bleeding time

I am still bleeding, by the way. It’s been almost eight weeks. I definitely didn’t think I had this much blood in there.

I know everyone was wondering, that’s why I’m mentioning it.

No, I’m mentioning it because I just read this really good piece about postpartum care, and how the U.S. is shitty about it. In attitude and in practice. Not a huge shock, really. When are these articles ever like, “U.S. fantastic in treatment of new mothers! Surpasses all other countries in respect for women and their vaginas!”

So the article was pointing out that in a lot of cultures, everyone expects women to take a couple months to heal. Other people, usually women, help out around the house a lot, and the new mother just focuses on breastfeeding and lounges around and eats and stuff. Maybe takes bubble baths. Possibly gets her nails done.

I’m using words like “just” and “lounges” because I am an American, and I’m deeply steeped in this keep-it-going culture, and I can’t apparently manage to describe recovering from birth and caring from a newborn in terms that make it sound like a big enough deal on its own to fill two whole months.

“Wait,” my descriptions imply, “So, like, she’s not also running a business? So, she must be working from home at least…Maybe developing some sort of app? Plotting her next novel? PLEASE tell me she’s at least cooking dinner and running errands and working out? ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME? Well, what the hell is she even doing then??”

Because I kind of feel that way, secretly, even though I have basically done nothing in addition to caring for my baby for the last two months.

In the piece, one woman mentions that women are literally still bleeding, long after they’re expected to “bounce back” and reclaim their old lives and be totally self-sufficient. Our bodies haven’t finished healing, and we’re supposed to look and act as though nothing even happened here, it’s all good. It’s all just the same as it was.

Secretly, I’ve been the slightest bit ashamed of all the help I’ve needed.

laundry-basket

(source)

 

Rationally, I’m so thankful for getting it. And reading the piece made me feel like maybe needing help is totally normal, and it’s the expectation of complete independence that’s a little messed up.

So I want to come clean: the night after Eden was born, I asked my mom to stay over. And she was here almost every day for the first month or so. Thank god. My mother-in-law stayed for a week and rocked Eden for hours in the middle of each night. My dad was here a lot, too, cleaning and cooking and going out for more groceries. My little brother learned how to hold and bounce and burp the baby. My doula came over maybe five times, to help with breastfeeding questions and teach me how to use a sling. A lactation consultant made a home visit when breastfeeding still hurt so much that I was gasping in pain every time and privately urging the baby to chug, chug, boob stand! so it would be over sooner. I talked to my midwife every day for the first few days, and she came back to check on me and the baby. My friends came over to visit and accompanied me on my long Brooklyn walks when Eden demanded constant motion. Bear stayed late in the mornings when he could, and got home as early as he was able.

water serie

(source)

And even then, even with all that, it was mostly me, taking care of Eden. There were long stretches of alone time, where it was just me, staring down at this strangely familiar little chubby human I’d made, on the edge of boredom and the verge of euphoria. There were hours and hours of us two, her crying and crying, me trying frantically to trick her out of it until I finally just turned the TV up really loud and sat there with her, shoving a boob in her face and watching episode after mindless episode, totally guilt free. These days, when she’s really pissed, I run us a bath, and I get in it with her, and we are naked and floating together, her wide eyes staring up at nothing, her ears just under the warm water. Her body is so little above mine, but the fingers have the same creases at the joints that mine do. Everything on her is small but complete. Her limbs open and she is weightless and spacey. I call her my astronaut baby. Time feels blurry. I like it.

But, often, I like company even more. I want to talk to someone else as I sit around nursing, changing diapers, pushing the stroller. It’s so much easier to have someone else here to pour me a glass of water and then another glass and then another glass. To hold the baby so I can finally pee. To throw in yet another load of laundry. And it’s just fun, to hang out with my mom in Brooklyn for whole, generous afternoons, talking about whatever, the baby, whatever else, the future, the baby some more. I can’t wait to see Bear in the evenings, to share Eden with him. To tell him about how she made this crazy noise. To talk about how we made a whole person, and isn’t she weird and cool and beautiful?

