Content note: this post contains descriptions of postpartum bodies and the pain of recovering from childbirth. If you’re pregnant and/or soon to have your first baby, I would advise you skip this post and read it after you’ve given birth.
It was ambitious but I was feeling brave Wednesday afternoon, and hungry, and, well, desperate to do something with a semblance of routine, so I suggested to my mum-in-law that Robbie finish Augie’s feed and settle him to sleep, and she and I drive to the nearby Sainsbury’s Superstore; incidentally the biggest mega supermarket in East Oxford.
While it certainly felt courageous and freeing to step outside after days inside, an opportunity to lift the haze of postpartum cabin fever, I had no idea what the hour-long separation would bring up for me emotionally.
I started to feel it when I walked the 100 metres from the carpark to the entrance, my slow stitch-healing waddle no match for speedy Grandma, who kindly and understandably slowed down to my pace when I said I needed to go slow. We forget our bodies hold trauma in different ways to our hearts. Although I mentally or emotionally may have been up to the challenge of walking around the superstore my perenium sure as hell was not. And we forget the body can trip up even the most protected of hearts, if the body is fatigued or aching, and vice versa.
I quickly began to fade, as I encountered a busy flurry of post-work supermarket dashers grabbing their odds and ends en route home. The hardest part was not just the proximity to all these other lives and the bright lights and the excess plastic and the tacky supermarket Valentine’s paraphernalia, all in the immediacy of a radical and painful body transformation, but the knowledge that all these lives encircling me were shut off from the totally alien experience we were all literally sharing: a whole load of primates brushing past each other politely purchasing food in defined portions – food grown on large industrial farms or manufactured in factories – and spaced out to the intricacies, grief and experiences of all those around them.
I say that not as a judgement – after all, I too was participating – but merely a comment on the strangeness of it all. I played my part having suggested it and I wanted to test my resolve. But I came undone when I braved the muesli aisle (a contentious aisle in our family – toasted, granola, with nuts, without fruit???) and found a heavy bag on special. Upon picking it up with both hands, I instinctively bounced it, tripped up by the vague similarity in weight between this bag and my baby back home. An 800 gram bag of muesli and my 3.9kg baby…
Sad muesli or no muesli, postpartum sensitivity is an extraordinary gift, allowing me to reconnect to something I don’t think I’ve ever known as an adult but maybe I did as a child. That feels timely given it’s Valentine’s Day today. Despite all the overwhelming, tawdry marketing, choosing to celebrate love and loving love really ain’t a bad thing. And loving Jordan’s Swiss Style Muesli ain’t a bad thing either.