Expect the Unexpected and Hold Space for the Rest There’s a certain expectation when you fall pregnant – a specific order of events. You move through the trimesters, the sickness abates (with any luck), you get your energy back and find your ‘pregnancy glow’ (or just become a hot, sweaty mess, who really knows the difference). You research the best pushchair for your needs and buy an assortment of blankets and muslin cloths because you are constantly being told that you can never have too many. In your third trimester you expect to get a bit uncomfortable, to be tired, unable to tie your shoes or suitably fit into the bathtub. You begin to prepare for birth, you attend your antenatal classes, pack your hospital bag, or prepare your home for delivery. You learn how to change nappies, and about the colour of your future baby’s poop. You learn how small their tummies are, and various different ways to feed them. And then you give birth. Sometimes it is scary. Sometimes it goes wrong. You’ve heard stories, we’ve all heard stories. You hope this won’t be you. And then after? After that, your baby is born. You have a magical golden hour of hugs and kisses, oxytocin flowing through you as you spend timeless hours staring at the magical human you created and brought into being. You go home and are flooded with gifts and guests and endless tea and cake and then, after a couple of days, life moves on. Everyone goes back to work and you, and your brand-new baby go forth into a wonderful maternity leave. A welcome break from the 9-5. Right? Except here’s the thing that no one really speaks about – postpartum can be incredibly hard. Not hard in a pregnancy way where everyone (hopefully) gives you their seat on the bus and you get lots of chances to talk about issues with your trusted midwife. No. Hard in a secret, lonely, unexpected way. Where people look at your screaming new-born as if it has three heads and no one offers you help – even if your insides feel like they’re broken in half and you’re leaking from multiple different places at once. No, we pretend that is not happening. You’re on your own now. Your hormones dip and dive like they’re on a high-speed rollercoaster, your emotions being taken along for the ride. Your body hurts – regardless of the birth you end up having. It took nine months for your body to expand in such a huge way and then, in a matter of hours – it is empty. Bodies weren’t made to bounce back. And I must inform you, in case this applies, that caesarean sections are major abdominal surgery. Even if your hospital pretends they’re not. This reality can often come as a complete shock. Why did no one tell you that this was on the way? Where was the mention of this at the antenatal classes? At the midwife appointments? Or at least the conversations with friends? Why weren’t you taught about how to care for potential stitches? About how to go to the toilet when you’ve just pushed a human out of you? About how to survive when you’ve just been cut in half, sewn back up and handed a new person to keep alive? For some, this feeling won’t last too long. Your body will heal, your hormones will settle down and you’ll just be left with a ‘what on earth was that?!’ feeling for the rest of your life. But for others, a significant amount of others, there will be complications. Things will go wrong. Even a physiological, vaginal birth surrounded by fairy lights and candles and floaty music can end in prolapse. And sometimes the haemorrhoids don’t just magically go away after a few months. Add postnatal depression, anxiety, rage into the mix, alongside sleep deprivation and it can be an awful long time before things feel ‘okay’ again. And that will feel like a personal failing. Because everyone else is managing, right? Wrong. This society is set up to make you feel as if you are the only one struggling. When, in actual fact, we all are. And all of this happens without any place to share, to offload, to get advice about what is ‘normal’ and what needs medical attention. All of this happens without any forewarning or preparation (or perhaps because of the lack of forewarning?). All of this happens whilst you have a tiny person to care for, at a time when leaving the house is hard and social isolation is easy. This is where Postpartum Matters comes in. To hold you during this time, to give you a place to speak your truth – even if it is just admitting it to yourself on a piece of paper that you promptly burn. To show you the stories of those that have gone before you – to show you that you are not alone. To show you that it will eventually get better and to walk with you whilst you are on your healing journey. Postpartum care in this country needs to change, it needs to be so much better. And, whilst societal change is hard and will take a long time, you do not have to do this alone. No-one can make it better, but you can be heard, seen, listened to. Postpartum Matters is here to hold space for all the hard days. Postpartum Matters is here to celebrate all the good days. Postpartum Matters is here to be your village.

 

The next postpartum healing retreat is on July 31st at The Soul Space Tipi, Northumberland.

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