My Postpartum Experience: A not-so-happy beginning.
I’m now 10 weeks postpartum and I just feel the need in my heart to share with you my experience so far.
Before I had Bella, I had people describe what having a child is like as
…“a love you’ve never felt before”.
…“it feels like your heart is bursting”.
…“It’s hard to explain the feeling of love you have towards your child because it’s so amazing”.
It was a common theme and in hindsight, set me up for failure.
All these statements slowly built up my anticipation for how I thought giving birth and being a new mommy was going to feel like. I had such high expectations and excitement that when they didn’t happen… I thought something was wrong with me.
I wish people would have let me experience this on my own and form my own beliefs about birth and new parenthood. I think this would have made a big difference.
Another thing that was told to me is that you forget all about the pain the minute that baby gets put into your arms… HA. (If that is actually true for anyone please let me know).
Let’s flash back to my pregnancy for a minute. I prepared for labor with hypnobirth classes, meditation, watching positive births and listening to positive birth experiences, doing the spinning babies exercises, acupuncture, and whatever else was needed to get the baby in optimal position and my mind prepared. I went into labor with absolutely no fear. I was so excited to be a mommy. I couldn’t wait to feel this explosive love inside of me and power through labor like a champ.
My labor ended up being 60 hours. YES, YOU READ THAT RIGHT. 60 freakin’ hours. 48 hours of early labor (contractions about 10-15 minutes apart = no sleep) and 12 hours of active labor. Did I mention I had n all natural home birth? I felt EVERYTHING.
This in itself was extremely disappointing and defeating because I thought I had done everything “right”. Unfortunately for me, Mother Nature is not something we can always control.
Once I gave birth and they put her in my arms, the only thing I thought was HOLY SHIT. I didn’t feel anything, just exhausted, and STILL IN PAIN (no one told me birthing the placenta sucks too). I had no happiness pouring out of my soul nor did I feel explosions of love. But I will say, I was in amazement that all of this happened. At one time she was the size of a sesame seed and somehow I blinked my eyes, 9 months passed, and here she was… a living, breathing, human that I created inside my body!
The next couple days were like being on a high. Although extremely sleep deprived, my fiancé and I were so astonished with our sweet baby girl. Everything she did was amazing. But when he went back to work on day five, everything changed. I was now left alone caring for this crying, hungry human alllllll day. I would often cry when night came because I knew I didn’t get to go to bed like he did. I was on a constant 24 hour cycle of being needed every 2-3 hours. Combine that with the raging spikes and dips in my hormones and social isolation, and you have a very unstable mommy (at least I thought I was).
I kept thinking something was wrong with me. Why didn’t I feel all the love and joy everyone said I would have? Why did I feel so… neutral? Like I was on autopilot with no emotion? I didn’t really feel this “bonding” everyone talks about either. Honestly, I felt kind of empty, which led to a lot of guilt and shame.
I couldn’t understand or describe how I was feeling until one day I saw someone post on instagram about how she felt like her baby wasn’t really “hers” until a couple months in. THAT IS EXACTLY HOW I FELT. Like I was caring for a baby someone just dropped off but I didn’t have any true connection with her. I felt like I was just being used for my boobs. I just kept going through the motions like a robot. BUT - I will say, even with these feelings, I still had this mama bear protection instinct going on. I didn’t want anything to happen to her and constantly worried about her suffocating or choking on her spit up. I would do anything to protect her; I just didn’t feel happy or connected.
Luckily at my first postpartum visit with the midwives, I mentioned not feeling super happy. They said that’s totally normal at first and it’s OK to feel that way. Oh my god, did that make me feel better! I didn’t feel alone anymore and I stopped feeling AS guilty.
Around five weeks she started to become more reactive to me and smiling when she saw me. She also started sleeping six hours at night. Between the two, I felt something start shifting. This whole mommy thing was becoming kind of fun.
In the mornings we would stay in bed, I’d put her on my lap, and we would talk and play. I made a conscious effort to do this every single morning instead of jumping into a to-do list of things I needed to get done around the house. (I still do this every morning and it has helped tremendously with our bonding).
She’s now 10 weeks old and can smile on demand. When she sees me she smiles and laughs. The more interactive she gets, the more I feel my love growing for her. I’m starting to feel like she is MY baby now and things are starting to look up (I’m sure getting sleep at night helps a lot too). I feel like I’ve got the hang of this and the first few weeks are becoming a distant memory.
Another thing I heard all the time was “the beginning is hard”. No one explained WHY it was hard, just that it’s hard. No one said you can feel depressed and like your losing your mind. And what’s funny is that when I described how I felt in the beginning to the SAME people who told me the things about bursting with love; guess what they said to me? “We all feel that way in the beginning”. WHAT!? Where was this piece of information before I gave birth?
I think talking about the mental and emotional struggles in the postpartum period is still taboo to many people. We’re expected to be grateful and overjoyed with happiness when we have a healthy baby. How dare we feel any other way than that, let alone talk about it. That’s why I feel this post is one of the most important I’ve ever wrote. Other new mom’s need to know they’re NOT ALONE. I think the majority feels this way, and if you don’t, you are very lucky.
The key is to refrain from feeling guilty for feeling this way.
Know that it’s perfectly normal. Don’t agonize so much over feeling neutral or even depressed. Just know that this is all a part of becoming a new mother and it WILL get better (if it doesn’t – postpartum depression is very real and you should consider asking for help).
Another thing to know is that it’s also perfectly normal for you to feel angry or resentful towards your loved ones (HINT: your partner). I struggled to find balance between putting all my effort to care for the baby and still care for him when he got home. I have a feeling it was due to lack of sleep, the fact that he got to leave the house everyday while I stayed home in isolation, as well as learning to take on a new role in the family and share my love.
All in all, it’s a process. I’m learning that. I have to be patient and kind to myself. I have to show myself compassion (I wrote a really great article about the power of being self-compassionate in a previous blog). So I’m being gentle, my love for Bella is starting to grow, and I am finally getting the hang of this mom thing.
I hope this post helps at least one person to know they are not alone. THERE ARE NO RULES ON HOW TO BE THE PERFECT MOM. Know you’re doing the best you can and there’s nothing better than that.
LEAVE ME A COMMENT OR DM ME YOUR POSTPARTUM EXPERIENCE. ESPECIALLY IF YOU'RE STRUGGLING AT ALL.