In the first six weeks of motherhood I underwent major surgery (planned c-section), experienced breastfeeding issues and began exclusively pumping, had mastitis 3 times, was hospitalised for a number of nights for mastitis infection and suppressed my lactation.
This was all aside from learning how to be a new mother and how the heck to care for a newborn.
This time was rough for all three of us, it was a rollercoaster and was the combination of events that brought me to postnatal anxiety.
I was lost in overwhelming feelings during this time, and I know there were family and friends who wanted desperately to help but didn’t know what to do, they did the best they could (which is all I can ask for and will ever be grateful for).
Looking back I’ve managed to identify the top 6 things I needed in this time – what helped and encouraged me the most & the moments that brought me back from the dark places in my mind.
This list differs from many around because I have fully and truly come to understand that I am a huge introvert and my needs differ from those out there that are more extroverted.
Let me explain what I mean before I get to my list. You see it’s not that I don’t enjoy socialising, but it’s that being social is taxing on my energy & so in order for me to recharge I need alone time. Alone time for me means me, my husband and my son (it doesn’t mean just me in a room by myself although sometimes it does, and for some introverts that is what it is).
It’s not that I’m an extremely private person who doesnt want to share my life (I’m very very open with those in my inner circle) it’s that if we each have a full bucket of energy at the start of each day my bucket leaks when I’m around people, it is also filled up being around people – but the leak flows faster than the water being poured in through time with friends and family if that makes sense?
I write this out of thanks to the people in my village who nurtured and loved me and met me where I was at (and still do), and in hope that maybe someone will read this and may glean some ideas on how to encourage or support their other new mum friends who may be introverted & who have been slammed into motherhood face first.
#1. I needed food
We all gotta eat and it was a true blessing to have meals brought to us over a number of weeks by a number of loving ladies who took the time to transfer their love for us into a home cooked meal.
It was such a practical help that means we ate better than we would have and we felt cared for (let’s face it those first few weeks we would have been getting a lot of take away otherwise).
#2. I needed time.
Whilst the meals were an amazing blessing, in those first few weeks of recovery in hindsight I probably would have asked to have drop & runs.
As it went, each lovely lady that delivered a meal came in to meet the little man in the first week home, which was wonderful as I got to show off my new little treasure, but I look back now and it was too much too soon (oh hindsight you handsome devil).
The visits left me exhausted, sore and anxious. I wasn’t sure why at the time because I felt I was resting all day so why wouldn’t a half hour visit be ok? But actually I wasn’t resting all day, I was post-op, pumping breastmilk, trying to get breastfeeding happening, learning how to be a mum, trying to nap and remember to shower and eat amongst a flood of hormones. All this plus my introverted ways meant my energy bucket was leaking way faster than usual and I ignored that because I felt like I ‘should’ have been able to manage short visits.
#3. I needed no pressure
From the moment Archie was born I had all this internal pressure around being good enough as a mother – that I must be a a gentle parent with attachment parenting philosophies, I must answer each cry quickly to meet his emotional needs and assure him he was loved, I must figure breastfeeding out because we all know ‘breast is best’, I must be able to do all the baby stuff and do it well asap. There was no balance in my mind around being gentle with myself and allow myself grace and time to learn to be a mother alongside giving myself time to rest and heal.
There was already too much pressure in my own head around managing, I didn’t need outside pressure from others.
I had a lot of messages, texts, phone calls ect and was trying to keep communicating with everyone but it was difficult. I felt a huge guilt and burden around being unable to manage having everyone who wanted to visit actually visit in those first few weeks. (What a hardship to be loved by so many 😕 – it sounds so stupid to write it out but it is what it is).
The helpful texts were from close friends who just wanted to check in, they weren’t thinly veiled texts fishing for visit invitations, they weren’t repeated texts asking ‘how can I help? What can I do?’ Because honestly at the time I didn’t know. They were just ‘im here to listen’ texts of love and patience.
#3. I needed space from everyone and everything
So finding myself recouperating from surgery and incredibly challenged by the new life adjustment I needed a lot of space to manage all this and get my head around things.
A number of people thought this was a huge red flag, and honestly so did I. Why couldn’t I manage having people come and hold The baby so I could get things done, why did the thought of having a cup of tea and a chat with a friend make me want to tear my hair out one strand at a time?
The reality was that my mind was so so full I could barely hear the Tv when I watched it, or my husband when he talked, and the idea of having visitors was that it would be an incredible effort to make, even to have my best friends who I am at ease with, and this is the crux of it – it would have been unhelpful at the time to have visitors.
I think this highlights how everyone is different as I know I have a number of friends who would take as many visitors as they could which helped them manage their adjustment to motherhood. I feel like that is the expected way, and if I was extroverted the idea of having visitors all the time would have been hugely beneficial and mind boosting.
For me it took about 8 weeks before I wanted to see anyone, before that it was something I did out of feeling I should. Once I got to the place where it was something I wanted to do out of my own initiative each time I saw someone it was much much more enjoyable and I would leave feeling uplifted rather than distressed and drained. That shows me that I just wasn’t ready before that.
In the end I had to advocate for myself, knowing those close and caring loved ones would understand that I wasn’t ready, and I had to accept that for myself too.
4# I needed understanding from people who had experienced the depths of PPD
I was so blessed to have 3 or 4 friends whom have been open with me about their difficulties in adjusting to motherhood and their experiences with postnatal depression. This afforded me the opportunity to vent and share with them where I was at and how I was not coping and each of these women imparted such valuable encouragement and understanding of where I was at.
I felt so alone and lost in a situation that was out of my comfort zone each and every minute I was awake so to have found a few members of my village who could relate in different ways was incredibly valuable to me and I will ever be grateful to those individuals who answered many texts without trying to call me to chat it out, who accepted that I was struggling and dropped things off at more door understanding my need to be alone, who continued to check in when I hadn’t returned previous texts, who loved me and touched base with me and let me know they were there when I was ready or needed them without expectation.
I believe this was valuable to me because the conversations began before my baby was here, it opened up conversation with these friends and so when my time came to need someone to share that I wasn’t ok it felt natural to turn to these friends.
#6 I needed baby-free nurturing
At around 5 weeks postpartum I had my bonus stay at hospital for mastitis. I remember the first night I had this high fever, I felt sicker than I ever had in my life and I was given painkillers and sleeping tablets and my nurse brought me in a heated blanket and tucked me in to go to sleep and told me I would start to feel so much better soon, she held my hand as I let out some tears and then I drifted into sleep.
For weeks after returning home I often had this thought ‘I wish I could go back to hospital’ again and again and as I thought about it I realised I just felt so nurtured and cared for in those moments when I was so ill and in need of nurturing at hospital. For those 5 weeks I felt so out of control and now someone was taking control and nurturing and loving me back to health.
This helped me to see what I needed – I needed to prioritise me time, I needed to nurture myself but also I needed friendship time that was away from the baby so I could feel like someone was meeting me and being with me.
A couple of beautiful and understanding friends were able to help me with this and I felt so loved by them at these times when everyone wanted to spend time with my baby and these friends hearts were to do that but they loved me enough to recognise my need for me time. So I went to the movies with a friend, and on a few baby free coffee dates with another. These times were exactly what I needed.
All in all whilst my first 6 weeks of motherhood was entirely different that what I had anticipated or wished, I was truly blessed with an abundance of love and patience of loved ones around me. I’ve learnt so much about myself in this time, my own resilience and also my own way of dealing with trying times. I’m sad that many did not get to spend much time with our little man when he was so young, but it can’t be changed, it was a crazy intense terrible time and we have the rest of our lives to make good memories all together.