Mom Life | Snapshot

I wrote this essay a few months ago while in the thick folds of newborn life. My postpartum journey is not unique and being a mom of two kids is not groundbreaking.  Millions of us go through the trauma, pain, and anguish of pregnancy, labor, and postpartum hell to give life to our greatest joys. Here's a little snapshot.

The darkened room houses a scattering of half a dozen limp bodies occupying its nooks and crannies. Silence and the occasional muffled grunt echo from parts unknown. Familiar with the drill, I quickly find my nook, lay face down, and press my body into the fully reclined leather chair. A minute later, a set of footsteps shuffle in trailed by a barely audible "hi." She gets to work. She starts with my neck and rhythmically move her way down to my shoulders and upper back, kneading and rubbing with perk. If it were any other day, I would've appreciated the extra vigor but tonight the pressure presses my body deep into the chair sending waves of pain into my rock hard fully engorged breasts and bleeding nipples. They're so raw and beyond repair that no amount of lanolin makes a difference. I wonder if they'll ever heal or if they'll stay mutilated forever.  My entire body tenses up as the pain spreads deep to my core and just as I'm about to tell her to stop, she lets out a tiny laugh and tells me to relax.

Relax. Relax? I gave birth to my second son three weeks ago. And since then, I haven't left the house, haven't slept more than two hours at a time, or gone more than three hours without a tear-inducing latch-challenged nursing session that inevitably ends with an agitated baby and me drenched in a mix of sweat and frustration. My nipples are sore, scabby, and so sensitive that silent screams escape my throat every time the slightest touch happens to graze its general vicinity. My neck and shoulders are stiff from hunching over and twisting in tensely unnatural ways (eight times a day, forty minutes each) to get a better latch. I'm not relaxed. I'm anything but relaxed.

Her hands work their way down to my lower spine and I wonder if she'd notice a small bump, remnants of where the epidural needle pierced my skin during labor. The labor itself was quick, five hours from the first contraction to the first skin to skin contact with my 7 pounds 13 ounce baby boy.  He entered the world after a mere fifteen minutes of pushing but in dramatic fashion my placenta stubbornly refused to make its exit. No amount of massaging or pushing made a difference as it held on tightly to my womb. At the thirty minute mark, I was in danger of hemorrhaging so my doctor reached inside my body and forcefully pulled out the placenta. My body went into shock. I couldn't stop shaking while tidal waves of nausea made it impossible for me to continue holding my precious new baby. I passed him to my husband and took deep breaths to calm and stop my body from spinning out of control. Two hours and a round of medication later, I was finally cleared to hold him again.

She finishes massaging my body and moved on to my scalp and face. It feels nice but I'm self-conscious certain she'd notice my oily scalp and flaky skin. Hair washing and exfoliation are not at the top of the priority list these days and I'm not sure if they'll ever make it back on top. She notices I'm clutching my phone and casually suggests I put it away for a more relaxing experience. I nod but hold onto it anyway. This is the longest I've been away from the baby so I need to stay connected in case of an emergency. I already feel so guilty for leaving the house, for taking an hour to for self-care when an eight pound little helpless human is depending on me for around the clock care. I grip my phone a little tighter.

And then comes the foot massage, signaling the end of the hour. I don't realize my swollen feet are throbbing until she touches them. People love to dole out advice like, "Get plenty of rest during the first few weeks!" Or my personal favorite, "Sleep when the baby sleeps!" Those assholes are not moms. Or if they are, they've forgotten what newborn life is really like. I can't rest. My feet can't rest. I pace back and forth for hours rocking the baby to sleep. I'm constantly going up and down the stairs squeezing in pumping sessions to build up a little supply so that one of these days I can give him a bottle and let my poor nipples rest. When baby is sleeping, I'm playing with my three-year-old toddler who has become so clingy and tantrum-prone because there's a stranger in the house occupying all of mommy's time and he doesn't understand why I'm there but not really there.

She gives my feet one last soft squeeze before ending the session. I thank her, tip generously, and make my way out to the parking lot. It's late, it's quiet, and my car sits alone under the dimly lit pole. I get in and slumber follows me.  I'm tempted to take a quick nap but is jolted out of my temptation with the anxiety inducing thought of "what if baby wakes up early?" I close my eyes for one last lingering second, turn on the ignition, and drive back to mom life.