Co-host of popular Beyond the Bump podcast, Sophie Pearce says the four words to describe her postpartum journey would be: joy, love and bodily fluids.
Post-partum is like the Alanis Morrisette song “Ironic”. It’s the greatest joy paired with soul crushing exhaustion, it’s excruciatingly long nights but be careful because if you blink, you’ll miss it. It’s feeling isolated and alone while also being completely touched out and never having a second to yourself. It’s the greatest blur I have ever experienced!
What was the most unexpected aspect of postpartum?
The most unexpected thing for me was definitely the day my milk came in. The pain, the discomfort and the size of the things, oh my gosh! I have double A boobs and, all of a sudden, I felt like I’d had a botched boob job. They were massive, so painful, so hard, and I was like ‘are they going to be like this for the whole of my breastfeeding journey, because if so, I don’t think I’m going to be able to do this’. The other thing was afterbirth pains, I was like ‘am I going to need an epidural?’. It was so painful, and it got even worse after my second birth, so if and when we go again, I’m very worried about how they will be after the third one.
What’s the most positive aspect of postpartum?
I’m going to be honest, I really love the newborn period, that stage directly postpartum, so I feel like there’s so many positives. I feel incredibly euphoric when I have a newborn, you’ve just met this incredible new human that is like your heart outside of your body, and there are so many incredible parts to it.
What was the hardest part of postpartum?
The hardest part of postpartum for me is this feeling like I’m so torn, where it can be a really isolating and lonely experience while also feeling like you never get a moment for yourself. I’m not an overly affectionate person so I found when I had my second I would get to the end of the day where I would be so incredibly ‘touched out’ from having my newborn on me, my toddler on me, my newborn feeding, my newborn sleeping on me, my toddler wanting this and that, and when the day was over I still hadn’t had a moment to myself to wee and yet I felt lonely at the same time. I think that can be an odd sensation.
What advice would you give new parents and mums-to-be about the postpartum period?
My tips for first time parents in those early weeks all feel like cliches, but that’s because so much of the cliched advice for new parents is true: do what works for your family, have no expectations and ask for help. Yes, they’ve all been said before, but that’s because they’re true, because you don’t need to be going out for walks on day three if you’re not up to it, but then again, if that’s what’s good for you mentally, you don’t need to stay home. Just do whatever works for your family.
I really liked the second time round because I limited visitors a bit, which meant that I didn’t get to the end of the day and feel like I was missing my newborn because I hadn’t held them all day and I didn’t feel like I was constantly entertaining. Obviously, you want the people who are important to you to meet your child but you don’t need every Tom, Dick and Harry that you’ve met in your life coming past the house to meet your baby in the first week, so limit that and how you spend your energy because your newborn, and other children if you have any, are going to need that energy, and you need to use anything that’s left for yourself, so just try to limit where you spread your energy if you can.
What kind of postpartum support did you have?
A lot of the reason I've been able to really enjoy the newborn and postpartum period has been because I’ve had such great support around. My husband is incredibly supportive, he’s the cook in our family all the time so he’s continued that with a newborn, and when we had our second, Goldie, he was so hands-on with our toddler Poppy, so we were able to divide and conquer. There was a stage where Poppy was almost just his child and Goldie was mine. I’ve also been really lucky to have my mum around, even though she lives interstate. She came and visited after both births, and that’s something I’ve really missed as the girls have gotten older in recent times because of lockdowns and travel restrictions. I was very lucky to be blessed with that in the postpartum period and I really, really feel for the women out there during these times that are missing out on having that support from friends and family being able to visit.
How do you think postpartum is portrayed in social media?
I think that social media can have a really positive and negative impact on the way postpartum is represented. I think that in that vulnerable time we can definitely see unrealistic images of postpartum but I also don’t think that people aren’t allowed to do beautiful photoshoots with their newborns, and really celebrate and share the beautiful parts.
I do think now with social media we can see a more realistic side if we follow people who are sharing more realistic images, content and videos.
Because it can be positive and negative, we have to take it upon ourselves during the postpartum stage to think about what content we view, and maybe a page you used to find inspirational or aspirational you might need to mute or unfollow temporarily if you’re feeling vulnerable, then you might go back to it in the future when it won’t have a negative impact on you, when you’re feeling more yourself again.
Why did you want to be part of Embodied: Postpartum Unfiltered?
I love what this campaign is about. While motherhood and parenthood area parts of life I’m passionate about, I think we should be able to see real, unfiltered versions of all parts of life.
I would hate anyone going into that postpartum period to think that anyone does it perfectly, or always glamorously. I want to assure them that no matter how glamorous someone looks, they’ve been vomited on, or pooed on, or they’ve got milk or blood or whatever leaking from somewhere, and that doesn’t make it a bad experience, it’s just important to see the real version of things too.
Link: You can listen to Sophie at Beyond the Bump: https://podcasts.apple.com/au/podcast/beyond-the-bump/id1484930949