Let’s Be Real: The Real Work of Pregnancy Comes After the Birth
I am currently in countdown mode to having my 5th baby. With just over 4 weeks to go in the heat of the summer, you had best believe that I am counting down each and every single day. (And yes, I know the exact day, providing I don't go into labor on my own because the #fivekids life + an hour-plus hospital ride warrants that an induction is totally in our best interest this time!)
But even while I am counting down the days when I can actually walk without my entire body screaming out in pain, sleep without the aid of a million and a half pillows, and not feel like a walking circus act every time I'm out in public, I am also well aware that this is definitely not the hardest part of having a baby.
Because let's be real: the hard work of pregnancy really will come after I give birth.
Is there an immediate, incredible feeling of relief the exact second you are no longer pregnant and you feel that slightly eerie yet euphoric feeling of your baby leaving your body? Absolutely. Is there a good 12 hours or so of that post-baby high so high you feel like you might actually float away on a bed of sweet newborn smell? Sure. Do you feel downright svelte taking that first postpartum walk, no matter how deflated balloon of a stomach you are rocking? OK, maybe.
But still. Despite the initial joys–and the baby, OF COURSE–I have done this enough times to know that the hard part is the same part I am currently counting down to. Because friends? The postpartum period is no joke.
Even as I am counting down the days until delivery, I am counting my blessings in the relative freedom I have right now–freedom to just nap if I want to, eat when I want to, shower when I want to, even exist without constantly checking if the small person who will no doubt be attached to my side at all times is still breathing. Her presence here outside the womb is going to change everything, and I know that the real work of pregnancy truly begins once delivery is over.
For me, the postpartum time, while filled with the bliss of a newborn in the house, is also a pretty difficult time physically. There are the aches and pains of a body literally stitching itself back together, the ridiculous night sweats that no one ever warned me about (turns out, all the extra fluid from your swollen feet and ankles needs to go somewhere!), the milk leaving everywhere from boobs so engorged you're still not able to sleep on your stomach, and the hormones–oh, the hormones. From exhaustion to tears to overwhelming love for the new being in your life, everything in the postpartum period is just a wee bit intense. Oh, and let's not forget the barrage of bleeding that totally makes up for the 9 months of get-out-of-periods pass we enjoyed. Ugh.
I know I will get through this and I know that, just like pregnancy, the postpartum time will be filled with moments to celebrate and moments that I have to grit my teeth and get through. Motherhood is so beautiful in so many ways but demands so much sacrifice of every part of our selves that it's important to recognize that too.
I say this not to scare off my fellow pregnant mamas, but to simply acknowledge that all of motherhood is hard. And even as we wait for one season to come to an end, we know that there is nothing necessarily “easier” about the next season, because honestly, in the end, it's all a form of trade-off. We trade the discomforts of pregnancy for the sleepless newborn nights, the inconvenience of potty training for the phone-begging of a pre-teen; the life tied to nap times for the overwhelming worry if our driving teen will come home that night. It's all so very hard, and it all deserves to be recognized in its own way.
So to all my pregnant mamas counting down the days until we regain our ability to take a full breath and snuggle our little ones in our arms, even as much as we know how much work it will take to get there, we've got this. And it's going to be great.