What is the time frame of postpartum? The days & first weeks immediately after birth? The first 3 months post-birth? 1 year? 2 years? The duration of the breastfeeding relationship?
What many real life mothers share from their experience is that depression, anxiety, or OCD hit hardest after the 3 month mark. Perhaps this is because of combined pressure to be back in the game by then. Work, social, and familial expectations rise above the newborn haze after just a few weeks, and after a few months it can feel like everyone has forgotten us and we’re on our own. I remember thinking: Everyone else has their shit together? Why don’t I have my shit together?
Personally, I go deep into the swampy well in the first 2 months, and then emerge for a time before the anger hits around 6 months, and then an existential crisis around 12-18 months postpartum. Obviously, I’m glossing it over here but what I want to show is that there are waves and phases and spirals to postpartum healing and it rarely follows a linear path. Healing is a living, breathing thing.
I read in a meme that some scientists are now considering the postpartum period to last 7 years. I can’t put any weight in the science behind this post, though I do know that having a baby changes us, and continues to change our lives for years to come. Possibly forever. There is research that shows how some DNA from each pregnancy a woman’s body holds - regardless if it is carried to term - is stored in her body and brain forever. It serves women to broaden the time period of postpartum from immediately after birth to 1 or 2 years, but I think a too-short time frame limits us. A mom may start to think “I should be better by now” and then instead of acknowledging her need for help, ignore it. Do not deny your need for help! We all need help! You are reborn, sacredly and messily transformed, and goddess knows that takes some time to settle into.
And then I consider this: is there a definite start-time to being a mother? Of course when a baby, our baby, is held in our arms finally everyone else sees us as mother, but doesn't it start before then? Before conception and morning sickness and ultrasounds and buying diapers? A wrinkle in the linear path. Our motherhood begins, perhaps, at the instant of desire. That moment we want to become something both biologically and spiritually more than the self we currently know. The moment of desire is a different layer of motherhood than the moment of holding a child in your arms whose life and soul is in your care for the foreseeable future. Still it is a point of irreversible change in a person's heart.
We want hard stop and start dates for change, for work. They fit so neatly in our calendar. That is not the nature of motherhood. It is like trying to hold water in a basket. It bleeds forward and backward and spirals in and out of our living. There is no possibility for moving forward with out a piece of it inside you once it has come to shake up and live within your cells. The piece may be small, it may allow containment, or it may blur your vision, over take your experience of life. It will likely do all of these things at certain points in time.
The time is yours. The time is mine. The time is alive and pulsing.