Pregnancy and the postpartum period are times full of emotion. I knew this before becoming pregnant with my first and second. As a Lactation Consultant, I had been given hundreds of glimpses into a woman's postpartum experience. Still, there was something that I went through directly after the birth of each of my children that I had not been prepared for. Something nobody in my circles had talked about. An intense feeling that blindsided me not once- but twice!
I had been longing for children years before we actually welcomed our daughter (now almost 4!!! what?!) into the world. During that time I was busy with my studies both in Naturopathic Medicine and Lactation Medicine, excited by where I was, but yearning to expand our family. That impatient feeling whenever I saw a pregnant mama and felt, “I wish I was her right now!” was boiling to a level that began to feel unbearable! My partner and I agreed that we would wait until my studies were over because it made the most sense realistically for both of us.
You can imagine, then, that I was beyond excited when I found out we were expecting our first years later and I did everything I could to prepare for the road ahead. I slept in as much as I could, went on dates with my partner, saw movies in the theatre. I knew life was about to change in a big way but felt I was more than ready to embrace it all. Fast forward to Day 4 postpartum. It really began to sink in that we were now a family of 3, not 2. I was in love with the beautiful little girl in my arms but as I held her I began to feel this overwhelming sense of loss. Loss? What?! I had dreamed of this day for years! But the pit in my stomach was there along with a deep pain- mourning the relationship I had had with my partner. We were no less committed or connected on that day, in fact we were probably more committed and connected than ever... but I missed him. Even with him right beside me I missed him so much it physically hurt. The relationship had instantly changed, it had to. Things would never be the same because suddenly we were now not each other’s “only” and this was something that I honestly had not expected to feel after the baby was born with all the excitement, anticipation, and build up.
With transitions come the unexpected.
When my second pregnancy came along, I could not wait to give my daughter a sibling and all through my pregnancy I kept thinking of how amazing it was going to be to see her as a big sister. What hit me on Day 4 this time around, which I absolutely was not expecting was again this deeply painful feeling of loss. This time though, it had nothing to do with my partner. I was mourning my relationship with my daughter. She would no longer be my “only”. My baby. I just could not hold her close enough and believe me I tried. I found myself wishing “we had done more together”, wondering if I had really made her feel special? Had I given her enough of me before she now had to share me? Don’t get me wrong I was beyond thrilled with our newest addition, in fact his birth was the most empowering experience of my life. So I really had not anticipated this feeling that something had died again.
There was no hiding the tears that would follow. And so she got to see me cry, and cry hard for a good few days. I got to explain that sometimes people cry because they are sad and sometimes people cry because they are happy- and that I was just so incredibly happy that I get to be her mama.
It might sound dark to say that in birth there is death, but this has been one of my realizations becoming a parent. It’s unavoidable and part of the transition. We forever change, relationships forever change. I guess the fact that we mourn means we have things in our life to celebrate- for that I am beyond grateful. Accepting, processing, and moving through the hurt is something we just have to do as we look forward with an optimistic hope while treasuring the moments of the past.