So this is one thing I’ve learned. No one tells you the truth about what it’s really like after you have a baby- sure, everyone says it’s hard, it’s wonderful, you will be so tired, but no one tells you the juicy details about the insane emotional rollercoaster you are about to go on, without the option to get off. Maybe the people I talked to had a different experience than I am having, or maybe no one wants to scare you that bad.
I’m sure everyone has heard (or experienced) the lovely side of having a baby, so I will keep this short. It really is the most amazing thing I’ve ever done. I get the science, the biology, behind how a baby is made, but come on, there has got to be some magic in there somewhere! My life was instantly changed the second my little girl came into this world (after 27 hours of labor- 3.5 hours of pushing…) My identity changed (I’m a mom!) and the way I look at the world changed. Here’s a good example, while I was pregnant, I though I would go back to work as soon as school started in the fall (I’m a teacher). As soon as that baby came out I starting trying to figure out a way that I could take the whole next year off….
Everyday I am amazed at the things she does, like smile, or coo, or blow spit bubbles. I was never into babies, especially newborns. Quite honestly, they scared me. They are so fragile and..well…fragile! I never understood what was so cool about them. I get it now. Your own baby is basically the coolest baby in the world. The cutest, the smartest, most amazingly interesting creature you have ever laid eyes on. I fall more in love with this tiny human every single day.
So here is the other side. I’m going to attempt to be very honest here, even if it is slightly uncomfortable for me. I cried everyday (mostly in the evening) for the first 2 weeks after we got home from the hospital. After that, I felt like maybe I was getting things down, figuring it out, and feeling better. NOPE. After a 4-5 day grace period, the crying started again. pretty much everyday…for weeks. Ok, maybe a month and a half. So here’s the deal with the crying. “They” say it’s completely normal. What the hell does that even mean?? Does “normal” mean it’s ok? Does “normal” mean it happens to everyone? Does “normal” mean it’s not a big deal? What about the other feelings I was having? I had hours of intense longing to just be able to do something they way I used to- to just leave the house and go for a really long run, or go out to dinner with Joe and have a beer and just do whatever for 3 hours. These feelings were followed immediately by guilt. What kind of mom was I to wish to not be with my baby 24/7? I started to feel blah. Flat. Stuck. I worried…a lot. Was I doing anything right? Was the baby getting enough to eat? Enough sleep? Was I talking to her enough? Doing enough to encourage her development? Was she healthy? Why couldn’t I sleep, even though I was beyond exhausted? Was I being a good wife? What if something happened to her? Or to me, or to Joe? I desperately wanted to leave the house, and yet at the same time, fear, guilt and worry kept me home, stuck on that same spot on the couch.
Then all of a sudden, I had 2 good days. I felt semi ok. I smiled, even laughed. Baby napped well. I made dinner. I went for a run. I thought to myself- “wow, I was thinking I might have some postpartum depression going on here, but that can’t be true, I had 2 good days!” I was so, so wrong. When the third day sucked, it felt 10 times worse. Joe and I had a minor argument (about the best way to get the baby to go back to sleep, of course) and I had a minor (ok MAJOR) breakdown.
I’ll skip forward a bit here. I called a trusted therapist, because I knew that was a good place to start. Even after just one session I was able to come away with a few things that would make the next weeks start to feel better. Since having the baby, I had been waiting for this untouchable feeling- the feeling of being back to my old self, which, in hindsight, was quite naive- I was never going to be my old self! Having a baby has instantly added a new dimension to my reality, and in order to feel good, I needed to reconcile the differences between the “old” me and the “mom” me. Once I figured this out, I was able to get myself on the path to feeling good again.
Something else I should add here- It doesn’t matter how easy or how hard your pregnancy/delivery/baby are/were. You can still feel awful. I have to say that I’ve been pretty lucky, my little person has been quite laid back (Kristy, if you are reading this, I know I’ve had it way easier than you!) I felt a little like an a hole for feeling the way I did when I knew my sister (who gave birth to her 2nd a day before me) had a baby that cried…loudly…every time she put her down. This is part of the issue though. We all try to qualify and compare our feelings. We try to tell ourselves we shouldn’t feel the way we do, tell ourselves we should feel happy because someone has it worse. This does NOTHING to make you feel better. Ignoring your feelings or trying to tell yourself they are invalid in anyway just makes things worse, and very likely can cause someone (…me) to have a major meltdown over a minor thing. So I suppose what I am saying is forget what everyone else thinks and just be honest with yourself. For real honest though, not just part of the way. 100% honest, even if it feels a little (or a lot) scary.
I’m finding it difficult to know how to sum this all up, mostly because this whole feeling better thing is a work in progress for me right now. In the past week I’ve had more good days than bad days. This is because I reached out, told people how I felt, and sought help. I like to do things on my own. I don’t like to ask for help. Sometimes though, everyone needs a little help, and this is nothing to be ashamed of.
As I continue on my journey as a person, who is now a mother in this world, I’d like anyone who is reading this to know that if you have any questions about my experience so far, please reach out, ask anything. Maybe it will be helpful to you, and surely it will be helpful to me.