On Postpartum Baking

10 Aug 2022

Postpartum baking

Let’s jump back to either very late December or very early January. I forget which but either way, I am a few days post-birth and I’m making banana bread. The house is very calm, baby is sleeping on Gary’s chest and I’ve gone downstairs to make banana bread using the bananas I bought as a labour-snack which didn’t get eaten. I’m in a weirdly peaceful mood and I feel really bloody happy that I’m making banana bread. I don’t really know why this moment stands out; just that it was a rare moment of contentment in the bewildering and brutal fourth trimester but also, I think I was just really pleased that I’d given birth after months of prep and anxiety about the unknown and now here I was baking banana bread like it was just any other day. I’d given birth and normality was still here. People like to say nothing will ever be the same again and yet, here I was, still baking and still happy about it. 

I wouldn’t have that again for a while. We had several tough weeks ahead of us; our sleepy newborn bubble was rudely punctured by countless issues surrounding feeding which would leave us physically and mentally scarred, and it was only after my birthday, when I was flicking through my new cookbook – One Tin Bakes Easy by Edd Kimber – that I realised I had the energy and motivation to start baking again. And once I got going, I realised that I was experiencing a peace that I knew was going to be healing. 

That sounds quite dramatic I know, but to be blunt, my experience of giving birth was miles away from what I wanted and I found the feeding issues we encountered traumatic which meant that I spent a long time needing life to be simple and full of things that gave my whirring brain moments of peace. I was offered birth debriefs and support groups but what I needed, really, was to just bake a cake. Lots of cakes. And cookies. And traybakes. And just, well, anything I could put in an oven. I mean, sure, I also needed to read books and go for a lot of walks, and tickle my babies toes until he giggled and generally fill life with lots of nice simple things whilst navigating new parenthood and processing all that had happened. It was a concoction of healing remedies, but baking - alone and quietly just for a short moment - felt the most restorative. 

And so I have baked and baked and baked. Pecan pie shortbreads and cornflake caramel slices. Brownie crinkle cookies and burnt basque cheesecake. Sheet cakes and loaf cakes and cupcakes  (side note - the cupcakes came third place in a jubilee party cupcake competition judged by a ten year old… but I don’t want to gloat). My baking skills have developed, my love for baking has grown even more and my mind has calmed whilst my hands are busy. 

I am finding moments of peace in bread dough and cake batter. It is forcing me to take a deep breath when I’m exhausted or the news is alarming or when the house is a mess and my baby is throwing an excessive amount of yoghurt on the floor. It is a moment for myself (and I suppose for the people who eat the baked goods), a moment to feel anchored and, ultimately, a moment to feel better. 

Postpartum baking