I’m not sure why I wasn’t more prepared for it. I mean, every doctor I saw leading up to delivery told me that it was normal to get the baby blues. Any friend that had recently had a baby told me the same thing. Family made sure to remind me, too. My life was about to change drastically and it was OKAY to feel a little unsteady.
But I couldn’t wait! It’s hard to think about dealing with the possibility of feeling down or even depressed as I was entering what was supposed to be one of the best times in my life. After 9 months of anticipating the joy I knew I would feel, I could hardly waste the mental energy on the likelihood of feeling anything less than exuberant. Still, I nodded along, knowing in the back of my mind that they were probably right. I even discussed my anxiety about postpartum life with my husband ahead of time because I have a history of anxiety. We knew we’d get through it, and we continued to count down to our sweet Cora’s arrival.
But it did hit me, and hard. I don’t think I’d call it Postpartum Depression because I laughed, smiled, and carried on with my day with as much success as a brand new mother could whip up. But I had some moments where I worried if I’d ever see beyond this newborn fog again (the nonstop snow didn’t help). The guilt was the worst part, and I just cycled between feeling sad and then feeling guilty about being sad, when really I was happy…ugh it’s so complicated.
My days in the hospital were a complete blur. I was so emotional during Cora’s C-section delivery, and I’ll never forget the moment I heard her cry for the first time before the doctors brought her to my face for our love-at-first-sight moment. It really was love-at-first-sight. I’ll never deny that. Over the next three days, Zach, Cora, and I all got to know each other as a new family. Nurses were in and out to assist, and I managed the recovery pain and discomforts the best I could.
Suddenly, it was time to go. WHAT? I had to go home and do this by myself (well, of course with my husband, parents, and in-laws…but you get it)? I couldn’t bear the thought of leaving my nurses who were heroes in my book. (Side note: heroes is a serious understatement. I’m still upset they couldn’t come home with us.) That last morning in the hospital went so fast. How long could it possibly take to eat breakfast, shower, dress a baby, and checkout? Um, kind of a long time, and you best be organized about it. In a flash, 11am came around and a sweet man suddenly arrived in the room with a wheelchair. As a very patient nurse attempted to discharge us, I hobbled around in a towel with wet hair as Cora screamed her head off.
My heart started racing and my voice went up a few octaves as I tried to answer the nurse’s questions and reassure that sweet man that I was almost ready, promise. I just had to find her hat and pack up the entire bathroom. And where the hell were my sneakers? Have my feet finally stopped swelling? Is it hot in here?
I finally got it together (relatively speaking), and off we went. Zach held Cora in her car seat as the wheelchair man slowly wheeled me into reality. The lump in my throat became massive. I prayed that this man did not try to speak to me. He wisely pushed me along in silence, surely aware I was on the brink of a meltdown. We got Cora into the car and I squeezed in next to her. Then, just like that, we drove home. I cried.
I cried more when I got home. Zach went to go pick up my pain medication and a Dairy Queen Blizzard. Bless him. When my parents arrived, I had only mildly gotten myself together, only to fall apart that night when going to bed and coming to the full realization that this little, precious baby girl with the most delicious cheeks was ours, and that it was my job to ensure her health and safety. I was so tired though. And how was I supposed to sleep and watch her at the same time?
The first few weeks were a lot like that. I was emotionally overcooked. I was exhausted, the kind of exhausted that felt like excruciating pain, and I dreaded the nighttime because I knew that every time I’d fall asleep, I’d have to wake up again to feed. I was anxious about doing all of the right things and none of the wrong things. On top of it all, I still couldn’t stand up straight thanks to my surgery. I felt like a disaster.
The guilt I felt for feeling so distraught was intense. Shouldn’t I have some sort of new mom glow? I couldn’t figure out what was wrong because I WAS HAPPY! I loved my daughter so much that it hurt. But emotionally, I was truly all over the place.
