Last week I went to visit a female GP for my 6 week postpartum check-up. It was weird. Even though she wasn’t my regular GP (ours is a dude and I wanted to talk female to female), I went in thinking I’d at last get a chance to talk to her about how I’m going physically and emotionally after labour. Either I have warped memories or things have changed drastically since my last postpartum check-up because that’s not how it went down at all.

She asked me how my labour was (Answer: very intense and very fast), whether or not I required stitches (Answer: No, thank heavens) and whether we had decided what type of contraception we will use now that it’s “safe” to start having sex again (Answer: We don’t use contraception, we practice natural family planning. No, that doesn’t mean we intend to have another child next week.). Then she asked me to hop on the bed for a pap smear. Now for a couple of people who barely exchanged words she seemed completely comfortable sticking a pair of medical-grade tongs up my vajayjay, which, by the way, was not on my agenda for the day and hurt like hell.

Then she asked me how baby was doing (Answer: Fine. Yes, he’s feeding well; gaining lots of weight and his jaundice is clearing). Then she signed a letter to say I was ok to start exercising again, and bub and I were shooed out of her room so her next patient could come in.

The post-partum check-up, ticked off and “complete” in less than 15 minutes. Except it didn’t feel complete at all. I don’t known if she even asked me how I was going apart from the very specific post-labour questions above. She did ask me if this was my first baby, and I guess because it isn’t I’m supposed to be ok.

Which is stupid, because that’s not how motherhood works.

People ask mums with new babies, “How are you going?” and we respond as well as we can, but the truth is, the answer changes depending on the day (or time of day), and sometimes I’m fine, and other times I want to collapse in a heap on the floor. Sometimes I feel like the luckiest woman in the world and other times I am certain there is no end to the cloudy, suffocating exhaustion that comes with being needed for someone else’s survival. The broad spectrum of positive and negative emotions that come with mothering a new baby fluctuate all the time. Sometimes I go from one end of the spectrum to the other within the space of an ad break. I am constantly riding an emotional seesaw and sometimes I want to get off.

There are about a million layers beneath the answers between “great”, “ok”, “tired” or “struggling”.

And it takes more than 10 minutes in a GP’s room to really explain how I am.

I don’t really know how to explain that while most of the time adjusting to having a new human has been a beautiful, love-filled experience and I feel like it’s easier because we’re familiar with what needs to be done plus this time we’re getting a ton of help from my in-laws, there are also times I feel so out of my depth and vulnerable because it hits me that I now have two people to take care of. And it scares the shit out of me. Sometimes I am celebrating how great I think I’m doing (the first time I got the two boys out of the house by myself I wanted a gold medal). And other times I am mourning. Mourning the loss of energy and loss of opportunities to recoup said lost energy. Mourning the loss of strength and control my body once had but doesn’t anymore. Mourning the loss of time to just talk to my husband. Mourning the loss of opportunities to eat together as a family. Mourning the loss of independence that comes with leaving the house for work and spending most of the day with adults, having adult conversations. Mourning the loss of doing things in my own time or on my own terms (like going to the toilet, eating my lunch or writing anything longer than a text message or Instagram comment – this post has taken me six days to write because I have to keep leaving it).

I know that in the grand scheme of life these are minor losses. That many of these losses are temporary, and I am being petty for mourning these when there are bigger, more tragic things worth contemplating given the state of the world. But right now, my children are my world. And sometimes these losses feel enormous. Like I have lost lots of little things that make up me, or at least some sense of me. And now I have to rediscover who I am and what my strengths are because, just like when my status changed from non-parent to parent, my status has changed from mother of one to mother of two. And while the change is not as monumental as the first time, it’s a big change nonetheless.

So when someone asks how I am, I say “Good,” or “Ok,” or “Tired,”. It seems a bit silly to say “Drowning,” because I know I am doing more than just staying afloat (even though sometimes it feels like only just). Besides, I have two kids who need me to be their anchor so drowning is not an option. It’s just… I have yet to find the word(s) to best describe the half-awesome/half-sad feeling of having gained and lost so many things at once.

