cafe mama

entering the mind of the married mom

a few notes about recovering from birth - May 5, 2005

Something that you don't really think about, much, during your pregnancy is how hard it might be to recover from the event you're so looking forward to. It's not easy. In fact, it's the hardest thing you've ever done. You see, birth is hard. But it's a focused hard. It has an end, a light at the end of the tunnel.

But recovery doesn't have a fixed end. It could be that you recover in a week. It could be that you recover in a month. Or it could be way, way longer.

It's a constant struggle, even if you're lucky (like me, mostly) and avoid the struggle with post-partum depression. It's not just craziness that brings on depression. It's something else...the disconnect between the dream and the reality, maybe. You're supposed to be euphoric, in love, endlessly enthralled with your babe. But even if this is true - even if you've managed to gain the connection - the way you feel just doesn't jive with your love.

As I type this, I'm thoroughly miserable. My belly itches all over from an allergic reaction to the surgical tape. The cold I contracted from my older son has me all stuffed up, my throat aches, and I cough so hard my head is pounding. I haven't slept more than two hours straight (it's probably closer to 30 minutes, in fact) in eight days and, though I try to nap, it's impossible. If I detach myself from Truman for a minute, he starts crying. He eats every hour, give or take, so I can't focus on anything for any extended period of time. I stink, as I'm still bleeding from childbirth. My incision twinges with sharp pains periodically. I can't walk more than 50 feet without breaking down from exhaustion. And I'm lucky - no vaginal tears thanks to the c-section. So I can sit without pain. Sort of.

I'm actually recovering well, I'm very fortunate. I have a strong body that knows how to bounce back from any injury. My muscle tone has been variously called "exquisite" and "amazing." I look great, if you discount the dull glaze over my eyes, and breastfeeding is going well. I really do love the little guy who sleeps so sweetly on my lap, in the sling, on my belly, in the crook of my arm. Always, on me.

I thank heavens for my attentive husband, my awesome doula/sister-in-law, and my great friends. I've got a lot of help and loving care. But, in the spirit of the blogosphere, I'd like to take this opportunity to let you know how you can help your friends, sisters, wives, colleagues in their recovery from birth. And let me tell you, while flowers are lovely (thanks Melissa! and Larissa! and my sweet hubby!), they're not much for keeping you from edging ever so closer to jumping off the cliff of out-of-control. What would help? How about:

Food, especially breakfast. It's impossible to sleep in much. I get up in the morning. I change diapers on both babes and move all my gear into the living room. And I'm done. I'm starving, but can't yet summon up the energy to make wholesome french toast. I sure would love it if someone would just show up at 9 (without judging my crazed look and the stench) with pastries, and Stumptown coffee.

Keeping out the chaos. I wish my husband could manage to keep his brothers and sister from choosing this week to engage in their typical chaos. I'd like to never see a cigarette, or a glass of wine, or a mess that my own child didn't make. I'd like to not get phone calls from creditors, or telemarketers. I'd like to totally control what's on TV. It's much better this babe than last (when my evil step-father-in-law came to stay with us on day five), but the chaos could be taken down a notch. And I just can't deal with any of it.

Doing my chores. I clean the bathroom. I'm very good at it and, with my husband doing the laundry and taking charge of the kitchen and cleaning the floors, I really can't complain. But there's absolutely no possibility I'll be scrubbing toilets over the next two weeks. It's not physically possible. And I desperately want the bathroom to be spotless because - remember how I said Truman doesn't like to be separated from me? He's accompanied me to the bathroom not a few times. I feel awful taking anyone up on their offer of help by saying, "please scrub my toilet and bathroom floor?" But I'm about to beg my mama for that very thing.

Always bring a present for big brother, too. Truman's getting lots of goodies. Everett's being wonderful about it. But my heart aches when I open a big box of generous gifts for the baby and find that Everett has no present just for him. He's received some nice gifts from thoughtful grandmas and aunts, and he melts.

Find a little something to do when you visit. My friends are fantastic about this. Of course, they're mostly mamas, too. They'll clean up some dishes, bring me a glass of water, play with Everett for a few minutes, hold Truman while I go to the bathroom, wipe up a mess. Little things mean a lot. Especially if mama doesn't have to ask.

Bring little gifties for mama, and tell her how great she looks. I can't tell you how wonderful it was that my friend Erica brought me delicious cinnamon rolls from Grand Central, and Hau brought me a box of amazing toffee. My ego gets pumped up every time my husband tells me how good I look (well, the comments about my porn-star breasts aren't much help, but whatever). These things mean a lot. Some ideas for gifts: sweet-smelling lotion or soap, sweet treats, a new domain (thanks Blogging Baby!), an order of notecards and help with birth announcements, photo paraphenalia (I like 'real' film, but your mama might like photo paper for the printer, or batteries for her digital camera), errands, babysitting the older child, a sling with a lesson on how to use it, a trashy novel to read while breastfeeding, tylenol, a crafty book (like a baby knitting book).

I'm off to bed, to sleep a little with all my pillows under my head so I don't cough too much. Oh...you should really check out Truman's pics, I put a bunch up this evening...