FOURTH TRIMESTER AND BEYOND
Right before having my baby, I saw a hashtag movement: #thisispostpartum. It felt empowering to see and was just what I needed before birth to take confidence in all the changes my body had already undergone and was about to go through. I vowed to be a part of this movement of authenticity. I vowed to show more of the unglamorous parts of being a new mom. I vowed to show up not just in the posed family pictures, but the wide range of emotions and experiences that come with postpartum after birth. I vowed to experience the whole season of postpartum and not limit myself to weeks or three months.
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How Long is Postpartum After Birth?
I hit the six-week mark and visited my midwives for a follow-up appointment. By some measures, I had come through the “postpartum period” and yet I still felt so NEW and evolving. I continued to use the hashtag and to discuss postpartum.
More than the Fourth Trimester/3 Months
I hit the 3-month mark- the time when women in America are expected to be back to work (if not before.) Surely by now, things were back to normal, right? Surely I wasn’t still talking about my body, emotions, and mentality as if it were related to my new child. Sure I’ had moved on and gotten my life together. And yet, I continued to discuss postpartum and a period of transition because it still felt raw and new.
More than the Length of US Maternity Leave
Here I sit at 6 months post-baby, and yet I still consider myself postpartum. When my hormones are out of whack when I look in the mirror and see a different body than I previously knew when I struggle to connect in ways I used to when I feel the conflicts of different areas of my life demanding my attention… I still call this postpartum.
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Who decided that we can put a timeframe on postpartum?
Milestones: Postpartum After Birth is Days, Weeks, Months
Women believe the first postpartum milestone is six weeks- the time you usually have a check-up with your provider and can be cleared to “get back” to activities. Milestone #2 is commonly accepted as that 12 week period- when we are expected to be back at work (if not already).
Postpartum is the season of adjustment and change- physically, emotionally, mentally, relationally and personally (a series of experiences I’ve coined as “The 5 Pillars of Postpartum”) that follow the birth of a child (and as reproductive psychiatrist, Alexandra Sacks says, “The Birth of a Mother.”
We don’t have to let some societal construct be the timeline by which we judge our personal growth, change, and “achievement.” We are not timelines and charts.
Hormones and Body Changes in Postpartum After Birth
Even past the early weeks, we have hormonal shifts. Our hormones continue to change and fluctuate. Relaxin. Prolactin. Oxytocin. Estrogen. Progesterone. Things that can continue to affect our hormones and emotional experience include bonding, feeding or weaning, change in time spent with baby, the return of the menstrual cycle, etc.
Our physical body- it’s still healing. It’s still changing. It’s still balancing feeding another human and maintaining ourselves.
Our body looks different than it ever has because it’s in a season it’s never been in before.
Our bodies weren’t made to “bounce back to normal” because they have been through so much-given so much-grown so much. These bodies serve a much bigger purpose than how they look in a bathing suit as summer approaches. At 6 months- my body is still postpartum and it is still brilliant.
If it takes longer than 6 weeks for your body to drop the “baby weight” that’s totally normal. If you never have the same numbers on the scale and the same curves in the same places, that’s totally normal. If your clothes never fit the same way, that’s normal.
If you’re 3 months after-baby and your hormones still feel in flux, that’s natural. If your relationships are still transitioning, it’s okay. If you’re still figuring out your new identity- you’re not alone.
No Perfect Timeline of Postpartum After Birth
Someone somewhere decided to put a time frame on postpartum and it seemed to stick. Maybe we need a new name for the six week-twoish years after a baby, but maybe we could just stop putting the pressure on ourselves and others and ground in the truth that this is STILL postpartum and we are allowed to STILL be changing, unsure, growing and figuring out a new “normal.”
Tell me- have you felt rushed to be “back to normal” after a baby? What do you wish someone would have said to you in your postpartum period?
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