In recent years, the postpartum period has been re-dubbed “The Fourth Trimester” for good reason–your body is still undergoing massive changes, you’re still pumped full of crazy hormones, and you’re still not getting any good sleep (albeit for a different reason than before). I’d learned the first time around that this postpartum period is truly its own beast, and I quickly also realized that in many ways, it’s actually harder than pregnancy (at least it was for me).
Of course, I didn’t have the typical first-time postpartum experience: I had a major complication immediately following the birth of my daughter, which led to a prolonged healing period after; I ended up in the ER less than a week after giving birth with chest pains that ended up being huge gallstones, necessitating me to undergo gallbladder removal surgery a few weeks after that; and I also started experiencing extreme muscle soreness and fatigue in addition to unbearably itchy rashes on my body, all of which led to me being diagnosed with an autoimmune disease about three months postpartum.
It was a tough time, you guys–not only was I having to deal with all of the usual stress that comes after having a first baby (breastfeeding woes, coming to terms with my postpartum shape, feeling like I had no idea what I was doing as a new parent), I also had a lot of other stress about my own physical health.
So you can probably understand why I was a little wary going into the postpartum period again. For starters, I was worried my autoimmune disease was going to flare up again. I haven’t had a relapse since going into remission a couple years ago, but since pregnancy hormones seemed to be partly to blame for what triggered the disease in the first place, I was understandably a bit nervous. I also was anxious to get back into regular exercise because I know firsthand how much it helps me to manage my mood, and my first time postpartum, I definitely had a case of the baby blues for a couple weeks (though it didn’t come close to being full-blown postpartum depression, thankfully).
I am pleased to report that on all counts (except for perhaps sleep), my experience with postpartum recovery the second time around has been WORLDS better than the first time.
Seriously, it doesn’t even compare.
First off, I haven’t had any symptoms of an autoimmune flare-up (knock on wood). Second, because I exercised up until the very end of my pregnancy, I was able to actually start exercising even earlier postpartum than I’d planned–I started going on walks a few days after, and I went back to my aerobics class at 3 weeks postpartum (and started doing some light strength training moves then too). Even though this has made no difference whatsoever on my loss of the baby weight (which has stayed stubbornly at the same place since I was about two weeks postpartum), it has helped me to feel much more like my old self, which has helped my mood immeasurably (I’m sure the endorphins don’t hurt). All said and done, I had a brief two or three-day period soon after coming home from the hospital where I was prone to brief crying spells and feelings of total overwhelm, but those feelings subsided at about a week postpartum, and they haven’t returned since.
(Of course, I must clarify that although I don’t feel totally overwhelmed and helpless, I AM often overwhelmed by all that is going un-done at this point, but it’s not leaving me feel helpless or like I’m going to go to pieces—it’s more just annoying to me is all. Just had to make that point, in case any of you mistakenly thought I somehow have it all figured out and put together at this point! ha ha ha *insert that laughing/crying emoji right here*)
Also, something kinda funny has happened—after writing that post at two weeks postpartum all about how I didn’t understand how anyone could say that the transition from one to two was relatively easy, I can now actually say that I think I get it (after I got through the haze and fog and craziness of the first two weeks, that is)–while no part of motherhood is every really EASY, I have found that this transition from one to two kids has overall been a million times easier than my transition to new parenthood was, and I feel much more equipped to handle the different situations that come up (and have even learned to laugh about them…most of the time). A part of this might just be because Mathias isn’t a hard baby, but I think even more of it is due to the fact that I now have over 3 years of solid parenting experience under my belt, and I don’t yet have so many children that I’m totally overwhelmed by it all.
Even dealing with my postpartum shape this time around has been easier, though that might largely be because I exercised throughout my whole pregnancy. Honestly, if I hadn’t lost basically any weight since two weeks postpartum last time, I would have been freaking out (and I did inwardly freak out a bit even after I was losing about a pound a week back then!) Now, even though I still have about 15 pounds left to lose before I’m back to what I was before, I’m not that worried about it—I know from lots of experience with losing weight over the years that consistent exercise and being more mindful of what I’m eating will eventually take it off in the long run, and I’m excited this time to see what participating in Kayla Itsines’s Bikini Body Guide program will do for me, especially because strength training has always been a huge weakness of mine (since I usually prefer cardio). I started her 4-week “Beginner” program this week, which I’ll complete in its entirety before I start with the “real” BBG. (Funny note: I thought that because my cardio/aerobic capacity is really quite good, I would be able to skip a few of the weeks of the “Beginner” stage. Well, I did the first Beginner workout yesterday, and I literally almost collapse every time I walk down the stairs now, so I think it’s safe to say I need the whole 4-week period…)
Of course, all of this is not to say that I don’t sometimes struggle still with the transition or that I’m not terribly sleep deprived (because I do, and I am–oh, how I’m sleep-deprived!), but I HAVE been pleasantly surprised to find that the postpartum period has been about a million times easier this time around, for which I’m immensely grateful.