The stories I would LOVE to read take place in that timeline but never are told. They're not sad. Not exciting. Maybe mentioned in passing to the closest of friends for very specific reasons. Never told in detail and compared to other's experiences. But sometimes... Sometimes women like me scour the internet searching and searching for the stories to compare with our own experiences. What are those stories about? In a word, "Menstruation." But more specifically, that first cycle after childbirth.
Women love to tell their stories
Every woman who has ever given birth has a variety of stories to tell. Stories from before pregnancy about what led to the decision to get pregnant or the discovery of that pregnancy. Events that took place during the pregnancy, whether happy, scary or sad... And then of course we are familiar with birth stories! How did the little one make its grand appearance? Was it planned and encouraged to come early, or long past due?
We then go on to stories of the early days with a newborn, stories about them growing up, and possibly returning full circle to welcome a sibling into the same family. Wonderful stories, all of them! And we skip right over that very mysterious return of fertility without a mention or a note (except perhaps recorded in our fertility tracking app online.)
The return of menstruation
After the birth of every baby will be the eventual return of fertility (ovulation and menstruation) for pretty much every mother. What do we even call that? I there a specific term for it? Perhaps the "ppaf" term is the best out there "postpartum aunt flo." Though I wish there were a simpler or more universal term. It took me a while to figure out the acronym. Ha!
For the rest of us, our baby is born, life takes on a new normal, hormones change with the days and weeks, and eventually we will have that first menstrual cycle after the birth. And there the similarities cease and the variations begin. Will it be 3 weeks postpartum, or 9 months, or 2 years? Have you breastfed exclusively and still got your cycle back at 6 weeks? Or did you wean all the way down to nursing 1 time a day at 30 months and only after completely weaning were able to get your cycle back? Everyone has a story, and there are so many elements to those stories that may or not impact a woman's return to fertility.
Can we learn from one another?
Nothing is as frustrating to me, when I'm searching for clues to a puzzle, as hearing the non-answer "Well, every women is different." And the trail goes cold right there. Yes, I agree! We all have different stories, and different elements that affect us. But could it be that if enough women shared their "cycle return story" we would find clues that were helpful?
Right now I am 9 months postpartum after my third child. With each of my other two babies I got my cycle back at 9.5 months and 9 months respectively. Since we want to have more children, I approach my cycle's return with anticipation and excitement. Knowing that we can begin trying for another baby is the best part of having my fertility return.
And yet... Even on the third time I find myself confused and a bit puzzled.
"Well, is it coming?? I feel like I have symptoms that my bleed is just around the corner, and yet I've felt that way for weeks now, possibly months. What was it like last time? I can't remember."
You see, I didn't take good notes for myself because I didn't realize I would care in the years to come.
What are the normal cycle return symptoms?
Wouldn't it be nice if our memories alone were sharp enough to recall the small details of our prior experiences? I've been having very mild menstrual like cramping every morning for a week now, and I had some a few weeks ago. Could that be it? Did I have this last time? My mood was *very* volatile two weeks ago, and I felt like my period would come any minute, or at the very latest the next morning! Nope. Still waiting. I've also been taking my basal body temperature, but my temperatures are much higher than they were last time, in the post-ovulation or even "pregnant" range. Yet my tests come back white as snow, not pregnant.
The limited information I can find online is not in the form of personal stories from women. It is simply a broad sweeping generalization of the possible experiences, "You might have a heavier period the first time. Then again, it might be light for a few cycles. And it may come back like clockwork if you aren't breastfeeding, but if you then expect it after 6 months, and possibly not until after a year or two." Either that, or it's in the form of a statistical analysis. "Seventy-four percent of women will get their cycle back before one year." But that doesn't help either. I'm in one camp or the other. It doesn't tell me whether those women have a similar life to mine at all.
Let's help one another
Perhaps we don't tell the story of our returning and returned fertility because it is a private matter. Yes, that could be the reason. But perhaps it is more than we haven't thought of this special time in our lives as being "story worthy." No one else is writing their story, so it's hard to imagine what details would be interesting or worth telling? That could also be the reason we don't tell our stories.
Ladies, let's help one another. If you have found yourself searching the internet for information on "How to know your fertility is returning" or "What to expect your first period after baby?" or anything of the sort, then you know this *is* information women are desperately curious over! Please, share your story. Write it as a comment to this post. Put the story on your own blog. Send me an e-mail with your story and I'll post it here. Let's help each other and learn from each other.
My memory is far too foggy for my previous two experiences to remember and recount. But once this first cycle *does* come, I'll write my own "cycle return story" to share here. And I hope it helps YOU as you are waiting for your own fertility to return.
Here is one story I found online about "catching the first egg" and not even getting a cycle between pregnancies -- It's a good example of helpful information in story form that the rest of us might benefit from knowing! (Whether you are trying to get pregnant right away, or avoid pregnancy) I especially appreciate her story includes even small details like having sore nipples during ovulation.
I do not mean to see
[/caption]I do not mean to sweep away the experience of any woman who does not return to fertility after her baby. She has a unique, possibly painful, but very special and delicate story to tell. If there is a woman out there reading this post who did not return to fertility after her baby and wants to share her story, please write to me. I'd love to include your perspective for readers to consider.