When I first created this site I didn't know if I would ever talk about my difficult journey postpartum. It's always much easier to tell other peoples stories than it is to tell your own. And while I have talked a little about my ups and downs postpartum on Instagram and in blog posts, I've never told this part of the story. Mostly because it's really personal and also because my family sometimes reads this stuff and I'm about to get real intimate with yall. (I'm bout to talk s.e.x.) So if you're my mom or dad or brother you should probably stop reading now. Seriously.
Tonight is the eve of my first baby's eighth birthday. Eight. Eight years ago my life flipped upside down and right side up in all the best ways. Eight years ago I learned what it meant to love. Eight years ago I started a journey that would lead me to start this blog and share these stories and connect women around the globe through our triumphs and our struggles and our unwavering, unbreakable bond that we share in motherhood. This is my story.
For as long as I can remember I’ve always wanted to be a mother. I think I stopped playing with dolls when I was like, 13. So when I got pregnant at 20 I wasn’t scared. Sure I was young, and sure I didn’t have my shit together (I'm 28 now and still waiting for that shit to get itself together) But taking care of a tiny life, becoming a mom, that was exciting.
I remember after Peyton was born my husband kept saying ‘Im supposed to be looking for signs of postpartum depression’ like aversions from the baby or maybe not ever wanting to let her leave my side. I was fine. I loved her, and being her mom felt every bit as natural as I had always expected. I didn’t care when other people held her or fed her. I didn’t freak out when I had to go back to school full time when she was only two months old. There were no compulsive thoughts or feelings of inadequacy. I was fine.
But I wasn't fine. Not completely.
Reading the birth boards I was on there was always that woman, the one who couldn't wait the 6 weeks to have sex. Are you actually crazy? Sex was so far from my mind it was in like, Pluto. Like, back when Pluto was a planet, far away. Far. Far away. I tore terribly with my first. I ripped upwards and every day tasks such as peeing, were torturous. I literally had to fill up the tub and sit in it every time I went pee for the first two weeks postpartum. So yeah, no sex for me please and thank you.
And that’s normal right? I mean I wasn’t even technically allowed to have sex for 6 weeks anyway, and most of the other women on the boards all thought those 2 weekers were crazy too. So I’m still normal.
And then 6 weeks came and I reluctantly had to tell my husband that I was ‘good to go.’ He was thrilled, me, not so much. We tried. It hurt. Like a mother fucker (no pun intended). Awful. And that was normal too, right? I was still healing from a bad tear, I had still just given birth (to a 9 lb baby might I add) It would probably take some time. But how long? Every time it hurt and even worse than it hurting was the fact that I still didn’t want to do it. The thought of being touched made me cringe. Every night we would climb in bed and I would pray that he would just go to sleep. And when he stared kissing me, I would cry. I would silently cry while we attempted to have sex. I say attempted because every position still hurt. I was broken.
So here I am, in pain, with zero sexual desires, and all I could do was feel awful for my husband. I loved him, I was so very attracted to him, I wanted to want to have sex with him. I just couldn’t. I constantly said ‘it's’ not you, it’s me’ and I’m not sure he believed me because how shitty does it feel when your partner feels repulsed by the thought of being intimate with you? It must feel really really shitty.
I thought it may have been because of my postpartum body. I was fat and jiggly. I had stretch marks. My boobs were massive and much much lower than they once were. I was unhappy with how I felt and looked. And as much as he would assure me that I was beautiful, I didn’t believe it. So that must have been it.
But it had to be something more than that because not only did I not want to be touched, I didn’t want to touch him. I didn't know what to do. I was so scared that it would never go away. That I would never want to be intimate with my partner ever again.
This wasn't just a lack of interest in sex. It wasn't because I was wiped out at the end of the day from parenting and being a full time student and would rather sleep. The thought of being touched made me cry. The fear that he would try something would debilitate me. Going to bed was the worst part of my day. And then it just got to the point where he wouldn't even try anymore. And I was thankful. I was thankful that my partner didn't want to have sex with me. That he gave up on me. These are not normal feelings. This was not normal.
After about 9 months I graduated and moved home. I began to take care of myself. I started exercising and eating non poor college kid (with a kid) food. I started feeling like myself again. I took long walks with my daughter, I went out with friends, I got into a really great place both physically and mentally. And somewhere along that road, it all went away. I can’t remember if it was a gradual thing or if all of a sudden one day I was like ‘maybe we should have sex?’ and it was all just fine. All I know is that I was finally ok. And that was the best feeling ever.
When I got pregnant with our second I was terrified that it would happen again. I couldn't go through that. We were in such a good place and we were happy and I loved him and I never wanted to feel like that ever again. Thankfully it never came back with either of my next two pregnancies.
I learned to love my body in all of its stages. I learned to appreciate motherhood and what it’s done to me. I joined The Fourth Trimester Bodies Project to help encourage other women to love themselves and their bodies. I've tried to maintain a healthy balance of eating crap and eating carrots, and binge watching netflix and going for runs. I spend most of my time with my kids but I make time for myself. I found my dream job and in between the drama of life I'm mostly really very happy. Taking care of you is the most important thing you can do. Because if you're tired, or unhappy, or broken, then what use are you going to be to those who depend on you? And that's what this whole thing taught me.
I don’t have an official name for what I went though. I don’t know if it was postpartum depression, or anxiety. I don't know if I was touched out or if it was sexual aversion disorder (Whos initials are SAD... how appropriate) I never talked to anyone about it and I never got help. I can tell you that it’s not something that just happens after you have a baby. It’s not something that you should ignore and hope it goes away. So if you are going through this, reach out and get help because no one should ever have to just ride that out on their own. Postpartum is hard. It’s really hard. It’s normal to be tired and to be sad sometimes. It’s normal to take time to get back to how you felt before. But it’s not normal to be miserable. In any aspects. Never be afraid to speak up and reach out because I can guarantee that there is some else out there who has felt what you're feeling. Don't postpartum alone.
My name is Ashley and I'm the face behind the blog. I'm an almost 30 (esh, still haven't come to terms with that) mom of three living outside Washington DC.
I went to school for fashion design, but after having a baby my senior year, my high fashion dreams took a hiatus and that's OK! Because it lead me to where I am today, and that is a mother and a Doula (for the amazing team at Doulas of Capitol Hill). And that lead me to create this space that has become so important to me!
I speak sarcasm fluently, drink coffee through an IV, and I have a deep and possibly borderline obsessive love towards all things Harry Potter and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I truly believe that kids should spend their time being kids and adults should spend more time learning from them. I never take anything too seriously and I try to live life with my cup half full (of wine) My playlist is a perfect mix of 90's pop and Taylor Swift and I'm imaginary best friends with Blake Lively (girl get at me). In my free time (of which I have SO much) I can be found grammin over at @thepeanutgallery