Mom Talk: A Postpartum Essay

3:00 pm
08/09/17

Photograph Courtesy Of Tara Thompson Rasmus

We’re back with another round of  “Mom Talk”, where we invite some incredible mothers, from all walks of life to share their personal experiences and journeys through motherhood, whether it be struggles, triumphs, or anything in-between—nothing’s off limits when it comes to topics. This week, Tara Thompson Rasmus recounts the reality of her postpartum experience compared to the expectations mothers are sometimes given. -JKM

When I was pregnant, I had no idea how my labor and delivery would pan out, but there was one moment that I could picture clearly: the moment where my baby boy would emerge, and I would meet my child and have that feeling. “Yes, you’re here, you’re mine,” I would think. “Finally, I’m a mommy.” As I quickly learned, the postpartum period was going to be full of surprises for me, starting with that very first moment of my son exiting my body after a 36-hour labor and 2.5 hours of pushing. I don’t know if it was the drugs (yes, I eventually, reluctantly accepted both an epidural and Pitocin), the pain (despite the epidural, I was in excruciating pain for the majority of my labor), or the marathon-like exertion of pushing, but my first thought when my baby emerged was simply, “Nope.” Nope, my baby’s not here. No, this surely cannot be my child. I’m going to be pregnant and in labor and pushing forever, you see. It couldn’t possibly, truly be over.

Turns out, there wasn’t much time to relax and ponder this little creature, or this massive new role of mother in the days and weeks that followed, either. Various medical professionals came in and out of my recovery room, offering no assistance and instead poking and prodding me and/or my baby, and lecturing me for not doing my sitz bath yet, or not dressing him warmly enough. The news that he had lost a significant amount of his birth weight and had jaundice (all normal, mind you) were delivered with scorn, like I was already failing at my job. While it was an absolute godsend to see familiar and much-loved faces, I struggled to visit with family and friends while trying to feed and care for both myself and my newborn. When I got home, my mom came to stay with me for ten days, and while I was incredibly grateful for the help, her presence made me feel like I was the clueless and inadequate babysitter to her much-more-experienced mother guru. Much like in the hospital, I felt timid, scared, and pretty much like a fraud in every way.

There’s a photo of myself on my camera roll taken in the first week that I was home alone with Jack that I sent to my husband with a laugh and cry emoji. It shows me with messy, unwashed hair and glasses, in pajamas, with little Jack swung over my shoulder, big poo stain visible on his lower back. I looked at this photo in the moment and had to laugh about just how unglamorous early motherhood truly is. Of course, I knew that the newborn days would not look like a peacefully sleeping baby with an impossibly chic pacifier swaddled in white organic muslin and surrounded by flowers. And, yet, this is the picture of postpartum motherhood that we often see these days on social media. I understand that it’s the job of influencers to create beautiful, aspirational content, but it’s nonetheless easy to internalize this idea that new motherhood should be photoshoot-worthy all the time, and feel a little inadequate when your own reality most decidedly is not.

On the other hand, we’re living in an exciting time where women are sharing their stories about breastfeeding struggles and postpartum depression in ways that are unprecedented. I love that women are opening up about the decidedly challenging aspects of new motherhood, but once I entered this phase myself, I realized how little we see and hear of the postpartum moments in between that are neither glamorous nor harrowing. The bathroom stocked with a spray bottle, numbing spray, and gigantic maxi pads for weeks. Dark little eyes looking up at you expectantly, while you fumble to feed the little being through a sweat-soaked daze. The moments of sitting in a dimly-lit nursery in a rocking chair as you rack your sleep-deprived brain for words to songs that might pass for lullabies. These moments are the ordinariness of motherhood, and yet I’ve been struck by how much beauty there is in the ugliness, and how much ugliness in the beauty. There’s nothing particularly groundbreaking about most of the first months of being a parent—people have kids every day, right?—but it’s those early, awkward, fumbling, unsure moments that get knit together to form the tapestry of motherhood.

Which brings me to now. Am I a flawless mother guru? Certainly not, but I do think that I am excelling in my studies toward my imaginary degree of Expert on Jack Bergen Rasmus. There are beautiful moments, totally gross and embarrassing moments (nothing like giving your kid a fully-naked wipedown in the middle of a cute cafe after a blowout, am I right?), but I’m learning to find the preciousness in the messy moments and not take the wonderful moments too seriously, because there’s always the next #momfail to bring you back down to earth. My postpartum period has been neither headline, nor magazine-cover-worthy, but it’s mine, and I’m owning it, one poopy onesie and baby-giggle-filled day at a time.

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2 comments

Madeleine

Thank you for sharing your story. I can so relate – I loved being pregnant, and seven weeks in I am finally beginning to relax into the changes motherhood brings and find my flow in the world once more. But the post partum period, for the first six weeks or so… nothing prepared me for that. I went from feeling like a blissed-out goddess, so sure of my birth choices, so radiant in my anticipation, to an exhausted and out-of-control shell of myself, knowing nothing, certain of nothing – flung into a situation I could barely make sense of. And perhaps nothing *can* prepare us for the reality; the hormonal changes, sleep deprivation and shock are experiences it’s impossible to write or talk about precisely because they’re so visceral in nature, so physical and immersive. It would be like writing about jumping into the ocean, or making love – you cannot ever know them until you’re plunged into the experience. And already I see that those first few weeks begin to fade very soon after, which makes it even more important that we pass on what we learn before it’s too late. The pain of recovering from birth; sitz baths; stitches; piles and night sweats. None of it glamorous, none of it instagrammable. But it’s in those endless nights and mundane agonies that our mother love is forged. I know I’ve emerged stronger, more resolute, and better bonded to my son knowing what I’ve gone through for him. And I wouldn’t trade it for the world, now I am just beginning to glean the faintest idea of how big this mama love is and how many wonders the future holds.

TC

Great post. I started taking Zoloft at 6 weeks in because I couldn’t get through a doctor appointment (mine or my son’s) without crying. I didn’t enjoy motherhood those first six weeks, though I had all the right support to be successful and it was a night and day change after starting medication. But something about that first six weeks I keep thinking about is how intensely I felt everything, both bad and good. While I feel stable now and wouldn’t want to give that up, there is a part of me that misses the depth that I felt with every laugh, hug, feed, and kiss of my newborn baby.

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