Before Henry was born, I spent most of my free time researching must-have items for our baby registry, taking breastfeeding/baby basics classes at the hospital, and googling what to expect during the first few weeks of motherhood. On the other hand, I spent little time during my pregnancy considering how much care I would need in the weeks and months following the birth of my child. In fact, I don’t think I considered all the emotional and physical support I would need at all.
I was naive to think my postpartum experience was going to be all baby smooches, cuddles, and fun summer outings with a newborn. And I was even more naive to think I would just “bounce back” after bringing a baby into the world; that my mind, body, and self would be the same as before. Oh no… I was so wrong…
I was in for the biggest wake-up call when in the first few weeks and months of motherhood, I instead felt waves of stress, anxiety, doubt, and insecurity. I’ll admit it. It was (and still is) a challenging transition, and I truly expected it to come so much easier for me than it has.
Maybe it’s because most things have come easily. I’ve moved across the country, planned a MA wedding from CA, taken leaps when it comes to my jobs/career, took yoga teacher training while pregnant, and have always found the balance while juggling a busy schedule and multiple commitments. So, how could I not make room for one more thing in life—you know, like becoming a mom? Hah… if only it were that easy.
The first couple weeks with Henry, though amazing and special in so many ways, were extremely hard and exhausting. But, we had my family here to help ease us into parenthood and then a few weeks later, my in-laws visited for round II of help.
However, when our visitors had gone and Sam headed back to work (after a TWO-month paternity leave… bless!), my postpartum anxiety crept in… without warning.
Running on limited sleep and probably too much caffeine, I was struggling with being a new mom, all my fresh responsibilities, and the stresses of having to find daycare and returning to work later in the fall. Oh, and the fact that I committed to start teaching yoga (something I craved, but maybe was in over my head with at this time). All of that, combined with unsuccessful breastfeeding, pumping every 3 hours, an unbearable LA summer heatwave, and extreme homesickness had left me feeling depleted and, honestly, just not like myself.
For weeks, I buried it. I didn’t mention my anxiety to family and friends. I was really good at smiling and laughing it off and going into “host mode” when we had guests come over. But then it hit me like a ton of bricks. About 8 weeks postpartum, it all just seemed like too much to bear.
I wouldn’t consider myself sensitive or emotional in the least, but once everything piled up, I cracked. I felt weird. Who was I? I was, of course, not the same person as before. How could I be? I was a new mom. My hormones were racing. My eyes were heavy. My days were filled with new responsibilities that I was stumbling through. My baby was fussy and many times, I didn’t know how to console him. I read books and blogs and felt so prepared going into it but once he was here, it was all different.
I hate to say it, but I was missing my old life at times. My morning workouts. My job. My social time with friends. Date nights with Sam. Free weekends to sleep in and do whatever I wanted. Weekend road trips. Long phone calls and baking for hours. Blogging. Listening to music. It just all seemed to stop overnight. My former life ended. (I know I’m sounding dramatic, but this truly was how it felt for me for some time.)
I didn’t realize how hard a transition like that would affect me. In a way, I’ve been mourning my former life and reflecting on that “me.” I could never imagine life without Henry now, but when was I ever going to get bits and pieces of the old me back?
That’s when it sort of clicked.
I had to accept where I was at, talk it through with Sam and my family, and start adding in the things I loved back into my life.
I accepted our tiny apartment. My struggles with nursing and how that didn’t reflect me as a mother whatsoever. The shitty LA heatwave that was keeping me indoors more than I’d like. The first two months where I isolated myself more than I should have. The fact that family was far and that was hard. That friends and family nearby wanted to help and I should let them. And mainly, that I didn’t have to be alone with my feelings or feel ashamed of them.
So many women struggle to adjust after becoming first-time moms. Why should I feel embarrassed to be part of that group? Birthing a child was bound to change me. I’ll never be the same as before and that was okay.
Slowly I’ve began doing yoga again and seeing friends as I normally would. Making plans and getting out. I felt alive again. Like myself. The social, active me is breaking free and bringing a cute little guy along with her. If he cries, he cries. I’ll soothe him. If the outing only lasts 30 minutes, so be it. If people think it’s weird my baby is drinking breastmilk from a bottle, cool.
Why should I care what strangers think?
Henry is loved, fed, breathing, warm, and happy. I have to be doing something right, huh? 🙂
I’m starting to get out of my head and live with my heart again. The pile around me is still there at times, but I’m asking for help, taking breaks, and taking it day by day.
More experienced parents around me have said to go with the flow with a baby and I really think that’s all you can do, especially in the first few months. No day is the same. Routines take time. And sometimes, you just have to cuddle your baby extra, suck it up with the sleepless nights, and tell your friends you had a rough week and don’t feel like hanging out (hard for me to do but honesty is key).
Those that love you will understand and be there for you.
Don’t sit around and soak in your feelings (well, maybe for a minute but then reach out for help!) and keep walking forward. This journey of motherhood takes strength, patience, and a whole lot of love. I know I have that all within me. I’m starting to let it take the lead again.
Of course, I’m not the only new mom struggling to “get it right” and I really hope that I can help others see that this experience is so personal and unique to us all. Postpartum anxiety is heavy, and though there’s a light at the end of the tunnel (my doctor said 6-9 months for most), it can feel really dark and lonely at times (even when you have everything you’ve ever wanted). No one handles it the same, so show other (new) moms around you extra compassion when you think they need it (especially when they say they’re “good”).
I’m happy to say I’m feeling so much better these past couple weeks and getting into the swing of things as a new mom. What has really helped me a ton is connecting with other new moms who struggle with the same new experiences of caring for a newborn, and being real with family and friends when they ask how it’s going. If you’re feeling overwhelmed too, I suggest starting there.
More people should be talking about the struggles of early motherhood and their not-so-perfect postpartum journeys. So, I’m happy to take the leap and start the conversation.
There’s love everywhere if you just look—and ask for a hand.
You don’t have to have it all figured out. In fact, no one ever really does. We’re all just taking it day by day, so be kind to yourself and others.