There is something raw about motherhood, especially those early days - for some, those early months and even years. When you deliver your baby, you are raw and vulnerable and exposed. And for that reason, we often only have our spouse and mother and maybe our closest friend in the delivery room. For my third delivery, I couldn't even see anyone except my husband until after I received the epidural. I was in more pain than I had ever experienced in any of my labors or at any other time in my life. And I couldn't even begin to comprehend the thought of having someone, even my dearest loved ones, come into the room. I just pulled my husband closer and cried and begged him not to leave me. I just wanted him. The thought of my husband not being right next to me terrified me.
And then your baby is born and the pain is over - you're covered up and no longer exposed, and life is supposed to resume as normal.
But what you don’t realize is that you are still raw and vulnerable and exposed.
You come home, and life is not what it was before. In so many ways, it is better than you could have ever imagined it. But in other ways, it is harder than you could've ever imagined. Your home is a mess. Dishes are piled up, bathrooms haven’t been deep cleaned, laundry - clean and dirty - is everywhere, counters cluttered, the diaper genie overflowing…all while a toddler is whining, a Kindergartener has homework to do, and your newborn bundle of joy doesn't want to be set down.
And your well meaning friends and family say, “Just let me help.”
That is when I realized that nothing had changed since I was in the delivery room. I am still raw and vulnerable and exposed. Motherhood brings out the deepest of your personal “mess”. For me, having a third baby exposed how unhealthy my desire for perfection and control is. And that personal “mess” isn't easy. It isn't pretty. I get angry, frustrated, hopeless. I cry, I want to yell, and I eat a lot of Ben&Jerry’s ice cream. And that’s okay. This is a season. Just like labor is a finite experience, so is postpartum. But that doesn't mean you want to let everyone in on it.
In the delivery room, you are physically exposed. And people give you privacy when you're physically exposed. But postpartum exposes you emotionally, it leaves you so vulnerable and raw, you don't even know what to make of it yousrself. You don't have time or energy to sort through it. You are emotionally exposed, and thats something you don't want to let just anyone in on, either.
I can write all day about how hard postpartum has been. I have no problem sharing my description of what this postpartum season is like. Just like I could tell you all about my labor and delivery. But to actually invite someone into the mess??
“Just let me help,” they say.
But having someone come over means hiding the mess you don’t want exposed. It means making sure the bathroom is guest ready. It means putting a bra on. It means moving the pile of laundry from the couch to your bed. And when you're feeling at your lowest of low, doing all of that is not help.
Well meaning friends probably wouldn't care if they saw all of your mess. But postpartum, whether you have baby blues, postpartum depression or are simply adjusting to your new normal, is raw. It exposes you in ways you aren't ready to face. It leaves you vulnerable in a way you've never felt before, during a time where everyone wants to come visit. Postpartum leaves you in an emotional state that is often private. Just as delivering a baby is private to some women, so is that postpartum season. Just as your naked body is private, so are your naked emotions. Not shameful, just private.
Just like labor, postpartum is painful. First you had labor pains, and now you have growing pains. You are growing into the mother you were meant to be. The contractions are gone but in their place are waves of emotions. They're intense bouts of anxiety, fear, sadness, hopelessness. The waves are unpredictable and ugly and you just need someone to remind you that this, too, shall pass. That you are doing a great job. That through this difficult season, something beautiful will emerge. You are learning how to let go of control, how to breathe through moments of anxiety, how to trust God fully in a way you never needed to before.
I wish I had a conclusion - something that inspires you to accept the help you need, or something to validate you that its ok to decline help. But its not easy. You really do need someone to help you. But its okay. You are not alone. And this, too, shall pass.