Let me start off by saying I love being a mom. Being a mom is a privilege and an honor and has made me feel more complete than anything in my life. This first year of motherhood has been beyond amazing and so incredibly hard at the same time. I can't help but feel tremendous guilt whenever I openly talk about struggles of motherhood because I know so many would do anything to be a mom and even experience some of the struggles we go through as one. This has been on my heart to write for a long time now but to be honest I was embarrassed. Embarrassed to tell the world I didn't have it all together and that I had to be put on medicine to help me feel like myself. Embarrassed that I had the audacity to say anything negative about motherhood when so many people are praying for it each night. But, I thought about those moms who were struggling just like I was, and maybe, struggling silently. I decided to put this out there in hopes to help those mamas and let them know that yes, it is normal and it is okay to have struggles. It's okay to ask for help and it does get better.
Before I had Sophie I was warned that baby blues are a real thing. It doesn't happen to everyone but I was told to expect to cry a lot the first couple of weeks after Sophie was born. I would be sleep deprived, super hormonal and just downright emotional. I have a history of depression and am already a super anxious person so I wanted to try to prevent this as much as possible. I looked into taking placenta capsules because I had heard rave reviews about how much it helped moms with postpartum depression. I was confident all would be well and I would not have any issues.
After a 26 hour labor, some cytotec, a foley catheter balloon and barely any sleep, our little girl made her entrance into the world (I will go into her birth story on another day). The second she was born we were so in love. We could not believe she was here and she was ours. I had a picture in my head and expectations of what it would be like for Kyle, Sophie and I and our first few days at the hospital after she was born. There were lots of amazing moments, snuggles, love and happy tears those first two days that I expected to have. Unfortunately, there were some not so happy tears as well due to some family drama and hurt feelings - on both ends - which is obviously something I didn’t expect at all. I remember being told to not make any expectations about motherhood and now looking back, I wish I had listened more to that advice. I had an expectation of what the beginning days would be like and when they weren’t like that I felt guilty and sad. Looking back I wish I had just focused on the amazing miracle that happened and soaked up that special time with my family. I will admit - some of this guilt/sadness/regret of her hospital days not going as I had hoped and expected them to go are amplified when I see other mamas on social media who look flawless after having a baby and are as as happy as can be (because who is going to do an instagram story while they are having issues breastfeeding their baby, crying for no reason or icing their bum because they just delivered a big baby).
The first couple of weeks at home I had breastfeeding issues and Sophie needed a tongue and lip tie procedure. Also, on top of worrying about Sophie, being in a heck of a lot of pain from delivery and severe engorgement, we had made some big investments that weren't going so well and there was a chance we were going to have to put our house on the market and move with a two week old. So, WHEW! There was a lot going on, on top of being very hormonal and sleep deprived. I remember crying…… a lot.
I do feel like the placenta pills helped at first. However, I remember during her first couple of months never feeling like I was never able to fully relax and enjoy this time with my new baby. I felt like I was putting a lot of pressure on myself and there was a lot of guilt. I felt guilty for doing nothing (even though I was keeping a human being alive), I felt guilty for not getting back to work yet, I felt guilty for not wanting to get out of the house more, I felt guilty that our house was a wreck and so on. Instead of listening to my heart of what to what I wanted to do - which was cuddle with my baby all day and watch Netflix - I compared myself to other mamas and what I thought I should be doing her first two months of life and didn’t just fully take it all in.
When Sophie was a little over 4 months old and I had finished my placenta pills I noticed that my mood was not getting any better. I know the beginning months are super hard with no sleep and all the hormonal changes but Sophie was sleeping through the night for the most part and we were somewhat back to normalcy. I had no desire to do things that I usually love, like my work and working out, and all I wanted to do was lie on the couch all day. I felt so extremely down and would find myself in tears sometimes for absolutely no reason. I never had any ill feelings towards Sophie, but I knew something was up because I just did not feel right. I did not feel like myself. I wanted to take action but was not ready for taking medication so I made an appointment with a therapist. I saw her for a couple weeks and still felt down. I talked to my family and a couple of my close girlfriends and decided to make an appointment with my OBGYN. I told her what was going on and about all the extra stressors in our life. She made me feel so much better about everything. She let me know it was normal to feel how I was feeling and that our hormones can get way out of balance after having a baby, which chemically can cause this. She reminded me that being a new mom can be very stressful and hard, and that sometimes people just don’t talk about the hard stuff. She prescribed me an antidepressant. I remember leaving my doctors appointment already feeling better knowing that there was light at the end of the tunnel.
I started the antidepressants and they helped me feel a lot better. I was no longer mopy, my anxiety had calmed down and I had the desire to do things that I loved to do. Most importantly, I was loving being a mom. During this time I really focused on working on myself and my mindset. I started telling myself a different story about motherhood. I didn’t have to feel guilty about having someone come help me two days a week so I could work. It was okay to have things go on outside of just being a mom, and for me it actually made me a better and happier mom to my daughter. My parenting is going to be different than others moms, and that is okay!! I had a baby and my body has changed. My hips are bigger and I did not bounce back as quickly as I thought I would.. but my body went through an incredible thing and I was grateful for the changes. I learned to not be so hard on myself and most importantly I became so incredibly grateful to be Sophie’s mom and was able to truly enjoy my time with her. My doctor told me I would most likely be able to tell when I was ready to come off of the antidepressants and she was right. After about 6 months of taking them I felt like I was ready to wean myself off.
The weaning process can make you feel like you are going backwards but now that I am officially done I really do feel the most like myself since I have had Sophie. I still have my moments of anxiety and stress but I think part of that is just my personality and well, life. I am learning to give myself grace and to not compare myself to other mamas.
I think moms are already very hard on themselves and constantly think they can be doing more or doing better. Now with social media we can be having a bad day, scroll through our feed and see what we perceive as other moms who are juggling motherhood with a smile on their faces and we compare, compare, compare. How are they able to work full time and raise babies? How are they able to stay at home with their babies and not go crazy? When we are losing our s*** and we get on social media we can't help but feel worse about ourselves because of that perfect picture we see on the screen. Remember most people are not going to share their struggles - just their highlights. I am not saying everyone should be on social media being an open book because some people are not comfortable doing that, but it is a good thing to remember to not compare your behind the scenes with some else’s highlight reel. I do love social media and think that it can be such a positive thing if we let it, but this is something to be aware of as well.
Being a mom is so, so wonderful but can also be so hard at times. Some days it feels like you are filled with joy, love, guilt and worry... all at the same time. Sometimes mamas feel like they need to go through the struggles of being a mom silently because of worrying what others will think, and the fear of not being a good mom. I have learned in the past year that in reality, all of us are just doing the best that we can for our babies. Having a good support system can be so powerful. Family and friends to lean on is beyond helpful. Generally with your first baby you are just trying to figure it all out. It's okay to ask for help and there is no such thing as a perfect mom.
If you ever find yourself struggling, don't ever hesitate to ask for help or talk to someone about it! I feel so lucky to have such a supportive community of friends and family and I can’t put into words how grateful I am for all of them and all their support this past year (you know who you are). Most of us know how challenging it is to be a new mom, so please - no more mom-shaming or making new moms feel insecure about how they parent their new babies.... remember they are doing the best that they can and just need your love and support.
Postpartum depression is the most common complication of an otherwise normal pregnancy, labor and delivery. If you think you may be experiencing postpartum depression or know someone who is here is a great article to read on symptoms and what to do.
“God gave those little children to you, mama -- to you. No one else can mother them like you can. You may have your work cut out for you, but you’re the one cut out to accomplish it.” - Erin Odom
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