(Photo By Angela Baron Photographer)
Postpartum. Even the word in itself feels dark and scary for me. Before I had children, I assumed that I would easily and seamlessly transition into motherhood, and that it would feel like a honeymoon. I believed that I would suddenly bloom gracefully into motherhood. But I was so wrong. I have 4 babies: I’ve experienced 4 dark postpartum periods and am still very much in the thick of my 4th postpartum tunnel.
With each baby, the theme seems to be one of being peeled and broken down to my very core. So much of my naked, raw inner self makes me question myself. It makes me wonder who I am at my very core. I feel like I’m about to fall into a sea of emotions and tears.
Something about this time makes me feel raw, vulnerable, and most of all; broken. When I’m asked how I am, I say that I’m surviving, or that I’m getting better, but what I really want to say is that I feel so broken. Everything that makes me feel not okay seems to be magnified and intensified: My anxiety is heightened. My childhood pains are triggered. I become even more self conscious in my own skin. I feel like something is wrong with me, or that I’m broken. Throw in hormones, difficulty breastfeeding, a new stretchy, soft, curvy body, lots of tears and lack of sleep…. I really do feel broken. And I think to myself, maybe I really am broken. Cue anxiety: How do I mother my children if I’m broken? Am I valued if I am broken? Am I inherently worthy if I am broken? Broken down to my core, exposed and vulnerable- Am I still worthy, valuable and capable? Postpartum breaks us down physically, mentally and emotionally. Suddenly, I don’t care that my breasts were exposed in front of people after I delivered. I don’t have time to wear make up or get myself dressed. I sit in my bed, almost completely naked and topless because I just had a baby. My title as entrepreneur and business owner was put on hold as I took time off to have my baby. I was stripped down to the very basics of myself because I took everything off, physically, emotionally and mentally, to have a baby. During birth, I laid down my worries of the world, and stripped myself of all that was on my mind the day before and instinctually cared about one thing: the healthy birth of my baby. Bringing a child into the world, no matter how it happens, instinctually led me to take off my mask, my facade, my clothes and peeled me to my very core. I feel emotionally and mentally exposed and naked before my own eyes. After birth, as I entered into postpartum, I disconnected myself from titles, labels and roles that I carry in my life. I simply, became Jessica. When we give birth to our children, we give birth to a new, raw version of ourselves too. This new, elemental, raw version of myself feels as helpless as my newborn. And I’m learning how to discover this new, broken down version of myself. My brand new baby does not yet have any occupation, title, label, facade in the world. As she grows, she will pick up titles: friend, student. Perhaps she may become a dancer or a singer, or a banker, or whatever her heart leads her to. One day, she might have a career and hold an occupational career. But right now, she is simply my baby. She is inherently valuable, worthy, beautiful and so precious at her very core. She is loved simply because she is who she is. I have picked up titles of wife, business owner, entrepreneur, artist, friend, student, etc. These layers are peeled away during my postpartum to reveal Jessica, without any ties to labels or titles that may provide a sense of self-worth. And the hardest part about postpartum for me is to recognize myself at my very core and seeing self-worth in my raw, naked self.
It’s not the practical stuff that makes postpartum hard for me. It’s everything else. Something about these days makes me reach deep into my heart to look at my deepest and darkest fears. It’s like an onion is being peeled, uncovering layers that I never thought were there. Parts of me are being unearthed and makes me question myself as an individual, a woman and as a mother. It makes me feel lost, vulnerable, and like a child. I wonder if I’m a good mother, or if my children love me. I wonder if I am giving my kids what they need. All these questions ride on the waves of emotions that come from after giving birth. Postpartum makes me feel broken. It makes me feel small. It makes me feel like a child, which in turn, triggers these feelings and thoughts. There’s something about my postpartum experience that makes me feel like a child, that makes me so aware that I am motherless. Perhaps it’s because the instinct to care and protect for my own children becomes heightened, or because I’m so exhausted that I yearn to receive the same love that I am pouring out into my own children? Perhaps it’s because I’m so weary from holding it all together that I feel the need to be cared for in a warm, unconditional way too. I know now, that motherhood is about giving our children a safe place that they can be vulnerable in – a place where they can lay down their worries, the insecurities and their brokenness so that they can rest. My babies are born in their natural state, with no ties to titles or facades and I love them so much in their brand-new, raw state. I love them because they are simply, the way they are in their natural glory. For me, motherhood is about nurturing the babies I birth and cherishing them just as they are, so that one day, when they look deep inside of themselves, they know the answer to the questions they ask about themselves. One day, when they look inside their core, I want them to see self-worth, beauty, and inherent value. And that’s what I need right now. I need a place to rest in my brokenness. I feel like I need a place to rest from the sleepless nights, the difficulty breastfeeding, the colicky crying and the deep, turbulent emotions that come after having a baby. But what I really need is a space to feel safe to explore this raw version of myself that has just been unveiled.
I need the very same thing that I want to give my babies. If I dig deep into my heart, I know that I AM broken. But perhaps it’s a beautiful, broken mess. What a beautiful opportunity it is for me to heal and discover at this very deep level. I feel like I’m a vase that has been shattered, but maybe I don’t need to put the pieces back together like I think they should be. Maybe the broken pieces come together to form a new, beautiful mosaic art. The pieces are beautiful because it simply exists to form something new. I just don’t know how I’m going to get there yet. But I know that’s okay, because we’ll figure it out together.
Jessica is part of our new Mama Diary Series, #RAWmotherhood, that aims to provide purposeful portraits to break the “Instagram worthy” pictures of motherhood and be real for a moment. Thank you Jessica for supporting this campaign to unite and support mothers in their journey, postpartum. This initiative is to bring awareness and funds to BC Women’s Hospital Foundation as they continue the research and development of an app to treat PPD and PPA. Click here to find out how you can help.