The Music of Postpartum
It’s late, and my eyes are heavy. The kind of heaviness that makes you wonder if you need to sleep for a year or drink a hot cup of coffee while taking a cold shower. The type of heaviness that creates a blanket of exhaustion that wraps around your body so tightly it becomes hard to breathe, for even breathing feels as though you are exerting too much energy. It has been this way for a few weeks now. Endless loops of time morphing into another. When you become a new mother, it is hard to find your footing or even notice you have feet. They speak about postpartum and ways to prepare, but nothing could prepare you for the reality of the fourth trimester. As my mind and body began to attempt to make sense of this very new experience, disorientation sets in. Caring for a new being while also recovering from birth has a way of throwing you.
The nights were turning into nights, and after a while, I began to wonder where the days had gone. My son, a few weeks earthside at this point, was doing his best to adjust. His senses were open, ready to be fed, soothed, loved, his neurons in his brains already firing, learning, and growing. The first few weeks of postpartum are entirely tricky as you begin to adjust to something that at the time feels as though you will never adjust to. My son was a sweet infant, tender, loving, smiley. His mother, while he was an infant, was a mess, traumatized, numb, and lost. In those first few weeks, I was unable to locate myself, a shell trying to take care of a new baby, lucky not alone, but oh so lonely.
My birth did not go as planned, and I ended up with a large scar and a lot of trauma. Unfortunately, it was the kind of scar that does not heal quickly enough and the kind of trauma that sticks around. In the depths of my recovery, I began having a difficult time making my way to my son. Instead, I relied on others to hold him, to soothe him. I fed him and loved him, but that felt like all I was able to do. Riddled with shame, I remember thinking that there was something wrong with me. I remember thinking that I was already a terrible mother, unable to find the desire to soothe my crying newborn. I remember resenting all of the “helpers” with their able bodies, sleep-filled minds, and openly loving hearts, for I felt broken. This was not the first time feeling broken, but it felt as though it was a time where I was not able to be.
As days passed, my shame began to lighten. It was still there, but its voice dimmed. One evening in the middle of the night, my son started having a more challenging time than he had before. I laid in bed as my partner attempted to rock him to sleep. Looking up from the bed, I noticed the draped pearl-colored curtains swaying to the breeze of the open window. I remember thinking how lovely it was to see such graceful movement, how soothing it was to me. I let the draft begin to come in. The sound she was making called to my attention as if she was singing me a song. She caressed my face and kissed my hands. She whispered her sweet melodies into my ears, and slowly I began to feel my heart again. I cautiously stood up and made my way to my son. I grabbed him in my arms and began to move and sway with the breeze that so graciously ushered me life. My voice became unlocked. The draft still present guided my voice to begin to hum, and with him, in my arms, I began to sing Joni Mitchell, “And the season’s they go round and round,” the only song that came to mind. An old favorite. One that reminded me that season pass and moments change. I sang that song over and over while I swayed my son to sleep. I sang my way to him. At that moment, I not only met him in song, but I also sang my way back to myself. Tears poured out as the lyrics moved me from a place of being stuck to the possibility of healing, and with every tear and word, I began to become stronger; I began to become his mother. “We’re captive on the carousel of time, We can’t return, we can only look, Behind, from where we came, And go round and round and round, in the circle game.”
This essay was written thanks to a monthly theme "Music" from Illuminate, a writing community from The Kindred Voice.
Read more pieces about Music from my fellow Illuminate members:
Across the Lines by Hannah Kewley
My Big Day by Crystal James
Strumming Soul Strings by Christine Carpenter