Scrolling along on your Instagram feed and you see your favorite makeup artist pop up. She looks gorgeous as always, she just had a baby 2 weeks ago and she looks UH-MAZING. Mirror selfies show her flat tummy, nice and toned already, resembling no evidence of her pregnancy. Her hair is styled to a T. In the mirror you see just a small glimpse of her fabulous home, clean and trendy. Not a dust bunny in sight. She looks vibrant and gorgeous, her baby looks happy and sweet. Without a second thought you gush at how great she’s got it. You can’t wait to be a put together, glowing super mother yourself.
Then you see a friend of a friend. A gal from junior high maybe. She’s got a 2 year old. Always in the most thoughtful outfits. That baby is the cutest thing you’d ever seen. Seems to always be giggling. Mommy looks great as well and clearly has a happy booming social life. All of their adventures are well documented. You gush yet again. Being a mother will be so fun.
Fast forward. It’s two weeks postpartum for you.
You still look 4 months pregnant. You have to move slowly as you’re still sore. You roll to the side before sitting up because your abdominal muscles are completely separated straight down the middle. You approach the restroom slowly. Inside there’s a squirt bottle waiting for you and witch hazel pads for cleaning and relieving your torn and tender self. Once your done you set yourself up with a new giant maxi pad almost resembling a diaper to catch all of your insides you will shed and shed and shed for at least a few more weeks.
Your baby is screaming and you aren’t sure why. You are counting your baby’s pees and poops to make sure they are on track. You’re obsessing waiting on them to poop in this 24 hour cycle. You wince as you bring your dry, cracked, aching breast to your baby’s mouth. You pray and pray for a latch because you’re home alone and there are no nurses to ask for help now. OUCH. Baby’s on there. GOOD!
Baby falls asleep and you aren’t sure what you’ll do now. You haven’t eaten since yesterday. You haven’t showered in almost 3 days. You haven’t gotten more than two consecutive hours of sleep yourself since you gave birth. Not to mention your house is a complete and utter train wreck.
As much as you want to do everything you can while your baby takes a questionably short nap- you instead nervously watch your baby sleep. Because you are scared to death they will stop breathing.
Between watching their chest rise and fall you torture yourself and open Facebook on your phone. Dear god. Another SIDS article?? Better read that. SHIT. I’m never leaving this room.
Old friends!! They went out! Look at their drinks! So pretty. Little drink umbrellas! Awe! Oh wow they look so nice. Oh wow they look so skinny. Oh wow. They look so…. free. And well rested. And happy.
The posts keep coming. One after another. You can’t help but realize they haven’t spoken to you like you’re a individual human as opposed to just being pregnant person since you were-pregnant. Some of them haven’t spoken to you at all.
You don’t know if your furious or heartbroken. You’re a little bit of both.
Your stomach growls. Maybe a pb&j? Anything to fill this painful void in your gut. Just as you begin to pull away, your baby’s cry makes it’s way out. You feel the weight of your exhaustion. You cry with your baby.
Fast forward a bit more. Now your 6 weeks postpartum.
The doctor said you were supposed to be done bleeding now but you’re not. Diaper pads are still your friend. Breastfeeding is still a challenge. You were supposed to be done relying on your nipple shield but you still need it. You still need your stool softeners too. You’re still a strung out mess, only sadder now. Only lonelier.
You haven’t left the house and you’re afraid to. Afraid to be out in public with a crying baby and fumbling around with your shit clearly not together. You’re afraid the baby will get hungry and you’ll have to breastfeed. Then people will stare at you and judge you. What if you accidentally show the whole produce department your nipple while you wrestle to get the baby on? What if the blanket slips off your shoulder and an older couple scowls their faces at you. What if your confronted and asked to “do that somewhere else.”
But you’re craving daylight so badly. You want to experience a sliver of life outside the front door. But you just can’t bring yourself to do it. Every time seems like a bad time. How are you supposed to get ready to show your face out there when you are still having trouble bathing yourself regularly? It’ll take so long. And then you have to get the baby ready. The car seat, the diaper bag, the stroller or the baby carrier? Both? How are you going to carry all that? And then get groceries too? The baby is always fussy. The baby will just scream and you know it. So it’s “never mind.” For a while longer. You’re not ready.
You bump your baby’s head on the car seat the first time you try to leave the house the next week. You cry. You tell yourself your a shit mother and you were stupid to even try.
You wonder what you’re even good for sometimes. Then it gets worse. Then it gets so bad- you don’t tell anyone what you’ve been thinking.
You tell yourself it’s just the “baby blues” and grit through the manic episodes.
All the while you type “good” and “great” when people casually ask you how the mom life is going for you. You put on some makeup one time in 3 weeks and that’s the time you take a picture with baby on your chest. You smile for the camera. You try to tell the world you’re doing well even though you’re questioning everything and falling apart.
Then you realize you’re now a participant in the cycle. You and your perfect picture have some other expectant mother blissfully oblivious to the obstacles that are headed her way.
It’s not about instead showing your crazy tired sad self and saying, “having a baby sucks!” That’s not the case. Having a baby is awesome. But it’s a humongous adjustment. It’s severely hormonal. It’s hard. And it requires a ton of preparation. Not only for baby- but for YOU. Why don’t we talk about preparing ourselves? It is much more than a setting up a nursery and buying packs of sleepers and diapers. Where are the warnings about postpartum anxiety and depression? The loss of your social support? The extreme isolation? Where is the open support when they hit?