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(breakfast is so hard to do since Eden! sometimes I don’t eat until 2 pm unless someone is here to make me eggs. source)

Caring for a baby feels like it should be social. I want to pass her around the room, and let everyone take a turn bouncing her. I don’t always want to be the one who has to change her diaper.

I am so grateful for the people in my life who have made it a priority to help me out right now. And simultaneously, I catch myself pretending that I haven’t needed it. Avoiding telling people how much I’ve needed my own mother. Taking the credit. Implying independence. Chiding myself for only taking Eden on the subway once so far. For not yet taking a cab alone with her, and managing the giant stroller and the car seat attachment on my own. I am a little embarrassed, just confessing here that I haven’t yet done that. Like, how hard can it even be? I am inordinately pleased with my body for shedding so much of the weight, and I announce the new number gleefully to Bear practically every day when I step off the scale. As if to say, Look! I’m almost myself again! I look almost as though nothing happened! I wonder if I should at least try to plot a novel in my head instead of watching TV while I am sitting here in this chair, endlessly rocking and nursing her.

But I am still bleeding. And I am still a very new mother. She is still a very new baby. And even when she’s not and I’m not, all of this is still a big deal. It’s still a lot.

It’s not just postpartum care, really. It’s the way we think about life in general. There never seems to be time in it to take time off from the regular routines. Work can look like a narrow path with high concrete walls on either side, and it goes straight into the horizon. Productivity is essential and specific (it never looks like finally doing the dishes), and it’s important, above all, to be climbing towards the next ledge. To keep going. To do as many things as you can at once. What about illness? Even morning sickness, like I experienced. What about just stepping aside to collect yourself? The natural pauses– figuring out what you want to do for a career, transitioning, retiring, recovering from the death of a loved one, coming home. It feels so basic, to want to have something to report when someone asks, “What’s been going on?”

moxieshower837384

(“um… I took a shower?” source)

“What else have you been doing?” someone asked me a couple weeks after Eden was born, seeing her for the first time, “I mean, besides the baby. What else are you going to do this month?”

It’s like those people who are always asking about your job when you don’t have one yet. 

These gaps in the routine– they’re where some of the most critical stuff happens. Wouldn’t it be nice to not even have to justify them?

In a restaurant the other day, the Chinese waitress exclaimed, “A new baby! How old?”

“Seven weeks,” I said, proudly. People always compliment me on taking her out so soon. A guy said, “It’s good to break them in like that. Teach her it’s not all about her.”

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(sometimes I need help emptying the trash. that’s definitely about her. source)

The waitress looked startled, almost alarmed. “Seven weeks!” she said. “And you’re taking her to a restaurant already?”

I took her to her first restaurant at two weeks, I think. And I walked a mile to get there. Damn right you did, says the proud, blustery, American pioneer woman voice in my head. And you’ll walk five miles next time! Gets the old heart rate up! You’ve got to push yourself!

I nodded at the waitress. Yes. Obviously. I’m here, aren’t I?

She raised her eyebrows. “Alright,” she said. “Such a little baby!”

None of your damn business! said the cowgirl.

But actually, interestingly, I was a little relieved. And when Eden started crying a lot, I had everything packed up and just left without making a huge effort to get the situation under control. The waitress gave me an understanding smile.

She’s just a little baby, after all. And I wanted to go home and rest and maybe give my mom a call.

*  *  *

What’s the longest amount of time you “did nothing”? How did it feel?

Unroast: Today I like how tan I’ve gotten, from being in the park so much.

Note: some of you are emailing me about the piece on religion I posted and then took down the other night. I’m hoping to put it back up soon, but I need to make a couple changes first, when I have a moment to think them through. Religion is a tough subject.

