Balancing motherhood and self comes very easily to some. I’ve seen many friends give birth, create…
It was two days after birth and my squishy newborn was laying beside me with her face branded with an unmistakable forceps bruise. I was floating in a post-birth, post-drug induced bliss.
My insides were rearranged as if Marie Kondo had come in, dumped everything out for analysis, and then swiftly left for a lie down realizing the awful task before her was all too much.
But I was so happy. It had been a picture-perfect morning with the baby. She was feeding well, in good health, a whopping weight (sorry, vagina), and the only missing puzzle piece was getting my iron levels back up to scratch.
Visiting times for the ward started at 2pm, so at approximately 1:50 pm I mustered up all my energy to get the baby into a new onesie, and myself into a spritz of deodorant and a slick swipe of a hairbrush. No biggie, right? Oh, how my in-laws would be impressed. Take a seat, Kate Middleton, I got this.
Both my baby and my bladder had other ideas.
At approximately 1:58pm, I stood up from the hospital bed to marvel at my ponytail-tying, baby-dressing brilliance. My feet met the floor just as my daughter projectile vomited such a distance that Newton would quake. I stood in horrified wonder as the bed, her onesie, her 5 strands of hair were all doused in milky spit-up.
Not to be upstaged, my bladder in a show of one-upmanship said, “hold my beer” and I wet myself.
I don’t mean a stress-induced trickle. I mean upturned pint glass of urine pouring down my body, down my outfit, and gracefully flowing into the cubicle next to mine. The horrific holy trifecta was complete as my mother-in-law’s familiar voice rang out from behind the curtain. “Hi, I’m here to see Joanne.”
2pm. Bang on time, Grandma.
I love retelling that story for multiple reasons. One is that it’s such an accurate portrayal of the untamed wilderness of birth and motherhood. Babies are so unique, and you never know what you’re going to get.
Thankfully, I bagged a sleepy, placid angel child, but she also had to be handled like a loaded machine gun. We had to point her away from all french-polished and upholstered surfaces as the threat of vomit spewing a 5-meter radius loomed large for the first 18 months of her life.
Another reason I especially love telling this story is because for me, it is a huge confidence marker. My journey with feeling confident has been rocky. Whereas previously I would have been steadfast in pigeonholing myself firmly in the “not-confident at all” camp, the early days of motherhood left me vulnerable in so many ways that I said “f*ck it” to things that previously would have made me squirm.
I attribute my ability to switch camps like that to the fact that I became incontinent at 28 years old and the confidence that miraculously showed up in spite of my peeing myself.
If you’re someone who’s experiencing the same, unable to control your pee, here are some things that helped me get to the other side.
Your Support System Is Important
My understanding of postnatal incontinence was limited to the women that agreed to boycott trampoline parks, the Tena and Depends influencers who are entering their post-menopausal years, and the mature ladies whose graceful sneezes would cause a ‘itty ‘lil teardrop leak.
Meanwhile, my leakage was a clunky, open-door, “water goes in one end and falls out the other” situation. I was mortified to experience this before even reaching 30, and getting over this was directly related to a reliable group of friends.
I remember vividly weeping in my in-laws bathroom one night having just let loose all over their spare room floor, texting my friends for Rug Doctor recommendations at 3am and not expecting a reply.
My crying made way to laughter as a friend shared that she experienced her first number 2 postpartum at her in-laws. She was shocked to find it was like delivering another baby, so much so she was tempted to “dial 999 and report a crime on humanity.” (911 for readers in the US).
They say laughter is the best medicine and this was straight up morphine for me.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve done physiotherapy and a lot of self-development since then, but having a group of women you can relate to, and make light of the embarrassing parts of motherhood together are essential. The right mom crew will find common ground in any situation and will not let you down.
Self Compassion Is Important Too
In the book, The Confidence Code by Katty Kay and Claire Shipman, the authors introduce the idea of confidence cousins: self-esteem, optimism, self-compassion, and self-efficacy. And how these elements, when incorporated intentionally into our lives, can change the trajectory of negative events.
For me, I know my journey with incontinence and confidence would not be where it is now had I not applied self-compassion. In a social media governed world, it’s easy to get lost in platitudes and #tributes to our bodies and our health. I have been guilty of proclaiming self-love, yet chastising myself for dimpled thighs and extra tummy rolls. It is only when our bodies stop working in some facet that we take the time to really appreciate them for all they do. And how much we’ve taken for granted.
My body squeezed out almost-9 pounds of utter life-altering joy. I choose to thank it for that, rather than focus on the bits it was pushing out but should have been holding in. This was a crucial mindset shift for me that, hand in hand with pelvic floor training (ladies, seriously vital), brought me great confidence. Confidence in not only accepting my situation but sharing it openly too.
Life Is About Connection
I love being a mama, and I also love having my “own thing,” which for me is entrepreneurship and developing courses. I don’t believe the two have to be mutually exclusive, and I’ve made it my mission to bring together new moms who feel the same. A woman is strong, but women together are an unstoppable force.
If you are struggling with incontinence – birth-induced or otherwise – I don’t say this in platitude, and I don’t underestimate the struggles that come with this condition. To regain your confidence it is imperative to know you are not alone. Trust your intuition. Seek help when something feels wrong and don’t forget to thank your body as often and religiously as you do your kegel exercises.
Looking to really own the sh*t out of your mombod? Click here.
Lastly, this article will give you more info on how and why your pelvic floor needs some TLC no matter how you gave birth and this one is from a Pelvic Health PT going through what you can expect at your appointment. Because yeah, Pelvic Health PT is vital.