No one ever told me about the fourth-trimester. My first month’s postpartum was a time positively fraught with emotional and physical challenges. I found myself wholly unprepared, something I had hoped I would have to avoid experiencing. My extreme sleep deprivation, the aftermath of an intensely physical experience, plus the rollercoaster ride of my hormone-driven emotions were a toxic, yet ominous combination.
Today, I’m sharing with you my fourth-trimester experience in hope that I can bring attention to the lack of education women are given regarding this period of time. I’d like to create more awareness around the postpartum period, a time which all mums should be well prepared and educated properly for.
I woke up in my hospital room after the C section, profusely sweating, feeling totally out of it and in major pain. I couldn’t sit up, let alone move my arm or leg without the sheer agony from the major surgery I just had. The room was a blur, I was struggling just to focus. The only thing I could make out was my mum and my husband. My nurse was taking my blood pressure and temperature while my calves were wrapped in a shiatsu massager that helped prevent clots from forming in my legs — apparently, the chance of a blood clot is high after a C-section because mothers are immobile after surgery.
To my right, my baby Oliver was fast asleep in his little transparent crib. From what I remember, those next four days in the hospital were wholly focussed on trying to recover, trying to walk and feeding my baby.
It turned out that looking after Oliver while I was trying to recover was an extreme task to accomplish. Sitting up to feed him was almost impossible to do, let alone trying to feed me without hurling everywhere. It was also those first days in the hospital that expressing colostrum from my breasts was so important for Baby Oliver—and I made every effort to feed him first. For those times when I just couldn’t even open my eyes, the nurses and my mother were there for me and looking back now, I’m so so so grateful for all the help they gave me. It really is true, that it takes a village to raise a child. My village never let me down.
When my OBGYN finally cleared me to go home, I couldn’t wait. We packed up my room, swaddled Oliver and waited for the wheelchair to arrive. I was feeling okay (most likely from all the drugs that I had been taking for the pain). At that very moment, Oliver just started crying, and then he started feverously screaming … The nurse came in and quickly whipped him out of my arms to settle him. I had no idea what to do. She then looked me in the eyes and gave me the most important advice of my life. She said, “Bianca, for the next few weeks you’re going to need as much help as possible. You’ll cry, you’ll feel flat, you’ll be lost. But just know it’s all part of postpartum and it’s okay to cry”.
I said to her, “Yeah, yeah. I got this! I’m a tough mama”. They wheeled me down to the ground floor with Oliver in my arms, screaming. I felt myself not knowing what to do and realizing I couldn’t ask the nurse for help. That’s the moment when the tears started flowing.
The next night was the first night I was to look after Oliver at home. As expected, he woke every two hours in need of a feed. I don’t think I even slept that night, at all. From chasing my surgery pain with the drugs they gave me, to the constant struggling to sit up in bed to feed Oliver, to shuffling to the toilet, changing my pads, washing down there and struggling to shower—it was a massive job just looking after myself so I could feed and look after Oliver.
The next morning I shuffled into the nursery in which my mother was staying in, and as soon as she saw me, I just broke down in tears sobbing at how exhausted I was. “I can’t do this!”, I said. My mother looked at me and said, “Honey, this is being a mother. Your baby needs you. Don’t forget that I’m here to help.” For the next few nights, I made the decision to sleep with my mother so she could help me out when he needed to be fed at night while I tried to recover as quickly as possible from my surgery.
Suddenly, it all dawned on me. No wonder I was exhausted, I had not slept properly since the day before I went into hospital to be induced! From 44 hours of labor and excruciating pain to the unplanned C-section. To sleepless nights and trying to recover while feeding Oliver, I was a total wreck! I was E.X.H.A.U.S.T.E.D. — but it didn’t get better.
The day came when my mother had to fly back home — only three days after I got home from the hospital. When I really needed her for the next four weeks, I sat in the nursery where she’d been sleeping and I felt so empty and extremely lost. That was the moment when it all went downhill. Nothing could have ever prepared me for what I was about to experience — the painful, yet inevitable postpartum baby blues.
It’s true, no one ever asks how mum is doing. It’s always about the baby. Everyone just always assumes we’re fine. I remember sitting in the park with Oliver when he was eight days old. I was attempting to get some sun and fresh air on my confused and sleep-deprived body. Another mother walked up to me and asked me how I was. As a mum, I did the usual and put on a brave face and said, “We’re good”. After she left, I burst into tears. Sobbing, feeling alone, and so overwhelmed.
