Disclaimer: I am only speaking from my own experience. By no means am I claiming to know everyone’s situation and circumstances. That being said, what I’m about to say may not apply to all.
The postpartum experience is such a unique time. My postpartum experience with my firstborn stretched and pushed me to edges I didn’t even know existed. It was a year of some of my life’s highest highs and lowest lows. In short, it was absolutely crazy. The postpartum experience with my second child has alternatively been so peaceful. I am still trying to figure out if it’s because my second is an easier baby, or if it's because I’ve changed. It is probably a bit of both - but I do believe God is gracious and has answered my constant prayer to grant the peace of Jesus that surpasses understanding. There has thankfully also been practical wisdom gained after living this out once before. I am sure there are many unknown challenges ahead, but for now, here are a few things I've learned and lessons I hope can help and encourage other Mothers/parents out there:
All seasons end:
The season of sleep deprivation, breast-feeding pains, physical recovery, teething, endless diapers, spit up stains - it WILL all end one day (even if it really does not feel like it). This also means that good seasons have an ending, too. I hope to waste less time feeling sorry for myself and spend more time laughing in the face of hardships & messes, learning from my failures instead of stewing in them, and opening my eyes wider to see more of the infinite goodness of welcoming a new life. Also, the time of your body feeling completely bizarre and foreign will end. Give yourself grace if you look in the mirror. No matter how brutal it might look at the moment, remind yourself of the amazing work it has done over nine months and all the work it is doing now! It's nothing short of miraculous.
Accept offered help:
This one is really hard for me because I really hate accepting or asking for help. I am still of the mindset that you should do your best to be self-sufficient when possible, but I've learned that there is beautiful opportunity to deepen your relationships when you have the humility to say, "Yes, I need you. Thank you."
Self-Care + Nourishing your Marriage/Relationship is not selfish:
Caring for yourself and your marriage/relationship is just as important as caring for your baby (otherwise things fall apart quickly). If you’re in a relationship, identify what you and your partner’s needs are and take time to communicate them to each other, constantly. There is nothing good that comes from making assumptions or hoping your partner will read your mind (and vice versa). Also, needs change based on season, so be prepared to readdress the topic again and again. Be willing to sacrifice for one another daily and always practice expressing gratitude. You can never say "thank you" enough times. One of the most helpful things that helped my marriage was simply staying curious about where both my husband and I were at. I know this concept sounds incredibly basic, but it took us a long time for us to figure this out with our first child.
Track nursing/feeding times:
The concept of time doesn’t really exist in the early days - it can feel like you're breastfeeding around the clock without rhyme or reason. An hour can seem like two minutes and the frustration of not understanding your baby's cry can be so very discouraging. I did not track nursing with my firstborn. I just attempted to make mental notes that I was ultimately too exhausted to commit to memory. Tracking and timing my second child's nursing schedule has been life-changing. I use the "Glow" app and constantly refer to it to help me gauge if it would make sense that my baby's cry means "hunger." If it doesn't, I can then try all the other ways of alleviating her discomfort (changing her diaper, burping her, soothing her etc). Lastly, learn how to nurse while lying down as soon as possible! Being reclined makes all the difference in the world for your body to get much needed rest.
Sacrifice is a blessing:
The sacrifice of your body, what you think is your identity, time, freedom…all of it is a blessing because the giving of yourself paves the way to the most fruitful growth in your child(ren), yourself and your family at large. It seems absolutely counter-intuitive, but it is truly more of a blessing to give than receive.
Photo by James Fitzgerald III