Saturday, October 22, 2011

An Honest Look at the Postpartum Period

Postpartum: of or noting the period of time following childbirth. It is a time of change and adjustment, a time of ups and downs, a time of all things new, yet full of predictable sameness. It can be ugly, and it can be beautiful and special and wonderful at the same time.

It is a difficult time to get dressed. Nothing fits quite right: maternity clothes hang limp, while regular clothes are too tight, and the little bulge that was cute to show off at four months pregnant is not so cute when it's no longer a baby. Thanks to nursing, shirts are too tight and too short, and nursing pads become a required part of getting dressed if one wants to avoid embarrassing leaks. At times my body feels like a leaky, dripping mess all over. Other times, I find a cute nursing tank top or an early pregnancy shirt that actually fits, and I feel comfortable for a little while.

Without the structured demands of homeschooling and regular chores and outings, the days at home are long. Accomplishments for the day are generally limited to showering, making the bed, and feeding everyone something with a shred of nutrition every few hours. (Who says leftover mashed potatoes and peanut butter spoons aren't a meal?) Left to their own devices, the older children are - at best - zoned out in front of PBS, and at worst, dumping out every puzzle piece and train track while they rearrange the living room and argue over who had it and who did it. The baby routine consists of constant nursing, burping, changing, and consoling between unpredictable naps. When the older ones are finally tucked in bed, baby time continues, with moments of sweet snuggles intermixed with wide-awake 4am cries and occasionally pacing a cold tile floor while the rest of house sleeps. Sleep is often broken, and filled with vivid and bizarre dreams. Yet some precious afternoons include naps with newborn and perhaps toddler cuddled close beside.

Emotions are messy. Delight over the gift of a new life mixes with fatigue and frustration. I get choked up reading The Giving Tree to my children. I fall in love with my baby's coos and contented sighs. I take my husband's off-hand comments personally, but treasure our (often-interrupted) times of closeness. Some moments seem insurmountably painful, while in others, I realize that I am abundantly blessed

The camera is always close at hand for capturing the sweet sibling moments and first hints of smiles. After all, with the exception of her three older siblings, this is surely the cutest baby in the universe, and these early days must be documented before they quickly fade away. And quickly they do. I may wish the days away to speed the recovery of my body, but I am in no hurry to give up the sweetness of a warm, sleepy newborn snuggled up on my chest. All too soon, I will be looking back at her baby pictures and vaguely remembering when she was so tiny and new.

And during this time of contradictions, I realize more than ever how much I don't have it all together: as a mother, a wife, a teacher, a housekeeper. How I desperately need God's grace in my life. How without his Spirit working in me, I am an emotional basket case subject to the whims of hormone surges and sugar cravings. How without a daily dose of His Word and continual turning to Him in prayer, it is easy to be overwhelmed or just plain caught in the day-to-day routine without producing any spiritual fruit. Yet God is so gracious, to give me strength for each day when I remember to turn to Him and ask for it. In the midst of changing schedules and new additions, I must call on Him and seek His face. And whether rocking or reading or resting, I must choose to speak words of praise. He is with me through every trial and joy of motherhood, and when I choose to praise Him instead of dwelling on my troubles, the trials of this world seem to pass as quickly as these fleeting postpartum days.

The LORD is righteous in all his ways
and loving toward all he has made.
The LORD is near to all who call on him,
to all who call on him in truth.
He fulfills the desires of those who fear him;
he hears their cry and saves them.
The LORD watches over all who love him,
but all the wicked he will destroy.
My mouth will speak in praise of the LORD.
Let every creature praise his holy name
for ever and ever.

Psalm 145:17-21

1 comment:

  1. You describe it so truthfully! It does go by so fast, though doesn't it? Which in some ways is good, but sad in others! Enjoy!