Let’s talk about Post-Partum

Before the arrival of our baby, we tend to fantasize a lot about our new life. We spend time choosing his/her future clothes, decorating the baby’s room, making a baby list. We read books and learn about newborns on many forums, and take advice and experiences from our loved ones. All the attention is focused on this beautiful being growing inside us.

In the midst of all this excitement, we all tend to forget to take care of ourselves. We, young mothers, who have just lived through our biggest life-changing event in the past nine months..

The first days with your baby:
the postpartum period

For 9 months, we are at the center of all the attention. Our loved ones are present, the people we meet are benevolent. You know it, you have felt it… Pregnant women get all the attention and affectionate glances.

Then comes the big day. The most beautiful and the first day of the rest of your life. It’s the meeting with the one you’ve been carrying, dreaming about, and thinking about for 9 months. Most of us will spend 3 days in the maternity ward, which is the time needed to physically recover from giving birth as well as to monitor your baby for the first few days.

During these three days, we are still the center of attention. Our relatives come to visit us, the midwives are at our disposal, and there is always a nurse to help us and give us advice on how to take care of our new-born child.

In short, we are in a comforting bubble. Some may feel eager to get home, perhaps because another child is eagerly waiting to meet his little brother or sister.

Finally, you’re allowed home. And your house has grown to three. The beginning of a great new adventure and… the drop of your hormone levels.

You will cry for no reason. You may feel intense joy, quickly followed by fear… 
So many emotions come out. We rediscover our bodies. The body that has carried life, and that we must learn to love again beyond these new stretch marks, possibly a scar, and the few extra kilos that have come to rest on our hips.

Some mothers will feel the symptoms of an empty stomach: commonly known as the “baby blues”.

Nothing to worry about. 80% of women experience it in the first few days after giving birth and this phenomenon fades away almost as quickly as it appeared. Give yourself time to explore these emotions. Cry if necessary. Don’t feel guilty about anything, you are great! You are simply gaining awareness of the separation with your baby. It’s the ‘end’ of symbiosis with the one you carried for months. At this time, we slowly realize that we have now become a mother.

If several days after you return home, you continue to feel extremely vulnerable, struggle to take care of your baby, and continue experiencing a loss of appetite, talk to your midwife. You have to make sure that your baby blues don’t turn into postpartum depression.

Postpartum: a subject which remains a taboo

As mothers, we are not well informed about the postpartum period. We fantasize about a harmonious life with a beautiful baby who eats and sleeps at set times, and we lack understanding of the infamous fourth trimester.

We hear very little about the pain of episiotomy stitches, vulvar oedemas, postpartum diapers or difficulties that we can experience in our couple, often linked to the lack of sleep. Women have been giving birth since the dawn of time, and to this day, remain uninformed about these elements.
For several weeks now, #MyPostPartum has been lifting the veil on this phenomenon. Many influential women like Ahsley Graham display their daily lives in photos with far-from-ideal Instagram images. It’s MAGNIFICENT and MOVING.

ashley graham affiche son postpartum

Instagram photo @AshleyGraham

To continue on this beautiful path, we too wanted to make our contribution. We asked three young mothers: Astrid Lhermite, Coline Ménard and Josépha Raphard to tell you about their fourth trimester with their respective babies.

Josépha Raphard, mother of Paloma – 2 months old (when interviewed)

– Had you ever heard of postpartum prior to giving birth?
Yes, quite a lot. I had read and heard a lot of things, particularly about “baby blues”.
After that, I worked on “MOTHERS”, and of course, many women told me a lot about Post Partum.

– In the days following the birth of Paloma, did you feel baby blues ?
In the days following the birth of Paloma, I didn’t feel the infamous baby blues, maybe because I stayed 8 days in the maternity ward and I really enjoyed this interlude. For the first five days, I was separated from Paloma who had minor health problems, so I focused my attention on her, how to transmit good energy to her, and how to make the most of the moments that we both had (or the three of us with my boyfriend). My boyfriend stayed with me the entire time, even at night (except one night, as I insisted that he sleep at least once in a proper bed, and that he take a bit of time away from the maternity ward). We were a really tight team and I didn’t really think about the baby blues. I had moments of crying and euphoria but no real baby blues.

