My Postpartum Experience- written anonymously from a mother who was brave to share her story...
I always considered myself to be a relatively normal, emotionally and mentally stable human being. I’m the friend people go to for rational advice and I usually have my shit together. I come from a very close and supportive family and am lucky enough to have parents that I can also call my friends. Motherhood was always something I knew I’d embark upon, because I loved kids and the idea of building my own family.
Given all that, once my husband and I were ready to have kids, I felt pretty confident I’d rock at being a mom. I knew it would be tough, but it would be worth it and I’d have the ability to handle whatever came my way.
Well, I was wrong.
While I was incredibly fortunate to get pregnant quickly and had a pretty easy pregnancy, I was miserable as soon as I sized out of that first pair of jeans. I hated getting big, and feeling clumsy and physically awkward. I liked having boobs for the first time, and I enjoyed my daughter moving inside me, but that’s about it. I was still excited about what was to come and had a lot of fun getting everything ready, and imagining what it would all be like. I took advantage of all my free moments leading up to that big day when I knew my life would change forever.
And then the day finally came, and when she came out and I saw her for the first time, I was expecting to feel that beautiful wave of love wash over me. I was expecting to feel an instant connection. I cried a little, but I think it was out of relief and awe. When I saw her I didn’t feel negatively, I just thought.. “Who is this? She doesn’t look at all like what I imagined. And, I can’t believe she’s mine.” And when I held her for the first time, I felt loving towards her, but also like I might have been holding someone else’s baby. She was a stranger to me. Where was my magical experience? I felt jealous of my friends who told me they had it and wondered if they had lied to me.
The day I left the hospital, my body and mind had started to unravel. In 2.5 days, she had managed to destroy my boobs. Breast feeding was painful and I was already starting to resent her for it. The women at the hospital try and help you through it because the idea of sanctioning bottle feeding is basically blasphemy in a hospital these days. I remember having a hard time bundling her up in winter layers and thinking, “Are they really letting me leave with her?” They DID let me leave and then the real adventure began.
I had my mom stay with me and my husband for the first 10 days. She was my night nurse, my cook, and my support system. My husband was there to help too but wasn’t able to provide the level of emotional support my mom was able to give me. I cried A LOT those first couple of weeks. Sometimes for a good reason (my nipples are bleeding), and sometimes for no reason at all (a phone commercial). I felt mom guilt and inadequacy because of my trouble breast feeding and because even once it stopped hurting, I hated it. I still hate the thought of it. I wish I didn’t, but I did.
"And I felt angry a lot towards my daughter because I felt forced to do things I didn’t want to do by this innocent creature I hardly knew who just slept, ate and cried all day and night.. The anger and resentment was always coupled with guilt and self-loathing for having those feelings. It was a vicious circle."
After my mom left, I had an even harder time because I felt incredibly alone and isolated. I felt regretful, “Was this right choice? What if I shouldn’t have been a mom?” I found myself day dreaming about years past, when I had my freedom, took exciting trips, and didn’t have a little human I was responsible for. It was winter and in the first 2 months, I wasn’t able to go out much, which only exacerbated my depression. And I didn’t really have any friends with babies.
For all those reasons, I thought maybe I had postpartum depression. I took the quizzes, saw my OBGYN, but no, I didn’t. I was clinically fine. But a month had passed and I still wasn’t in love with my baby. I would ebb and flow between loving her and being amazed by her to wishing I never had a baby at all. There were nights she would NOT stop crying and nothing I did made a difference and I thought I was literally losing my mind.
I remember calling my mom asking, “Can a baby die from crying?” I’m pretty sure I googled it too (You google the most ridiculous things as a first time mom of a newborn.) And all the while, I felt like the shittiest mom and I felt bad for her that she was stuck with me.
I managed to hit a turning point between 2-3 months. A few things helped me get there.
1- I stopped exclusively breast feeding. This was the first game changer for me. Once I was able to share feeding duties, I felt more liberated. I had a moment where I decided it’s better for me to be happy and not resent my baby, than it was to continue to exclusively breast feed her. And once I stopped pumping… well at that point, I popped a champagne bottle!
2- She started to sleep more and cry less. I didn’t realize early on, I actually had an easy baby. Once we hit a sleeping groove and I got more sleep, I felt more human and less miserable.
3- I got perspective. I joined a mom group (online and also in person), and started hearing stories similar to and even worse than my own. Knowing there were so many other women going through the same thing made me feel like I was less of a psycho.
Being a mom is harder than anything anyone can fully explain to you. And even if they could, it’s hard for different reasons for every single person. There’s no way to fully prepare. In fact the more you think you’ve prepared, the harder time you’ll probably have.
I’ve come to believe it’s somewhat normal to not immediately love a human you’ve never met, who cries all the time, hurts your body and never lets you sleep. That newborn can put you through the kind of mental and physical torture I imagine they use when training marines.
But once you get the hang of it, get into a semblance of a rhythm, and start to really enjoy your baby in your own way, those tough months become a hazy memory.
Don’t set expectations for yourself
Parent in a way that works best for YOUR life
Get yourself a support system
Try and enjoy each phase for what it is, because for better or for worse…
This too shall pass, this too shall pass, this too shall pass…