As I count down the days, I'm trying to prepare for what is going to be a dramatically different postpartum experience. Waiting on Baby Bean 2 has been its own unique experience as well. But given the pending changes in my life, I am trying to do things more intentionally this time around. With Baby Bean 1, I didn't know what to expect, and I took a lot of advice about letting go, and I had the help of my mother. We were somewhat settled in our apartment, I took maternity leave, and I just let things go for a couple of weeks or months. With Baby Bean 2, I have a better idea of what to expect, and I can't afford to let go. I don't have the help of my mother, and we are not settled.
A brief update:
Just so we establish where we are. We are 17 months into a global pandemic.
I'm counting from March 2020 because that is when I had to cancel Roo's first birthday and change my entire life.
I am currently staying with my in-laws, having moved from Maryland to Connecticut in November of 2020. My husband has a new job in Massachusetts that he starts next week. And we have a new house in Massachusetts, which we have moved all our stuff into. The things in storage in Maryland is in Massachusetts and still in their respective boxes. I'm still teaching and still working on my dissertation. I'm less than three days away from my hospital date, and I have a cold. Also, did I mention we are still in a pandemic, thanks to the delta variant?
I've been trying to plan strategically about what I can do to make this transition easier. I have a short window and lots of new things happening. But what I realised was I don't know how to deal with my postpartum. The effects of postpartum are real! Mentally and physically. My body changed, and it refused to go back. Mentally I am still struggling to get to a place where I feel in control of myself, at the very least. And so, this time, I really want to get a handle on my postpartum experience because I can't afford to fall to pieces. But most importantly, I don't want to when I can do something about it.
There are things that I know I can't control. Like right now, I'm sick with a cold, and all I do is eat and sleep. So I'm trusting that the moment I can retake charge of my child's well-being, that nothing irreversible has occurred.
Making a mental note to chronicle that experience.
But what I can control, I will take control of and work at preparing as best as possible. This brings me to the resources I am leaning on to help me prep for this next stage. While looking up books about the pregnancy journey, I came across the first forty days: The Essential Art of Nourishing the New Mother by Heng Ou. And I love it! The reviews were sketchy, with people complaining that the recipes were very Asian. And I thought to myself, what do you expect? The author is of Asian descent. Moreover, I wanted to include more broths in my diet and get cleaner, healthier foods in my recovery. So I saw those complaints more as positives.
This book has recipes and provides a brief history of postpartum views, information and self-reflection questions to help you prepare for this fourth trimester.
As I reflect, meditate and prepare for the next stage in this journey and the next chapter of my life, I find the questions posed compelling. I want to share some personal insights.
Disclaimer: This is a reflection on me and where I am in life.
So here we go:
The seven questions from the seven factors that influence the postpartum period
1. Do I believe that I deserve this time of rest, healing, and bonding with my baby?
One would think that I should not hesitate to say, YES, I deserve this time. But in retrospect, I wasn't planning on giving myself much time. 40 days is a long time to take away from duties, especially when you don't come out worse than you started with things in your life, like finances or your work. So, on the one hand, I know I deserve time to heal and bond with my baby. But rest... Can I afford to give myself a break? I feel like I'm already on a break right now as I lay in bed writing this. I know this is not true because I'm so stuffy headed and need to sleep, but I also need to finish grading before I go into labour, which could be any day now.
Honestly, I think it's hard to say yes to this idea of "self-care" in today's world. But I also believe I've nurtured this idea in my head that "self-care" is a luxury that I can't afford right now, but maybe one day I will. And I know that's not the attitude I should have, but I do. So I'm trying to tell myself yes to this question, despite these thoughts. And I hope to give it the full 40 days.
2. How comfortable am I with new challenges and situations? Who can I call if/when I get frustrated, scared or confused?
While I am comfortable with new challenges and situations, this particular challenge will be difficult because I'm trying to enter it with my eyes open. I'm not just taking it one step at a time but thinking about the effects and how to mitigate any issues before they arise.