– Did you feel that you were sufficiently helped and supported when you left the maternity ward?
I didn’t feel any particular support when I left the maternity ward. But again, as I stayed there for 8 days, I was particularly well taken care of, which I think helped a lot. Once at home I was mainly supported by my partner or my close friends.

– How were the first days back at home organized?
After 8 days in the maternity ward, I was afraid to go home, yet I was also very eager!
The first days went very well, we made our marks little by little. It got better each day, despite the first few nights being a bit intense!

– Did you experience complicated moments with Arnaud (boyfriend), possibly related to tiredness? (known as the Baby Clash)
I think we are lucky because we did not really experience a baby clash. Or at least we haven’t yet (Paloma is two months old, you never know!). 
At times, inevitably, there can be sentences said with a little less softness and kindness but these were rather rare and we quickly corrected ourselves when this happened. We always kept in mind that our significant other is our best ally and that we had created the best thing in the world.

– In terms of your intimacy, have you managed to reconnect with each other?
On the level of our intimacy, we had to adapt and find new connections. We sleep with Paloma, so our evenings and nights are very different. During the day, Paloma is very often glued to us so we find other ways to connect. I think the first few months are mostly about showing the other person that we still want them and desire them. You should never stop saying nice things to each other.

– What advice would you give to future moms?
Don’t neglect communication with your partner! Don’t be afraid to tell him everything: your moments of happiness, your fears, and also your moments of depression. I also advise to have a good cry in the shower, it will take some of the emotions off your shoulders and make everything feels better. Another thing is that you have to accept that your baby is a human being. Sometimes, he/she also needs to relieve stress/emotions, and despite it not always being easy to hear him cry, keep in mind he/she is expressing his/her-self! For mothers who breastfeed, the first month will be hard, but it will quickly get better and easier. A month goes by quickly. Last but not least – and I’m still working on this – try not to feel guilty. We do what we can, in the best way we can!

Astrid Lhermite, Marcel’s mother – 1 year old

– Had you ever heard of postpartum prior to giving birth?
Hello, yes, I had heard a lot about the baby blues, during childbirth preparation classes, from friends who had experienced the consequences of hormone drops, in books, etc. When I was doing my psychology thesis, a friend of mine was even working on the concept of post-traumatic stress related to childbirth (and was beginning to study pre-traumatic stress in anticipation).

– In the days following Marcel’s birth, did you feel the infamous baby blues?
I feel we talk a lot about the depressing elements when we talk about the postpartum and not enough about the anxiety it can cause, or stressful we feel when we return home. I wasn’t really depressed, but I felt so stressed that I thought I wouldn’t be able to raise my son. In our case, it turned out to be beneficial: We ended up having to go to the pediatric emergency room as we didn’t feel we were getting enough support/understanding from our midwife. We were right to do so, as Marcel had to remain hospitalized for severe dehydration. This hospitalization was finally very enriching because the neonatalogy team was very attentive, supportive and non-judgmental, which allowed us to get back on better spirits. I had never heard or talked about the concept of matrescence. I found I was having difficulties to find a balance between the person I was before and my new identity as a mother.

– Did you feel that you were sufficiently helped and supported when you left the maternity ward?
I think that we are well prepared for giving birth, but do not get enough information on the practical side of being a mother, breastfeeding for those who want to, managing fatigue etc. I really like the idea of groups of mothers who get together to talk about their difficulties, fears and other things as they do in Anglo-Saxon countries (the “Working Moms” series is great by the way).

– How were the first days at home organized?
My parents were present during my stay at the maternity ward, and also for the first few days when I got back home. My mother offered to stay longer, but I said no at the time because I felt capable of handling things myself. This was before the fatigue really kicked in, and I was the one begging for her to stay after that. It’s not easy to find your rhythm, because you want to do everything perfectly. For example, Marcel could only sleep on me in the early days. I felt guilty and didn’t sleep for fear of suffocating him, until we were advised to buy a Cododo.

– Did you experience complicated moments with Lucas (boyfriend), possibly related to tiredness? (known as the Baby Clash)
Not so much at the beginning. We were so into Marcel and the desire to do well that we really formed a team. Lucas even asked me to marry him ! Haha! The tensions started coming during the summer that followed: Lucas was working a lot and wanted some free time when he wasn’t working. I had the impression of being pinned down all the time, of not being able to enjoy myself, of having become someone else (matrescence). Marcel had some minor health problems, which meant he wasn’t sleeping or eating very well, which added stress and tension. Fortunately, we gained more and more confidence in our abilities to take care of our growing child, and started to understand each other better.

