to be a bit longer, it depends, but he is so unconditional and willing to be here and support because he realizes this is the most important thing in his life and what he genuinely likes doing, which is awesome to witness as well and such an example for me where I am still working on that full ‘letting go’ of my ‘old life’ and can be still wishing for that “freedom” I had before, so it is a daily thing to embrace and get used to this new life and appreciate its charms and challenges, but mostly get used to its simplicity.
Currently, it is a weird time because I came out of my quarantine and then the world entered its own quarantine, so, in a way it’s ok that I was sort of getting used to being at home most of the time, but I was also already craving to at least go out for some walks which we are slowly but surely doing now with Minerva, but her constant desire to eat is perhaps something that still becomes a challenge to get to do that for longer periods of time, but we will get used to it as we go I guess, or as she settles more with eating more substantially and having more time in between of not eating, we will see, but I realize it’s best to be expectation-less and go with the flow, which is of course a really necessary lesson for me as well with the usual control freak pattern I have.
Something I’m currently thankful for is that she does sleep throughout the night, I just have to wake up to feed her which I now do while lying on bed, she eats for some minutes and continues sleeping. I am also now having it easier to fall asleep right after waking up to feed her, which is great, but I still feel like lacking some sleep and I’ll continue to look into that actually since it could be that there are other factors involved. We are sort of getting into a routine, but I am aware that I can’t set it in stone yet because it may still change drastically and I basically have to go with the flow and not expect ‘her’ to ‘adjust to my life’ essentially.
Today it was cool because I was able to wake up and do some light post partum yoga practice, which I realized I was missing with all the ‘halt’ of activities that I had due to the quarantine, I am slowly but surely placing myself into more action, which perhaps also played a role in feeling somewhat down during the quarantine, because exercising also supported a lot with my mental or emotional stability and with staying in bed, doing essentially nothing but eat and sleep, it became quite a shock as well to my dopamine levels I guess, along with all the shock that the birthing process was in itself for my body, but hey, it too shall pass and it’s rather important to also be patient for this whole recovery process.
Even if I ‘feel alright’, I cannot really know how my insides are doing, so I had to be aware of that as well and not be ‘overriding’ my actual capacity with a sense of ‘I’m alright’ either.
So, I’m taking it easy and it is not like I could ‘do’ much either really, because taking care of a baby truly is demanding, she is with me all the time and even with that, I am actually grateful that my partner is the one that does most of the carrying around because! she is around 6 kgs at 2 months currently so, it’s becoming a challenge for my arms as well, I need to strengthen myself more to feel at ease with that, or find a way that I can carry her around without her feeling trapped and wanting to get out of any sort of wrap right away. We will see with some tips I got from Anna 🙂
One thing is certain, and that is that Minerva has come to revolutionize my life in a way I probably didn’t expect and it’s been also great, even if I may not necessarily express it in an open way, I smile and am thankful for having her now in our lives and I am taking it day by day to also not create ideas or ‘overwhelm’ myself with ‘what ifs’ about our future together and how ‘she will be’ etc. She is already showing us or rather confirming a lot of how I sensed her in the womb in fact, she is an energetic tough cookie lol, showing us back some of our most ingrained patterns like being demanding and obstinate, wanting things ‘right now!’ and quite energetic, which is laughable at times to see that in a baby – and a girl – but lol, that’s what life is like and so I am learning to ride along with it and I’m being tested precisely on my desire to have ‘the world’ or ‘people’ or ‘things’ fit into my life or schedules… yep, that has to go out of my paradigm for good, which I consider was about time anyways.
I also read the book by Laura Gutman called Maternity, coming face to face with our own shadow, which is an awesome explanation of how our emotional state of being is reflected back in our children, including illnesses or symptoms that are actually an opportunity to work on our own shadow or dark side or all of those more hidden or kept under the rug aspects that we tend to hide about our nature, our past traumas or memories that resurface back to haunt us in this motherhood time. Here is where I give credit to the Desteni Process with which one surely gets to walk a lot of these points and could be essentially considered as a pretty thorough preparation process to be mentally more equipped and fit to become a parent, since one works a lot with this shadow and learns to face it with more stability and understanding as it rears its head in one’s everyday life. Of course this Process is not only useful to become a parent, dare I say it’s a way to give ourselves a new start in life, a rebirth even if we have walked around in this world with some decades already, so I absolutely recommend anyone to consider walking it, specially if you are aiming at becoming a parent or are already one.
I’m thankful for all these learning points thus far and still working on them, there’s lots to keep awareness on. Just sharing how these first 2 months have gone by, and celebrating the fact that she is a big, healthy and strong little lady as well, yay! 🙂
I recommend listening to the Parenting series on Eqafe to prepare yourself to handle some of the basic considerations related to taking care of a child, which relate a lot to one’s own self-responsibility when it comes to a state of being and being the best that we can for our children.
Let’s keep walking