Do people really want to know all this when they ask, “How are you?”? Probably not. I suspect most people don’t have time for it. I did expect the GP to have time for it, but she seemed so insistent on getting me out that I felt like asking if this was normal would overstep the boundaries. It bothers me, though, that she was more concerned about my choice of contraceptive than my emotional or mental wellbeing. Lucky for me, I have a lot of fellow mums (as well friends who aren’t mums) who are checking in on me constantly, have lent a kind ear and are there to support me through this new chapter. Not everyone is so lucky, and that scares me.


How was your post-baby GP check up? Who was your go-to person when it came to debriefing/peeling the onion layers of mum life?


  1. It seems incredible to me that we are still treating mothers this way – surely we know enough now to not treat mothers as though they are on a conveyor belt after something as traumatic as birth and motherhood of a baby and/or young siblings. It’s such a vulnerable time – there’s just no excuse to not take better care of our mums 🙁 I’m glad to hear you have a safety net of friends.

    1. Well said Barbara. I was honestly quite thrown by the experience at the GP. Even if labour goes smoothly (which by most measures, mine did) birthing a baby is a big freaking deal. I had questions I didn’t get to ask because it felt silly to stay there. I can ask other people… but what about all the mums that don’t have that option? ?

      1. Of course, you poor thing – if you’re not invited to talk about how you are really going, how could you talk about it to her? It just baffles me, it really does. My youngest is 9, and still nothing has changed really. We are still ignoring the possibility of disaster.

  2. My postpartum check up was pretty much the same. How was the birth, how’s baby. It was my regular doctor, though I didn’t see her again though after that appointment, because instead of just talking to me about contraception like I was any other mother who’d just had a baby, she said “What are we doing about contraception, because we don’t want another accident.”

    …. So, yeah, that happened.

    But then I did wind up seeing a maternity nurse because “there’s something wrong with my baby and I don’t know what.” Mmmhmmm…. and she sent me to a perinatal psychologist, who was amazing. So, I did end up with someone I could talk to about all the things.

    xxx take care.

    1. Oh no she didn’t!!! ?What a totally inappropriate thing to say! Glad you got out of there fast and didn’t look back. I’m glad you ended up finding someone to talk to – it’s so important and it’s annoying that the right support can be hard to find!

  3. When I had my second (who was born with a congenital birth defect that we weren’t aware of until he was born) I was shooed out of the hospital the next day and told via phone call a day later that midwife visits weren’t available in my area. Sorry not sorry. That was a recipe for disaster if ever: a toddler and a newborn with silent reflux and a congenital condition I knew nothing about. Thank god my parents had been travelling around Australia at the time and were able to double back and come to stay for 6 weeks otherwise that situation would have completely broken me. As it was I had to refuse the leave the GPs office until he wrote a prescription for the baby’s reflux. He did, but not without rolling his eyes at me and telling me it wouldn’t work. It worked. I knew that a baby screaming all day was not normal, but he refused to believe me. So beautifully written Joy – I could totally relate (and sorry for the essay!)

    1. That would have been so hard to deal with. I totally broke down when Mr 4 was 2 weeks old and back in the hospital not once but twice after being discharged – it would have been so much harder if we’d had another child to look after AND if we had zero idea what the heck was wrong. Good on you for trusting your gut even when the GP was judgy. Bloody judgy GPs… honestly they do my head in. And yay for parents. Heaven sent.

  4. Helen King says:

    It’s so hard to pinpoint, isn’t it? My hospital time was ok second time (well, other than a projectile vomiting / pooing / grumpy baby, and leaving the hospital for a walk because I was feeling stir crazy – apparently you’re not meant to do that when you’re a patient still, especially having had an emergency c-section). But yes, up and down was how I found it and for me, my beautiful next door neighbour, who would turn up after a particularly bad screaming fit to look after the baby (she was wonderfully grandparenty clucky) plus my husband’s periodical offers to ‘just do what you want for the next few hours’ (I would escape to Borders which had a cafe and devour drinks and books and magazines) helped a lot. What I did find hard was to admit I needed help / a reprieve from my baby because I didn’t need to ask with #1 – everyone loved him (and I didn’t need as much of a break) but second time people think you have it under control (and a baby who screams most of the time is less appealing). But when you make it known they are there – it is so hard to ask, sometimes X

    1. Oh wow I would have just gone for a walk too – I get stir crazy really easily. And you are absolutely right; once we make it known people are there for us who we just didn’t think would be.