42 Comments »

Kate on September 11th 2013 in body, life, motherhood, new york

42 Responses to “bleeding time”

  1. jen responded on 11 Sep 2013 at 5:30 pm #

    I’m assuming your midwife knows you’re still bleeding and it’s more like spotting? Because if not, please call her. It can be something more serious like a polyp or fibroid making it impossible for your uterus to shrink back down to normal size.
    I actually had the opposite feeling about my maternity leave, but every baby is different. Mine slept all the time and it was constantly raining and I was going crazy with boredom. I don’t have family in town, all my close friends were busy with their own jobs or kids and I just kept trying to find things to do with my day.
    Now that I’m back at work and Miriam is in daycare, I so enjoy the days that she’s home and we just chill out together, but those first few months were tough to adjust. I think everyone has to find their way and then be confident in their choices. Parenting, more than anything else I think, creates very strong opinions! :)

  2. Kate responded on 11 Sep 2013 at 5:36 pm #

    @jen
    Ha! I’m a little jealous. I would like to have more time to get the things I normally do done. But since I can’t, at least I’m managing to write about it :p

    I guess maybe I’m being boringly obvious in this piece. The whole point is kind of just: it’s OK to need whatever you actually need.

    Parenting does create strong opinions, but I also feel like becoming a parent has made me feel more accepting in certain ways of different parenting approaches– just because I get how hard it can be! I mean, for the newborn stage at least. After that, well, I guess I’ll find out soon enough…

  3. teegan responded on 11 Sep 2013 at 5:46 pm #

    I went a little stir crazy with boredom and guilt in the beginning. Plus I had some weirdness going on when I walked for a while, so I didn’t go very far very fast. My mom and sister were here the first week or so, and Mark was off for a week, but then they were gone/back at work. The midwives came every day or two or three, then every week. Mostly, though I hung out with my sister-in-law who was in the country between international relief jobs. She was going stir-crazy waiting to get hired for a job, I was going a little stir-crazy with a new baby; she was hardcore missing her boyfriend (who was in Africa and tough to reach), I was hormonal… yeah. It was good bonding time. We had lots of tea and scones.

    I watched a lot of crappy tv on netflix while knitting over a sleeping baby. I read. I built the fire in our woodstove every day and kept it going. It’s all kind of a blur.

    I still felt like it took forever to stop bleeding, to feel normal.

    We did take Thomas out a lot. There was a wedding at three weeks. Plus he slept in the wrap when we were out most of the time, so we went to brunch or out for drinks, etc, and he would just snooze those first few months. And by mid-December, we were walking a lot, and more so after the winter ended.

    But it would have been nice to have more friends over.

  4. Kate responded on 11 Sep 2013 at 5:52 pm #

    @Teegan
    Two things
    1) it’s becoming more and more clear to me that caring for a baby that cries all the time is maybe a completely different experience from caring for a calmer one
    2) it is kind of a shock to find myself bored sometimes, because, well, I just MADE A PERSON. Which seems like it should be riveting. And sometimes it is. And sometimes things really are boring instead.
    Wait, a third thing: I wish we lived closer to each other!

  5. Tobasco responded on 11 Sep 2013 at 9:50 pm #

    I cannot stress enough how important it is for a woman to just do nothing when her baby is small. It is a LOT of work to heal your body, especially when you’re not sleeping right and making milk. I know so many women who think they are failing if they don’t have spotless houses and dinner on the table when they’re home with a newborn. Your ONLY job is to care for your baby. That’s it. If you have some other adult in your house, this is their time to pick up the slack.

    When a friend of mine is pregnant I always make sure to offer to them that I will be more than happy to come over and hold their baby so they can shower, or nap, or just got for a walk outside (or even just sit outside!). Having a small baby is all encompassing. Perhaps I feel that way because my baby was also miserable, who knows.

    I could write pages and pages about this topic. I think a lot of it has to do with a change in family dynamics though. There is no more of the 10 kids in a family, or lots of relatives nearby, so most of us don’t recall seeing what having a new baby is really like. Because we didn’t see our mothers or aunts or even neighbors go through it. (Same goes for the lost art of breast feeding. No one does it anymore, so no one knows how to do it anymore, so when you DO do it, you have to hide in another room, and no one sees you doing it, so they don’t know how to do it, and so on).

  6. Jenna responded on 11 Sep 2013 at 10:21 pm #

    I’m so sorry you’re still bleeding (I unfortunately have a bit of experience in longwinded gynaecological bleeds). I hope it heals soon.

    I love what you’ve written about taking a break. We don’t do that, do we? Even if you’ve got the flu, or a new baby, or you’re grieving the loss of a loved one. Like just stopping and sitting with the illness or the pain and working out how to manage it isn’t enough for this world we live in, you’ve got to do more. That of course only makes the pain and illness or upset last longer.

