Although postpartum recovery can be tough and can really expose how vulnerable new mothers can be, one mother talks about the point at which she realised her strength. Here is part two of Sameera Bhayat’s motherhood journey. You can read part one here.
This piece was written before my husband and I embarked on our first holiday and long-haul trip with my daughter. I started to recognise that my emotions did not weaken me, but instead were experiences shared with an entire lifetime of women and mothers. It also was a key point where I started to feel a little more ‘myself’ after giving birth.
I read something recently: “I prepared so much for the birth, but the one thing that’s not talked about as much is how vulnerable we are afterward.”
It made me think. Yes the vulnerability was there. Tremendously. But what also was there was the strength. This I only came to realise around six months after birth.
From the moment my daughter was born, things blossomed. Yet at the same time they also unravelled. What I used to consider ‘my world’ shrunk into the smallest circle. All the other things I ‘used’ to care about had no value. It was a surreal place to be.
There is a lot about my postpartum recovery period that I do not discuss. Maybe one day I will. At some point I will work through all that I experienced. You see, for me, to experience pregnancy was straightforward. The penguin waddle, the wonderful pressure on my bladder, the bruised ribs from my baby that kicked non-stop. It was all, thankfully, simple. The labour and birth of course was tough in its own way, but that ended up being more than fine, in comparison to billions of other women. Pushing through the physical aspect of pregnancy and birth was easy. Experiencing the very isolating emotional journey after? Well, that was like nothing I ever imagined.
I was so ignorant, naive, or maybe I just never thought about it because I had no reason to. But after I gave birth, I took a leap back and realised how little support there can be for a woman who has had a baby. Women can be discharged within 24 hours of having a baby if their birth was without complications. Thankfully, I had family to support me. For the mother, especially first-time mother who may not have anyone around, I cannot even begin to imagine. For myself, to reach hospital at 4pm on a Friday, and discharged by midday on Saturday was, well, just crazy.
Experiencing the very isolating emotional journey after? Well, that was like nothing I ever imagined.
Cue the journey home, settling in, carefully walking so as not to aggravate my recovery. Then emotions hit me in waves. Different days introduced different sentiments and responses. Times I was an emotional wreck. Other times my brain switched off. Rare moments I was a wind-up toy ready to zoom. Then the vast majority of the time it was a recipe of sleep deprivation and physical healing that resulted in a delirious and exhausted new mother. Hence the postpartum recovery period I don’t discuss in detail too much.
Fast-forward to around six months postpartum. It struck me. I can’t recall how or why or what was the trigger. But then I realised. All the moments I thought there was weakness or vulnerability. It never occurred to me that those were the basis of strength. They formed the foundation of a strong woman who physically, mentally and emotionally went to the end of the world and back. I suddenly felt proud of myself, and every other woman out there. To house a baby within your body. Share every part of yourself. Help them grow and nurture them. Endure a unique pain. Use every muscle possible to push them into the world. To be their entire world. Feed, cloth, change, carry, nurse, comfort – the list is endless. The vulnerability created all of that. It opened a love and compassion I never knew existed in me. Suddenly, so many worldly complexities made sense.
Now I look at those first photos of my baby. Words honestly and truly cannot comprehend how I feel when I see them. Everything about her, everything about the situation, everything about me in that moment. The nostalgia is overwhelming. Now I would do anything to have just 5 minutes in that time. To embrace it as a strong new mother. To savour the moment and appreciate it for everything it was and everything it ever will be.
So yes, the vulnerability was there. Tremendously. But what also was there was the strength. And that strength is still here now. It will never leave me. I am what my vulnerability became. I am who my child made me.