During my pregnancies, I had hardly any morning sickness, no backache, and I worked out up until the morning my water broke with each girl (both of whom decided to arrive at 37 weeks and 2 days, almost to the hour). Labor and delivery with each girl were also straightforward — no epidural, about 10 minutes of pushing, and those stinkers were out. No trauma, no epic story to share. One dissolvable stitch was all I needed. But my postpartum experience with each was very different.
The Transition to Motherhood
After my oldest daughter was born, I was easily irritable. I blamed lack of sleep, hormones, and the doldrums of being a new mom. At one point, just a few days postpartum, I sobbed uncontrollably because that scene from Dumbo where his mom cradles him in her trunk popped into my head. It had probably been a solid 20 years since I’d seen the movie and the song wasn’t playing but for whatever reason remembering that moment had me blubbering — and I mean full on ugly crying — for three hours.
Before becoming a mom I was active. I was a rock climber, an adventure racer, and a weightlifter. I was a civilian journalist working for the U.S. Army. I got to ride in Black Hawks, interview generals, and cover troop movements and defense strategies. I loved my new role as “mom,” but I missed my old life. No climbing 14ers that summer. No whitewater rafting. No hiking in the backcountry. Wah wah wah. This didn’t really bother me. I knew what I’d signed up for and I knew that, before long, we would get our daughter outside and doing all of the activities we loved.
What bothered me was something deeper. I loved my new baby and was so excited to do all of the “mom” things with her — read stories, give baths, bake cookies. But I almost wanted to push the fast-forward button to get to those experiences. I didn’t want to soak anything in. And, maybe worse, it was almost like I wanted to curl up in a ball and sleep until I could have those experiences. I wasn’t thrilled with the person I was. I didn’t want to workout. I was irritable and grouchy. And I couldn’t explain why I felt this way other than this was my new normal. Suck it up, buttercup.
The Big Breakthrough
It wasn’t until my eldest was 10 months old and I stopped pumping milk for her (we never got the hang of breastfeeding) that I felt like my old self, that I finally got a taste of the woman I was before. I got back to the gym and was loving feeling the urge to get strong again and hit those heavyweights. So my unprofessional diagnosis for why I felt so miserable those first months? Hormones from producing breastmilk. It was so wonderful to have a culprit to blame — that it wasn’t something wrong with me. And I enjoyed being the happy, goal-oriented woman I once was. And then I got pregnant again.
Taking Control of Postpartum
My pregnancy with Lucy was considerably more stressful. We’d just purchased our first home — a fixer-upper — with a now-15-month-old, but I prepared. I prepared physically, working out as hard as I was able in hopes that I could stave off the postpartum blues. I also prepared mentally. Ready for a suckfest of hormones and emotions, I let the tears come after my second daughter was born. And within 15 minutes, I was able to get control of myself.
Knowing I would feel melancholy but determined to give my youngest breastmilk for as long as possible, I pumped round the clock for weeks. Every two hours, for 20-30 minutes to establish my supply and build up a freezer stash. We had to buy a deep freezer to store the 300+ bags of milk I filled, which meant I could stop pumping completely after five months, and I was able to feed her on breastmilk until she was 8 months.
As a result of all of this, I returned to my old self quickly. I hit PRs in my lifts and even competed at four months postpartum in my first Olympic lifting competition. I climbed Quandary Peak (14,265 ft) with my husband at five months postpartum, too. But most importantly, I’m soaking up the time with my girls. We’re having dance parties in the kitchen. We’re playing in the fall leaves. And we’re enjoying this season of life.
About the guest mama: Andrea Signor is a wife, mother, writer, wannabe weightlifter, and the creator of Mamalifts. Before kids, she worked as a civilian journalist for the U.S. Army and freelanced for several extreme sport and fitness publications, including Climbing magazine, Women’s Adventure, CrossFit media, and FloElite.
Want to share your postpartum story or birthing story? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.