We often hear about the bliss, the joy, the automatic unconditional bond, the moment you become a mother. We don’t often hear the truth about postpartum . There was nothing magical about becoming a mother — it wasn’t the calm baby sleeping in my arms, the social media picture of “She’s here!” It wasn’t what I grew up hearing other mothers talk about. It’s been 7 months and writing this article is part of my postpartum journey. My intention with sharing my story is 1) to be honest about my postpartum journey 2) share what worked for me.
Upon giving birth, something was automatic for me and that was feelings of shame & “not good enoughness.” I was bleeding, overwhelmed, my vagina was stitched, I couldn’t shift my daughter from one breast to the other. There was no concept of time — it just felt like the day never ended. The bleeding lasted over a month, the resentment of the medical field grew during my OB follow ups, my body recovering, the stress with learning how to nurse, the mixed emotions, sleep deprivation all happening together while caring for the life of another human being. I didn’t feel like I automatically bonded with my daughter, I didn’t feel like I knew what to do. I couldn’t drive, my old life felt like it was taken from me. I couldn’t believe that I had to feed her every 1-2 hours and be on demand; it felt eternal. Even though it was embarrassing to admit that I didn’t have it all figured out during my 4th trimester, it was also a huge relief when I started therapy and surrendered to the guilt and leaned into the discomfort.
There was no way I could have prevented this initiation. It’s not supposed to be comfortable. It is a period of tremendous growth, and although it wasn’t all bliss, it also wasn’t all hell. There were ways that I felt empowered during postpartum that I’d like to share with you. There was inner wisdom that guided me to prepare in ways that I knew I would need. Here are some tips that supported me as a new Mama:
1. Asking for help because it does take a village. Asking for help sucks because it makes us feel vulnerable and weak, AND it’s the only way we’re going to grow and make it through this period.
2. Creating a Plan. My husband had gotten a new job about a month before I gave birth, so I knew he was not going to be able to be with me every day. My mom was also not available to keep me company, so I had to get creative. On the days I was alone with baby, I assigned roles to different people. My cousin Marisol was my grocery & food person. She works two blocks from my home and would get me anything I needed and would feed me on the days I needed food. My mom became my main source of meals. She would cook large pots of hot stew and nurturing drinks for nursing. My soul sister Erika would meet me every Wednesday and would take me to a local Starbucks so I could enjoy some “normal” time and still be around my home to run back and nurse baby. I had some family and friends alternate to keep me company as I was extremely anxious about being alone with baby.
3. Setting boundaries. I made an Instagram post letting friends and family and others know that I would not be active for the first month on social media. I did not want to share a picture from the hospital because I did not want the attention or focus on social media. I knew I would feel overwhelmed and I would feel stressed out thinking about responding to people’s messages and needs. I posted that I did not want visitors, and I would let people know when I was ready. I was not in a space to host. Mama needed to be fed, loved, and nurtured.
4. Nurturing my mind, body & heart. I worked with a friend who did reiki & hypnotherapy pre and postpartum. I found a therapist who specialized in maternal support. I had a friend who came and did a vaginal steam bath. I booked a massage appointment with hot stones because the nursing and carrying the baby was weighing heavy on my shoulders. Once I was able to drive, I left the house once a day when my husband got home from work. To be able to physically walk away and do something for myself every day was very therapeutic.
5. Start preparing NOW. I am not kidding. I began preparing the moment I said yes to a conscious healing journey. I started looking at myself in graduate school and began seeing a therapist and eventually found out that the healing journey never stops. I knew I was going to have a difficult time being a mother because I haven’t always had the best emotional bond with my mother. I was mind blown when I discovered my fear in not being able to meet the emotional needs of my daughter because mine weren’t met by my mother. And on this concept…
6. Mothering. Mothering is a concept that is spoken about by Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes. The main idea (for me) is that there will be women who will support you, guide you, and mother you that won’t always be your birth mother. I agree 100% and I will add that it won’t always be a woman. In my case, my husband mothered me during postpartum. He taught me about cutting the babies nails, giving her baths, maintaining peace while baby cried, cooked for me. Things that we expect our mothers to do during such crucial time but not always possible. I tell him that I would have been in a psychiatric facility had it not been for him. He held the baby as soon as I fed her. He allowed me to rest in a separate room. Essential things that kept my cup full.
I get emotional thinking about this unconditional love and support. He gifted me a tree necklace when I got home from the hospital. I wore it in times when I felt the most weak. Now, I know that it’s because he is my tree, my ground, my reminder of my inner peace. And like this necklace, I also do not take for granted the little things that would brighten up my day during this period like funny and captivating shows on Netflix, beautiful flowers in the restroom, daily showers, applying make-up, receiving messages from other mamas via text message, IG and FB posts about the realness and truth of our experiences. Reflecting on my postpartum experiences I am realizing the magic that did and continues to take place.
So I take it back. Becoming a mother has truly been magical AND in the most intense, human way. It’s not the superwoman facade and the bounce back BS. The magic is in slowing down, some days surviving and eventually thriving as a new Mama. Magic in finding rhythm in the mundane solitude and flow in the routine. There is magic in getting to know your baby and your baby getting to know you. Holding them and loving them and some days both of you crying at the top of your lungs because you’re both scared. There is magic in the darkness, in the cocoon, in the unknown. Our resilience to birth a being and birth ourselves in the process makes me realize that I am Magic; Mothering, is magical.
Being a mother has rocked me to the core, and I will never the be same. What I will do, is always speak my truth–the joy, the bliss, and the challenges of motherhood.
And while I understand that I will never be the same, I also understand that who I am today is who I was destined to become all along. We all have a purpose. Motherhood has helped me reimagine mine.
Paola Ruiz-Beas, MSW | Paola is a first generation Chicana, daughter of immigrant parents from Jalisco, Mexico. She was born, raised and educated in Pomona, CA. For the past decade, Paola has been facilitating wellness circles in her hometown. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Ethnic & Women’s Studies from Cal Poly Pomona and a Masters degree in Social Work from USC. Currently, Paola is an Assistant Dean at Pomona College where she supports college students with their overall wellness. Since giving birth, Paola has become passionate about speaking about the reality of postpartum and increasing support for new mamas.
This publication is dedicated to Paloma & Sigi; thank you for making me a Mama.