In retrospect thinking about people in your life, there will suddenly be two categories. ‘Before I had kids,’ and ‘after I had kids.’ You’ll realize people you thought would stick in your life for a bit quickly see themselves out once you’re pregnant. You can’t drink, you’re eating differently, you’re sleepier, slower- you’re still you but- you’re not their kind of fun anymore. You’re a mom now. They aren’t parents.
Months go by. After being pregnant for 9+ months, having a newborn turned 1,2 and then 3 months. It’s now been a year. They thought you’ve been so busy being pregnant and a mother that you could have hardly noticed they drifted from you without an apology of parting words. But you noticed. And it hurt.
As beautiful as your bundle is, you can’t have a conversation with cries and passing gas. The baby isn’t going to ask you how you’re doing, if there’s anything you need. But there’s so much that you have to say. Your body is completely different. You aren’t warming up well to the extra skin or the stretch marks, the shedding of your hair. Your confidence has sunk. You feel friend-less. You’re having trouble accepting this new normal with open arms.
Although every woman has a different experience, nearly 1 of 5 new mothers suffer from postpartum depression. If you are like me- someone who has battled anxiety and depression before, you are likely to be more prone to falling down the rabbit hole.
I ask some fellow mommies who’d recently given birth to offer their postpartum experiences.
“I had high anxiety for a while. I was at a loss because this was my first child, I had no one to turn to for help, and I was alone for the most part during the first month because my husband was scrambling to get things together last minute […] I definitely get lonely staying home all day with no car, and just YouTube, FB, and prayer to keep me sane. My main outlet is going to every church function that I can get a ride to, which I get great joy from.” -Keosha G.
Even second time mothers like Kristina,
“After having a baby, emotionally I was all over the place. I thought it would be easier the second time around but I was WAY more nervous about germs and other people touching the baby. I mean a total nervous wreck. The only thing I was depressed about was my huge blubbering body and the difficulties of breastfeeding. Very happy to have a new healthy baby, especially cause I didn’t think I could love another baby like I did with my first born. The first 4 months were really really hard emotionally. My family dynamic changed because I needed more help. Because of pain and lack of sleep I needed my husband and eldest to cook, clean, laundry, and all the other things I did for them. They sort of had to fend for themselves for awhile. […]What bothers me most is staying home alone, with no car, 5 days a week. 12 hours a day with a baby and no adult contact is very lonely and a little madening. Cabin fever much?..”-Kristina D.
When the high settles and you start to wonder if you can really do this,
“After having a baby there definitely is a grief that it’s all over. Giving birth is such a climax, there’s so much anticipation and after you’ve snuggled and breathed in the newness, all the nosey family members are gone the struggles are there. You have the nights where you wonder if you are going to be able to do this forever, what if you screw them up?”-Stephanie M.
Everything makes you feel guilty.
“I feel empty. My arms are full and so is my heart but I still feel empty. I hate that I can’t have my baby with me all through my day like I did before, but I also get frustrated that I never have a moment of peace.When I am by myself I feel guilty and miss my kids. It’s a terrible cycle. “-Katie I.
Prepare yourself for the hormonal dive. It just may end up being more than the “baby blues.” Which are only supposed to be a couple weeks after birth.
- Find your support. Mom, sis, good loyal friends, spouse, grandma etc. let them know you will need them to watch you and check in with you from time to time. Let them know you appreciate a regular visit. No matter if your house is a mess or you haven’t brushed your hair in a week.
- Tell your friends to keep you in the group chat. Ask them to invite you anyway, and let you decide whether or not it’s something you’d like to participate in. Ask them not to assume you don’t want to, or can’t, or won’t have the energy to.
- Prepare a few solitary hobbies when you are home with baby. Get yourself some painting supplies, baking ingredients, some good books, new nail polishes or self care items for the down time. Make sure that within the madness, you are incorporating little moments that make you feel good.
- ASK FOR HELP. If someone lets you know they are willing to help- don’t take it in vain. “You know what? I’d actually love it if you came over and helped me fold some laundry! I’ll pay you in iced coffee and a pizza!”
- If someone offers to babysit- LET THEM. Go get some air. Go for a drive, stop by your favorite store.
- Put on the gosh dang baby wrap and go check the mail. Go for a walk. Go to the mall. Anything. You’ll be glad you did.
- Let your freaking spouse know what’s going on in your head. They are around you the most. Help them make sense of your outbursts. You aren’t being irrational. There are reasons you feel defeated and upset. They can’t help you if they don’t know.
- Keep a journal for all those things you are struggling to say to others. If you feel like you are getting bad- let someone read your journal. Ask for help. Always ask for help.
Trust me, though. Your baby gets funner and funnier. They get more independent. You will find your groove. You start to mom it up. Your partner still thinks your gorgeous and enticing. You’re a new kind of beautiful and a new kind of strong.
Peace the hell out to your old friends. This is just one of those things in life that tests a friendship. If it stands, it’s the real deal. If it crumbles, it just wasn’t. They were temporary. File them under, ‘Before I had kids.’ Then keep it positive and keep it pushing, mama.
Embrace the new you. Your locked and loaded with potential. Be patient with yourself. Being a mother grows you exponentially. Sometimes you will feel the seams splitting. But trust the process.
New people will enter your life. People who take you the way you are- a mother. Let those people come to you. Open yourself up.
And if not anything else, hang in there. Even if you have to take it day by day or moment by moment. And know you’ve got lots of mommies to back you up. All you need to do is ask.
And cheers to you. Because you’re out here raising little humans and bearing the process. Cheers to your new strength and new beauty.