Of course, things leveled out in time and I was able to relax. My stomach doesn’t clench up the way it used to when she cries (I mean, it’s still the most awful sound in the entire universe, but I can take a deep breath and respond in a sane way). I still have nights where I put her to bed and just let out a good cry because she’s all mine and, yes, growing so fast. But then I tell my husband and we laugh and watch her on the monitor together for a few minutes before finally watching television and passing out.
There were some things that helped me through this difficult period. And in case you are going through the same thing or know someone else who might be, I thought I’d share them with you. Please know, it’s OKAY, and you really are not alone.
- Knowing that one day would be different: My cousin, a mom of 2, told me multiple times that the first 12 weeks were all about survival. On the toughest days, I would repeat her words and it really did help. I would ask myself, what do we need to do to survive today? I would do those things, go to sleep, and worry about tomorrow, tomorrow. There was a light at the end of the tunnel, and though I had no clue what might come next, I allowed myself to look forward to the future anyway. Those first weeks are difficult, and I think it helps just being able to admit it. It doesn’t mean you don’t love your child. (Cora is now 14 weeks old, and while I’m so sad that her newborn days are over, I’m so grateful for the smiles, laughs, and routine in our days now). It’s all worth it.
- Naps: At first I did not understand how to nap when Cora napped. I had to watch her, unload the dishwasher, put in laundry…etc. etc. etc. But the only way I could sanely get through the evening hours was if I took even a short, 20 minute nap. I curled into bed right next to her bassinet and we snoozed together. If I couldn’t fall asleep, I read. It was glorious. Do something for you.
- JOY essential oil blend: My best friend, who has an 18 month old, gave me a Joy Essential Oil roller for my 30th birthday (which fell a week after Cora’s birth). I used it for the first time when Zach went back to work and I had a few tough moments (like, really tough). It smelled so good – a scented reminder that I’m not alone, that other people understand what I’m going through. I still use it from time to time! It really does bring joy. I need to get that recipe…
- Help: Not everyone is as lucky in terms of having family around, but if you have any access to help, take it. My mom stuck around for a few days after Cora was born and she would take her in the early morning hours so I could get some sleep after feeding her all night long. I went to the grocery store for the first time by myself about 2 or 3 weeks postpartum, and while I very much could have ordered groceries online, it felt so good to get out of the house for just an hour. My mother-in-law came and, guess what? Cora slept the whole time. So, go to the food store, go get a latte, or go get your nails done.
- Fill your cup first: Don’t be a martyr. I’m a strong believer that you need to fill your cup first. While I won’t have the same energy that I did before baby for a long, long time, it helps everyone if I take some “me time” every once and awhile. We all suffer when I get run down and crabby. So yeah, I go get a manicure every few weeks. I miss Cora the whole time, but I enjoy my hour to sip coffee and listen to an audiobook. I go back home refreshed and ready to tackle whatever the witching hours bring.
- Buy a few things that make you feel GOOD: Postpartum body does not equal prebaby body, you get what I’m saying? I’m 14 weeks out and my body is nowhere near what it used to be, and I have a way to go. Unless you’re a unicorn, you are going to spend some time in between sizes and a little “soft.” It helped to have some new, cute pajamas and sweats on hand. Cora was born during this horrific winter, and I had little desire to go out very often. I was all about the sweats, and it really did make me feel better to put on something new and cute. I didn’t really start getting “dressed” in jeans for a while – but I’m restocking a few things to reflect my new size. Don’t go crazy though until you feel like you’ve settled in to a stable size.
While I’ve come a long way in my postpartum journey, I still have some bad days. I think it comes with being a mama, and feeling so wholly responsible for another human’s life while also feeling so head-over-heels in love with that little person. She is so worth it, and I’ll be more prepared for this emotional journey next time around!
If you are struggling, try not to feel guilty. I spent a lot of time feeling guilty, and I know it can be hard to avoid. Of course, if you have any questions that your emotions are more serious, please don’t ever hesitate to reach out for help. Your baby needs you feeling your best.
Did you have the baby blues? What helped? I’d love to hear from you!