In terms of intimacy, have you managed to reconnect with each other?
I had a tear during childbirth and various other small anatomical problems. The perineal rehab sessions helped me so much, from a physical and moral point of view. My physiotherapist was young and had children, so I really felt understood. When the pains started fading, everything went back to normal.

– What advice would you give to future moms?
Don’t hesitate to ask all the questions that come to mind, even once’s you think are stupid! We are filled with maternal instincts but changing a diaper full of meconium or your baby’s first baths require a level of technicality that is not innate. Another thing is to sleep as soon as you can, even if you want to clear the house up or enjoy yourself in any other way. You can’t actually do either of these if you are exhausted. Last but not least: enjoy it! Even if it’s hard, it really does go by very quickly- it’s not just a rumor.

Coline Ménard, mother of Romeo – 6 months old

– Had you ever heard of postpartum before or during your pregnancy?
Of course, like most moms-to-be (I suppose), I had heard about Postpartum and Baby Blues. However, I didn’t really know what to expect because the testimonials of my mom-friends were all so different. As I’m rather “down to earth”, I was waiting to see how I would react, how everything would go with my baby. I was well surrounded and prepared by my midwife, Claire, who made me ask myself the right questions by removing the stress of the unknown from the postpartum.

– In the days following Romeo’s birth, did you feel the infamous baby blues?
I felt this huge rush of mixed emotions: hormones mixed with fatigue from the first sleepless nights. I have to admit that I cried a lot for no reason!
Baby Blues? I’m not so sure… I loved my baby from the second he was born, and I didn’t have any anxiety or troubled thoughts when I got home. I guess it depends a lot on how you define Baby Blues.
Knowing in advance that you might cry for no reason after partum makes it much easier to accept.

– Did you feel that you were sufficiently helped and supported when you left the maternity ward?
Absolutely! We were lucky that everything went well in the maternity ward, with some follow-up appointments at home after that, and also having family and friends who live close by.
On the medical side, my midwife was very supportive and was there every time I needed her… A few months later, we became close enough to go on a trip together, through our surfing group “elles surf”.
On the family side, I was lucky to have my parents living close to us. They were able to look after Romeo the few times we had things we needed to do!
I do want to give a huge shoutout to our friends from Biarritz who brought us a giant couscous dish a few days after Romeo’s birth: It was delicious and full of the energy we needed – and tasted even better as we didn’t to cook it!

– How were the first days at home organized?
Things fell quickly into place very naturally. The first days went by so fast! We quickly found our rhythm with feedings and sleep. The thing that bothered me the most was the fact that I couldn’t take China, our dog out. It took me a few days to be able to walk around the neighborhood without feeling like I was running a marathon… Physically and morally, it was hard not to be “on top” of my shape, especially after having had a “dream pregnancy” and having remained active through it.

– Did you experience complicated moments with Clément (boyfriend), possibly related to tiredness? (known as the Baby Clash)
Clement and I don’t like conflict… We knew there would be more tense moments because he had to work and go away quickly after Romeo’s birth.
Apart from a few harsh words and occasional dry tone, we didn’t even insult each other!

– In terms of intimacy, have you managed to reconnect with each other?
We have always remained very tender towards one another and despite our mood swings and fatigue, we did not leave our “love bubble”. The reconnection happened naturally.

– Did you manage to wait until the end of your rehabilitation before returning to your physically active lifestyle?
Patience is the key… I had to wait 2 and a half months without surfing! That felt like such a long time! I already had to wait for more than a month before taking a nice hot bath, so as soon as I got the green light from my therapist, I was back in the water.
I was able to resume surfing in mellow conditions, ideal for realizing that I had lost my core and arm strength.

– What advice would you give to future moms?
Listen to you and your mommy instincts, nobody knows what’s right for you and your baby better than you.
Advice comes from all different places and is sometimes contradictory. It is sometimes part what’s actually “right”. TRUST YOURSELF!

If you have stories to share, send us your experiences from your postpartum period and together, let’s lift the veil on the fourth trimester!