The first few days after giving birth can be trying on any woman’s body. Not only do the ligaments of the body remain loose for several weeks, but up to 20 per cent of new moms also deal with postpartum depression.
Kayla Gonzales, a birth and motherhood photographer from Austin, Texas, recently shared a candid photo that accurately summed up her first 48 hours after she gave birth. This image, taken by fellow photographer Heather Gallagher, shows Gonzales sitting on a toilet seat, with her head buried in her hands as her baby sleeps next to her in a cradle.
“While the birth was mine in every way, the absolute height of feminine power and womanhood, postpartum swung me in the opposite direction, to the darkest depths physically, emotionally, and mentally,” Gonzales wrote. “Having four other children, I was prepared for this. I have support. I have realistic expectations. But these days are f—ing hard. there is no getting around it.”
Gonzalez details how that day of the photo had been particularly stressful — her toddler woke up and realized that the new baby was in fact staying, and as a result had cried most of the day. To add to that stress, the family had unexpected bills due on a very short deadline.
“An intense hormonal shift had begun, and I too had spent much of the day crying. I was missing my older girls immensely. To compound these struggles, a 72-minute labor isn’t easy to recover from. My hip felt like it was broken and walking was near impossible. I had soreness in muscles I didn’t know existed and pain that radiated down my right thigh like lighting.”
Gonzalez says the cramping was so intense, it felt like she was in transition all over again. As soon as the labour had begun, it was over, before she even had a chance to realize what was happening.
“My beautiful baby seemed unfamiliar — smaller than my others, and unexpectedly male. He seemed strange and foreign, and I was struggling to bond with him the same way I had when my other children were born,” Gonzalez added, noting how her milk hadn’t come in yet, and the baby was getting hungry and impatient.
“In this moment, I just wanted to shower. I was alone only because my partner had taken our daughter out of the house, a needed distraction from the distressing sight of me holding another baby when all she wanted was to be held herself.”
The moment captured in the photo was the first time she had put her new baby down. They had been skin to skin since birth.
“I worried that he would not be content long enough for me to wash my tired, aching body of the horrible day we had endured. As the shower warmed, I sat down to pee, slumping into the weight of all the heavy feelings before pulling it together enough to make use of the limited time I had before he would need the comfort of my chest again.”
“The clock is always ticking. This is postpartum.”