    Enjoy these magical days with your little one.

  7. Jennifer responded on 11 Sep 2013 at 11:04 pm #

    Hi Kate- I’ve only commented once on here before, but I’ve been reading your blog for awhile now. I just had to say that it sounds like we have similiar experiences with a newborn. Both of my babies cried ALL THE TIME! It was wild. For some reason I make extremely grumpy but absolutely perfect babies :) I wore myself out trying to bounce back right after having my first baby. Good grief! It’s truly ridiculous and (unless you have an entourage of people helping) it’s impossible. I just wanted to sleep. My second one is 8 months now, and I’m still taking it easy. I homeschool my oldest so that’s priority, and I stepped back from helping my husband run his business for awhile. I don’t want to look back when I’m old and see that I rushed through life doing too many things at once and that I completely missed the important bits. It’s not worth it.
    Oh and I wanted to add that with both my babies I bled for exactly 9 weeks post partum. Good times.

  8. Val responded on 12 Sep 2013 at 2:49 am #

    It takes a long time and I’ve felt like a weakling because of it.

    Even skinny as could be with big dark circles under the eyes…

    or the time I was back to work at 3 weeks?

    Unh.

    So there are those who are proud, and those who are disapproving, so much like the rest of parenthood.

    And yet we try so hard to cover all the bases and do a good job.

    Critics abound, including ourselves.

    No, no hard edges here. Thank you for talking about stuff.

    love, Val

  9. Em responded on 12 Sep 2013 at 5:10 am #

    I live in Kuwait, and culturally the norm here is to take 40 days post-partum away from everything! Generally a women would stay with her parents so that the women can assist her, and she can focus on recovery. There is no expectation to bounce back. I love this theory!

  10. carolina responded on 12 Sep 2013 at 8:06 am #

    i know this is way hard, as I had so much trouble believing it, but just try to believe that you’re enough. because you are. and whatever you’re doing is enough. maternity leave and care is very short in the states in comparison to other countries (uk is six months, norway is a year, germany is two years). So we are def. behind the times in allowing moms to fully recover from the physical aspects of birth. i thought you might find this entry and graph interesting: http://butterflydiary.com/why-young-mothers-should-travel-more/. Birth is also supposed to be a social experience (in india, daughters actually move into their mothers home before birthing a child.) – I found this talk on ted very refreshing, about parenting : http://www.ted.com/talks/rufus_griscom_alisa_volkman_let_s_talk_parenting_taboos.html

  11. Sari responded on 12 Sep 2013 at 8:32 am #

    You’re doing great. I’m sad the holidays and rehearsals and all of it have kept me from being able to help more… And it’s OK to need it, or want it. And company.

    xo

  12. T.K. responded on 12 Sep 2013 at 10:30 am #

    Kate,

    In other cultures it is absolutely expected that the new mother will require help and that it is the other adult’s responsibility ( mostly women though, unfortunately) to provide it. For example in Russian culture ( traditional Soviet culture, whatever) the grandparents play a pivotal role in child-rearing in these early stages. Talk to your Russian-American friends and they’ll tell you that even now, even here, it is the most natural thing in the world in Russian-speakign communities. Extended family helps, friends help… back in the day if you didn’t have family, your neighbors and community would help you. And hey, who is tougher and more independent than Russian chicks? :)

  13. Kelli responded on 12 Sep 2013 at 11:46 am #

    Kate,
    When I had Rhett last year I was bowled over by how tough it was to keep a baby alive & do even the most basic care for myself. And I was so tired, & so bored, & so tired! My mom came & stayed for a week, my mother in law came over daily to hold Rhett so I could sleep, my husband is a very involved father & still….it was so tough! I realized after the fact that I had some post partum depression but couldn’t admit it to myself (even though several others gently broached the subject) that I did.
    Our culture is just set up to be so self-sufficient that asking for help is a sign of weakness & failure (or so it feels).
    Hang in there, & know that asking for help when you need it is a sign that you are actually so strong that you are willing to do things to care for you & Eden & Bear that may make you appear weak. I think that really is a type of strength that we don’t apprecaiate enough. And it is a form of self love too, to know what you need & advocate for yourself.
    Thank you for sharing your experiences so far, it helps to hear that other people struggle too during this earth rocking, amazing, terrifying, fabulous, & exhausting phase of new life!