Who do I call? Well, first, my mother. But when I need a hug, a shoulder to cry on, I pray my cousin won't hesitate to show up. Though it might be a tall order for her. She has her own life and things going on. And these are the thoughts that prevent me from making these requests. (full disclosure here).
3. How will it feel to be alone with a tiny baby? How will it feel to step out of the business of my life and do very little? Who can I turn to on good days, and who will be there on days when I'm feeling blue?
From past experiences, I think it will feel like a blessing to be alone with a tiny baby. I loved every moment of cuddle and care with Roo, and even though I had moments of frustration when I just needed sleep, I was glad for her. But I had my mother then. I also had my husband and still do. But thinking back, I was trying to help navigate the new space a lot because I can operate on less sleep and function with crying in my ears for much longer than he can. And I am leaning on him to watch over Roo and make sure she doesn't feel abandoned at this time. My mother-in-law will be around, but let's be honest, it's not the same. I did not grow up in her arms, so the arms that have supported me for years will feel very missed this time around. I know on the good days, it will be fine. But I'm worried about the bad days when I'm feeling blue and down. I do not think it has anything to do with whether or not people care. Instead, it has more to do with the connection between that person and me. The person's effect on me and the ability to pull me out of a sad place into a much safer space. This is why who you go to for advice or comfort differs depending on what the issue is.
As it regards stepping out of the business of my life, this is a struggle. While I can do it, I am struggling to reconcile the idea in my mind. And having failed to give me the room to do, in the first place, I know I am struggling to allow myself the space, with the opportunities that present themselves. I took on a full course load for the fall, but one of my classes got cancelled. Which I am happy for, on the one hand, because I knew I bit off more than I could chew with work, while on the other, I'm worried that the fiscal stop-gap I was holding on to is gonna crumble.
As it regards good days and blue days. I'm not sure. The default answer here is my husband, without a doubt. But I also don't want to burden him. I think this journey of childbearing is mentally challenging. For the first three trimesters, we are praised for having a baby. The 'you're having a baby' responses to everything that gets messed up. But once the baby is born, the responsibility seems more significant, and it's a burden you want/choose/have to endure. I don't know. I'm trying to think this thought through some more.
I think I need a list of people that I can call for feeling blue times.
4. How can my partner and I talk about our expectations ahead of time? Do we both have a realistic understanding of what our respective roles will be once the baby is here? How will we communicate when we reach our limits?
This question, I have posted to my husband so that we can talk about it. But here are some preliminary thoughts I have right now. Based on our past experiences, I don't think he has a realistic understanding. I also think I have a strong fear and am trying to let go and allow others to take up the baton. I also don't think I have a realistic understanding, given then I feel like I've set myself up for failure by taking on too much. I also need to work on how I communicate my limits. I know I'm not very good at that. But I do know that I can read my husband's limits, and I need him to recognise what they are. So, we need to talk about this one at length.
5. How do I navigate conflicting emotions? Do I have someone I can count on who will listen to me without judgment or the need to dole out advice?
The answer to this one is still I'm not sure.
6. Who will make food for my family and me during the early weeks with baby? How open am I to new flavours? Am I comfortable requesting specific dishes?
This one is tricky. My in-laws will primarily be in charge of food, but we have different tastes. I have tried to be open about new flavours and have tried to adjust to the dietary differences. And to be honest, I think I have done a lot more bending on this than others have done for me. But I am not looking forward to this at all. I am not comfortable requesting specific dishes, nor am I comfortable telling others how to cook a meal unless asked. This is where I wish I was more like my sister, who can vocalise her disdain for things that she disagrees with. I've hinted at issues, but I've told myself that this is not my space. I cannot tell others to add salt to the water, or wash the thing, even if it says it's been washed. Some of these things are cultural differences, I know. But for this moment, I would appreciate things culturally close to me, and I'm operating in a foreign territory. It would be easier to let go if I could make it my space. But is cotch I cotching.
7. So I have what it takes to ask for what I need? If not, how can I build this courage? Can I begin to practice now?
Well, this question about practice might be coming late. Because I don't have the time. But I am talking it through with my husband to identify what I need and ask for what I need.
These are great questions, and I am thinking them through.