Giving Yourself No Expectations For Life Postpartum

You all know the beautiful Christy from Fountains of Home, right?  Hers is one of my favorite blogs and I dash to read every single one of her new posts when they pop up in my feed.  Christy has such a wonderful sense of humor and her love for Chesterton makes my theologian heart explode.  She has so sweetly written a guest post while I take some time to recover and cuddle our new little love. I will tell you that reading this post before having the baby gave me so much freedom.  Seriously. You all know how much I stubbornly push it.  Reading her thoughts before giving birth reminded me to relax once the baby comes and to free myself from any sense of obligation outside of fondling this new person.  So, that’s what I’ll be doing while you enjoy her wonderful post.  Thank you, Christy, for taking over!

It’s hard for me to give advice to new moms about life post-birth because I have had such completely different experiences myself. So different that if I didn’t experience each one I would be loathe to believe the experiences of others in each direction. I think this means that in addition to the vast blessings God has given me through the pregnancies and births of my five babies, he has greatly increased my empathy towards other moms, especially in that time of postpartum. Now the advice I’d offer is to give yourself no expectations for life postpartum.

PP Life

My first birth of my sweet daughter was incredibly difficult. It was a very long, very difficult natural delivery. I ended up needing a lot of time to recover physically. A LOT. I distinctly remember feeling a burst of happiness when I was finally able to sweep the floor for the first time myself, over three weeks postpartum. I also had a very colic-y and needy infant, as well as experiencing the full onslaught of the first weeks of motherhood. It was beyond my comprehension how friends of mine who also had just had babies, were so easily out and about, swooning over their baby and their new status as a mother while I was home, in pain, not experiencing much over-the-top-joy, and getting zero sleep. As I healed physically, it became fairly obvious that I was suffering from a mild case of postpartum depression. It was a terrifically hard first 8 weeks of my newborn life as a mother. I was lucky and blessed to be able to be supported by my husband and family who live down the road, but it was trying and difficult on every level.

The birth of my second child was a little easier, but the postpartum depression was worse than the first time around. I was beginning to fear that having babies for me was always going to miserable, painful, and extremely difficult. Another few months of feeling awful, dealing with a second colic-y baby as well as an 18 month old toddler made the days and nights blur.

With the upcoming birth of my third child, I remember desperately praying that God would sustain me because I would have three small babies dependent upon me and I couldn’t go through another bout of bleak depression again. I prayed to have the strength to just get through one day at a time, and I also talked with my husband about immediately seeking medical help if we saw signs of postpartum depression.

I also had learned more than a thing or two about having a newborn. Things like I shouldn’t expect, or even want to have a clean house. Sure, cleanliness is next to godliness but when it’s stacked against holding a sweet baby or getting sleep or spending time with your husband it doesn’t matter so much. Getting by on pre-packaged food was ok too. Lowering my standards in regards to laundry, letting my husband handle most of the household errands and chores that I thought of as my work also needed to happen. These were all things I thought were important and that I had to do because I was a mom. But after having two babies and going through that precious, but exhausting, newborn time I finally realized that not only was I nourishing, loving, and bonding with a very tiny person, I was also giving myself time to heal, and recover from the very important work of growing new life and physically bringing it into the world. It’s a time of survival and healing and growing.

I also learned that I should put no expectations on myself or my baby. I shouldn’t expect that my baby will be sleeping through the night at two weeks, two months, sometimes two years. I shouldn’t expect I will feel the same way as my friends do after birth. I shouldn’t expect breastfeeding will come naturally and easily for this baby. I shouldn’t expect I will feel completely “myself” physically and emotionally in an appointed time. It may take a few weeks or a few months to regain a regular sense of normality.

By God’s grace the birth of my third baby was a completely different experience than the first two. It was physically much easier on my body; I was walking and feeling not so bad even the next day. I couldn’t believe how much easier it was to deal with three babies when my body wasn’t in pain. My baby was also a terrific sleeper from the beginning – I didn’t think it was possible for a newborn to sleep 4 whole hours in a row before he was born! Even though I had two other babies aged 2 and 11 months, I was doing better emotionally than after my previous births and didn’t feel as if the world was crumbling around me when it would be days before the dishes were all clean.

