I had my second daughter 8 weeks ago today, and as the haze of the newborn days clings on just a while longer, I’ve started to step back into real life. My husband is back at work, I’m back working from home (now with two kids!). I am doing the dishes, the laundry, the preschool drop-off for my 2-year-old, coordinating the playdates, sneaking the very first workouts in when I can. All the while a tape runs in my head, “Slow down. You just had a baby…”
As we adjust to life with two (including one baby who does not sleep nearly as well as her big sister did at this age!), I’m finding we’ve needed to distance ourselves a bit to get to a good place. It absolutely kills me to say it, but I can’t shake the feeling of having been robbed of our first few weeks a bit by needy family members and aggressive friends who expected way too much of me, way too soon.
Even now, at 8 weeks postnatal, I find myself scrambling for excuses to get out of things we’re just not ready to do. All the while I’m wondering, why is the answer not clear? I just had a baby…
Like most mums I felt the sudden dip in hormones hit hard by the time we returned home from the hospital with our 4-day-old. Even looking at my perfect baby or her loving big sister could make me cry uncontrollably, and I couldn’t do that with people around. I craved privacy and a chance to work through the emotions.
My second C-Section, while not an emergency, was also not a cakewalk physically. I was in extreme pain those first couple weeks, curled in fetal position often, and unable to get up and down the stairs without great difficulty. After my first child I was up and inviting company over within days; this time I just wanted space.
But rather than stepping back and giving me the time I needed, it felt like everyone around us wanted more, more, more. It wasn’t enough if I called to say hello; they wanted to FaceTime. Weekly visits weren’t sufficient; I was expected to want people coming by whenever, at their whim.
A good friend got married a week and a half after the birth of our daughter and though we’d hoped to attend, we’d left it tentative. We couldn’t go, obviously, as I could barely walk and wasn’t even able to pump. The friendship remains in limbo as my actions were deemed uncaring.
I spent weeks in crippling abdominal pain. It would subside for a few days and then return with a vengeance. To this day, I am still quite swollen. Though I’ve lost the bulk of the baby weight, my legs, ankles, and feet look deformed from excess fluid. I am not myself right now and I definitely wasn’t right after she was born. I don’t — and didn’t — want a stream of people in and out of my house.
And yet, when company has come by, I’ve felt this ridiculous pressure to “hostess.” Here I’ve been getting up with a nursing infant multiple times a night, and I’m expected to be clean, friendly, and hospitable. To carry on adult conversations. To serve coffee. WTF?
I just had a baby — STFU!, I’ve wanted to scream. And you know what? I still do. So, since I can’t say it face-to-face, here it is:
A human life nested inside of my body for 39 weeks and one day and was then removed by a major operation. I spent four days in the hospital relearning how to breastfeed with no on-site support as my husband and I have a 2-year-old who needed him just as badly as I did. STFU about how long it took me to return your text messages.
I have not experienced a full night’s sleep in nearly two months and I’m not making it to back-to-school night or birthday parties, nor do I plan to serve you lunch when you arrive for a visit. I understand that everyone loves us and wants to see the baby, but you also need to respect that I JUST HAD A BABY and not expect me to be my normal self when you get here.
I would have loved more than anything in the world to pull on two pairs of Spanx and the $250 dress I bought to wear to my friend’s wedding, left my 10-day-old and 2
-year-old with my mum and a sitter, and enjoyed a night of revelry with my husband. But my C-Section incision and my nursing baby had other ideas. STFU about the fact that I couldn’t make it.
Social media is a lie. Or at best a half-truth. Of course I post photos of my smiling baby with cute captions, or I throw on a pair of sunnies and some lipstick to slap up a selfie (which definitely needs a filter). Looking at those glimpses and accusing the mum of a newborn of lying or exaggerating her postnatal stresses is just cruel. STFU!
I am hormonal. I am weepy. I require makeup to look alive but I’m lucky to even get in an occasional shower. I feel a perpetual blend of love, exhaustion, stress, and physical discomfort at all times. You cannot tell me to “stop crying,” call me crazy, or suggest that I “get on meds” because I am feeling a normal swell of emotions right now. I am and will continue to handle it with my doctor, not with you.
It’s not okay to question me when I tell you the truth about my mental and physical state. Or to guilt or pressure me when I say I’m not up for something. I just had a baby and I need time to recover. So, here’s a rule of thumb: If you have nothing nice to say, then you just…STFU.