I’ve been reflecting a lot lately on my pregnancy and life since my baby was born. Outside of the obvious miracle of giving birth to my beautiful daughter, labor and delivery were pretty straightforward. I read books about pregnancy and childbirth, but I never really considered what happens after that. Pregnancy was difficult for me both physically and mentally, so I thought if I could get through that and natural childbirth surely I could handle the aftermath. I was wrong.
Some women write their birth stories, but I’ve decided I need to write my post-partum story. Up until now I’ve thought these were things to hide, things to be ashamed of because I never heard anyone talk about anything but the wonder of a new baby. Now I know that is exactly the wrong way of thinking and we all deserve to speak our truth without the fear of being judged. So, leaving my fear at the door, these are the things nobody warned me about and I never saw coming.
First things first, I realize and fully appreciate that I am incredibly blessed. Childbirth was uncomplicated and here I was with a perfectly healthy baby, an incredible tribe of people to support me, a fiancé who loves me unconditionally and is not only present but actually desperately WANTS to help any way he can. Anything I needed was right there or a phone call away at most, and believe me I do not take any of that for granted. Without a doubt I loved my tiny, squishy, wonderful new baby, but I was not okay.
About 3 days after giving birth the darkness started to roll in like storm clouds. Typically I consider myself strong, independent, and quite honestly I get shit done…but suddenly, I was broken. I didn’t recognize my body. I didn’t recognize my own thoughts - they were distorted and slow and foggy. My brain wouldn’t focus, my eyes wouldn’t focus, I couldn’t breathe. If I allowed myself to cry it wouldn’t stop. Who was this person? This was not me. I prayed this was not the new me. I never had any negative or harmful thoughts so I was sure this wasn’t postpartum depression. Again, I was wrong.
People visited. I could tell you who they were but I couldn’t tell you when they came or what we talked about. I wanted to cling to my mother and my sister like a small child; as soon as they would arrive I began worrying about when they would have to leave. I DID cling to my fiancé like a small child. I had a full on panic attack when he went back to work 2 days sooner than I expected. I needed someone to hold me, to keep me on the planet, to talk to me because silence was daunting.
I obsessively rationed out my placenta pills, dose by dose, hour by hour, day by day, and panicked that this feeling would last longer than they would (yes, I encapsulated my placenta and yes, I would tell anyone and everyone that they should do the same). At any given moment I could tell you how many pills were in that jar in the fridge. I would count down the minutes until I would allow myself to take more because for a few hours they helped me feel a tiny bit normal. All anyone could tell me was “It gets better” and I desperately wanted to know WHEN. (To answer my own question, it took about 7 weeks.)
Yes, I was tired, but I didn’t want to sleep. This baby was mine. My responsibility, not anyone else’s. If she was crying it was up to me to fix it because after all I was a Mom now, and in my mind Moms can handle anything. Asking for help seemed out of the question because I thought I should be able to do it all or I was failing. I felt like if I told anyone how panicked I felt inside they would see me as an incompetent mother.
Slowly but surely it got better. Going outside made me realize that the world had, in fact, continued to exist outside of my clouded mind. The amount of gas I burned driving aimlessly was well worth it because it made me feel like a human again. The world had kept moving so maybe I could too? The days got less daunting and eventually I found a new balance in my life. A new normal. I felt better long before the placenta pills ran out. I’m sure things will continue to shift but right now, things are pretty great and that is all I could ask for.
I’ve only been at this 4 months, so I’m certainly no expert, but if any of this rings true for you here is my humble advice from the other side of the darkness…
- Know your limits and ask for help - not just help with the baby, but help for YOU. It can be hard to ask for help and you may not even know what it is that you need, but ask anyway.
- Talk about it, cry about it, go outside…do whatever you need to do to recover (within the scope of safe, obviously) and know that it DOES end. Some days are harder than others but you will find yourself again.
- Please, STOP comparing yourself to everyone else. The internet is full of posts of blissful moments from new Moms that can make you feel like you must be doing it wrong, but I assure you that you are not. Those blissful moments will come, I promise you. It’s not all happy all the time for anyone, but maybe posting the happy times makes us appreciate them all the more.
It is okay to feel defeated, it is okay to talk about it, and it is okay to think that sometimes this just plain sucks. It does not make you any less of a mother. You are not broken. Everything you knew is different in one way or another, and that takes time to get used to. What if we all cut ourselves just a little bit of slack and remember that we just grew and birthed a brand-spanking-new, squishy little human? (High five by the way.) Just like that baby you are shiny and new, and if you’re anything like me, a little squishier than you used to be.