  5. Helen King says:

    I meant to ask, Joy, do you have a maternal health care nurse where you are? My obstetrician was good (and I was already in antidepressants, so there was that) as was my GP, but it was really the MHC that looked into issues of coping for us (free service in Vic).

    1. We’ll be seeing a community nurse on Tuesday for bub’s check up. I’ll see how I go with them. Even if I don’t to chat, the good thing is I do have a lot of support especially with family (including sisters with kids) so close.

      1. Helen King says:

        That’s good to hear!

  6. “Sometimes I feel like the luckiest woman in the world and other times I am certain there is no end to the cloudy, suffocating exhaustion that comes with being needed for someone else’s survival.” ….This completely jumped out to me and YES, I feel this rollercoaster everyday! Perfectly said. One foot in front of the other…keep writing it down, keep talking about it. xxx

  7. I still feel like I’m suffocating at times and my kids are all older now. Looking after a house and 4 kids, plus having a full time job all at the same time and doing it on my own is exhausting! I think we just need to make time for ourselves and think of ourselves first for a change.

    1. I doesn’t surprise me that the feeling doesn’t go away – they never stop needing us I suppose. Or maybe it will go away when they’re older. But yes doing it all with 4 and on your own would be so tough. I hope you the support you need and also time to kick back and take care of yourself too!

  8. Wow, I am right there with you Joy! My appointment with my obstetrician was much the same but it’s been the midwife who we see every week for Miss M’s baby clinic that’s been the best and is always checking in on me. I didn’t have that with Master E and is likely the reason I went downhill. I completely agree with you about people asking, “how are you?” Are they sincere? Do they really want to know or is it an empty greeting? I remember a particular family member asking, “how are you?” and I responded with “tired” only to have a response questioning my tiredness.”Tired?” he asked. It really really pissed me off. It’s like yesterday I posted on my blog that I was able to wash and treat my hair, put on a face mask and make pancakes. The way my dad spoke to me about it, he thought it was a really strange thing to say but yet, to me, it’s such a real and normal part of my mum life. Don’t get me started, I really don’t think men have any bloody clue. I’m also with you on the whole ‘finding yourself’ thing. I thought I had it figured and then Miss M came along and I feel lost, sort of in a bit of limbo, at the junction of a path not really knowing what direction I’m going. Hang in there mama, we can only do what we can do and as time goes on I’m guessing the path will start to lay itself out. Look after yourself. x

    1. Thank you Eva! I’ve been moved by the response to this post – and I’ve definitely taken on their advice to take better care of myself. It’s exhausting… Sometimes moreso when you have to explain to other people (men, especially) why that is the case. The little things – like showering alone and washing our hair properly! – make a massive difference. To others it sounds ridiculous but new mums seem to understand each other. ❤ Hope you are finding your way through limbo – we may bump into each other there! ?

  9. I found the health care nurses to be more caring and concerned about both mother and baby. Not just physically but everything! I hope you are doing ok but if you ever need to talk or even vent about a hard day just holler.
    Thanks for linking up to #MummyMondays

    1. Thank you so much Kell! Yes, I definitely found chatting to the community nurse last week was muuuch better. It’s nice to get “permission” to spend time on self-care too. ❤

  10. Hello, oh dear I think most GPs would ask more searching questions. Motherhood is bloody harsh…. new babies are delicious but like most mums, I’d never go back there. Glad to hear you have good friends with you for the joys and the despair too.

  11. Sarah @sarahdipityblog says:

    Gosh it frustrates me when I hear stories like this. Doctors and maternal child health nurses need to be asking these questions and really listening to the answers. It’s completely normal to feel the way you do and we feel should feel like we can talk about these things. I hope you have somebody in your life that you feel you can open up to, being a mum is damn hard! Take care of yourself xx

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