One day, when my baby was about 3 weeks old, my husband found me in the nursery, feeding my child, crying my eyes out. The look of horror on his face will never leave me. “What’s wrong?!” He asked with panic in his voice. I paused…I didn’t know how to say it. I couldn’t think of a proper way to explain how low I was feeling – in a time that was supposed to be “the happiest of my life”.
“I am just grieving the loss of my old self...” I finally mustered between hyperventilating breaths.
He had no clue what I was talking about. He tried to soothe me, he offered to take the baby to run some errands so I could have some time to myself. He’d really been an A+ parent the past three weeks alongside me – it wasn’t that I was doing this alone. I just felt like it.
Nobody prepared me for postpartum life in those first few months. I felt like everyone had lied to me. Seeing Instagram posts of other moms who’d just had a baby with a caption “It’s been the best week of my life” would send me into a tailspin. What was I doing wrong? I loved my baby unconditionally. Why was I feeling this way?
What I’ve come to realize after talking to lots and lots of other moms, is that the way I was feeling was completely normal. This was a whole new world. New human, new relationship dynamic, new routines, new body, new hormones, new perception of myself, it was all NEW. And it scared the shit out of me. Would I ever feel like myself again?
The only thing that made me feel better at the time was reading blogs that other moms had written outlining the way they were feeling. So - I've made a list of the different ways I felt during those early days – with the hope that it’ll help someone else out there realize that what you’re feeling is okay. And to let you know that yes, it will pass, and you will feel like yourself again.
· Pressure – feeling like it’s all on you. And frankly, it is. In my mind, there was literally nobody else in the world that would worry, stress, provide, and love that baby as much as I would. There’s a lot of pressure in that
· Physically recovering from child birth is no joke - It’s like someone asking you to run a marathon you may or may not have trained for and then you don’t get to go to sleep after
· Mental recovery after child birth - My labor and delivery wasn’t a total horror story – it was semi-smooth up until the end and then there were some scary parts. A human was making his way out of me. It can be a very traumatic experience, and nobody talks about that
· Figuring out breastfeeding - I hated it. We eventually got to a good place and I’m still nursing him today (he’s almost 8 months) – but I truly despised it in the beginning. This was the most exhausting part for me. Was he going to latch? Was he going to cry if he didn’t? Was he getting enough? Should I use nipple shields or not? What if I just quit? Why would anyone in their right mind do this? The early days require a feeding every 3-4 hours at least. So, every time he ate I would do the mental math in my head for 3 hours from then and the fact that it would take 45-60 minutes to feed him, then change him, try to get him back to sleep – would leave me with maybe an hour to two to sleep before the next round started again was really mentally challenging for me. Why was it all on me??
· Grieving my old self and loss of independence - I felt trapped to the feeding schedules, like I couldn’t leave him (and I didn’t necessarily want to leave him), like I couldn’t go out, couldn’t work out, couldn’t do anything the “old me” would’ve wanted to do because I needed to do what was best for the baby. Surviving was the only thing I could do in addition to care for the babe. I was exhausted, I felt ugly, I felt like a fraction of my pre-baby self
· Anxiety about leaving the house – where could we go, what times could we go, would he cry in his car seat, what if he was exposed to germs and got sick, it went on and on. Anxiety about people coming into the house also consumed me. Were they going to get the baby sick, was my house clean, had I eaten or slept that day, was this going to be when I could sleep and then I would miss an entire sleep window? I wanted to just lock my doors and put a sign up “No visitors allowed!”
· Jealousy and resentment towards my husband - He could leave the house to run a quick errand, he wasn’t obsessing about breastfeeding, he wasn’t nervous to take him out, he could sleep through any movements the baby made at night (one twitch and I would wake up instantly). Beyond being there for moral support, changing diapers, and helping with stuff around the house – his life hadn’t changed as much as mine. His body wasn’t “ruined” – as I thought mine was. It didn’t scare the hell out of him to go to the bathroom. It doesn’t matter if your husband is the most helpful guy in the world – they will never be able to fully understand what you’re going through
· Future Physical State – Would my body ever heal? Would I ever be able to walk without it hurting? Go to the bathroom without the peri bottle? It seemed like it would never end (I promise you, it does – it just takes WAY longer than anyone ever tells you)
Everyone is different, but for me, everything started to feel better around 10 weeks or so, and I started to really “lean in” to the whole mommy thing. Once they start smiling, feeding more efficiently (whether it’s breastfeeding or formula feeding), sleeping longer stretches – the whole game changes. We’re almost at 8 months postpartum and I feel like I’ve found my groove. I don’t miss my old life anymore – I love my new one more than I ever could’ve imagined. I love being my baby’s person. I have such a high level of respect for all parents out there, especially my own! I look at women who became moms before me and I am in awe – and I’m embarrassed I didn’t realize how big of a deal it was for them when they went through it. My biggest takeaway is that we all need a tribe, a community. Everyone is doing their best and the more support we can give and receive, the better!
Final note – If you are going through a difficult time postpartum and feel like it’s not getting better, please talk to your doctor. They can let you know what’s expected and what isn’t. The more help you ask for, the better. It can never hurt!