With Zoe Elkington - Sydney doula, perinatal film photographer, and founder of Milk & Blossom.
How have you felt during these first few weeks postpartum?
It’s been such a rush. Those first days and nights I didn’t sleep a wink... I was so overloaded with oxytocin all I could do was stare into the bluest eyes of the little babe in my arms. It’s a love that makes my bones ache. At 41+6 we chose to switch our home birth plans for a caesarean due to oligohydramnios - so there was/ is the physical side of that, of our scar, plus the relentlessness of feeding a newborn and the occasional 3am tears I think most new mothers shed. Even so, this has been the best month of my life and I also credit my partner Tyler for taking care of us. I’m so happy.
Have you fully processed your birth yet?
I think so although watching it back still moves me to tears. I wish I could relive that day, I hope we have more kids. We debriefed with our doula and will have a ceremony of sorts with her soon... I’m also in the process of writing my birth story for our own family to look back on, but also to share because I think people forget that belly birth is and should be sacred. It can be such a wonderful way to meet your baby - we had Fleetwood Mac playing softly and Jules was placed straight on my chest. I’ll never ever forget Tyler’s hand on my face, and the way that first cry pierced my heart.
Are there things you feel grateful to have prepared for as a postpartum doula?
I don’t think anything can fully prepare you for being on the other side of the glass, but certainly a lot of the newborn care and doing overnights (which was my preferred shift as a postpartum doula) meant that baby care wasn’t such a shock to the system. I think my experience allowed me for the most part to feel confident trusting mine and Tyler’s instincts as new parents, and to ask for help when we needed a break or specialised advice.
Thing you didn’t expect?
I wish I could say I didn’t expect the feeding journey to be hard, but I have enough mums in my community to know better! It doesn’t matter how much you “prepare” in advance - breastfeeding is a learned skill for both the parent and baby and although some people do have a really smooth transition, it’s normal (albeit frustrating and tiring) for things to take time, to find breastfeeding painful, to need help, and to add in formula exclusively or in combination. I’ve shared a lot of our feeding journey openly on my Instagram - I’m so proud of how far we’ve come already but that has been the steepest learning curve for sure.
On a different note, one thing I didn’t fully anticipate was how the dynamic between my partner and I would shift. We have both poured so much love and effort into our relationship over the years so we were already starting out on sure footing, but having a baby has unlocked a whole new kind of intimacy. We share a purpose and a human. We are so in sync taking care of Jules which makes parenting together a real delight. I’m not pretending we never get snippy when we’re tired; washing pump parts and spilling postpartum blood isn’t the conventional picture of romance; but it’s often in those “unattractive”, more mundane moments at 3am that I actually feel the deepest sense of love. Nothing else matters, everything in the peripheral fades out and it’s just us three.
What is most important to you right now and how do you meet those needs?
Jules. There’s nothing we won’t do for our baby and he makes us light up and giggle every single day. I would say though that part of taking care of him is taking care of us as parents - we are 5 weeks now and I try to keep Jules solo for a 10 hour stretch overnight so Tyler can recharge in the spare room. He works so hard for us and also takes Jules in the evenings, and I have lots of creative projects still simmering that keep my heart full too. One small thing that I’ve loved has been prioritising a shower or bath (alone) every day since the birth! I’m almost finished my precious bottles of BARE MUM scar oil, and the sitz bath salts which I just add to my normal evening bath when I’m feeling fancy.
How has motherhood affected you so far?
It’s funny I often had it explained to me that the mother herself is “reborn”, and while I do resonate with the underlying element of transformation that describes, my personal experience has been less of a rebirth and more of an undoing. I feel stripped back to the more lovely parts of myself that got pushed aside over the years in the quest for productivity and importance: the instinct to protect, a pull to nature, a slowness and craving for beautifully ordinary moments, a love of tasty food, connection to community and a strength of purpose. My self-esteem is at an all-time high because I feel capable and needed and loved and passionate. Motherhood has gifted me contentment.