Thinking back, the very beginning of motherhood was very different than I had imagined it to be. To be honest, I don’t know if I had a particular “picture” of what it’d look like but I certainly know how I expected to feel. And that didn’t really line up with reality for a little while.
Though there is little talk about postpartum depression, in my experience, there is even less about the baby blues. In fact, I didn’t even know what they were until much after I’d experienced them.
All I know is my baby was one week old and I was hysterically crying…
It felt as though suddenly, I became a mom and I cared about and loved another person so much more than I’ve cared and loved anything and yet, I also didn’t feel so great.
My thoughts were quite irrational and extreme (though never about harming myself or my baby) and my feelings were overwhelming. As I (hysterically) cried after taking the baby’s One Week photos, I turned to my husband and asked him if all the crying I’d been doing was normal.
He asked, “They’re happy tears, right?”
“Well, yeah,” I replied.
The truth is they were happy/ sad/ scared/ anxious/ nervous/ elated/ love-filled tears. And there had been lots of them leading up to then and lots that would follow. I was just feeling SO MANY different emotions.
Love … SO much of it that my heart felt like it could almost burst
Sadness that time was flying so quickly
Frustration with my husband for not parenting the same exact way as me
Shame about having a C-section and having pain during recovery but trying to overcome that pain
Nervousness about how to care for a newborn and how to calm his (what felt constant at times) crying
Awe at the blessing of my baby and getting to be his mom
Anxiety at the thought that I would help shape him into the person he will grow up to be
Fear that I would have little control over his external life forces
Guilt that breastfeeding was such a challenge and that I sort of resented it
Exhaustion due to lack of sleep and food (my appetite was pretty non-existent for a bit)
Wonder about how I could still live a fun life and complete regret, shame and guilt that I was concerned about this at all (I still feel bad even admitting this)
None of the birth classes we attended, articles I read, or research I did truly prepared me for this new adventure. I had to live it to truly learn it. That wasn’t something I was used to–not being in control or prepared felt foreign. One of the only things I did know was that something just wasn’t right with my emotions–but the weight of them felt foreign, too.
While I was pretty unaware of the “baby blues” and felt isolated in my feelings, they are actually pretty common. According to the American Pregnancy Association, approximately 70-80% of all new mothers experience some negative feelings or mood swings after the birth of their child. It is thought to be related to the hormonal changes (they rise higher during pregnancy than any other time in a woman’s life and then plummet after giving birth) we go through during and following childbirth. Other changes, including the amount of adjustment that comes after the birth of a baby, along with sleep disturbance, disruption of “routine”, and emotions from the childbirth experience itself can also contribute to how a new mom feels.
Speaking about mental health is taboo, it is not much different with this topic. There is still a stigma about feeling sad after having experienced such a beautiful thing–the birth of your baby– and societal pressure to only feel happy about becoming a mom. It is important–and I believe necessary–to have a conversation about this, though. Because juggling all these feelings can be downright scary. I just want all new mamas to know it’s okay to not feel okay; you’ll get through it; and to reach out for help because you’ve got more people in your corner than you probably realize.
You’re not broken;
you’ve done nothing wrong; and
you are not alone.