Finding Your Truth in Postpartum

Originally Published for theCityMoms as "The Truth About Postpartum, from a therapist

· Family,Women's Health,Postpartum,Motherhood,Kim

Editor’s Note: CityMom Kim and LMFT is sharing some of the ways new moms can get curious about themselves as they journey into the postpartum fray.

Whether you are in the middle of those hazy eye days of newborn life, or launching your “baby” into the big world, you are living the life of a postpartum mother. I know that mothers rarely have time to pause and think about our journeys, but I would love for us to take a collective moment together to celebrate and grieve all the ins and outs that come with being postpartum.

As a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist I have had the privilege of working with so many women over the years, desiring to explore their postpartum self but experiencing shame talking about it because they feel they “didn’t have it that bad.” (i.e., didn’t get formally diagnosed with PMADS) or that people have been giving birth for forever, so why should they be giving it that much thought?

I’ll clue you into what I say in the therapy room, “Your experience of your pregnancy and the postpartum world is valid and worth recognizing. We all have different experiences that deserve time and effort to explore and understand. Now, I understand that in the early days, you were likely surviving from one hour to the next so care and focus might have been more squarely on your little human. But now that you’ve found more of a groove, I wonder if you may have space to be curious to honor postpartum you?”

It may feel a little overwhelming to slow down and reflect, so we’ve got you covered with a few questions to get you started!

1. What did you appreciate about yourself pre-pregnancy?

One of my favorite questions to ask people coming to therapy for their first appointment is a wonderful Narrative Therapy question, it goes as follows: “As I get to know you better, what will I learn to appreciate about you?”

What I like about this question is it helps us to slow down, expand our view of ourselves, and appreciate all the parts that make us who we are. This question doesn’t have to only live in your pre-pregnancy self, of course, but it is a good place to start.

You might notice that there are things that you cherished (about you) pre-pregnancy that haven’t been expressed in a while. Maybe you used to really appreciate how you were able to concentrate on tasks from beginning to end but having children doesn’t allow you the space to do that consistently. This might be a pain point and something you wish you could get back about your pre-pregnant self or a part of your previous self that you grieve.

2. What do you grieve about in your postpartum life?

Pregnancy and birth are enormous transitions. Parts of you might feel like they have died, or at the very least lie dormant for weeks, months, or years. You might not have been able to put the word “grief” to what you have been experiencing, but in my experience (and many others) grief in motherhood is very real.

Just remember, you won’t be in this space forever, but the pathway to healing is to safely process your losses. And above all let’s remember that where there is grief, joy and hope can also be found.

Here is a little meditation script to try: I am open to feeling my sorrow. I am allowing myself to grieve who I used to be. When I breathe in slowly I feel my sorrow in my (chest). I can experience my sorrow without judgment and when I breathe in deeply and slowly, I can release my sorrow when I’m ready. I can live in a space where sorrow can be present and joy can be present. I can place my hand on my heart and feel the warmth of joy.  

3. What do you celebrate about yourself now?

How can I possibly hold grief and hope at the same time? Some days you might be able to and some not—that is perfectly normal. There will be days when the clouds will clear and you can celebrate and appreciate yourself again.

Go back to step one and ask yourself what you appreciate about yourself in this moment right now, sitting in the space you are in. Once you come up with even one thing, do something to celebrate!

When you celebrate you are giving your brain a literal boost (thanks to neuropathways) to help solidify who you are becoming. You get serious brain bonus points if you share your celebration with someone else! When you share the story of who you are becoming, you are solidifying a new narrative and helping others to learn about you.

4. What support do you need to live with your postpartum self?

Some people feel comfortable sharing their pregnancy and postpartum stories with others while for some this might be a more private process. Whether you speak your story aloud or record it for yourself (through journaling, art, movement, or music) the point is to do something to ground yourself in the real postpartum space you now reside in.

And please, from one postpartum mama to another: If you need help, ask. There are groups, therapists, churches, organizations, and care just for you. You also don’t have to share your story to try doing something new to live with your postpartum self. To live your fullest postpartum life, you can either incorporate your child(ren) into the activities you are doing or ask for the help of others so you can have time alone. Everyone does this differently and it is about finding the right balance for you over time and communicating your needs to others.

There are going to be seasons in life for reflection and seasons in life to relax with Netflix. Whatever season you are in, know we are rooting for you to live authentically with the ones you love most.

You’ve already come such a long way, always remember that.