Sharing Your Experiences and Insights of the Postpartum Time
Do you have thoughts, memories, questions about the newborn-bonding time? You are most welcome to share them here, deepening our knowledge of this amazing part of our lives.
"Something else took over"
I am a labor & delivery RN who has an almost-two-year-old boy. He's my one and only for now, but we hope to have one more. I will start with my pregnancy. Since I work in the pregnancy world, I know of all the horrible things that can occur. This robbed me of my joy during pregnancy and made me feel unworthy of my gifts at showers and unable to connect with the little guy growing inside me. So I spent my entire pregnancy meditating during yoga and praying about my labor and delivery and working mentally to not allow any negative thoughts to seep in and take hold. As a result, and by God's grace, I was able to labor at home the first couple days, almost unaware of what was going on, and when active labor kicked in, my water broke a short time later and even though I lived 30 miles away from my hospital in Los Angeles, it happened to be spring break and we got to the hospital in record time. When I delivered, I thought heaven had been opened up for me. I wonder now if I actually died for a second because the intense feeling of love and bliss I had sounds like what those who have near-death experiences have seen and experienced.
One big change that occurred for me in the postpartum period, was the fact that I did not care about getting my son on a schedule. At least not for a long while. I always said that getting my sleep was the most important thing after the baby comes. And teaching the baby to sleep well. Well, something else took over and I could no longer subscribe to that priority. He still co-sleeps and nurses on demand (except for his night feedings, I did wean him from those mostly). It's as if something else took over and would not let me sleep-train or wean before he was ready.
When my son was four months old, I had to return to work, somewhat reluctantly (still hate leaving my son), but also excited to help create some magic for my patients. I have to say, though, some aspects of caring for others are better than ever, but some things like attending to details, are much harder for me. And my son is almost two. My instincts about what my patients need are second to none. I just can't quite seem to remember to document all the details. Really, I think my patients and my son benefit the most and would not complain!
What led me to your site, though, is this overwhelming feeling I get before my son wakes up from his naps and in the morning, if I wake before he does. (We are still nursing and co-sleeping.) The feeling I get a couple minutes before he wakes up is something like adrenaline, like anxiety. I'm not sure why, but it's pretty consistent. It's amplified if we're in the same room (like when we are staying in a hotel). Anyway, thanks for your site! It has confirmed and validated many of my experiences and made me vocalize things I haven't said before! I have a good mom community that I'm a part of, but some of this I keep to myself because I'm afraid of sounding like I'm bragging.
A Sense of Loss
The author has kindly allowed me to share her story, as she says, "I think it would be very helpful if I'd had access to this when she was born."
My medical and physical pregnancy was terrible, but my emotional pregnancy was second to none. From early on I played with my bump, pat-pat games, light through the tummy games. She was a keen part of my psychology; her energy was very strong. She would play back and it was just brilliant.
Recently I was watching a background documentary on the Australian/NZ Sensing Murder series. One of the psychics said that his friend died and he held him and could feel his energy in him and all around him. I knew what he meant—I had that intensely for all of my pregnancy.
However, when she was born, the grief I felt was extreme. It felt like she had died in a way; her energy was now no longer accessible. I felt this for two years. When I tried to explain that I felt grief for the loss of this energy and sentient playmate of five active months inside me, I was laughed at or dismissed as a bit of postnatal depression. But it wasn't this. I've never heard of anyone else suffering like this although I'm sure it must happen. So I stopped telling people. I feel like I have two wonderful daughters—"Bumpy" and Alison.
It is possible that these pre-birth communications make you more attached to your child and if you have a highly connected pregnancy you may suffer this sense of loss at the end.
I was cuddling with my baby girl (now twelve years old) just this morning and I was aware of her energy. I don't get this with anyone else. Feeling someone's energy like this and connecting with them has to be one of the most extraordinary experiences for a sentient emotional being in the whole universe. Sounds grandiose but I think it's true. How sad that this is not found often, and understood so little.
Please do keep up the good work, your bringing together these experiences and understandings brought me a sense of peace and relief, as I thought I was alone with my experiences.
