Postpartum: It’s Not a Race, It’s a Marathon

Postpartum Expectations Vs. Reality

Since becoming a mother back in September, time has gone by so quickly that there hasn’t been much left to put any thought into how my own experience was going postpartum. I thought I had prepared for everything during my pregnancy with Aurora. I bought the right books, listened to mom podcasts, and even found Instagram influencers sharing their best tips on babies. Self-care was top priority and my days consisted of long walks, meditation, prenatal yoga, and lots of naps. I carried a water bottle with me everywhere to make sure I wasn’t getting dehydrated and closely monitored my nutrition for fear of being deficient while expecting.

We had a planned home birth, and my labor was around 6 hours with minimal tearing. Our baby was perfectly healthy, and I had every part of my birth plan fulfilled. It was all a dream come true… until postpartum hit me like a freight train out of nowhere. As soon as I held my daughter in my arms for the first time, I immediately put my own needs behind me and never looked back. All that self-care I did during pregnancy went right out the window and I found myself crying in pillows, cursing those moms on social media for looking so damn relaxed in all their photos. I quickly realized that in all that time I had prepared for motherhood, I never considered the fact that I might lose myself in it.

The First 6 Weeks Postpartum

I think it was on day 3 that the hormones and postpartum depression & anxiety started to creep in. I was deep in the pits of blood-soaked pads, scenery restricting bedrest and guilt over my family taking care of me. There are so many scenarios that replay in my head when I think of how those first few weeks went. I felt blessed, stressed and totally baby obsessed. But, if I could go back and do it all again, I would give myself more grace…and sleep.

I literally cried over spilled milk on the bed…

I skipped too many showers to count and stayed awake most nights while the humans in the rest of my house remained peacefully in the Land of Nod. Shamelessly, I sweated my way through mom & baby well checks with our midwives because I was so anxious about their opinions of me or that they might say something was wrong with our baby even though I knew well enough that she was perfectly healthy and that they were there to help, not criticize us. Those first few weeks were full of tears. I literally cried over spilled milk on the bed while I was trying to master the Haaka… And yes, it was that sweet liquid gold we know as colostrum.

I reluctantly accepted that these things were just part of the “new-mom experience” instead of asking for help. In all honesty, I thought that if I shared how I was really feeling inside, they might look at me like I was crazy. It sure felt like I was losing it, not being able to control my emotions. The best way to describe it is like experiencing the best moments of your life while simultaneously falling apart inside at the same time.

Thankfully I’m well out of that recovery stage now, but I’m still working on “bouncing back” mentally & physically. The past 6 months have been a roller coaster of emotions. It was like each leap of progress seemed to come at the cost of long emotional conversations and buckets of tears leaving everyone drained of energy by the end of the day. I kept telling myself “I should be over this hump. It should be better by now”. It’s times like these where I feel the urge to write and remember the saying my boyfriend Austin says to me quite often, “it’s not a race, it’s a marathon” when it comes to postpartum.

Postpartum Mom Guilt & Rage

Despite the physical challenges of being a new mom, I found it harder to overcome the mental obstacles standing in my way of enjoying motherhood to the fullest extent. I had experienced negative thoughts before but nothing like this. Things would be fine until a little stress came my way, then all of the sudden I started feeling angry. Being a mother awoke a new kind of fire inside me that I hadn’t seen since my teenage years. I guess that I have hormones to thank for that. But instead of talking about it, I ended up taking it all out on my partner. It wasn’t something I would ever do intentionally, but it just sort of happened because he would simply be in the right place at the wrong time.

Looking back, I couldn’t bring myself to be mad at our baby, so subconsciously I picked her father. Secretly, I resented the fact that he could seemingly come & go out of the house as he pleased when I hadn’t left for days. I felt irritated when he would try to help calm me down when he noticed I was feeling stressed because I was just trying to make it through the day by shoving it all down. I became furious when he would dare ask me what I wanted him to pick us up for lunch while I was nursing the baby and even pleaded with him at times to not ask me to make another decision. In my heart, I knew this was no way to treat my partner and it needed to stop. On the other hand, I didn’t know how to stop the spiral from happening once it started because it came on so fast, I couldn’t see what even caused it.

Those situations usually sparked intense conversations because things don’t get swept under the rug at our house. Once the dust had settled and we talked it out, I would feel immensely guilty for the way I reacted and redirect all that anger towards myself. I would cry & apologize over and over for hours because it would circle back in my mind and make me upset all over again. During those moments, my brain convinced me that my family just might be better off without me. I didn’t recognize myself at all. It felt like a tornado had wrecked the house and I was left to pick up the pieces.

All this came from unmet needs and the true mom guilt I had for taking breaks and asking for help. I was drowning in endless to-do lists and trying to be the best mom I could while running on fumes. The days felt so long that I would go to bed when our baby did because I just didn’t have anything left in me to give to myself or my partner by the end. My body was so tired and I was still beating it up for not looking like it did before I was pregnant. I let the scale determine what type of day I was having and stalled going out because I couldn’t look at myself in the mirror after a shower without tears welling up. That led to a vicious cycle that was hard to break and it took forced self-care to bring me out of it.

Self-Care During Postpartum

I finally started giving myself more credit and stopped pushing my own limits. My body was in a constant state of stress from giving birth, moving with a 3-month old and feeling like I needed to lose the baby weight fast. Each day I gave myself more grace, slowed down to offer more gratitude for Austin & Aurora, and did things that brought me joy. It started with walks around the neighborhood and uninterrupted yoga sessions. Things got even better once we committed to sleep training at night which left us both in better shape to start each day with more rest. It wasn’t until nearly 7 months in that I felt comfortable logging onto my site again to actually write, but it feels so good! I’ve learned to love my body for all the amazing things it is capable of like creating a perfect little human and nourishing her round-the-clock.

It all seems so straightforward now that we have our routine down and a better understanding of the bear postpartum can be. I’m finally showing up the way I’ve been wanting to all these months. But, that doesn’t mean that we don’t have hard moments anymore. We just take more pauses in our day to get to the root of the problem before it becomes bigger than it needs to be. We are back to doing more “check-ins” like we used to at the beginning of our relationship and have a better appreciation of each other after facing issues head on together. It also helps to have a bigger “village” of support now that we’ve found a chiropractor we can trust, and that Aurora has finally met a few members of my side of the family. I’m incredibly proud of how far we’ve all come through postpartum and feel truly blessed to have the support system I do.

I hope this helps you or someone you know who is a new mom going through the postpartum period. It’s so important to remember that you’re not alone in the negative feelings motherhood can bring on. Whether it leaves you exhausted, dwelling on your own childhood, or simply robbed of the experience you always hoped for… things do get better. It just takes you willing to be vulnerable and honest in those hard moments for the betterment of you and your family.

Have a question or feedback about this story? Drop it in the comments section below!

As always, thanks for your love & support.

‘Til next time!

Em 🌱

Emmy May, The Plant Based Bae
Emmy May, The Plant Based Bae

Hi! My name is Emmy May and I’m The Plant Based Bae. I was born and raised in the Midwest, and have called Southern California home for the past seven years. In 2018, I decided to switch to a vegan diet which led to me improving my overall quality of life and learning a lot about health & humanitarianism. Since then, I’ve had countless conversations with vigorous vegans and curious omnivores to share what I’ve learned along the way.

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