Days after Autumn Benjamin gave birth to her first baby, Layla, her partner snapped a photo of the new mom before they left the hospital. This was by no means a glamorous newborn photo, but nearly seven months later, it’s one that Autumn feels needed to be shared.
“I’ve debated on this post for a while but I’ve decided that I’d show the hard parts of the aftermath of giving birth, and the ultimate sacrifice that mothers make from day one,” she wrote on Facebook along with the candid snapshot of her body on day two post-delivery.
Just as she was eating her “nice meal” from the hospital, or what she describes as overcooked steak (and her expression says it all!), Autumn was admittedly in new territory in this exact moment. “Learning to breastfeed this little human being that I just brought into the world. Wearing these big mesh panties, still sporting a pregnant belly…” she wrote. “No one told me your belly doesn’t go down immediately. No one told me I’d be bleeding out.”
Instead of someone warning her, Autumn had to find out for herself just how emotional she’d be during the immediate aftermath of giving birth. “I remember just laying there in the hospital bed crying. I was crying because my baby girl was finally here…FINALLY! But wait…that means she isn’t protected inside of me anymore. And that’s a scary feeling,” she wrote. “At that point, I think Kevin was at a loss. I realized that when I was being held by him in the hospitals shower and I was just crying uncontrollably. It’s all a blur but I do remember saying ‘she’s not safe inside of me anymore’ and that was a really hard thing to work through.”
At the same time, she was also dealing with the physical consequences: after a “quick delivery” came an incredibly painful tear. “I ripped all the way up and down, and also side to side. The weeks following I couldn’t walk. I couldn’t use the bathroom. I wore these big depends diapers. I never thought I would be normal again,” she wrote. “Kevin had to help me do EVERYTHING from pee, to walk up stairs.”
And that’s how Autumn learned by day two the essence of what people can tell you but nobody can really prepare you for: being a mom is the ultimate sacrifice. “You go through labor and delivery. You go through the emotions that come with childbirth. You let go of all shame as you walk around your house in diapers and ask your SO to spray warm water on your rip while you pee to avoid that burn,” she wrote. “You spend tireless hours latching your baby and feeding your baby to establish and keep up your milk supply because you want to breast feed so. damn. bad.”
Yet in the end, moms remain patient through it all as they figure out this new life. “But most importantly, moms give up who they were before they were a mother. Most moms give up a lot of their hobbies, dreams, and plans. Moms put their lives on hold so their babies can live out theirs,” she wrote. “We deal with so many emotions that we internalize — just so we can be mothers to our babies. Don’t ever discredit a mother. You don’t know the half. I used to be Autumn. Fun loving, crazy, outgoing Autumn. But now I’m Layla’s mama. And I’m okay with that.”
Autumn tells CafeMom that it wasn’t until after she joined a support group for moms with postpartum depression that she realized just how impactful sharing her photo could be. “It was then that I learned a lot of moms were silently struggling. I heard stories of moms being shut down by family members, friends, and spouses for feeling EXACTLY how I felt. They spoke of feeling invalidated, and feeling alone,” she says. “I didn’t like that, and I wanted to do more than show my support in the comments.”
Although it’s been months since Layla’s January delivery, this picture has always stayed in Autumn’s mind because it represents to her the hardest time of new motherhood and at the time, she was completely disgusted by it. “But looking back, it’s such a symbol of where I was and how far I’ve come so far as a new mother. Seeing that picture reminds me why I relate to all this women that have been made to feel alone by the people around them,” she says. “But they aren’t — and that’s why I posted such a real vulnerable picture. It was my story and I wanted to tell it.”
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