Looking back now, I can’t express how much sleep deprivation was the precursor for my baby blues. My husband and I ended up working out a routine where I would look after Oliver one night in the nursery and feed him every 2 hours, while he slept the full 8 hours in the other room. The next night, I’d get to sleep in the room while he looked after Oliver and bottle feed him. I remember every night I’d cry myself to sleep, every morning I’d wake up in a daze, every day I’d feel flat and lifeless. It was like I was stuck in the movie Groundhog Day. Nothing excited me. Every day I felt empty and lonely, like the love of my life just broke up with me and left me alone to suffer. These feelings went on for what seemed like a lifetime. I hardly left my home, had no appetite, never wanted to see anyone unless my friends came over to visit. Every day I would cry alone in silence somewhere, too guilty to tell anyone how I was feeling — I kept asking myself why was I feeling like this, what was wrong with me? I should be in my little baby love bubble, but I never felt that love, that mother-child bond. And while breastfeeding was tough to establish for me, breastfeeding also gave me waves of anxiety, which didn’t help my feelings.
Then it was time for me to see my OBGYN. I was actually excited and ready beyond belief. I don’t know why, but I missed her and the good feelings that her practice gave me. I brought a bunch of flowers for her as a thank you gift for everything she did for me. It was like I wanted to go back in time and get those beautiful feelings again before having Oliver. Back when motherhood was a challenge I thought I was overprepared for. As soon as I saw her, I gave her a great big hug, looking away fighting back the tears in embarrassment. As I sat there talking to her, she asked me how I was. I broke down in tears, again and told her I wasn’t coping. She asked me a series of questions and felt that I was heading down the road of postnatal depression and referred me to a psychologist. It was something that I didn’t want to do or realize, so I opened up to my husband about what I was feeling, and it felt so good to finally talk to someone about what I was going through. Even though I don’t think he fully understood what it felt like, he had my back straight away. For the next 6 weeks, things started to get better, but it was slow. There were days where I got my appetite back and I was excited to go out for a coffee, then days where I’d cry and cry feeling empty again. I kept telling myself if I can just get through the next day, then the next and so on, things will be fine. If only I can distract myself, so I read books, I baked lactation cookies, I listened to music and to be honest, cleaning my home made me happy. The fog started to finally lift, my crying and feelings of emptiness started to slowly disappear. Then the 3-month mark hit, and I suddenly felt as though I had MADE IT.
I still have days where I’m down, but the main thing is that I made it through and every day DID get better. It’s true what other mamas told me, that it does get better and to just get through those first few months. I can’t thank enough my family, my friends and my Instagram community — all your heartfelt and supportive messages that kept me strong and powering forward. In a world where social media is seen as full of negativity, body shaming and trolling, I have only experienced great things from it. So thank YOU, everyone, for getting my back, it was you, my village of mamas who never let me down.
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As I write this now, I realize I don’t think I’ve slept a full night at all since giving birth to Oliver. I’ve learned to deal with this as his periods of sleep get longer. As parents, we learn to adapt. It’s incredible how selfless and adaptable we become when a little one enters our world. At first, it’s tough, but trust me, it does get better. As I always say, this too shall pass and there is a light at the end of the tunnel. It’s just about getting through every day, with your village in tow.
Baby Blues: Approximately 70-80% of all new mothers experience some negative feelings or mood swings after the birth of their child. Often, the symptoms of “baby blues” will hit forcefully within four to five days after the birth of the baby, although depending on how the birth of the baby went, they may be noticeable earlier. The exact cause of the “baby blues” is unknown at this time. It is thought to be related to the hormone changes that occur during pregnancy and again after a baby is born. These hormonal changes may produce chemical changes in the brain that result in depression. The amount of adjustment that comes after the birth of a baby, along with sleep disturbance, disruption of “routine”, and emotions from the childbirth experience itself can all contribute to how a new mom feels.
You’ve probably heard of the “baby blues.” That’s because it’s quite common for new mothers to feel a little sad, worried, or fatigued. As many as 80 percent of mothers have these feelings for a week or two following childbirth. It’s completely normal and usually fades in a few weeks.
While some of the symptoms sound the same, postpartum depression is different from the baby blues.
Postpartum depression is a lot more powerful and lasts longer. It follows about 15 percent of births, in first-time moms and those who’ve given birth before. It can cause severe mood swings, exhaustion, and a sense of hopelessness. The intensity of those feelings can make it difficult to care for your baby or yourself.
Postpartum depression shouldn’t be taken lightly. It’s a serious disorder, but it can be overcome through treatment.
If you want to learn more about Bianca’s beautiful birth story, read all about her 44-hour long labor here.