  14. TK responded on 12 Sep 2013 at 12:19 pm #

    I needed a ton of help at first (twins) and still need lots of help – they are now eight months old. I think I should be able to handle them alone, and I do, but I am sooooo grateful when my mom/step-mom/friends come help.

  15. Dene responded on 12 Sep 2013 at 2:08 pm #

    i’m so glad i can read what you’re going thru before i have to go thru it. no baby, yet, and i’m totally okay with that. 41 weeks and one day today.

    i sure i hope i can be as active as you are after my son is here. i am a hermit of hermits, a netflix junkie, exercise inside, love being alone sort of gal. but i need to make changes because i don’t want him to be that way.

    it’s inspiring to read how busy you are even if you don’t feel like you’re doing much :D

  16. Johanna responded on 12 Sep 2013 at 3:04 pm #

    What a great post — you’ve summarized what I think may be a nearly universal feeling among American new mothers. We are too hard on ourselves, or have no choice but to be taking care of ourselves and the baby because we don’t have the extended family care new mothers are supposed to have. And when a new mother is taking care of herself and her baby, it really means she’s taking care of the baby. America is so screwed-up and hypocritical when it comes to mothering.

    And it *is* surprising to find that motherhood is boring sometimes — we adore our babies so much, and are so awed by their existence, that we expect to be fascinated by every moment. As a mom of four, though, I gotta tell you — there’s a lot of boredom. But also a lot of laughter and hugs and times when you *really* wish you had your camera to catch her doing that because she’s so adorable you can’t stand it, and she’ll never do that particular pose again in front of a camera, and where *is* the camera? Why is it always losing its charge at just the wrong moment?

    Glad you’re enjoying the journey!

  17. Kim responded on 12 Sep 2013 at 4:32 pm #

    Good for you–you are doing everything you should be during this time. Taking care of a baby all day does sometimes feel like a blur where you can’t really pinpoint anything you “accomplished” that day. And that’s fine. I wish I had asked for help with my first, but I felt weird about it (like it was my choice to have this baby, so it was my responsibility and no one should help me with it). I regret not asking for the help I know I needed so badly.

    And I bled for at least 2 months, maybe even 3. So you take that time to heal and get to know your baby. That’s what you should be doing. I love reading about this adventure you are having.

  18. Rosanne responded on 12 Sep 2013 at 4:44 pm #

    Seems to me like you’re doing a pretty good job taking care of yourself and of your daughter. Silence the voices and just keep on doing it!

    I remember very well when I realized that there are plenty of countries around the world where maternity leave is not a given. I was in Australia at the time and couldn’t believe the petition I came across to get better postpartum care and maternity leave… I was thinking: they don’t have that now?! It’s so important and so natural and yet far from self-evident… What a shame. A reality check moment for me.

    I wish you all the time you need to enjoy your daughter and heal your body. And time to keep writing, because you do that so well :)

  19. scarred responded on 12 Sep 2013 at 5:56 pm #

    nearly 14 years later and I’m still pissed at the fact that the world expected so much of me – and still mighty pissed that my (now ex) husband showed no interest in our son until he was big enough to walk and be a little more interesting (and less hard work)

    gotta ditch the blog for a while – stirring up too much bad shite in me

    I wish you well – you are blessed

    xx

  20. Mary responded on 12 Sep 2013 at 7:07 pm #

    It is shocking that moms are expected to do it all, esp new moms, esp when you just made a person.
    I gripe to my sisters that families don’t have time enough to be families anymore. We aren’t allowed bonding time, everyone seems to expect that your attention should be elsewhere (your boss expects it to be on your job, your parents expect it to be on them as grandparents, your friends expect it to be on time with them and away from your home, as though that’s easy).
    I don’t have kids yet, but I hope I have the fortitude to ask for what I need when I need it, and to tell everyone to fuck off when they need to hear it.
    Go you.

