The postnatal period, for me, sucks initially. It’s all a big mess of emotions, tears, anxiety and hormones swirling around a too big, too clumsy body. It’s a muddle. A shock. Because although you’ve spent the last nine months knowing that you’re going to have a baby, suddenly YOU HAVE A BABY. It’s surreal, and there’s no getting off that train once it sets off.
I’m not myself in the first few weeks of the postnatal period. I want to please everyone. I want people to think that I’m a wonderful mother- relaxed, confident and happy. But really I am none of those things. Really I want to scream my way out of that plastic bag that has become my life (of my own doing) but instead the screaming just means the air supply drops further and I cannot breathe at all. Like I said, it’s all a bit of a messy muddle. And though I want to please everyone, I please nobody because I cannot be myself. I cannot be the me that loves being a mum.
Everything is hard. Everything takes twice as long. Everything revolves around the fact that I am no longer pregnant. I no longer have a baby to dream of; instead I have a baby to care for, and suddenly I am all fingers and thumbs.
During Elsie’s pregnancy, the security of weekly hospital visits, scans and checks had me wrapped in a blanket. And then it was gone. Ripped from under my feet. And instead of the endless questions about Elsie’s IUGR and what that might mean, all of a sudden I had to deal with it. And all of a sudden, this postnatal period sucked.
What do mums need from postnatal care?
Someone to listen.
Support. Advice. Help.
I cannot thank my community midwife and breastfeeding support worker enough. In the first ten days after Elsie’s birth, my world was a funny shade of dark. A blur. Watching my tiny baby refuse to feed, and literally seeing her light fade before me was hard. Her limp little body in my arms. Her eyes always closed and her cries so silent. Dry little lips. An empty tummy. Scales tipping back to 4lb something. Talk of tubes and hospitals and there I was once more. Terrified. I couldn’t do this alone, after all.
And so what do mums need from postnatal care?
Not just someone who can help practically, but someone who can tell you I believe in you.
You, as a mum. You, the person who breathed life into another. You can do this. You are doing well. You are enough. You are able to bring this baby to life.
And they did that. My community midwife and my breastfeeding support worker held my hand and helped me muddle through. And then my health visitor took me under her wing too and she is helping me muddle through. I feel supported and that is quite a wonderful feeling. The me five years ago would have loved to have been the me now.
What do mums need from postnatal care? Consistency. To know that the same care is being given to all women no matter where they live. To have access to the information they need to get support to muddle through. To know that they are doing well. To have someone believe in them. To understand what is happening. That the hormones and the emotions and the tears and the fear and the anxiety… all of it is normal. And ok. And real.
And to know that it’s ok not to like the postnatal period. It’s ok not to feel that rush of love straight away. It’s ok to want to run away now and then. It’s ok.