By essentially eliminating expectations on what life would be like postpartum so much pressure was taken off my shoulders that I was putting there myself. It’s hard to constantly measure yourself against circumstances you could not have foreseen and a whole new person you’ve never met. Living life postpartum is about giving yourself the opportunity to heal, learning to take care of your baby, and growing as a mother which can all be harder than you thought and may not have a speedy timeline to completeness. It may be a time to rely on others which can be difficult, or to rely on medical help, or processed foods. But no matter what our life may look during time after birth God is with us through all of it, so we can let all our own expectations go and begin to entrust our motherhood to him.

ChristyChristy Isinger is the mom to five amazingly loud children. Her child army range in age from the unimaginable seven years, down to her youngest, an elderly 14 months.  Reading, homeschooling, and herding toddlers in the Canadian wilds consume most of her time but she enjoys blogging frivolously at fountains of home, and can be found on Facebook and Instagram.

Comments

  1. Oh how I wish I would have read something like this before I had my son. I think I had too many expectations for myself too soon after giving birth. I’m taking these words to heart to (try) and remember when the next time comes around. Thank you Christy & Olivia!

  2. This is so wonderful. I’m bookmarking this post to read again when my due date is closer. Such great reminders!

  3. Very timely as I wait on the birth of our first….I truly hope to embrace this as I will have to return to work after a couple months!! 🙂

  4. I am the worst at setting too high of expectations for myself. I let them down big time with the birth of Michael and I really hope I can find a good balance this time around too! Excellent post – and yes, Olivia, be easy on yourself! 🙂

  5. This comes at a perfect time for me, as I’m frantically scrubbing the baseboards in my house at 32 weeks pregnant (and with three kids five and under creating chaos around me). Thanks for the reminder that I shouldn’t burden myself ahead of time with expectations for how life will b after this new little one arrives.

    • I’ve definitely changed my standards to lower and lower grades of cleanliness and “doing-ness” after each additional child, and then I’m thrilled when we do even little things with a newborn! Or if one room is half-decently clean! However, clean baseboards are a thrill in themselves…

  6. This is so true! My midwife told me this before I had my son. She said I needed to focus on me and the baby (my first) for two weeks. Literally no cleaning or doing anything but recovering and loving on my baby. It was hard to watch the dishes pile up, but it wasn’t the end of the world.

    • It’s a hard thing to do your first time around isn’t it? It was definitely a really difficult time for me, and I think I’ve gotten a bit better each time so I’ll take it! It’s just a unique time in life and we should just look at it like that sometimes I think, instead of complicating things and trying to go back to “normal” so quickly!

  7. What a wonderful post! Its so true, every pregnancy, every delivery and every postpartum experience is so, so different, even for the same mother! And that was a wise decision, too, to talk to your husband about being on the lookout for PPD.

    • Thank you Anne. It’s really shocking how different postpartum can be with each child. No one ever told me that even when I was having my second and third babies. I had so many fears of going through the same amount of pain and recovery that I didn’t even dare hope it could get better. But I’m glad I had better experiences because it really helped how I view pregnancy and birth, sadly I think it stops a lot of mothers from having more children which is a real tragedy.

  8. Ellen Johnson says:

    Christy, this is the best, really the best. Thank you for sharing your wisdom and reminding us all that it’s normal and healthy to give yourself time to just “be” with your new baby! I’m really looking forward to spending July on the couch with my buddy. Congratulations Olivia & listen to Christy’s wise words!

    • Thanks Ellen! It’s really crazy how different labours, births, and postpartums can be with different children. I really can’t say it enough, especially for those of us who had difficult first go arounds! I’m praying for the best with the arrival of your sweet little guy soon!

Leave a Reply