  21. Becca responded on 12 Sep 2013 at 9:08 pm #

    38 weeks today and feeling so lucky my mom is coming to help for a month and that my mother in law is nearby. Thank you for doing things a couple months before I do. It helps. <3

  22. jenn responded on 12 Sep 2013 at 11:04 pm #

    i like you.

    and i’ve only read your posts for the past few weeks!

  23. Doris responded on 13 Sep 2013 at 3:50 am #

    I am working as family tutor and prenatal classes teacher in Frankfurt, Germany. Believe me, the attitude “What am I doing here at home with just a little baby – oh my god I am ashamed that I’m still wearing my pyjamas at 11 in the morning” is well known here, too. Happily, people with migration background give us some insight of how it should work: that is, a newborn mother AND her child AND her baby need weeks to accumulate with this new life. We tutor women to give classes on that issue…

    Kind regards, Doris

  24. Laura responded on 13 Sep 2013 at 5:16 am #

    First time commenter, long time reader.

    Where to begin? I was horrified by what came out of my body! I felt like I was an extra in an Eli Roth film and it was never ending like you’re experiencing, but it eventually stopped. I like to think of childbearing like Fight Club. First rule? Don’t talk about it. Can you tell I had a difficult birth? Six days – yes DAYS – of labor. I have a feeling it was my son’s way of paying me back for all the times I told the story of how he wasn’t planned. Childbirth wrecked me. Then came breastfeeding. And I had the help of kind friends and a retired nurse/my mom and the most amazing baby daddy, but I was in trouble. The expectations of health and recovery placed on the new mother are so daunting and utterly unrealistic, but I let it happen to me. A lovely women I met through work told me how, when she gave birth in Japan, she was not allowed to do anything for eight weeks other than bond with and feed her babies. Sign me up!

    Nine months later, my son is sleeping 12 hours at night and thriving, my husband has lost most of his baby weight and can change a diaper in two seconds, but I am still physically and mentally recovering. Being a new mom is painful and isolating at times. just to give a glimpse into my current mindset: My BFF posted a picture of his 35 pound weight loss after being diagnosed with diabetes and I was jealous. Of diabetes. Yeah.

    Long comment short: Thank you for your blog and especially this post. You have helped me in numerous ways.

  25. Katy responded on 13 Sep 2013 at 8:20 am #

    My first few months being a mum were haaaaardmas it wasn’t until my girl was 6 weeks old and I just knew breastfeeding shouldn’t be such hard for us both. She would pull off crying after five minutes but then seem to hungry but my oohs made her angry! I saw a lactation consultant who didn’t offer much, but then I saw a very experienced midwife who quickly said she thought my girl had silent reflux, as she rarely puked but was in pain. We got medication for her and she was like a new baby! But even so, it was hard going sometimes. Hearing my baby scream for more than a few minutes, especially when I was sleep deprived, seemed to trigger a particular neuronal pathway that just. couldn’t. cope. I found it hard to get beyond this primal, irrational response. Eventually, anti-depressants helped me infinitely. Not right for everyone but perfect for me.

  26. Christie responded on 13 Sep 2013 at 11:59 am #

    I love how your blog connects new mothers in a place of safety where they can share their hopes, fears, advice. Kuwait! Germany! New York! Now, California!

    When I had my two sons 27 and 24 years ago, mothers’ groups were practically a required extension of giving birth. Groups seemed easy to find or maybe I was just so grateful to spend time with other women sharing similar experiences and life passage that everyone seemed compatible. Once a week, for about a year after each baby was born, 6 – 8 new moms would spend about 2 hours together with our babies sharing everything and anything. We compared sore nipple tips, circumcision dilemnas, difficult or awkward moments, trusting ourselves, our bodies, sex again with our spouses, etc. It was very, very helpful.

    Your comments about productivity really hit a nerve! Thank you! Like many entrepreneurial women I was really trapped – yes, running a company and wanting to hold my baby 24/7. No good solution there with other people’s livelihoods depending on me. So, the baby went to work with me. Thank goodness he was a good sleeper. He traveled with me on business starting at 7 weeks. It was super awkward with many places actually banning babies and nursing in public but, somehow we managed. I guess the point is that as much as I wish we had a culture that promoted new mother and baby health, we just don’t. We have a culture that promotes new mother and baby products to buy. So, we have to make our own way, finding the support where we can, trying to stay calm and let the joyful moments spill over and lead us through the maze.

