I have been enjoying new mommyhood for about 3 months now. I can honestly say it’s the happiest I’ve ever been. My daughter, Athena, has brought such light into my life, and when I look at her, my heart feels like it may burst.
As happy as I am though, it wasn’t always like that. Don’t get me wrong; throughout my entire pregnancy I was so excited to meet this little human being I was creating. I had heard of postpartum depression, and although I had suffered from depression in the past, I honestly kind of blew it off. I just thought, “how on earth can anyone that wants their baby be depressed when they’re finally here?” And I would have to say that unless you’ve experienced it yourself, or have had someone close to you experience it, it’s pretty incomprehensible. By the time I was in my third trimester, I was so excited and felt so ready. I truly felt that there was no way the baby blues would hit me.
After three false labors, it was finally time. I must say, when I was finally actually admitted to the hospital, “shit got real”. I realized that within a couple days (not yet knowing how long labor would be) I would actually be caring for another human being. And not just a human but a tiny baby human! And I wasn’t just going to be a girlfriend or Brittanny anymore. I was going to be “Mom”. I got very anxious and the self-doubt kicked in like crazy. “Can I do this?”, “What if I’m a bad mom?”, “Will she love me?”, etc. I cried off and on with these thoughts going through my head right up until it was time to push. I call this a little bit of “pre-partum” depression.
And after 24 hours of labor, I gave birth to an absolutely perfect baby. She was a big, beautiful, healthy baby girl. She was the most perfect specimen I had ever seen and I was so overwhelmed with joy and love and accomplishment. Other than a few scares from an idiotic pediatrician (I’ll blog about my birth experience another time) that first week was the absolute best week of my life. Athena was such a good, sweet, angel baby. I felt like I was on a cloud. I never wanted to leave her side. And I hardly did. She literally almost never cried. To the point we were concerned. She was just so calm. I started to wonder what other moms were complaining about. And then I just thought we were lucky and got a really good baby.
By the way, please don’t misunderstand me. I still think my daughter is the absolute greatest and most perfect princess in the world. So don’t get it twisted. I’m merely describing MY reality as a new mother, and how my postpartum depression came to be.
Anyway, my first week at home we had help. My best friend and her mom stayed with us and cooked for us, helped us clean and helped with the baby. Although we had help, I didn’t exactly take care of myself the way I should have. And when week two came around, I insisted on trying to do everything myself. I refused to ask my boyfriend, Chad, for help. I didn’t shower. I didn’t eat or go to the bathroom until he came home from work (about 4pm). I completely neglected myself, which I now know is about the WORST thing you can do. In my mind, if I couldn’t do everything on my own, I was failing. Failing at being a home maker and mother.
By the end of week two, Athena became a baby. When I say that, I mean she started crying. She started having to adjust to her digestive system. She would strain and cry and her face would turn so red. I was convinced my milk was poison. I probably took her to the pediatrician three or four times in a matter of two weeks. I was convinced I was doing everything wrong. And although the pediatrician(s) reassured me she was fine, it always seemed like something new popped up that scared the shit out of me. To sum it up, her behavior at week one and at week three were drastically different.
The combination of feeling like a bad mom and girlfriend, sleep deprivation and the self-neglect made for an extremely bad combination. By the time three weeks was here, I was a mess. I cried all day and night for a week straight. Anything and everything set me off. Anything anyone would say I took as a personal attack. It was worse than any depression I had dealt with in earlier years. I think that’s because this time it wasn’t about me. It was about another person. And not just any person; my daughter. I felt like I wasn’t doing anywhere near enough for her. I felt as though my boyfriend and Athena would be better off without me. That I was only making things worse. And I was really convinced my milk was poison. Every time Athena would strain, I cried. I was sure something was wrong, even though the pediatricians told me otherwise.
Now I have to say, I’m lucky. I’m lucky I only felt like that for a few weeks out of these three months. Because I am aware that there are many women who feel like this for months, even years. What honestly and truly helped me was talking about it. Reaching out. DON’T HOLD IT IN! I promise it’s the best thing you can do for yourself. I talked to my family, friends, even a counselor. Talk to anyone that will listen. Go to a chat room or join a “mom group” online or on an app. Whatever you do, don’t hold it in. So many women don’t talk about these feelings because of shame and guilt. I know I personally felt so guilty that I was even having these emotions. I felt guilty for feeling any emotion other than happiness and excitement. In my mind, that was all I should have been feeling. Given that I have suffered from depression before, though, I already knew the best thing I could do for myself and my family was reach out. So I did. And you should too, if any of you moms (especially new moms) are feeling like this.
I’ve learned it’s so important to take care of yourself! Seriously, take care of yourself. It’s so easy to feel like you can’t leave your baby’s side for a second. You want to watch every breath, hold them every second and not miss a thing. But it’s okay to step away for a few minutes to take care of you. Eat, nap, shower, read; whatever your vice, whatever you need to do to feel better and like your best self. Let’s face it, if you’re suffering, you’re no good to anyone. And I say that with the best intent.
I’ve also learned that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with feeling tired. There’s nothing wrong with feeling helpless at times. It’s normal to feel like you’re not doing enough. It’s normal to question yourself. It really is so normal. All new moms go through it. Okay, for the sake of not speaking for everyone, “most” new moms experience a phase of self-doubt. Even practiced moms can still go through this. Think about it. Your body just went through a trauma, your hormones are going crazy and you’re probably running on little to no sleep. And if you’re taking the prescribed pain killers, those can mess with your emotions too. Most importantly, you’re now faced with the responsibility of a wholenother life. A human life. Your child’s life. It can be overwhelming at the least. So give yourself a break and remind yourself that you’re doing the best you can.
There’s something else that’s important to remember. You’re not just “Mom”. You’re still you. Don’t forget about you before your baby. You’re still a girlfriend or wife. You’re still a friend. You still have your goals. There are many parts that make up who you are, and becoming a mom is now one of those parts. Don’t forget about or neglect the other parts of you.
Most importantly, again, don’t be afraid to reach out. Not just to talk, but for physical help too. Ask your spouse, family, or friends to help you out when you need it. Stop insisting on doing everything yourself. You’re still a good mom if you have assistance. I commend moms that can do it all on their own. I also commend moms that can admit when they need a helping hand and ask for it. I still drill it into my own head: “There’s no shame in asking for help. There is only shame in being too proud and overwhelming yourself”. I hope that by sharing my own personal experience I can encourage new/expecting moms to be brave and talk about your feelings and experiences with anyone you can. It truly helps. You got this mamas! 💋❤💋❤💋