(Name withheld by request)
"An expansion of my heart that I didn't feel I could contain"
Kathy shares her thoughts after reading my article titled "The Treasure of Newborn Time" at the Compleat Mother website. (It is a revised version of the first article of Postpartum Rainbow. )
I was so moved to read about others who had "newborn period" experiences like mine. I had a horrendous hospital managed induction and labor ending in C-section (THAT won't happen again...), but when I finally got my baby, I also experienced some of the things that are mentioned in your article. The immediate strong bond, the feeling of connectedness with the world and all mothers and babies forever, seeing the faces of all my relatives take their turn on my baby's countenance in an almost eerie way, an increase in compassion and concern for the planet and all its inhabitants, an expansion of my heart that I didn't feel I could contain. I am still crying, I really thought I was "weird" and alone.
When my child was nine months or so I saw a short video clip on the news of an ambassador visiting some troubled third world country, trying to comfort an emaciated and obviously devastated mother whose infant had just died. I thought my heart would break, I touched the screen and sent my love to her. I felt as if she was my best friend, I wanted to hold her in my arms! Before my baby, I never would have even paid attention. This US world seems so concerned with the "burden" of children, the problems of scheduling, sleep deprivation, getting them in daycare, preschool... I am glad to know that other people are not just concerned with the superficial, and maybe, are also feeling the connectedness underneath.
"Something beautiful for my children"
Stephanie Fehler's letter is also in response to "The Treasure of Newborn Time" , which is at the Compleat Mother website. Stephanie shares these insights:
I just now read your article and it made sense for me of the strange situation I've found myself in lately. I never really gave much thought to the fact that I started recycling when my first child was born, but now that my daughter is almost a year old I look at myself and think: Who are you? Composting, recycling, cloth diapers and wipes and mommy products, organic and cruelty free, and I suddenly realized that, like a conversion, something has changed in me.
Passionately, I cared about things that meant nothing to me three years ago. I actually felt a nagging worry that I was being subverted or influenced somehow by something, but now I see that my experience is probably not as singular as I thought. In trying to make my community, my home, my life that much more beautiful and useful and less wasteful, I am making something beautiful for my children and becoming a softer, kinder person. I thought at the beginning having a child made me a prude, but now I see that the increased sensitivity was protection for my babies as well as for my own budding positive inner self.
Thank you so much for the relief. I feel actually giddy! I know it might sound like something small to you, but means so much to me. Before, I was trying to reconcile these practices to what my family (who are well meaning but not always mindful) think is Christian (and some of these practices seem a bit "heathen" and "new age" to them). For my own peace of mind and for a way to explain to them how I have been affected, I thank you.
"This sensitivity. . . became frightening"
I do have some trouble when I am in your site remembering the struggle it was being a new mom each time. The sensitivity you speak of happened to me also. Suddenly I felt mother to all children. I took ever so much more care driving just to watch out for all of them!
But this sensitivity of having to be so careful I felt almost too much and it became frightening. I've never had anyone explain to me what was wrong, but just from understanding more now I think I have clues to what it was. I was unaware that depression was a possibility, and yet when I finally did read of it I didn't connect, as I didn't think fear was depression!
I think it's not understanding all this sensitivity that is partly what produces the fear. I just wish I'd known back then that I was normal and not scared myself so much. To become suddenly aware of one's power in contrast with a tiny being dependent on you for every need can be terrifying. But these fears are in the imagination and like all others when brought into the light and shared can be seen even humorously. If they are not, the imagination can run rampant and even paralyze the bonding process.
I do love your site and think it is so terrific for moms to become more aware of what is not usually seen or felt. It sure makes for a more fun and fascinating perspective of what is actually going on. So while I agree too much is said about depression and not enough about the good parts, this other aspect needs to be understood so more reassuring can take place for moms who are too frightened and ashamed that they even have a dark thought during a time that is supposed to be so joyous.
