I stumbled across an article the other day that finally made me feel better about postpartum living. It reported that a study claimed women actually need a year to fully recover from childbirth. I am far beyond the typically 12 week postpartum period that us American women know it as, but there are things about my body that are just different than they were before and other things that I’ve noticed have taken a long time to heal. I’ve written about the truth of the postpartum period and also did a podcast about it too!
In the Colonial American times and to this day in many other countries, women are told to “snuggle” with the baby for 4 weeks and not worry about anything else. The men and other women in the family or friends take care of the other kids and the house chores that have to be done.
What we currently know is that new moms are supposed to take care of the baby from day 1 (as well as the other kids), still clean and cook and then possibly go back to work in as little as 2 weeks.
There have also been lots of studies that suggest that returning to “normal” life too quickly after childbirth can have ill effects on both the mother and baby’s heath such as triggering postpartum depression and disrupt breastfeeding efforts.
My Story and Opinion
I remember being 17 weeks pregnant at a baby shower talking to another mom that had a 5 week old by c-section. I was obviously quizzing her all about her labor and newborn to get a real life idea what it was like since I really didn’t know anyone else close to me to ask these questions. I assumed that 5 weeks later, she would feel pretty much back to herself. When I asked her, I was astonished when she told me that she felt completely different and it was almost as if she was living inside a foreign body. I didn’t understand how it could possibly take that long to feel better – not the losing weight part because I knew that took longer.
Fast forward to my own postpartum time and I completely understand what she meant and I didn’t have a c-section to heal from. I couldn’t even walk normal for 2 weeks after giving birth because I was so sore from the tears and I bled for 4 whole weeks more than I knew was possible. I was absolutely exhausted from caring for a newborn 24 hours a day and felt dizzy and fatigued from being anemic. I also just felt generalized body pain all the time – sometimes upper back spasms from nursing, lower back pain, headaches, etc.
I wanted to get back to exercising, so at 5 weeks postpartum, I decided to try to slowly run. It went okay, but I definitely didn’t feel how I did pre-baby and I think due to the fatigue I was already facing, the ramp in mileage did me no favors and I ended up hurting myself again and again for this whole year.
I had all the physical issues that postpartum women face and trust me, they didn’t just diminish at my 6 week postpartum check up. I also felt emotional issues – I never had postpartum depression, but I definitely felt anxiety more times than I’d like to admit. I’d be doing just fine and feel really blessed and happy and then out of nowhere, I’d feel really overwhelmed. This was 100% connected to a lack of sleep, which we are still dealing with. Since I’ve breastfed for a year now (and still counting), I’ve had crazy hormones still raging, which has also caused me some irrational emotions!
As I look back over the past year, I do realize that it takes a long time to find your new normal. I have realized that I will never quite be the person I was before I got pregnant. There are too many things in my life that changed and I’ve had to readjust my life accordingly in the best way possible. My hips are wider now, my belly still has a small pooch where Aiden used to live, my hormones are still out of whack and I’m still sleep deprived, but I feel like at around 11 months, I started to get into a groove where I knew I could handle this new life. I can function with the amount of sleep I’m getting most days and I can rationalize my irrational emotions due to surging hormones.
This was my experience. I know everyone is different and there are definitely moms that get right back into life and feel fine. I think that possibly with your first child, it’s just such a life changing event that it takes a while to soak in the new you.
Moms – what do you think? How long did it take you to feel normal again?
Do you ever think we feel back to our old selves?