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Navigating Postpartum - Jess's Journey

Navigating Postpartum - Jess's Journey

Hey mama, so you’ve gone through the magical door to motherhood and birthed your baby! Can we just say Congratulations! We think that every time a baby is born, so too is a mother! And while we spend so much time preparing for baby, as new mamas we often forget to prepare ourselves for the transition to motherhood. 

We want to know (and share) what really goes on postpartum, so we asked mamas to share their experiences, ideas and words of wisdom about how they are navigating their postpartum journey. At Viva La Vulva we want to normalise what our bodies go through after growing and birthing a baby, and becoming a mother. Postpartum experiences are rarely talked about, but a baby changes you, your body and your soul! 

If you love the idea of normalising everything postpartum and wanna share your thoughts, feelings, ideas, wisdom with other mamas to be - you can share your story here. 

Thank you for this important conversation and helping us normalise these stories by telling yours, powerful mama.


My pregnancy story takes a couple of twists.. but (spoiler alert) it does end positively! I won't go into too much detail about the pregnancy/birth side of things but I think it's important to share a little background. I fell pregnant quite quickly before Covid and went on holiday to visit my partner Ryan's family in Melbourne. I started getting symptoms that indicated I was having a miscarriage and when we came back to NZ that was confirmed. I was mismanaged by our health system (a story for another day) and after a few months allowing my body to heal we thought we would try again. Thankfully I was able to get pregnant quickly again and aside from horrific morning sickness (why do they call it 'morning'!?) everything went smoothly. Leading into my final weeks of pregnancy it became clear that the baby was in a breech position and after a failed ECV (attempted manual turn - horrific and I would never do this again) I had no option but to birth via c section. I remember feeling overwhelmed, sad, scared, and really disappointed that I wasn't going to experience labour (or my planned water birth!). But the reality was so different to what I expected - I look back with beautiful memories of my caesarean. It was peaceful, I wasn't tired from being in labour, we were both safe, and even though it was my first time in hospital, I felt very much at ease. Billy Harrison Burge was born on 19th December 2020 weighing 3.02kg at 37.5 weeks.

Fast forward nearly a year (!) and I have learnt so much about myself and the journey that is postpartum. In those first few days I was so nervy, I was scared to walk (thought my guts would fall out - it didn't!), I couldn't take tramadol so I was only using panadol and nurofen for pain relief, but in actual fact I never experienced any pain, it was all a mental process for me. 

In the first few weeks I felt very left behind by our health system - my time in hospital was great and I credit the hospital midwives for my positive breastfeeding journey. Beyond that, there was no follow up after leaving the hospital (other than my midwife taking my dressing off). I expected to book in with a doctor and have my scar assessed, any abdominal separation looked at, and to have a plan put in place to gently ease me back into day-to-day exercise/activity. But there was nothing! It's major surgery, yet there was no one to tell me what I should/shouldn't do, what was normal, and when I could get my body back to exercising. Google became my friend and I learnt about the importance of massaging the scar to reduce tissue spider-webbing around my incision - but there is a huge lack of information around post surgery expectations and how to best allow your body to heal. I hate touching my scar, it creeps me out a bit... but I can finally see that the redness and bumpiness is starting to ease.

During those early months I definitely relied a lot on my parents for help - meals, helping with cleaning, holding Billy so I could shower etc. My partner Ryan was great but he was also back at work when Billy was 3 weeks old, and he was studying to become a registered architect at the same time, and although I was cleared to drive, I was still recovering from major surgery. I was surprised at how my 'village' shrunk so quickly. We didn't have many friends with babies and I guess a lot of people don't understand what it's like until it's their turn. We also have a lot of friends overseas which makes things tricky, and Ryan's family are all in Melbourne (Covid threw us some curve balls in that respect..). I was really surprised by the lack of visits from my extended family. I had always considered us close, but this made me reevaluate those relationships and further appreciate the people who had chosen to help us out or come and visit. 

Please! If you have a friend with a young baby… cook a meal, take some lunch, vacuum, make their bed, hang out some washing. It's nice to have cuddles with the baby, but it's nicer if you can do some light chores while you visit so that the new Mum isn't sitting holding her baby stressing about the state of her house. Everyone says "don't worry about the housework" etc etc, but I have OCD - it was never going to be something I could turn a blind eye to. 

I had a very busy career in real estate prior to having Billy, and it took me a good 3-4 months to learn to appreciate a slower pace of life. Newborns sleep a lot, and there was a lot of time spent sitting around wondering what my new life would be like. I felt envious of Ryan for being able to simply leave the house and go to work. He could go out for lunch, go shopping, get a haircut, all while knowing his baby was kept safe and cared for at home. Because I was breastfeeding (and still am), in those early days you can't be far away from your baby (unless you pump like a maniac - which I did on rare occasions), so you feel like you're the one doing it all and never getting time to yourself! I think we have worked out that juggling act, and I'm only breastfeeding twice a day now, so it feels like I'm getting pieces of my old life back while also having an appreciation for my new one too. Every sunny day I make sure we get out for a good 45 minute walk, and I try to get to the gym at least 1-2 times a week as well. This helps to clear my head and allows me the time to focus on something for myself.

It's important that Ryan and I are present when we are home together, things like putting away our phones or having a glass of wine together allow us both to unwind and enjoy each others company. It's so easy in those times of sleep deprivation to blob on the couch every night through pure exhaustion, but those rare moments of quiet are actually the best times to support each other and give that comforting feeling of normality.  

I hated being offered advice when I was pregnant and Billy was born. If I had a dollar for every time someone said "sleep while the baby is sleeping" I would be sitting on a tropical island somewhere counting my cash. I still think my best offer of 'advice' would be to trust your gut and your instincts - yes other people have mothered before, but no one knows your baby like you do. OH and USE the dryer! I read that somewhere... I hate using dryers and always hang washing outside, but I've learnt that time efficiency is important, and if I need to use the dryer just use the friggen thing!

Everyone says "it goes so fast, enjoy it while you can", and I used to sit there nodding thinking "easy for you to say! I'm exhausted, want to shower, I'm missing out on dinner with friends, I haven't moved off the couch all day, this child won't stop feeding", so while I now appreciate why people say that (it has flown by!), when you're in the trenches it's not a comforting comment. Instead remember that this day will pass, every phase is short lived, every growth spurt ends, and in the blink of an eye you'll be doing it all over again.

We loved reading this Jessica. Thanks so much for sharing your experience with us!

xx VLV


Navigating Postpartum is a series by you, our sisters. If you love the idea of normalising everything postpartum and wanna share your thoughts, feelings, ideas, wisdom with other mamas to be, we wanna hear from you - please get in touch with us here.

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