The huge inner desire after all is to be a loving nurturing mother, and admission to these fears would seem to reveal the opposite. And so, another fear is born, and the need to remain silent. I believe it is a common experience to all mothers, just handled in different ways. Previous experience babysitting infants or other orientation may cause it not to be a problem with some. Others handle it by burying a dark thought in denial which prevents these women from being able to be of helpful counsel. A buried fear is either not going to be remembered or it will cause a reaction of the original fear/shock when it is mirrored. It is a protective mechanism of the ego that may help to cope temporarily, but it also keeps moms from helping each other. The shame to speak needs to go away, and this only happens with open honesty and understanding. I still don't see it happening anywhere.
Elisabeth's note: Bluelight's letter provides a good balance for Postpartum Rainbow, since I've focused here on the aspects of altered awareness that I consider to be most overlooked nowadays. I'd like to add that my book, In The Newborn Year, does include personal accounts of the depression, fear, and even psychotic episodes that can happen with the changing awareness of newborn time. Thanks, bluelight, for sharing your insights and experience!
"A time of heightened awareness and reflection"
I'm 38 weeks pregnant with my first baby and found your web address in an issue of Mothering. I just finished reading your Postpartum Rainbow and I can't tell you how much it means to me to find something like this. I, like you did, have been fearing the postpartum days, just sure that I would be depressed. I've worried about this quite a bit and done lots of reading on the subject so as to understand it. But reading the Rainbow made me feel convinced of another reality, one I know to be true.
I was told over and over by mothers and in all the pregnancy books about how pregnancy can make you "crazy" and "over emotional." But I've found it to be a time of heightened awareness and reflection. And I know that I have been lucky, living in a quiet restful home, no other children to look after, I had that time to reflect, and work through each surfacing emotion. I can see though where a woman could be overwhelmed when she doesn't have or know how to make the time for these important feelings.
So anyway now having heard an alternate view on the postpartum days I am feeling even more excited for those days ahead. I am going to take good care of myself, and surrender to the baby time. Thanks so much. . .
"A very close bond psychically"
From Tammie Thomson:
I was looking at your site again a couple of days ago, and was in the Postpartum Rainbow, when a couple of things sprang to mind. I'd never really considered them in the light you present, and it got me thinking.
Firstly, when Dale was born, I didn't take to him as quickly as I did the other two. I sort of looked at him for a couple of weeks trying to work out whether I felt anything for him. I know this is fairly common, and of course one day I realised I loved him to bits. The funny thing with Dale, though, was that despite this slow start, we obviously had a very close bond psychically.
I began to notice that whenever I wanted to eat, Dale would wake up demanding a feed (he was breast-fed). Even as soon as I thought about food he'd wake up. We went to visit my parents in Queensland when he was six weeks old. I wasn't preparing the food, but as soon as I sat down to eat, he'd wake up. No matter what time of the day I wanted to eat, so did he. Even my Mum commented on it... she said to my husband, "Every time she sits down to eat he wakes up!" Ronnie just said, "Yeah, he does that all the time!"
It got to the point where I couldn't even think about making a cup of coffee or he'd wake! I had to sort of "not think" about it, just do it, and then drink it without focusing on it. It was very difficult, as I like to really enjoy my coffee! It was very frustrating too!
Another thing that comes to mind is that when Dale was about five months old, my friend in Queensland was trying to fall pregnant for the second time. She hadn't been having much luck, and was starting to worry. I was lying in bed one night, half asleep, when suddenly I felt this warm tingle all across my lower abdomen, and I thought instantly, "Cath's pregnant!!" It was so strong... I was dying to tell her she was pregnant, but didn't want to spoil it for her (telling me) so I made a note of the date. I just KNEW she was pregnant, and I'm sure it was the actual conception I "felt."
A few weeks later I rang her, and she told me that she was finally pregnant. I couldn't stop laughing, and saying, "I know, I felt it!" I think I had her worried for a bit there! I explained it all to her, but she was a bit dubious about it, like, "Yes, Tammie, whatever you say... have you been on any medication?" I was ecstatic!
However, the really funny/ironic thing about it all, was that I fell pregnant with Nicholas (unintentionally) three weeks after she fell pregnant, and I didn't know a thing about it!
Postpartum Rainbow Introduction
Part 1 "Connectedness"
Part 2 "All My Senses Were Heightened"
Part 3 "Changing Mind"
Part 4 "The Sea of Emotion"
Part 5 "New Spaces In Our Psyches"