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  • Writer's pictureJessica Bower

{Postpartum Story} How Do I Feel?

One of our doula clients, Savannah Avila, had her sweet baby last month. She texted us the following and it was too real... too raw... and too relevant not to share. I'm sure you'll be able to read and relate to her journey...

As I lay here in the tub, my first soak since having my little Queen, I try to answer a question that has been lingering over my head; how do I feel? Everyone asks me. Sometimes, I think it’s a formality... A nice gesture people do just so they can get to asking about her. However genuine or or not their inquiries may be about my current state (physically or mentally I want to ask back?) I never truly answer the question. Perhaps I give answers, and I’m most certain I do, that are just as lacking in genuineness. They are something like, “I’m great, or, You know, how you expect for having a newborn.” Everyone seems content with these answers, and I know why: her, the little bundle of sweetness I created. Just as ready as I am to give them my rehearsed answer is their next question, “How is the baby?!” The next few minutes or hours become totally and completely about her, and so my state of being stays nicely tucked in the 30 seconds of genuine in-genuineness until the next time they see us, and we repeat the cycle again. When I’m finally alone after these encounters, most of the time this is when I’m taking my five minute showers, I replay their question over and over again in my head, “How do you feel?” Now, 6 weeks postpartum, I’m tying to answer the question. How do I feel? A question that leads me to more questions. Do I know how I feel? Is it okay to feel what I feel? If I say what I’m feeling, does it make me a terrible mother? Is this normal? Genuinely, I feel like answering the in-genuine version of this question because that I know the answer to.

I feel...I feel tired, and not just lack of sleep tired: I feel exhausted. Most days my mind has turned off and I’m just going through the motions. A robotic mommy sounds ridiculous, but it isn’t far from the truth.

I feel overwhelmed. Every day I can only accomplish a fraction of what I set my mind to do because through the feedings, pump sessions (Oh, those dreadful fifteen minute intervals!), diaper changes, outfit changes, cleaning bottles and trying (Maybe, ha!) to feed myself, the whole day is gone in a blink of my eyes... I look up at the clock, it’s 8am and the next time I look, which feels like seconds, it’s 8pm. Some nights I sit in the mess of my living-room and feel unaccomplished... “What did I even do today?,” I think to myself.

I feel sad. I miss me. I miss the me in my life before her where I could just get myself ready and go. I miss the ease of it. I feel sad that my quiet evenings with my husband aren’t so quiet anymore and that the stress of a new baby has caused us to argue when we rarely did before. Then, I feel sad for thinking all of this! Yet another cycle, except this one is genuine.

I feel angry. Angry that my husband doesn’t produce milk and cant help me feed her. Angry that he gets to go to work while I stay shut up in the house all day. Angry that he says he is “tired” when I cannot remember the last time I really slept, without worry, without having to pump, without smelling like spit up.

I feel worried. I’m worried about her eating enough, growing enough, learning enough and becoming a decent human. I worry about bills, and how we can afford her needs. I worry about the kind of life we can give her.

I feel scared. If it is this hard now, what will the rest of our lives be like? What kind of mother could I be if I can’t cope now?

I feel my stretch marks and see them in all their tiger-striped glory, and I remember what my body used to look like. I remember this and feel envious of the women who still have their perfectly intact bodies. I feel my cesarean scar and wonder what I would feel, if it would be different, if my birth had gone the way I had dreamed my whole life it would.

I feel like even though I prepared to the best of my abilities for nine months, nothing, and I mean nothing, not the books, not my family, not my doulas, could prepare me for answering this question. “How do you feel?”

When I look down at my daughter and kiss her forehead, I feel calm. I feel warm and I feel complete. All of the other feelings fade to the background, even if it’s just in that moment, and I get some respite. “My little Queen,” I often murmur in her ear. In-genuinely ask me in these moments, and genuinely, I feel like a dysfunctional sleep-deprived version of me who is trying to find herself again in this new crazy state of being.

So, as I take in the last few moments to myself in this tub, I’m imagining to be an island far away, I think I have my answer. The next time someone asks, “How do you feel?”

I feel like a mother, and that’s the most genuine version of me I could ever be.


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