It makes you realize how much you take the simple things for granted. Like peeing.
I knew that many of my needs would be put aside when I had the baby. I knew that I would need a lot of help.
But I didn’t know how difficult even the most basic level of self-care would be. That something as fundamental as going to the bathroom would become such a challenge.
The postpartum self-care struggle is real.
We can read all the books and laugh with Amy Schumer’s Instagram posts. We can listen to strangers’ birth stories on podcasts. We can try to imagine what it will be like for us.
We can even have done it before, but it’s never quite the same — and until we’re in it, we have no idea.
My brother joked with me at my baby shower that “having a newborn is like going to war. No amount of training can prepare you for what it’s really like in the trenches.”
I spent much of my third trimester getting ready for those “first 40 days.”
The first 6 weeks after having a baby are considered a critical time for healing in many cultures. Some even believe that how you take care of yourself during this time sets you up for later pregnancies and menopause.
No pressure, right?
I made “padsicles” of frozen maxi pads doused in alcohol-free witch hazel in hopes for a vaginal birth. I stocked up on high-waisted underwear and bought a bassinet that came right up to the bed, in case of a C-section. I reminded my husband every night that I would need extra help around the house.
We don’t have the proverbial “village” every pregnancy expert seems to hammer home that we should (does anyone these days?), so we hired one in the form of a postpartum doula.
But as my brother forewarned, no amount of planning could have fully prepared me.
I was shocked at how difficult it was to balance my personal care and healing with learning to take care of this new being.
I mean, how do you prepare for only sleeping 4 hours total over the course of days when you once needed 9 uninterrupted hours a night to function?
Or that every step you take will be painful because you threw your back out during labor? Or had your abdomen cut open for a C-section?
Or that you’re unable to feed yourself even though you’re starving, because the baby needs to constantly be held?
Or that you’ll struggle to simply use the bathroom, because not only is it incredibly painful to do so, but you cannot just wipe and move on…
No, now you have to wait for the sink water to warm up so you can rinse with a peri bottle, then apply your numbing spray, then replace your hospital grade pad (which gives new meaning to the word “maxi”), then delicately stack a frozen pad on top, all before precariously pulling up your mesh underwear (or in my case, Depends) so as not to knock the whole pile off.
Meanwhile, the baby is having a meltdown in the other room and your partner is yelling, “I think he needs to eat! How much longer do you need?”
There is no way to prepare for that.
Sure, your friends warned you that taking a shower would be challenging and that it would be a while before you got to treat yourself with something like getting your nails done again — but no one talks about how it feels to have to ask permission to brush your teeth. Or to go to a doctor’s appointment. Or to take a sitz bath, which, despite its name, is far from being as luxurious as an actual bath.
And that’s if you’re lucky enough to have someone who can step in for you to do all these things you once took for granted.
No, nothing prepares you.
Just as nothing prepares you for the insane amount of love that you feel for this little being. This virtual stranger for whom you’re willing to sacrifice everything.
Or the immense gratitude you feel for your partner or support person when they take one of the night feeds so you can just pump and go back to sleep.
Or how incredibly amazing it feels when you can finally go to the bathroom without having to lug in an armful of hygiene items.
Yes, the postpartum self-care struggle is real, but it’s also temporary and maybe, in some ways, necessary.
It throws us into the deep end of what it means to care for another so much that we’re willing to put even our most basic needs aside.
Because before you know it, one morning you’ll get to brush your teeth and do a little yoga as your little one plays beside you, and you’ll realize that they’re needing you a little less every day.
And although you’re happy to get back your self-care time, you’ll actually miss those early days when you were this little person’s whole universe and they were yours.
Sarah Ezrin is a motivator, writer, yoga teacher, and yoga teacher trainer. Based in San Francisco, where she lives with her husband and their dog, Sarah is changing the world, teaching self-love one person at a time. For more information on Sarah please visit her website, www.sarahezrinyoga.com.