    Thank you for the wonderful essay!

  27. Iris responded on 13 Sep 2013 at 12:23 pm #

    Possibly the most random thankyou you are going to get: I am in a poly long distance relationship, and my partner is in Bear’s position. (Except they already have a toddler.) You are helping me keep some perspective on lack of contact etc, which is some going with my anxiety issues! Kate makes people feel saner in all sorts of ways!

    all the best.

  28. Dani responded on 13 Sep 2013 at 12:30 pm #

    You’re pretty brave for touching on ‘boredom’! Though of course the feeling doesn’t undermine anything else about your experience. And obviously it must be handled lightly for boredom is still taboo. I was a little bored at times on the day of a major surgery, at funerals of desperately-loved people, even on my own wedding day. So I like that you touched on it here, it builds further confidence in you as a writer – since the best one notice and say all the awkward, taboo stuff.
    Also, thank you for pointing out that some mothers are not running their own small business, actively writing a novel, or developing an app. In our go-go culture we’ve forgotten that a necessity to creativity is some damn breathing room.

  29. China Blue responded on 13 Sep 2013 at 6:13 pm #

    Like others above me have questioned, perhaps this is not a global problem… I live in China where, obviously, there is lots of experience of childbirth and rearing. The expectation here is that for at least one full month after giving birth, the mother’s sole responsibility is to care for her baby. Traditionally, new mothers are encouraged not to shower, leave the house or read anything in that first month also- so there goes the guilt about not showering until 2pm!

    Obviously the family structure is quite different over here, as there is commonly grandparents or in-laws already living at the house, ready to wash, clean, cook and do whatever else is needed to support the mother and her baby.

    Furthermore, upon their return to work, new mothers usually get one hour per day-to be used as breast feeding/expressing time, to start later/ go home early, or pop home in the middle of the day, every day for a year!

    In my view the Chinese have it right- there must be a reason why their population is so big. Perhaps if other countries followed their lead a little, pieces like this (and comments like those above) would not hit such a raw nerve with so many people.

  30. Jenn responded on 14 Sep 2013 at 8:40 pm #

    If taking care of a baby is “not doing anything,” then I haven’t done anything since I quit my job, 2 years ago (and we’re up to three “nothing” kids now). Welcome to the world of sanctimommies, where no matter what choices you make for your children, there is someone out there to “educate” you and tell you you’re doing it wrong.

    But I agree with you: nothing made me crave community more than having a baby. Not only did I need help caring for myself all of a sudden, I wanted to ask a million questions of women I trusted who had already experienced what I was experiencing.

  31. Liz in France responded on 15 Sep 2013 at 4:57 am #

    I had a baby 3 weeks ago, here in France. You’re expected to stay at least 4 days at the hospital, and everyone gets 10 weeks of post-natal paid maternity leave (6 weeks pre). I’ve been depressed and they call it “le baby blues” – it’s considered normal and talked about openly. My in-laws banded together and I’ve been cooked for, a night shift covered, baby held, whatever needed. It’s a HUGE big help. I can’t imagine doing it alone or while trying to act “normal”!!!

  32. Emily responded on 15 Sep 2013 at 7:25 pm #

    I loved this. And I love that you are so unapologetic about taking time for yourself to heal and for Eden to be a baby. I was also so surprised by how long I bled after my daughter was born. We are all so expected to snap back immediately after giving birth, but we have to honor our miraculous bodies and ourselves by just waiting patiently.

  33. Raemul responded on 15 Sep 2013 at 8:09 pm #

    The other day I had no one to help so ended up having to take my 6 month old and 23 month old to the podiatrist with me. She is lovely, young, pretty and slim. (Why does that matter??. And yet it does because I had two babies in 18 months and have not lost the weight, not at all.) anyway, I dragged myself in and she asked brightly., ‘ so what have you been up to this afternoon?’ I thought to myself, I have spent the entire afternoon focused on getting here, to this room with two children, for a 10 minute appointment. That is what I have been up to.

