To me, the postpartum period was a time where I reclaimed the relationship I had with my mother. As a teenager, I was temperamental and very different than my mom. I couldn’t wait to leave my parents' house and as soon as I finished school, I moved out quickly. I thought she was overprotective and I hated that. When I got pregnant, she gave me blue pajamas and a little cap that had belonged to me. The day I gave birth to my son, who looked just like me as a baby, I dressed him up in the clothes. When my mom came to visit, she looked at him, asked if she could hold him, and for the longest time, did not say a word. She held him in silence for twenty minutes. In a way, through my childbirth, she relived her own. It was a beautiful moment. When I got back home and needed help she was always – always – present. I will never forget the first day she came to help. I live an hour away from my parents’ house, but they arrived at 8am sharp. I opened the door, tousled hair, and sleep-deprived. But there they were, her hands overflowing with bags and a cooler full of homemade meals. She was usually tiptoeing when she came to my house, but not this time. She settled in right away and it was the first time ever she’d made my home hers. It felt like a tremendous weight had been lifted from my shoulders: I wouldn’t be alone to take care of my son. If I survived and made it through those first few weeks, it’s because of her.
I had many reality checks after I had my son, and they happened fairly early in my maternity leave. My coworkers all told me, ‘You, after you’ll have your kid, you’ll always be on the go! You’ll run, you’ll work out, you’ll come and visit us all the time!’ I didn’t do any of it. I purchased a pass for the mommy-and-me workout classes near my house. I went, maybe, five times in a year? And do you think I actually installed the big child trailer to cross-country ski? Never. Running with him? Three times. I didn’t feel like it. There is a pressure when you’re in a triathlon club. There’s a woman I train with who did a half Ironman six months after giving birth. I mean, your kid didn’t sleep all night and you’re working out at 6am? Are you crazy? Of course, if it makes her happy, it’s all good, but I couldn’t deal with that kind of pressure. When you’re a mom and an athlete – and even when you’re not – everyone expects you to resume working out quickly, or to exercise with your child. But I couldn’t. Except, sometimes, on Sundays. I would leave my son with his dad and I’d cross-country ski by myself into the woods, on a flat surface, listening to the birds. That’s all I wanted.
I’ve always been super active. I did triathlons and used to run all the time, as did my partner. So it’s not surprising that I gave birth to a little boy who moved a lot, who ate a lot, and who didn’t sleep a lot! Baby, he needed to breastfeed at least fifteen times a day. He also wanted to be held all the time. The memory I have of my maternity leave is that it physically broke me to always have him in my arms. I remember one day, I bent over his pack n' play to change his diaper and I felt that my back was about to lock up. I saw myself not being able to move, not being able to reach out for the phone, and I suddenly realized how vulnerable and dependent he was on me. That feeling never left me. You think, ‘What if I drop him and he dies?’ It gave me the chills. He’s two and a half now, but even to this day, I can’t stop thinking about it. I drive like an old lady. If he walks towards the steps, I’ll start thinking, ‘If he keeps going, he will fall off the stairs,’ and I’ll visualize him with a broken neck. I never think about my own death, but his, all the time. I mean, it doesn’t come up fifty times a day, but one or two, certainly. It’s maddening. I was 37 when I had him. I’m now 40. There’s nothing fun with turning 40. Of course, you’re more confident and settled in life, but you look at your kid and you can’t help but think… I don’t know. I try not to overthink it too much or I won’t move forward.
My community and support system, I built them around my partner, my oldest friends, and my parents. I didn’t feel the need to participate in mommy gatherings or to subscribe to online moms’ groups. I knew it existed, but I was really happy by myself and surrounded by the people I knew, not going out too much. Also, I knew I had to protect myself from other parents’ opinions and advice, because of the risk of constantly comparing myself. I was certain I didn’t have to go out, to visit my coworkers, or to resume my training, but I still felt the need to explain my decision. At the same time, I wasn’t blissfully embracing motherhood at home, and it often felt like I had a job to do. The first year was physically exhausting. When I close my eyes and reminisce about my maternity leave, I remember being starving and dehydrated. You know, at some point you just want to have time to eat your peanut butter toast before you have to breastfeed again. So, yeah. I didn’t have time to go on walks or to do yoga with other moms. But in the end, I learned to let go. I guess that’s what my message would be: believe in a community, but bond yourself to it according to the child you have – and not the other way around. It’s your job as a mom to respect your baby’s needs and personality while trying to find something interesting and fulfilling for yourself too. Recently, I started to workout again with my triathlon club. I’m in the slowest runners. And you know what? I don’t give a shit.