“Postpartum Expectations–and Reality”

I had a lot of unspoken expectations about how I would manage pregnancy, childbirth, and feeding, but my expectations about the postpartum period were much fewer. Perhaps it was because few women talked about the postpartum period beyond the mood swings and occasional depression. Regardless of the reason, I believed that the postpartum period was going to be a cinch for me. I handled menstrual mood swings for years, so how different could these postpartum mood swings be?

But I think a larger part of me wanted to prove to everyone that I would not be that weepy mother that couldn’t look at her baby without crying. After all, I didn’t see myself as a typical woman. I wasn’t going to feel that way. I was going to return to exercise ASAP and lose all the baby weight by the time the baby was six months old. People would look at me and say, “Wow! You look awesome!” And I would credit my commitment to fitness and good nutrition, as a kind of backhanded comment that women who couldn’t drop the weight weren’t taking care of themselves. They worshipped their babies to the point of sacrificing their own happiness and health. And I wasn’t like those mothers. I was different. I had retained and nourished my individual self despite the challenges of motherhood. I wasn’t going to turn off my own personhood in order to be a mother.

Oh, how much it hurt when I couldn’t live up to my own expectations.

Oh, how much it hurt when I had to accept that being “Superwoman” didn’t mean that I had to erase everything about me that was womanly.

I had to reconcile my expectations with reality, much like some women need to do after giving birth or stopping breastfeeding.

I had to acknowledge that being a woman wasn’t an identity full of weaknesses that I had to overcome. Instead, being Superwoman meant that after having fallen into the thick mud of the postpartum period, I pulled myself up and kept walking. Even though my feet were caught in the mud. Even though I couldn’t see the way forward. I kept walking.