How Long do I Get to Call Myself Postpartum

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It occurs to me one morning, as I groggily watch coffee drip, that I still consider myself postpartum. It is part of my identity even now nine months after my daughter was born. Is that normal? I wonder, suddenly worried that I should have moved on by now. How long do I get to call myself postpartum anyway? I google.

Often considered 6-8 weeks after birth?! I gawk at one search result. Another article says the time period can last up to 6 months. That feels more generous. Still not long enough, I think, and this comes as a shock to me. I sip my coffee and stare at my 9-month-old old, who woke up multiple times last night. I still feel very “postpartum” these days.
With postpartum having such an open definition, “the period following childbirth” who gets to decide how long that time period is anyway? I need it to last longer than 6-8 weeks.
I used to be part of the 5 a.m. club, a morning person who woke up and got things done before my kids got up. These days, I still don’t sleep through the night. My husband and I have been up at least once each night since the day our daughter was born, usually more. But that was okay because I told myself that was part of the postpartum phase of life.
My clothes just now fit. I had almost donated them all, resolved that they wouldn’t ever fit, and that was fine. But slowly, over time, and now, almost ten months later, my clothes fit again, just another part of life after having a baby, no need to rush.
Nine months later, I still feel really new at this parenting two kids thing. Time has flown by for me; I honestly cannot believe I almost have a one-year-old. For that reason, on top of others, I have a hard time breaking away from my postpartum identity. It feels like only a few months ago that we brought her home, maybe due to the prolonged sleep deprivation. Thinking of myself as past this phase or stage feels like I’m admitting that the baby was born, she’s growing up now, and this “time following childbirth” is over now. Move on, heal, and go back to your normal life and routines, society tells me. Maybe I want postpartum to mean a longer period of time because I’m not ready.
That’s the hardest part.
I’m not ready to move on, snap back, or get back to my normal routines. I need more time. I feel this innate need to remain in this phase for longer than 6-8 weeks. Thinking of myself as postpartum feels kind and slow and safe. It feels like an excuse to remain in the moment with my newborn, who is not a newborn anymore. It feels like a nice way to describe myself when I look in the mirror and don’t recognize myself yet. I need to use this term a little longer because I need to remain suspended in this bubble after birth for just a little while longer. Holding onto this phase of life for as long as I’m allowed to claim it feels like the calm before the storm of life.
I fully believe we would talk about postpartum stages of life differently if we had different laws in the United States. Postpartum definitions equalling about the time we consider appropriate for maternity leave doesn’t seem like a coincidence to me.
So, how long do you get to call yourself postpartum? My conclusion is, however long you need and want. Almost a year later, I finally feel ready to pack this piece of me away until the next baby, but there is no way I felt past this phase of life at 6 or 8 weeks. I am personally finding comfort in the fact that my postpartum journey has lasted almost a year. I sip my coffee at 7:30 instead of 5 am for now. I snuggle a baby a few times each night. I’ve learned that it’s ok to hold onto this phase of life without regret, soaking in the first year of my daughter’s life, giving myself and my body grace, and waiting to get back to a hurried routine.
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Miranda
Miranda is a first time mom to 1-year-old Avett. She works full time as a social worker and admits that this professional work influences her parenting style and blog content greatly! Especially because her husband is a social worker as well. Miranda and her family live on the near south side of Indianapolis in the fixer upper they have recently gutted and renovated. Miranda was born and raised, for the most part, in Indianapolis. In her free time you can find her with her family trying a new Indy brewery or restaurant, or showing Avett one of the many great things about Indianapolis as a city! Miranda also enjoys yoga, hiking, traveling, swimming, writing, and sharing every experience with her family.

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