Yesterday my mom asked me if I have been able to keep “the blues” away and I chuckled. Then I got home and read Hillary’s beautiful and honest post about the postpartum issues she has been experiencing and I knew I had to write.
As new Mama’s we have a million fears and expectations about all the changes involved in childbirth. We hear how awful labor is. We here about epidurals and emergency c-sections. We read a hundred birth stories about women’s emotions and triumphs over childbirth. I, for one, expected to have a completely magical other worldly reaction when Miles was put into my arms. I feel things pretty intensely as a rule, so I fully expected to be rendered immobile by love upon sight of him. That did not happen. I felt pain. I was in shock. I could marvel at the immensity of the moment maybe, but all those endorphins and happy feelings were absent. I felt like I had done something wrong. Somehow I forgot to push the “activate” button on all that mom love. Nobody told me I would have to wait to feel all the things.
The feelings of love came, but there have been days where I have felt very lost. Miles is 5 weeks old now and reading Hillary’s post I have felt all the same things: anxiety, guilt, and fear. I have cried a ton. I have felt intense anxiety over the the prospect of going out or being home alone. I have felt isolated. I have felt like a burden to my husband. I’ve tried to act like I hadn’t been crying. I have lost my shit.
Breastfeeding was hard and painful. There would be times that Miles would be hungry and I would cry anticipating the pain I would feel when he latched on. One night last week I had to wake Mr. A up in the middle of the night because I couldn’t stop crying and Miles was fussy and I was so overwhelmed I just couldn’t cope.
I’ve been lucky. Most of my dark emotions have not lasted long, but they could have. The line between coping and not coping seems so very narrow; all the hormones are like strong winds threatening to blow us over the edge.
I kept telling myself it would get better; that this period of adjustment sucked but would not last long. There were moments where I’ve felt like I have been holding my breathe willing the next phase to get here as quickly as possible. I don’t know what the difference is between me and someone who goes further over the edge into depression. I could point to my husband or my friends… But I bet they could too. Depression and anxiety don’t discriminate it seems, and just because I was spared the worst of it this time doesn’t guarantee that I won’t fall off the edge next time. It would only take a slight breeze.
I guess what I am saying is that having a baby is so hard, no matter how prepared you think you are, and we all need a little reassurance and kindness. If you know someone who has just had a baby, do me a favor and call them and tell them they’re doing a great job and their baby is lucky to have them. You never know how much power your simple act of kindness can have. If you’re a new mama, know you’re not alone and don’t be afraid to ask for help when things are too much for too long. Take care of yourself. Be kind to yourself.
It will get better.