  34. It’s not just postpartum care, really… – all my excuses responded on 16 Sep 2013 at 4:19 am #

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  35. Kate responded on 16 Sep 2013 at 10:24 am #

    @Raemul
    This comment was like a tiny, perfect post unto itself

  36. Ak responded on 16 Sep 2013 at 4:29 pm #

    I have only recently discovered your writting and I’m pleased to tell you I stayed up a couple of nights to catch up.
    This gap you talk about, this time to breathe, always seems so important but I never allow myself much of that. I am currently taking a similar break doing nothing (absolutely nothing!) since I broke up and moved out of the UK, back in my hometown. I don’t know if I want to stay here/go back to the UK/ study more/ find a job (here or there?!)/ get back with him (I still love him, but does he really love me or maybe he just needs me)…. ahhh so much to consider!
    It is especially hard when you get pressure from the people around you (I get a lot of that lately). But time is crucial. The more time we allow ourselves into that state of uncertainty and refusing the pressures, the more we discover, I think.
    Congrats on baby Eden! She looks so cute!

  37. Ronni responded on 16 Sep 2013 at 11:58 pm #

    I’ve been “doing nothing” for the past three weeks. I mean, I’ve been getting my work done and meeting deadlines, and reading a lot of books and shopping, but not doing anything HUGE. And it feels great.

    My husband hates it. “What can I do to get you out of the bedroom?” he keeps asking. I finally told him that I’m not hurting anyone by being in here, taking it easy, and STILL GETTING SHIT DONE.

    It’s so ingrained that if you take it easy, you must be lazy. Screw that.

    You’re being too hard on yourself. You have a new baby. THAT’S HUGE. You’re being a wonderful mommy to her. That is also huge. That’s *all* you need to do right now. We need to get it out of our heads that we need to be “super productive” all the dang time. Busyness is dangerous and meaningless. What you’re doing is NOT meaningless.

    My son is nearly 11 now. I remember the first six months–he didn’t even KNOW his father (ex) because his father ran around thinking that life shouldn’t change because he had a kid. All the help was left to me and his friends, of course, backed it up, and made me feel like crap, like I had to be Aidan’s sole caregiver as well as still be a wife, work, and run errands and God knows what else. Oh right, entertain.

    I don’t know why we’re expected to fill our lives doing stuff all the time. What’s wrong with laying back and letting life happen sometimes?

  38. bethagrace responded on 17 Sep 2013 at 9:14 am #

    Even when you are writing about babies, something I have no experience in, you write in such a wonderfully engaging way that I relate anyway. Thank you for sharing all the ups and downs with us. :)

  39. Víkendové surfovanie « life in progress responded on 22 Sep 2013 at 4:45 pm #

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  40. Fidelma responded on 24 Sep 2013 at 3:06 am #

    2 months is nothing! Take it easy. Enjoy this time, boredom and all. My son is 4 months old this weekend. I didn’t cook a single meal for the first month of his life, courtesy of my mum and mother in law. They also took our washing and returned it clean and ironed. My mum used to come almost every day and watch the baby and clean the house while I napped. By the end if the month I was ready to start taking over some duties again and my husband took 3 weeks off work while we worked it all out.

    I am not going back to work until he is nearly 7 months old and I don’t feel the least bit of guilt. When am I going to have this chance to bond again? I am lucky in that he is quite an easy baby but I imagine you’ll find the same as me- it just gets better and better as the baby becomes a little person!

  41. Jessica responded on 27 Sep 2013 at 12:18 pm #

    And to think you learned this all with your first baby! Bravo!

    More mamas should take the time to get to know their babies. Time to snuggle and sniff their little heads… to slow down and enjoy the gift they have been given!

    Raising your children is the most important job you will ever do.

  42. berit responded on 15 Dec 2013 at 7:08 pm #

    Your piece reminds me of the many conversations I had with my Canadian friend when he was in Germany. He said it is unheard of that you just meet in a cafe for some coffee and a chat with friends…no you grab a to-go and do…what exactly I was asking him. He couldn’t answer.

    Up to this day I cannot fathom this about the American culture. What do you guys do to relax? Why does everything have to have a purpose? Why isn’t it enough to just meet a good friend for a coffee and some people watching. Silly Americans :) (As my Canadian friend would say)