A friend of mine gave birth recently, and put a post on facebook saying how tough the first week had been. It made me realise how few people post anything honest in this period. People rushed to tell her that the first few weeks were the hardest, that everything gets better, and to keep her chin up. But the reality of what most people post on social media during the first couple of weeks is totally skewed - beautiful photos of the new addition, smiley parents made to look alive and kicking through the wonders of Instagram filters, and not a leaky boob or teary face in sight.
I felt compelled to mail my friend to tell her how it really is, as I wished someone had done the same for me. As I said to her...
Recovery after birth totally knocked me on my ass. Or rather, off it, as I couldn't sit down properly for about a month after having an episiotomy. I'd been so naive about the physical side of what your body goes through, to the extent that Ben and I had been talking about walking on the downs with a newborn. Ha! Little did I know that walking to the corner of the road would be a challenge.
We'd arranged to have two weeks where we wouldn't see anyone, and we could cocoon as a little family before the visitor onslaught started. In hindsight, I'm so glad we did that, purely because physically I just didn't feel up to seeing anyone. I spent all of my time on my side on the sofa, the only position I could breastfeed, and indeed, sit, in. Ben was brilliant and made pretty much all of our meals and did everything, because even going downstairs was exhausting. A 48 hour labour with surgery had truly taken it out of me.
Our first trip out of the house was an ambitious 10 minute walk down the road. After 5 I was exhausted, despite us having gone at a pace that a granny would find slow. Following trips further into town quickly followed, but I felt like my nether regions were going to fall out at times, they were so achy.
I was lucky that I didn't suffer from PND, and I was super lucky that breast feeding came easily, and that I immediately felt a (totally unexpected) strong bond with Otis, our son. But the physical realities shocked me, upset me and made me resentful of what you have to go through as a mother. I couldn't anticipate having my old body back, I truly thought I'd never be able to go for a run again, or regain the fitness I'd worked so hard to maintain through my pregnancy (even doing yoga on the day of the birth, I'd felt that good!).
But, bloody hell, it's amazing what your body can do, and actually how quickly you recover, particularly if you let yourself off, rest up, and let other people do things for you (not something that comes easily to me).
2 weeks in I managed some gentle yoga. The walks steadily got longer and I didn't feel like I'd run a marathon simply by walking downstairs. I went for my first run the other week (at 12 weeks), and I'm pretty much back to my old times 2 weeks later. My boobs and stomach are still a little alien to me (and I suspect they will be until I finish breast feeding), but week by week they return a little to something I recognise. I don't leave the house stressing that I might wee myself a little (a big win). And in reality all of that recovery has been in under 3 months, a miraculous feat when you think about what your body has gone through, and the fact that a small human has been created and exited in a pretty primal way.
I almost want to apologise to every pregnant mate who came before me, because I had no idea what they were going through at this time. I look back with the benefit of hindsight, wishing I'd sent more meals, and just gone to help while they got a nap, rather than visiting weeks later and cooing over the new baby. Anyone I know who gives birth now gets a very different response, as I can intimately understand what they're going through.
I don't mean the above to sound negative - as I am so happy to be a mum, and actually I've loved every second, despite it being fairly brutal at times! But being a little more honest, and a little less 'perfect picture' on Instagram would be a brilliant thing I think. It would make those difficult early times feel a little easier on all of us.