Meghan had her baby two weeks ago. Since then, like most new parents, she's been oscillating between excitement and desperation, joy and hopelessness. I imagine her rocking in her glider, baby Ivy screaming in her lap, and Meghan thinking to herself, "Jesus, this is so hard." And I'm here on my end of the phone wishing I could jump through and make it all better. Can you relate to that feeling??
HEY PARENTS OUT THERE! DO YOU REMEMBER HOW PAINSTAKINGLY HARD POSTPARTUM WAS?!?!?!
Oofta, I remember. Though, i'll be honest, sometimes I don't. My brain can be kind to me, and has intentionally smoothed over the rugged edges of those memories in an act of Self Preservation. But sometimes, when I try, I can recall exactly how my nipples felt (read: bled), exactly how l o n g those dark, lonely, sleepless nights (and days) felt, and exactly how desperate I felt when nothing (NOTHING) seemed easy or doable.
Now, of course, I'm on the other side. I've made it out. It's easy for me to casually tell my freshie parent friends, "This too shall pass", because we all know it does... But is that actually helpful to hear?? What do we even say to our friends when they're in the thick of it?
"Surprise! It REALLY is this hard" is not the line...
"Welcome to the club" Nope, thats not the one...
How about, "I understand. Is there anything I can do? Do you have (insert next meal here)". Ah ha, Jackpot!.... ;) Now we're on to something.
It's heartbreaking to watch someone else's challenging Postpartum unfold. Of course for every person who is going through it, there's someone else who is having a super easy go of it. GO THEM! That's wonderful and we celebrate them and YAY for smooth sailing. But that experience doesn't make opposite experiences strange. There's a whole spectrum of Normal, or 'Variations of Normal', of Postpartum experiences. That's a huge concept- that others can be having a completely opposite experience but they're both "normal". That others may be lounging comfortably, feeding their baby with ease, and posting pictures from the beach, two weeks postpartum. And maybe you're laying in bed, spit-up stained, pajamas from two nights ago, crumbs from yesterday's breakfast all over the sheets, and crying because baby has reflux, or your perineum is still throbbing. Both experiences are variations of normal. YOU'RE NORMAL! You are not alone. Well, maybe you are literally alone- alone in your house. Alone in your 4 walls. Alone in your mind. But you are joined by every Postpartum person in their 4 walls, across the globe. (I like to picture the Aerial View of the Netflix show, Love is Blind, when they showed every contestant in their pod, as a great visual example) If you haven't watched that show, what are you waiting for? Talk about upping your Postpartum Game.... but on that note--
It's also challenging to not dole out every piece of advice that enters your mind. "Have you tried this?" "You should do that." "Why haven't you done this?" "You have to do that." "Just do this."
We sit on this end of the phone feeling like we've cracked the code because our children have grown a bit and we made it to the other side. The thing is though, what worked for us won't necessarily work for them.
And more importantly, often our friends are simply looking for someone to listen.
They need to vent, complain, process, commiserate, cry, yell, scream, joke, whatever- to a loving ear. Of course there are times to send advice- however I urge you to weigh it in the moment... Is this a time when they are genuinely asking for your advice? Or can they navigate this themselves, at their own pace, in their own time, and they only want to express their frustration/feelings to someone who can relate? When you pause to consider those options, you may be surprised how many times it's the latter.
To all of you who are not yet parents: Yes, it really is that hard. Pregnancy can be hard. Childbirth can be HARD. But Postpartum? Its f*cking hard. And, you can do hard things. Your friends are here to listen to you, to send you love and food, and to promise you that you, too, will make it to the other side. And if not your friends, your doulas are here. Thats a promise.
Sending you all love and a hug- and a very important message:
We're all only human. Show your friends the same kind of love and tenderness that you want yourself. Together, we rise.